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Interview with Venerable Bhikkhuni Kusuma

by Pennie White

'The Buddhist Hour' Radio Broadcast
Hillside Radio 87.6 FM & 88.0 FM , Victoria, Australia

Pennie: Venerable Bhikkhuni Kusuma. Thank you for joining us on the Buddhist Hour. Welcome. We enjoyed your visit to our Centre on Wednesday. Thank you.

Venerable Kusuma: Thank you also, it's my good luck.

Pennie: Your teaching on how we can strengthen our practice has inspired this week's radio broadcast script.

Venerable Kusuma: I think I enjoy being with you. It's a great blessing for me too.

Pennie: Thank you. This Teaching has been written down, and is online at https://www.bddronline.net.au/bddr11no2/bhikkuni.html

Venerable Kusuma: Thank you, Pennie.

Pennie: During your visit on Wednesday, we requested that you teach us about svakattho, so that this high Teaching may be recorded. We request that you share this Teaching with us today.

Venerable Kusuma: Okay. It is the six attributes of the Dhamma. Svakattho bhagavata dhammo sanditthiko akaliko ehipassiko opaneyyiko paccattam veditabbo vinnuhi. There is a little story which is very interesting. It seems when the Buddha was there living in Savatthi a certain Monk by the name of Upavana, who was very young and beautiful to look at, came up to the Buddha and told him, Venerable Sir, I don't understand what is the meaning of svakatto bhagavata dhammo. What is the meaning of sanditthiko akaliko ehipassiko opaneyyiko paccattam veditabbo vinnuhi? So I like to explain to you a little bit of what the Buddha's reply was.

Pennie: Please do.

Venerable Kusuma: Then the Buddha said "he's a young man, beautiful, and a Monk, Upavana he said "Well, Upavana, suppose you saw a beautiful figure, and then there arose lust in your mind, and then you became aware of the lust in your mind. At that time, all these six attributes of the Dhamma are established in your mind.

Now I'll try to explain to you how it comes to be established. Now, all that Upavana did was, becoming aware of the lust in his own mind. That means he's seeing the truth, because it's a reality in his mind which only he can see from first-hand experience. Nobody else can see that. He himself has discovered an empirical truth, an absolute truth. It's not something read in books, it's not something taught to him by his teachers, he himself has experienced this truth, that he himself has understood by observing his mind. And then he understood, there is in me, lust in my mind.

Then, this is right view, this is sanditthiko, ditthi means rushti, rushti means view. He has seen a truth. In his mind he has seen a reality, so this is the establishment of sanditthiko. Then as soon as he sees his own lust, he comes out of it, because his observation of lust is by a different thought moment, arising out of wisdom. So as soon as wisdom arises in his mind, the lust already is suppressed momentarily, and now it is wisdom that is in his mind. So no two thoughts arise at the same time, so the lust has already subsided, and now wisdom has taken over, and wisdom is there. The time lapse for the lust to subside, and for wisdom to arise is one thought moment, which is an extremely short period of time.

Akaliko means that there is no time lapse between akaliko, and here is one moment in lust and one moment in wisdom. There is no time difference. That is akaliko. Immediate result. Ehipassiko is "come and see". Now he is the winner. He has come to a point of inviting anyone to "come and see". All this life I was under temptation of lust and here I have been restored. I have resurrected myself from the lust. I am no more a victim of it. I have come out of it. And he can, with confidence, call someone and say "Look at this. I have something very valuable. I am the master of my mind. I am with wisdom. You too can, if you want, come out of your unwholesomeness, by merely seeing it". So now he is inviting "come and see" (ehipassiko).

Opaneyikko means onward-leading, that is to say, I have no more unwholesomeness in my mind. I am in wisdom and in wholesomeness, and that is onward-leading, towards divinity, towards a divine life, and also towards nibbana, the final cessation of all greed. So that is opaneyyikko; onward-leading.

Ehipassiko, opaneyyikko, paccattam veditabbo means pratyaksha, experiencable by the wise. Vinnuhi means wise, so now he is a wise person who has experienced his own lust and also experienced with wisdom how he overcame lust. So these are the six attributes of the Dhamma which are established in your mind on seeing your own defilement.

Pennie: Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu. Thank you.

Venerable Kusuma: I'm also happy. I'm so happy that you are asking me such deep questions, and it will be an experience for you to practise this Dhamma.

