Bhikkhu T. Seelananda
A unique being, an extra Ordinary man, a noble Prince who was destined to be the greatest religious Teacher of the world, was born on the Full Moon Day of May (Vesak), in the year 623 B.C. in the Lumbini Park at Kapilavatthu, in India. His Mother was Mahamaya and the Father was King Suddhodana of the aristocratic Sakyan clan.
While the people were rejoicing over the birth of this illustrious prince the great ascetic of high spiritual attainments, named Asita, the tutor of the King, was also pleased to hear this happy news. On hearing this, he visited the palace of the King to see this child. The King carried the child up to the ascetic in order to make the child pay him due reverence. But to the surprise of all, the child's legs turned and rested on the matted locks of the ascetic. Instantly, foreseeing with his supernormal vision the child’s future greatness, he saluted the child with clasped hands. The King also did likewise. It was this prince who eventually became the supremely Enlightened One at the age of 35 on a Full Moon Day of Vesak like today.
The Vesak commemorates mainly the three events of the life of the Buddha namely, his birth, Enlightenment and passing away into Parinibbana. The Buddhists all over the world celebrate this blessed and sacred religious day by offering flowers, lamps, incense and various kinds of foods and juice etc in the name of the Buddha. They go to temples and venerate the Buddha devotedly. Specially in Sri Lanka, as a mark of veneration people erect pandals depicting the life of the Buddha or a story of his previous life. On the day or perhaps from days ahead, they start giving alms for the monks and the ordinary people. They observe precepts and practice the Dhamma. To the Buddhists through out the world, this is the utmost significant day of the year. That was why as a request by Buddhists of all over the world, recently it was declared as the International Holiday for Buddhists.
The Buddhas are not born everywhere and every day. They are very rare in the world. Once he himself said that it was hard to encounter the arising of the Buddhas (kiccho Buddhanam uppado-Dh.182). The Buddha Sakyamuni Gautama is venerated as the greatest religious Teacher by billions of people in the world today. He, as an energetic young prince who was brought up in the lap of luxury, married his beautiful cousin princes Yasodhara who was then at the age of sixteen. They led a happy married life. With the march of time, princess Yasodhara delivered a baby, a son. On the same day, the birthday of the son, this uninspired and unparalleled prince Siddhartha Gautama renounced his worldly life with the intention of seeking what is Truth. He went from home to homelessness.
As a penniless wanderer, living on what little the charitably-minded gave of their own accord, he went forth. He had no permanent abode. A shady tree or a lonely cave sheltered him by day or night. Bare-footed and bare-headed, he walked in the scorching sun and in the piercing cold. With no possessions to call his own, but a bowl to collect his food, and robes just sufficient to cover the body. He concentrated all his energies on the quest of truth. Searching for the unsurpassed peace, he approached the Teachers like Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. He practiced under them and gained complete mastery of his mind, but his ultimate goal was far ahead. As he was dissatisfied with their teachings, politely he took his leave from them. Finally, he realized that there was none capable enough to teach him what he yearned for-the highest truth. He also realized that the highest truth is to be found and realized within oneself and ceased to seek external aid. Disappointed but not discouraged, the ascetic Siddhartha Gautama wandered through the district of Magadha and one day arrived the market town of Senani at Uruvela. There he saw a lovely spot of ground, a charming forest grove, a flowing river with pleasant sandy fords, and hard by was a village where he could obtain his food. Then he thought thus: “Suitable in deed this place for spiritual exertion for those noble scions who desire to strive.” So as the place was congenial for his meditation he resolved to settle down here to achieve his desired object. Seeing the Bodhi tree on the bank of the river Neranjara he went up to the foot of the tree and under the cooling shade of the tree he sat with a firm determination in the eve of the pre-Vesak day and strived and developed his mind. Finally at the dawn of the following day, the Full Moon Day of Vesak, by realizing the Truth he became the Supremely Enlightened One in the world.
