Buddha, the Enlightened One

  It is of great wonder that nothing is stable in the world. Great persons come and exert to the limit of human endurance and after great toils attain dizzying heights in their chosen fields. But the time demolishes to dust their achievements and sweeps away their memory. While the world is real, as real as hard rock, its ceaseless formations and form’s transient nature render it almost unreal; and it is more so when things of the world are seen from the ever-permanent spiritual realities playing hidden behind the appearance. Then, it is not more than a dream where – like in an ocean – ceaseless waves of form and oblivion, creation and destruction, rising and falling are continuously occurring.

  But then the dream also has its reality – as hard as rock. And, world is there, things happen in the world, great human beings are born here, they toil, accomplish marvelous results and over a period of time every thing is lost as if nothing was achieved.

  Spiritual wisdom tells us: persons – great or ordinary – are born for specific purpose and events happen for specific purpose. Heart rending story of the birth, rise and then decline of Buddhism in India is one such happening. Despite all the evil forces at work that resisted spiritual enlightenment – despite all the mortal effect of time – Buddhism has been able to accomplish its intention: the intention of the good of mankind. Before understanding who Buddha was and what gift he offered out of his boundless mercy to mankind, let us see how the fruits – the Light – of his great spiritual toils gathered over his many previous births were soiled by time in India.

  Sidhartha – Gautam being his family name – became Buddha only after he attained enlightenment. He was born in 563 BC in Sakya clan, a Kshatriya Caste of India, in Lumbini Gardens – which now lies at the lndo-Nepal border – while his mother, Maya, was on a journey. Suddodhana was his father who was a king of Sakyas having his capital at Kapilavastu.

  At the time of Buddha’s conception his mother had a dream. In the dream she saw in the middle of heaven a white elephant in resplendent glory and the world lighting up along with music and sound of rejoicing and accompanying Devas scattering flowers and incense. She saw that the elephant approached her and hovered above the spot and then disappeared.

  This dream was interpreted by the Brahmins as a greatly fortunate one. It was said that it indicated the descent of a Holy Spirit into the womb and the child to be born was to be either a great Chakravarti king or a Rishi born to save the world.

  Buddhcharitam (Life of Buddha), a Sanskrit book written by Ashwaghosha (150 AD), describes the unusual events following the birth of Buddha. On the birth of Buddha, in the garden of Lumbini rare and special flowers bloomed out in great abundance out of season. All diseases and afflictions among men without a cure applied of them were healed. Various cries and confused sounds of beasts were hushed and silence reigned all around. The self-caused angelic music was heard all around and the whole world of sentient creatures enjoyed peace and universal tranquility.

  However, his royal mother, the queen Maya, finding her son born under such extra-ordinary circumstances and a beautiful child of heaven adorned with every excellent distinction could not control her excessive joy and died thereof after seven days of his birth. Thereupon, he was brought up by Prajapati Gautami, his foster mother, whom he regarded as his real mother.

  Regarding his mother, an event of spiritual significance is related by Buddhist religious books. It is said that his mother after her death was transmigrated to a particular plane of spiritual world and that Buddha, after his enlightenment, ascended through spiritual means to that plane, met and delivered his mother from the cycle of birth and death by making her realize the spiritual Truth (or Dharma).

  Truth and significance of this story is related elsewhere. Suffice it to say here that Indian Yogis – in those ancient times as well as today – know that the death of physical body is not the end of the matter. Man does not live at the physical body alone; he has his life, or rather consciousness, not only at the physical body level but at the desires, mind and in-most consciousness levels also. They all have separate existence and after the death of bodily life, the rest migrate to their respective spiritual planes. Thereafter in-most consciousness – or in-most being – takes birth again and again in a cycle of birth and death. It goes on till one – having this spiritual being within oneself – becomes aware of its presence – or gets enlightenment, which is called in Buddhist terminology Nirvana.

  Buddha as a young person led a normal life of a prince. However he was contemplative in his psychology. He was always given to thoughts. He often put questions that are regarded abnormal for a young man of his age and status in worldly life. He got a beautiful wife –Yashodhara – while he was sixteen, by display of his ability in fighting, wrestling and warring game of archery against other contestants eying the damsel. He had a son –Rahula – by her.

