Venerable Soma Thera’s last letter
Exclusive to BNN:
Translated from Sinhala into English by Mohan Senaratne, Ontario, Canada,
Published on the Buddhist News Network, February 19, 2004
An Important note from the translators: This is the last letter written by
the late Ven. Soma Thera. Originally written in Sinhala, the letter was
specifically directed to the people of Sri Lanka, who are facing a crisis
arising from unethical conversions. It should be read in that context
= = = =
O Virtuous people,
One is identified as a good person, not only because that person goes about
maintaining an erect posture but also because this person can clearly
differentiate between the wholesome & the unwholesome action to follow a
path that is wholesome.
However we know that only a few of us posses that natural ability to
command such clarity in thinking. Nevertheless we can see that all human
beings posses the ability to further develop mental faculties, it could be
said that “Manu” mental faculties – “ussana” elevate, when taken together
as “Manussa” as said in Pali, refers to human beings, who have this
inherent ability to uplift their mental capabilities. I hope that one would
not reject the idea that people need a religion to elevate their mental
states by drawing them away from unwholesome acts & to engage them in
wholesome action, but not to retard their mental capacity by blunting their
Therefore think O wise men. Think well. Think what is good for you. Is
there a better choice in this life other than to satisfy one’s five senses
& live without any physical or mental ailment?
If that were the case I strongly believe that you would consider all other
sentient beings also would prefer to live in such mundane contentment. The
message contained here is for such virtuous people, who could agree with
this trend of thinking. Others may choose to ignore this message.
It cannot be refuted that all religions are based on the principles of the
liberation of beings from suffering. However it is not incorrect to state
that a religion should be chosen after examination of all religions & their
teachings to determine if the principles are based on the proper
understanding of suffering, if such teaching truly leads to the liberation
of beings from suffering.
All beings are subject to decay. Decay of sense organs creates suffering,
due to the inability to enjoy much desired sensual pleasures. Sickness &
death gives rise to suffering. Loss of youthful pleasures can cause intense
suffering, as a result of loosing abilities, which were taken for granted.
This is the explanation in Buddha’s1 teachings. Other forms of religious
thinking cannot refute this explanation.
The above-described suffering is caused by physiological & psychological
decay, which comes to us in the form of a natural life cycle. This being
not to our liking, we seek liberation from such suffering. Suffering is
caused by craving associated with the five aggregates (Skandas) namely,
matter or form (Rupa), sensation (Vedana), perception (Samjna), mental
formations (Sankara)& consciousness (Vijnana). Suffering is the effect of
this cause. The Buddha’s philosophy explains that removing its cause can
eliminate suffering. Dhamma also teaches the path that should be followed
to eliminate cause for suffering. (Buddhism should be learnt through
It is not a wonder why early man found it difficult to comprehend the
workings of the universe (nature), which impacts on the life of man. The
attribution of universal activity (which include both good & bad) to God
was the result of an inference of the early human. However how & why
suffering creatures came into being was a puzzle to the intelligent man.
Man, who could not understand the origin of beings, therefore believed that
the origin of the world & its beings are the result of creation by an
The basis of the world we live today is not mere belief. Rather it is one
where matters are determined by investigation & research. On one has
conclusively established that the world & its beings were a creation of a
God. Such thinking is based entirely on belief. A system of belief based on
inference or faith, is referred to as a religion in dictionaries. Hence
this definition is a universally accepted one & not something conjured up
The Buddha’s philosophy about the world & its sentient beings is not a
belief. It is a realization achieved through an extensive analytical
investigation. The Buddha is called such because of his enlightened
comprehension of the world & its beings. Therefore the acceptance of the
Buddha’s teachings is an acceptance of the truth of the world & its beings.
The external world is sensed by the five sense organs – sight, sound,
smell, taste & touch, is called by man as the world. However the Buddha
explained that this external world is not the result of a creation but it
is simply matter, which consists of the combination of the four universal
physical elements, namely solidity (Patavi), fluidity (Arpo), motion
(Thepo) and heat (Vayo)) which appear, temporally exist & then disappear in
a continuing cycle.
The fact that the Buddha’s word in this regard has been thoroughly
confirmed by today’s scientists clearly illustrates its validity.
The Buddha has explained how sentient beings came to exist. ” Thanha
Janathi Pruisung Chithamas Vibawathi” meaning craving or desire gives rise
to beings. The Dhamma explains that this craving mind runs amok, causing
the cycle of becoming & passing away of beings in their journey through the
cycle of continuity (Samsara).
Although religious thinking based on an omnipotent God state that, beings
are a creation of such a God, the Buddha declares a “being” is simply a
label given to that, which arises from the combination of five aggregates.
The “Dhammika Sutta” explains that the ‘form’ of a being appears from the
four universal physical elements – solidity (Patavi), fluidity (Arpo),
motion (Thepo) and heat (Vayo) obtaining the bases for contact through the
conjugation of Mother & Father. Therefore the God who precipitated the form
would be the Mother & Father. Even at the time of the Buddha’s birth, the
belief that the world & its beings were the creation of the all-powerful
Brahma prevailed. Ishwara and Vishnu are also names attributed to Brahma.
If Brahma created beings, then it is stated that ” Brahamathi matha
pitharo” Father & Mother are indeed the Brahma.
The mind was not present in the paternal semen nor was it present in the
maternal egg. If so how did the fertilized egg which would eventually
become a being, acquire its mind? Did God give that mind?
