Thank you for your kind words, LDF.
– I am impressed that you read the series on “Origin of Life” a few times!
1. I was born to a Buddhist family. I remember attending the Sunday “Dhamma school” at the village temple, taking precepts on Poya (Full Moon) days, and regularly visiting the temple to offer flowers/incense to the Buddha, followed by listening to a discourse by a bhikkhu.
– After I started attending Ananda College, one of the premier Buddhist schools in Sri Lanka, such activities were reduced. But Buddhism was taught through high school. Then I went through four years of undergraduate studies focusing on physics.
2. From my early years, I wanted to “get to the bottom” of any subject, and thus I read everything I could get my hands on. I think that mindset led me naturally to specialize in physics. I came to the United States for graduate studies and have been here since then. I worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory after getting my Ph.D. and taught a few courses at the close-by University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
3. Even though I liked doing research, I was getting “burned out” with administrative responsibilities and keeping up with environmental compliance activities. So, I took early retirement. I started reading widely again and naturally started thinking seriously about Buddha Dhamma. I had the essential background, but there were many “unanswered questions.” Thanks to the internet, I could listen to discourses by many prominent bhikkhus in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.
4. That went on for almost five years before I listened to a discourse by Venerable Meewanapalane Siri Dhammalankara on July 31, 2013. That discourse changed my life. I immediately realized that it was Buddha’s teachings. Within a few months, I went to Sri Lanka, met a few people (including that Thero), and gathered some recommendations. By that time, I learned that Waharaka Thero had uncovered the true teachings several years prior. Even though I made a couple more visits to Sri Lanka since then, I was never able to meet Waharaka Thero.
5. Soon after I visited Sri Lanka in 2013, I started working on this website. I knew nothing about operating a website but was able to launch it on January 1, 2014. I wanted to share what I had learned, especially with those who could not listen to those discourses in the Sinhala language.
6. I want to mention some things that may benefit others, particularly young people like you.
– One must have an interest in pursuing any subject. If someone is not interested in Buddha Dhamma, that is because one does not have the necessary background. It takes effort to set up that background, especially in the Western world. When engaged in the “rat race” trying to experience maximum sensory pleasures (and how to pay for such activities), there is hardly any time left to investigate issues like the “meaning of life.”
– Are we here just for a brief time? Why are we here? Did it happen without a cause, or can everything in this world be explained logically?
– That is why I think reading the “Origin of Life” section will be beneficial, especially for those with such an interest.
– However, some already have faith in the Buddha (and his Dhamma) and may not be interested in such analyses.
7. In either case, I highly recommend taking notes while reading or listening to Dhamma.
– I have done it from my school days (on any subject). Even if I may not read some of them, just writing down what one learns helps get it into “long-term memory.” I have accumulated a pile of notebooks from Waharaka Thero’s discourses. I recently glanced through them and saw that I had taken notes of the same discourse a few times in some cases (unknowingly.) But the interesting point is that my latter notes are much better; they were taken with a better understanding.
8. Explaining a concept to others is another way to clarify/solidify one’s understanding. But before trying to explain verbally, write down at least in point form. When you try to express an idea, you may realize that more questions need to be answered.
– Furthermore, as one’s understanding grows, one can see the errors one may have made in the early days. I see that there are early posts on the website that require re-writing or revision.
9. There is always room to improve. Only a Buddha knows everything perfectly. But it is an exhilarating experience to advance on the Path as things become clear more easily. Now I can read an earlier post of mine or a sutta translation by another person and see the flaws right away, in most cases. It is just that it takes time to organize my thoughts and write.
I may add a few things to this comment in the future if anything else comes to mind, especially if it could benefit others.
10. Regarding #7 above, it is NECESSARY to summarize what you learned in your own words. Just copying and pasting quotes directly from the source is useless.
11. If one would like to learn Buddha Dhamma at a deeper level (which is not necessary), it is essential to learn a bit of Abhidhamma. Abhidhamma is not different from Buddha Dhamma but is a systematic analysis of Buddha Dhamma.
– Some issues that may not be resolved within the Sutta Pitaka can be resolved with Abhidhamma.
12. Related to #11 is the following that I also mentioned in another thread at the forum. It is time to write a series of posts on willpower and the human mind.
– Arising of citta (loosely translated as “thoughts”) is a purely mechanical process. It happens within a billionth of a second.
– Then how is it that we have “willpower” to change our destiny?
– That requires systematic analysis. There is sufficient background material on the website, and there are enough people who will be able to follow.
It is primarily humans who have willpower.
– For example, animals are essentially robots who instinctively respond to sensory inputs (arammana.) But that is not to say they don’t have feelings. They do, and they suffer tremendously. But they are helpless (that is the true meaning of “anatta“) because they cannot alter their destiny.
– Even most Devas and Brahmas are like that. They enjoy their mental states until the sustaining kammic energy runs out. Of course, Devas and Brahmas with magga phala do have willpower because their gati have been permanently altered (no going back to bad gati.)
– That is why the Buddha said that human bhava is precious and not to be wasted!
– Those who are interested in the new series may want to grasp the essential aspects of Abhidhamma in the Abhidhamma section.