Immediately after the attainment of the Buddha-hood, as an uplift, he said :
“Through many a birth in samsara have I wandered in vain, seeking the builder of this house (of life). Repeated birth is indeed suffering ! O house-builder, you are seen ! You will not build this house again. For your rafters are broken and your ridgepole shattered. My mind has reached the Unconditioned; I have attained the destruction of craving.” (Dh.153-154)
He mainly realized the Four Noble Truths, The dependent Origination and the Three Characteristics of existence. Referring to the Dhamma (Truth) he realized he said: "O monks those Dhamma which I have discovered and proclaimed should be thoroughly learnt by you, practiced, developed and cultivated, so that this holy life may endure for a long time, that it may be for the benefit and happiness of the multitude, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit and happiness of devas and humans" (Maha Parinibbana Sutta). What are those Dhammas:.
The Four Foundations of Mindfulness
The Four Kinds of Right Endeavour
The Four Means of Accomplishment
The Five Faculties
The Five Powers
The Seven Factors of Enlightenment
The Eightfold Path
(Those are the factors to be developed by oneself for the attainment of Enlightenment. There are 37 factors).
After his Enlightenment, the Buddha delivered his first sermon on the Full Moon Day of Esala and thereafter little by little his beneficent and successful ministry which lasted for forty five years was established. At the age of 80, addressing the Bhikkhus he said:
“Twenty –nine years of age I was
When I went forth to seek the Good.
Now over fifty years have passed
Since the day that I went forth
To roam the realm of wisdom's law
Outside of which no ascetic is
(First, second, third or fourth degree)
Other schools of such are bare,
But if here monks live perfectly,
The world won't lack for Arahants”
Before his passing away the Buddha gave certain utmost significant admonitions to the monks, which are still vogue and immortal. Once addressing Ven. Ananda He said: “Ananda, after the passing away of the Tathagata, it may be that you will think; ‘The Teacher’s instruction has ceased, now we have no teacher’ It should not be seen like this, Ananda, for what I have taught and explained to you as Dhamma and discipline will be your teacher”. (This is very important even today for the seeker of the Dhamma. As we understand, many followers of Buddhism go from Master to Master and finally they cling to them and they then end with them without seeking the Dhamma. Do not forget the word of the Buddha. “The Dhamma is your Master”.)
These are some other glittering gems like utterances of the Enlightened One, just before his passing away into Parinibbana;
1. “Monks, a monk should be mindful and clearly aware, this is our charge to you!”
2. “How is a monk mindful? Here, a monk abides contemplating the body as body, earnestly, clearly aware, mindful and having put away all hankering and fretting for the world, and like wise with regard to feeling, mind and Dhammas. That is how a monk is mindful”.
3. “Ananda, what does the order of monks expect of me?. I have taught the Dhamma, Ananda, making no ‘teacher's fist’ in respect of doctrines”.
4. “Ananda , you should live as Islands unto yourselves, being your own refuge, with no one else as your refuge, with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as your refuge, with no other refuge”.
5. “Ripe I am in years. My life span’s determined. Now I go from you, having made myself my refuge. Monks, be untiring, mindful, disciplined, guarding your minds with well-collected thought. He who, tireless, keeps to law and discipline, leaving birth behind will put an end to woe”.
6. “Ananda whatever monk, nun, male or female lay-follower dwells practicing the Dhamma properly, and perfectly fulfills the Dhamma-way, he or she honors the Tathagata, reveres and esteems hi and pays him the supreme homage”.
7. “Do not worry yourselves about the funeral arrangements, Ananda . You should strive for the highest goal, devote yourselves to the highest goal, and dwell with your minds tirelessly, zealously devoted to the highest goal”.
8. “O Monks if you have doubts or uncertainty about the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha or about the Path or the practice. Ask monks ! Do not afterwards feel remorse. Perhaps, monks, you do not ask out of respect for the teacher. Then monks let one friend tell it to another, but… All monks were silent….”
9. “Now monks, I declare to you, all conditioned things are of a nature of decay. Strive on untiringly”. These were the Buddha's last words. With these words the Buddha passed away into Parinibbana.
At least from this great significant day of Vesak, let us strive to follow and practice the above teachings of the Buddha. Impermanent are compounded things in the world. Let us realize this truth in the world through the word of the Buddha. Let us be mindful and wise to understand things as they are.
May all beings be
well, happy and peaceful !
The religion in the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogma & theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. -Albert Einstein