Pennie: Thank you. Could you please give us a brief history of the Bhikkuni order?

Venerable Kusuma: The Bhikkuni order was established in the 3rd century B.C. in Sri Lanka, and we have an unbroken lineage from the time of the Buddha, when Mahapajapati first became a Bhikkuni under the Buddha, and this lineage, the unbroken lineage, the robe order, was preserved in Sri Lanka when Bhikkuni Sanghamitta, that is the daughter of Emperor Asoka of India, visited Sri Lanka with a retinue of Bhikkunis in the 3rd century B.C. and there established a Bhikkuni order in Sri Lanka.

There is history, ancient chronicles have reported this, and it is in the history of all the Buddhist countries also, that in Sri Lanka the Bhikkuni order flourished with many, many Arhant Bhikkunis, who had gained stages of sainthood, even in Sri Lanka, and for thirteen centuries, Sri Lanka had this Bhikkuni order, and this is another historical fact, that in the 6th century A.D., that is, nearly 900 years after, the Sri Lankan Bhikkunis took an arduous trip by ships, sailing ships, in quite a dangerous crossing, to go over to China, along the Silk Road. A trade ship took them to China, and they established the Bhikkuni order in China. That was 900 years after.

But then Sri Lanka lost the order, and then for the last 1,000 years, we didn't have any Bhikkunis in Sri Lanka, but our lineage is still preserved. From China it went to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and now all those countries have the Bhikkuni lineage. There are many thousands of Bhikkunis. All are descendants of the Sri Lankan Bhikkunis. No other Bhikkunis ever travelled to any of these countries, apart from this Sri Lankan lineage, and now recently, maybe six years ago, we made a very big effort to get back our lineage, and I am very happy to say that I was invited to lead this first Sri Lankan Bhikkunis in the recent past. And then we received the lineage and became ordained as Bhikkunis in India, in Sarnath, the place where the Buddha preached the first sermon to the five ascetics, and we became ordained under the Korean Sangha.

So now in Sri Lanka we have about 400 Bhikkunis, and we are practising the Theravada Pali vinaya, the Rules of Discipline that were originally handed over by the Buddha himself, and we don't know Mahayana, we don't know Korean language, but we merely took the robe order, the bowl and the robe, and now we practise according to the Pali tradition, the Theravada vinaya, the Bhikkuni vinaya.

Pennie: Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu. We are most privileged to have you with us today, Venerable Bhikkhuni Kusuma.

Venerable Kusuma: Thank you.

Pennie: I understand that you will head the Ayya Khema International Buddha Mandir once building is complete in Sri Lanka. Can you please tell us about this noble project?

Venerable Kusuma: Yes. I've been very close to Ayya Khema. In fact, she once came to my house before she became ordained. It was my luck that somebody in Thailand gave her my address, and she wanted to visit Sri Lanka. She first came to my house. I was so happy. We became very close, and then she became ordained as a ten-precept Nun in Sri Lanka. Very soon she became very popular, and went around Sri Lanka giving lectures, talks, on Dhamma and meditation, and I was the fortunate person to be her interpreter, often into Singhala.

Later, very recently, she died in Germany, and I was invited to Germany to conduct a lecture tour, and it was a tremendous success, from Berlin, Stuttgart, Hamburg, and down to Munich, I gave many, many lectures, and at the end of it some of them wanted to visit me in Sri Lanka, and I said "Don't come, I don't even have a proper place". Most of them gave me gifts, and we started this Buddha Mandir. And now the roof, it has come to roof level, and I think after I return to Sri Lanka, I should be able to complete this. Also I take this opportunity to invite you to come and see this little place. It's only a small one, a five-roomed small place.

Pennie: Thank you very much. Online at https://www.bddronline.net.au/bddr11no2/appeal.html  is information about the Ayya Khema International Buddha Mandir and also an address where donations are welcome to help this noble project. Our Teacher extends an invitation to you to visit our Centre before you leave Australia this time.

Venerable Kusuma: Yes, thank you.

Pennie: Bhikkhuni Kusuma, on behalf of our Teacher Master John D. Hughes and the Members of the Buddhist Discussion Centre (Upwey) Ltd., thank you for speaking with us today on the Buddhist Hour.

Venerable Kusuma: Thank you. It was my pleasure. Thank you.


Source: Buddhist Discussion Centre,Upwey, Victoria, Australia

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updated: 20-02-2002