รายการทีวี Discovery ของ National Geographic จัดทำสารคดีเรื่อง "ความเชื่อเรื่องสวรรค์" ในศาสนาต่างๆ และได้มายกทีมงานมาสัมภาษณ์หลวงแม่ธัมมนันทาในช่วงต้นปี 46 ที่ผ่านมา จึงขอนำมาถ่ายทอดบางส่วนเฉพาะที่สัมภาษณ์ประเด็นเกี่ยวกับความเชื่อเรื่องสวรรค์ในพุทธศาสนาของเมืองไทย
Narrator: The abandoning of the self is also an integral part of another great religion, Buddhism.
Ven. Dhammananda: They think what I am doing is outrageous. How could you be wearing a robe?
Narrator: What prompted this woman to divorce her husband, separate from here children, and quit her job to face a life of controversy and struggles in service of the Buddha.
In Islam, Christianity and Judaism, there is but one heaven but for Buddhism there can be as many as thirty-three. The ancient cultural and religious traditions in Buddhism are inherent factors of life in Thailand. But just west of the city in a small temple compound bordering a noisy main highway, a new and unique vision of Buddhism is being born.
Ven. Dhammananda: I don't think I'm controversial. I'm very simple. I'm very straight forward according to the task that the Buddha gave me, that I live a good Buddhist life. And if I'm more committed I live a female monk life.
Narrator: Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh was a distinguished university professor, a wife, and a mother of three. She renounced all these to begin an extraordinary quest for spiritual enlightenment.
Ven. Dhammananda: The controversy begins when people do not understand Buddhism in the spirit.
Narrator: Dr. Kabilsingh is the first female Buddhist monk in Thailand in over one thousand years of practice. Her very existence has sparked furious debates within the conservative male Thai clergy. But Dr. Kabilsingh refused to be intimidated and enthusiastically pursuing enlightenment on her own terms. To her, heaven is not a final destination. It is merely an option.
Ven. Dhammananda: Thai people are always confused when Christian people say they go to heaven-the Kingdom of God-because they think that the heaven is the same as heaven in Buddhism.
Narrator: In Buddhist philosophy there are multiple heavens one can visit. Some scholars claim as many as thirty-three. Buddhism looks at earthly existence as a continuum in which human beings experience reincarnation, a cycle of death and rebirth. Actions performed in the previous life will propel people into the next life and the life after that.
Carol Zaleski*: And the point is to be awake from the cycle of birth and death and birth and death to an unconditioned state of being. One could say that's the real Buddhist heaven, that unconditioned state of being.
Diana Eck**: It is this insight of the Buddha-who lived in the 6th century BCE who became known as the Buddha or the one who is awake-that our suffering is in part attributable to the fact that we grasp so longingly to permanence and immortality. And what we need to do is begin to let go. And heaven is not something to be desired for; it is a reality to be awakened to right here.
Narrator: For the vast majority of Buddhists, enlightenment is a quality of the mind. Only by becoming enlightened can one be free from the endless cycle of death and rebirth. At the age of 55, Dr. Kabilsingh realized that her (worldly life) no longer provides happiness and she undertook a radical transformation.
Ven. Dhammananda: It was not very difficult when your choice was very clear. I was very clear and committed. And if I had to choose between the Buddha and my husband, I had to choose the Buddha.
Narrator: Believing men and women to be on equal spiritual footing, the Buddha ordained female monks, but this practice ended after his death. In order to join the priesthood, Dr. Kabilsingh was forced to go to the more independent-minded male monks of Sri Lanka to receive ordination.
Ven. Dhammananda: In fact, to be ordained is to be unisex, to go beyond sex and gender. I would look exactly like a (male) monk. Sitting next to each other, you would not be able to distinguish unless I open my mouth and you listen to my voice then you know that I'm a female and he's a male.
Narrator: Dhammananda, as she is now known, lives a simple life of daily ritual. Early in the morning she makes a walking meditation around the lotus pond.
Ven. Dhammananda: Be mindful of our walk, lifting up your left (foot), stretching out, putting down your left, and lifting up your right again, stretching forward, and stepping down. Very mindful. This is the practice of how the mind and the body should be together. You run into all kinds of accident because your mind and body are not together and this is the practice for you very much to be in the immediate present, here and now. Really life is nothing but here and now. So, make this moment full, make this moment "meaning-full".
Narrator: Dhammananda is resolute in her effort to build a community for religious women so they might one day become monks as well. In her view, the Buddha was revolutionary in his time and she is simply following in his footsteps. One of the duties of ordained monks as practiced by the Buddha is to collect alms-food or gifts given by the people to support their activities.
Ven. Dhammananda: We go not to collect alms but to collect people. This is the time when I hear of the suffering of the people who are supporting me. I go visit them at their doorsteps. I not only receive alms but give them blessing. In one particular household, the son is about this high (about 2-3 feet tall). I think he has some kind of illness. He looks from a distance as if he must be ten years old but he is already 30 years old. He was very happy to see me every week. So, I look forward to Sunday for I know I'll be seeing him and I'll be bringing some happiness for him and I'll be getting some happiness from him.
Narrator: To Buddhists, western concepts of heaven are as illusive as a butterfly.
Ven. Dhammananda: I have not really spent time thinking of heaven. It's only a passage that takes you through. Our final goal is to become enlightened. I think the Buddhist message is very simple. You don't even have to be a Buddhist. All of us, Christians, Jews, Muslims, we all seek happiness and it is here and now for all of us to experience.
* Carol Zaleski, Professor of Religion, Smith College
** Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion, Harvard University
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