The mind is formless. It arises from the four formless aggregates, namely
(Vedena) sensation, (Sanjna) perception, (Sankhárá) mental formations
(Viññana) consciousness. With the contact of five spheres of sense organs
(eye, ear, nose, tongue, touch and mind,) through sensation there arises
perception. Recognition of perception is consciousness. Although positive &
negative sensations give rise to relevant perception & consciousness, they
are caused by desire. Mental volition (Karma) arises due to desire &
craving (Tanha) of beings. If one were to realize the impermanence
(Anicca), suffering (Dukka) & selflessness or soulless ness (Anathma) of
the mental & external world thus leading to the extinguishing craving or
desire with respect to that world, then resulting from the extinction of
mental volition (Karma) – the effect of desire – the cessation of the
arising of five aggregates & certainly at that time the arising of this
fathom long form would also cease.
Desire causes the manifestation of the three defilements namely “Lobha”
lust or craving, “Dosha” hatred or ill Will & “Moha” delusion. Such states
of mind causes man to commit unwholesome acts of causing grief to one
another, killing each other, plundering other nations. Would you believe
that God gave these unwholesome thoughts to man & created such an evil
world? Because of weak thinking abilities, man with an under developed mind
engages in action without proper examination thus confirming his evil nature.
A religious thinking is necessary to man, to enable him to accomplish a
peaceful life by illuminating his mind through the elimination of
unwholesome thoughts. It certainly is futile to harbour thoughts that “God
will take care of me”. Intelligent people in the Christian world have
arrived at the realization that, it is not true to state that, the world is
a creation of a God. If there is a God who gives refuge to those who lie,
embezzle, conspire to steal, commit sexual misconduct, harm animals or in
short are engulfed in unwholesome thoughts/acts, then it has to be the duty
of any intelligent person to eliminate such a God.
Intelligent people from the western world, on realization of the benefits
of the Buddha Dhamma seek refuge in Buddhism. So called Buddhists in Sri
Lanka, while wallowing in unwholesome deeds, look to God’s for deliverance
from abject poverty or difficult circumstances. They wish for full
emancipation from their difficult situations from these Gods In the end
they embrace other religions disavowing a Dhamma that cannot be logically
Christian & Muslim religions teach that man was created from the soil from
heaven & that woman was created from a bone in the rib cage of man.
Accordingly unless their human brains are full of soil, there is no other
reason for people to believe in these stories of creation, simply because
it is in the religious books & attack Buddhism which actually shows the way
out of suffering.
Refrain from harming/killing animals; take not what is not yours, refrain
from sexual misconduct, refrain from uttering lies and gossip, refrain from
consumption of intoxicants. Then wisdom will grow. As a result you will
live comfortably, protecting your earnings living a life full of wisdom
It is only a foolish person who would propound on the merits of a virtuous
life while continuing to engage in unwholesome acts. I won’t be surprised
if such a foolish person were to perpetuate that their evil thinking is
good. Such foolish persons arise because of an undeveloped mind, causing
them to wallow in unwholesome acts. Persons with an evil mind do not have
the ability to think straight. How does one confirm wisdom? Simply wise
people do not engage in unwholesome acts. If there were a God or Gods, they
would indeed give their blessings to a virtuous person & not an evil person.
Engaging in a belief system that encourages animal/human slaughter or
promoting a religious teaching that suppress the wisdom of man by invoking
the wrath of God, one would certainly attract the curse of such Gods rather
than their blessing. Surely one would understand this fact unless one’s
mind is full of soil or mud!
It is foolish to think that God could forgive one’s misdeeds. One should
seek forgiveness from the person wronged, not from God. It is quite clear
that damage or harm was done to the victim of the misdeeds not God. Whether
or not one receives forgiveness from the victim for a misdeed, by not
repeating these misdeeds & promoting good deeds, Buddhism has shown the way
to cleanse your mind of defilements that arise from unwholesome acts.
Would you choose the foolish way of seeking forgiveness from an unseen,
unknown God or follow the Buddha Dhamma, wherein the process for salvation
is clearly explained?
Christian brethren in Sri Lanka, kindly bear with me without enmity, I will
show you the truth. Portuguese introduced Christianity to Sri Lanka in
1505. From that time for a period of 450 years, because of the many
atrocities committed by the Dutch & the English invaders up to 1948, only a
4.5% of the people in Sri Lanka embraced Christianity. We are very well
aware that those people who embraced Christianity did not do so because it
was a superior philosophy in comparison to Buddhism, but because of their
greed for economical & social benefits from the foreign invaders.
If Christianity were a successful religious doctrine in comparison to
Buddhism, Sri Lanka would have been a wholly Christian nation, much
earlier. Please consider that you are immorally trying to delude & attempt
to convert the simple & poor citizens of this country through material
inducements, because Christianity by it self has nothing good to offer.
Wise Christian faithful please think – because of the betrayal of your
forefathers you are now a Christian. Or you have done so yourself. A
betrayal of a natural law is an unwholesome act, which causes grief. It is
evil to betray a wholesome philosophy. Evil will condemn the evildoer. I
urge you to return to the Buddha’s Dhamma – which is the wholesome philosophy.
May you be blessed by the Dhamma.
For the emancipation of all beings,
Gangodavila Soma Thero.
Courtesy: Buddhist News Network ( BNN )