Seeing the Buddha today
By Ven.Dr.Mirrisse Dhammika Thera
Flowers were blooming everywhere. The sun was shining bright, as never before. Even the wild animals were showing a great affection for each other. A new era was about to dawn. Mankind was in awe.
These were some of the remarkable events that signified the birth of the Buddha who brought peace and harmony to all beings. During the eighty years of his life, in particular the forty five years since achieving Buddhahood, human qualities such as compassion, patience, loving-kindness, tolerance and selflessness were realised. These noble qualities had revolutionised the legacy of human life. It had transformed human thoughts and minds to divinity. Who would be sceptical that Gouthama the Buddha had shed light on these noble human qualities!
Buddha is not alive but, His Teachings are
In the final hours, the Buddha was lying down and monks were standing around Him. When the Buddha’s chief attendant Venerable Ananda asked him “O Venerable Sir, who would succeed you as our Teacher?” the Buddha said “Ananda, the Dhamma that was realised and taught by me, succeeds and becomes your Teacher.” This was an answer to anyone who had any doubts about the guidance into the true path.
The dhamma is universal and prevails over anything and anywhere as the absolute truth. It can be categorised into morality, concentration and wisdom. Morality consolidates right application of word, action and livelihood. A kind word can preserve the world. The Buddha has shown this explicitly on many occasions by appreciating non-violence and peace as opposed to actions that are harmful and fearful to others. Likewise, an evil word can destroy the entire world. The Dhammapada quotes ‘ aththanag upaman kathva’ meaning “take your own self as an example.” In brief, how would one feel if one has to be in the shoes of an other? If it is a feeling of joy according to the socio-cultural norms, then it is a socially accepted right action. It if is hurtfull or results in unwholesome feelings, avoiding it would be saintly. Right livelihood is a part of morality. The Buddha who taught non-violence, clearly explains that another being should not be taken ‘prey’ even for one’s own survival.
Concentration encompasses right determination and right effort required to avoid unwholesome thoughts, words and actions. It enhances self-awareness, permitting the mind to focus on wholesome words and deeds.
The dhamma that exists in the universe is timeless. By following the path of the dhamma, one will be able to find permananent peace. Thus the philosophy of the dhamma places trust in mankind. Buddhism emphasises the fact that one is the master of oneself and not of any divine saviour. Though a lot of blind faith is placed on an external saviour, it is obvious everything is the result of the power of the human mind which is explained explicitly in the Dhamma. The right path of the dhamma is subdued with the passage of time and thus the Buddhas appear from time to time to retrieve the path. Those who are determined and are able to comprehend the power of self, would treat the path and find deliverance.
Do you see what prince Siddharta had seen?
As usual, prince Siddharta, was on his way to the park in his chauffeur driven Royal carriage. Suddenly, he saw an old and feeble person with an ungainly gait. The wagon came to a halt on the orders of the prince. He asked his chauffeur “Who is this?” “Your royal highness he is an old man”. It precipitated some deep thought in the mind of the prince and he explored it further. He was told that everyone gets old and that suffering is inevitable unless death intervenes. The prince had never seen real human misery so far. Siddhartha’s curiosity was unending and he asked the chauffeur, “Tell me whether I am getting old too”. The chauffeur answered “Sir not only you, but also your father, wife, me and any one who is born in this world will became old, then suffering is inevitable.”
Siddhartha began to think about the question of aging. This thinking enabled Him to achieve Buddhahood. Let us reflect on this further.
Now let me explain how I think about it. I would go to a mirror and take a hard look at myself. At the same moment, I draw a mental picture of my grandfather or grandmother or the faces of my parents. In the course of a few decades, I look similar to them. I also experience the pain and suffering that they experienced. Due to weakening sight, I am unable to see my footsteps and fall down. I am unable to hold fast and fall due to weakness in my limbs. When my hearing is diminished, I have to ask things repeatedly. It makes others impatient and angry, then I bear their angry remarks. Before long I will be powerless and be consumed by death. Again, I look at my face in the mirror. I am young, I am young! However, I would never forget aging.
Let us think along these lines and respect the eldery. Let us share love, tenderness and kindness with them. An elder may feel more joyous with just a kind word than with a thousand dollars.
Nanda, please see this attractive and seductive body.
The Buddha once addressed his step sister, Theri Nanda, “Nanda, please look at this body. Eventhough this is attractive, it is messy and vulnerable to disease and decay. Thus look prudently at the real nature of the body. Concentrate your mind”. This advice helped Theri Nanda to realise the impermanent nature of the body and attain sainthood. It is important to analyse the above statement of the Buddha. He never rejected the idea of keeping the body healthy and clean and dressed with beautiful attire. The vinaya and the sutta pitakas contain many discourses about cleanliness and the orderliness of the body. One can recognise in retrospect the erroneous occasion in one’s life caused by the appearance and attractiveness of the body. If one is arrogant of the beauty of one’s own body and humiliates another, it is unworthy and unwholesome. For a moment, let us free ourselves from the material world and go to a hospital to see the true nature of life. We see many patients who are powerless, deformed and less attractive due to illness. If we feel pain and suffering even briefly, it is a victory for us. One might ask what kind of victory it is. Indeed, it enables us to understand the true nature of life within our world full of illusions; thus it becomes a victory. It is quite common that we buy insurance policies to protect us from disease, illness and future economic discomfort. We have to insure against selfishness, insulting others, unkindness and ill will, arrogance etc. through creating our own policies risch in loving-kindness, compassion, tolerance, humility and benevolence.
Beauty in youth
The day that prince Nanda, the step brother of the Buddha became a monk was a sad day for him. He thought his dreams were shattered. Nanda also had dreams like any other youth of his age. He dreamt of a gorgeous palace. A beautiful queen as his wife and a happy life as heir to the throne of his country. Nanda waited anxiously until the day his dreams were fulfilled. Then the Buddha paid a visit to the palace. King Sudhodana was overjoyed because his elder son had come home after a long time. Like any father, the King was happy to see his younger son Nanda succeed him as the king. But events changed. Nanda carried the Buddha’s alms bowl and followed Him to the monastery. He became a priest because he could not disregard the words of the Buddha. Even though, Nanda wore robes, his mind was somewhere else. The Buddha understood Nanda’s youthful mind. He neither imposed any restrictive measures to insult or punish him nor did he try to isolate him. The greatest psychiatrist, the Buddha reached out to Nanda’s mind during a walk through a charred forest.
The Buddha showed him a mutilated body of a female monkey. Walking with him further he showed Nanda a group of majestically beautiful young women. Nanda was flabbergasted and thought “These young women are so beautiful; the princess that I am supposed to marry is much like the mutilated female monkey compared to them.” This experience was adequate for Nanda to realize the illusory nature of the mind and shortly thereafter he attained sainthood.