  He was a handsome youth and once a maiden fell in love with him and enamored with passion sang to him, pouring her heart’s longing for him thus:

Happy indeed is the Mother,

Happy indeed is the Father,

Happy indeed is the Wife,

Who has such a Husband.

  He heard the song and fell into deep thought. He was acutely aware that this beautiful body, of whjch the damsel is envious of possessing as her man, will not last for long. He knew that this pleasure – sought to be got by the woman in this manner – was only momentary. He put a question to himself, ‘’what is the worth of this pleasure, even if it is secured”. By this and such other thoughts he became disillusioned of the seeming worth of this momentary world. He felt restless instead of getting youthful joy at the maiden’s song. Such was his mental state in his youthful days. At that time he was twenty-nine of age. These circumstances of his life were not hidden from his father – King Suddodhana. He became alarmed of the things that were going to happen in the life of his son and tried his best to keep  him away from such thoughts and demeanors by arranging worldly means of pleasure for him.

  One day, while on his princely outing on his chariot, he witnessed things that are normal to ordinary human mind but which astonished him and pushed his mind to take a decisive – and without late – decision of his life. He saw firstly an old man, then a sick man and then a dead man. As he saw each of them, he poured out his heart by asking his royal charioteer a simple question every time he saw these incident. “Why it is so?”, he queried. And, the answer given by the charioteer was equally simple. He said, ‘’It comes to everybody. It is but certain.’’ The prince fell in deep thought. His mind put its entire strength to grasp the real meaning of this simple answer. ‘’If it comes to everybody, it shall come to me as well’’, he thought. We all encounter such things everyday in our life but we are not conscious enough to put such searching questions to ourselves. In Buddhist terminology this mental state of ordinary people is called our ‘Pramada’. Why it is so with us? It is so because we – like a person walking in sleep – think we already know this reality. Yes, we know this reality – the reality of our certain death – yet we do not realize its meaning. This realization is not within one’s normal competence. This capability is achieved by spiritual evolution of one’s true Self – one’s in-most spiritual being – spread over numerous life cycles. One has to get out of ‘Pramada’ – that is, one has to awaken in his / her consciousmess, which capability may take several births to be achieved. Buddha – after he became enlightened or Buddha – remembered his 500 previous births; it took him many births to achieve the capability to be able to astonish at the certainty of death.

  Christmas Humphreys continuing with his narration of Buddha’s firm resolve to pursue search of the answer to his questions, in his book ‘Buddha’ says: “He bade farewell to his sleeping wife and babe, and in the silence of the Indian night went forth with Channa, his charioteer, and Kanthaka, his stallion. At the edge of the forest he alighted, cut off his long black hair with his sword and sent it back to the palace by the hand of Channa. He exchanged his princely robes with those of a beggar, and went forth into the homeless life, alone.

 ‘’The purpose of his search was clear: the answer to his questions; the Truth behind birth, old age and death. He was out to secure the Secret that Nature has hidden from ordinary mortal man. The Secret of the existence: Why after all birth is there, and, if once born, why there is sickness, the old age and then death. He was not to be contented with anything less.”

  This is the Secret that Seers, Sages, Sramanas and Yogis have been searching and unraveling since ancient times in India, and thereby, conquering death and birth in this transient and painful world.

  This biographer says, “He visited first Aiara Kalama, a noted sage, and studied with him, but he found no answer to his heart’s imperious demand. So he went to Uddaka, another sage, and received the same reply. He passed through the country of Magadha to the town of Uruvela, and there settled down in a grove of trees to find Enlightenment. For six long years he meditated, practicing the utmost physical austerities until he all but wasted away. He conquered fear; subdued developed and controlled his mind, but still he did not find Enlightenment. Finally he realized that not in austerities could truth be found. He decided to eat again, and the five ascetics living with him departed in disgust. All lusts of the flesh; he accepted a bowl of curds from a maid, Sujata, and having eaten and bathed, seated himself in the lotus posture at the foot of a tree, determined to achieve without more delay the full fruits of Enlightenment. It was the night of the Full Moon of May, and he was thirty-five.”

  The great Rishi Gautam, having firmly resolved by oath to achieve the Truth of seeming existence or perish in the attempt, sat in meditation beneath a tree (later on called the Boddhi Tree). Such firm and unflinching determination of resolve by the seeker of Divine Truth is the first and foremost pre-requisite for entering spiritual path and obtaining success in the endeavor. In his meditation he had in ascending order of consciousness many in number and varied in significance, spiritual experiences. At the outset he was assailed by the evil forces of doubt, fear, enticement and mental insanity.

