Saturday, September 16, 2006

Observations at Ven Dhammananda's cremation

Ven Dhammananda (1919-2006), one of the most revered Theravada Buddhist leaders in South East Asia, passed away in KL, Malaysia on 31st Aug 2006. He was 87 yrs old. A wake was immediately set up at the Maha Vihara Temple in KL, where the Ven was the abbot. Devotees from all over Malaysia & Singapore flooded in to pay their last respects to this great teacher. On 3rd Sep 2006, his body was transported to the Nirvana Memorial Park in Semenyih to be cremated on a hilltop. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mr Ratnasiri Wickremanayake specially flew in to join the thousands of mourners who came to witness the cremation ceremony.On the way to the memorial park, raindrops which resembled snowflakes started to fall, a sign that even the Devas mourned the passing away of this Maha Thera. The above photo was snapped by one of the mourners and published in Malaysia's New Life Post paper. During the cremation in the evening (around 6.15pm), more miraculous signs started to appear. Devotees heard claps of thunder, after which they saw in the northern sky images of a great Stupa, as well as celestial Nagas protecting it. Some say this is a sign that the Heavenly King Vessamana, guardian of the North & often portrayed as carrying a Stupa, had came to receive the Ven's relics. The following morning, when the chanting ceremony started around 9 something am, everyone present saw a white light shining forth from the sky above the 3 storey high funeral pyre containing the Ven's remains. Within the light there appeared 2 clouds, one resembling Ven Dhammananda in a samatid posture (see above photo) and the other resembling a Bodhisattva (some say Guanyin) who has also came to receive him. This vision lasted for 5 mins and dissappeared when the chanting was over. Although the monks present told the devotees there not to take these signs too seriously and that they might just be natural phenomena, but everyone who saw them can't help but be filled with deep awe and renewed faith in the Dhamma. To see more photos, go to

These miraculous signs indicate that Ven Dhammananda is by no means an ordinary monk, but an Ariya who has attained one of the fruits of Sainthood. The Diamond Sutra says:

"Subhūti, what do you think? Does a practitioner who has attained the level of sotāpanna think: 'I have attained the realization of the sotāpanna?' "
Subhūti said, "No, World Honored One. And why not? Because the name sotāpanna means 'stream-enterer,' and there is in fact no stream to be entered. One does not enter form, sound, odor, taste, touch, or concepts. Therefore one is called a sotāpanna."
"Subhūti, what do you think? Does a sakadāgāmi think, 'I have attained the realization of sakadāgāmi?' "
Subhūti said: "No, World Honored One. And why not? Although the name sakadāgāmi means to go and come once more, but there is, in reality, no going or coming. Therefore he is called a sakadāgāmi."
"Subhūti, what do you think? Does the adept who has attained the level of anāgāmi say, 'I have achieved the realization of the anāgāmi?' "
Subhūti said, "No, World Honored One. And why not? Anāgāmi means non-returning (to this world), but there is, in fact, no such thing as returning. Therefore this person is called an anāgāmi."
"Subhūti, what do you think? Does the arahat think, 'I have attained the realization of the arahat?' "
"No, World Honored One. And why not? There is, in reality, no such a thing called 'arahat.' World Honored One, if an arahat should give rise to the thought, 'I have attained the realization of the arahat, this would mean that he is attached to the notions of self, person, sentient being, and life span.' "

Therefore understand that to attain enlightenment means not attaining anything at all. All Dhamma are fundamentally empty and cannot be grasped to. If Ven Dhammananda still grapsed on to anything, we would not be able to see all those signs at his passing away. Therein lies the bliss of Nibbana, of which these signs act as inspirations for everyone. Let us work hard towards our own liberation, for noone can save us except ourselves, sadhu.

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