  An ordinary person takes these feelings of doubt, fear etc. a product of his own mind but a Divine seeker recognizes them, more and more clearly as he proceeds further on the path, concrete forces acting from outside on him. Once again one is reminded of the ancient teaching that these things cannot be mentally analyzed to find the truth of the matter but have to be lived and experienced to know the worth of the teaching.

Doubts, allurements and threats:

  As he gradually concentrated and withdrew himself from outside world in his meditation and became increasingly conscious of the inner world of subtle beings, the great Rishi (who was not yet Buddha) was confronted by the evil force called Mara – such names being mere symbols to facilitate our comprehending of things spiritual and beyond human mind – and received threats of all sorts thus:  “Seeing the Muni quiet and still and preparing to cross the sea of the three worlds, that is, engaged in concentration and bent upon to know the Divine secret, Mara addressed him:

 “‘Kshatriya! Rise up quickly! For you may well fear! Your death is at hand; you may practice a system of religion for yourself, but let go this effort after the law of deliverance (of others); instead you may well pursue the path of almsgiving whereby the religious merit will be earned and the tumultuous suffering world will be appeased and so in the end you will reap your reward in heaven; in such renowned and well established way (of charity) former Rishis, kings and men of eminence have walked; but the path (leading to penury and alms-begging) which you are pursuing is unworthy of you.’

  “’Now then if you do not rise, you had best consider with yourself, that if you give not up your vow, and tempt me to let fly an arrow (or attack you with non- human bewildering arsenals), how that Alia, grandchild of Soma, by a mere touch of such arrow, had lost his reason and became a madman;”

  Then he was made aware the fate of Rishi Vimala who, by pursuing a similar path of Divine knowledge, had become bewildered and lost his true nature; he was also warned to consider how inferior he was to those great Rishis of the bygone ages and urged to quickly abandon his pursuit.

  One who treads the path of spiritual enlightenment encounters, in the early stages of his Sadhana, such seemingly sane and reasonable urgings of mind and as he progressively becomes intense in his endeavor these urgings no longer seem his own mental product but assume concrete, foreign and menacing form.

  However the Boddhisattva (Gautam) did not hesitate in his firm resolve.

  Then Mara assembled its army- host having peculiar and dreadful forms around him and this wicked goblin troop encircled on its four sides the Boddhi tree. Some were bent on tearing his body to pieces and others were on to devour him whole. However Bodhisattva remained calm and undisturbed by this commotion of these lower beings and not a hair of his was moved or harmed by them.

  It is not that only evil forces are there to obstruct yogi on his path of Divine enlightenment; he has equally supportive forces on his side. If it were not so, no mortal being however great he might be would ever be able to withstand the opposition and get victory over the hostile forces.  There are also equally powerful (and ultimately more powerful) supportive forces that encourage and help the seeker.

  Bodhisattva, in his endeavor, was supported and encouraged by these forces; when he maintained his calm, resolve and perseverance, the good and helping forces thus urged Buddha: “‘Lust, hate and ignorance (these are) the rack and bolt, the yoke placed on the shoulder of the world; through ages long he has practiced austerities to rescue men from these their fetters; sitting on his right-established throne, he now shall certainly attain his end.’

  ‘Like as when some cruel chieftain slain, the hateful band is all dispersed and scattered, so the lust of Mara disconcerted, fled away. The mind of Bodhisattva now reposed was quiet and peaceful.”

  These are real spiritual experiences which over the ages have been replicated by all great Yogis and realized souls and even today one who embarks on the path of spiritual enlightenment may very well experience on way to the Divine destination, that is, Enlightenment:

  ‘Bodhisattva having subdued Mara, his firmly fixed mind at rest, thoroughly exhausting the first principle of truth, he entered into deep and subtle contemplation (that is, entered into a higher level of consciousness in meditation). While self-contained, every kind of Samadhi in order passed before his eyes.”

  During the first watch of night he, in his Samadhi, had an experience of a particular state of consciousness referred to as ‘right perception’ (note: the Truth, the highest plane of Consciousness where all that exists is experienced in its right perspective and no question anymore is left to be answered) and as a result thereof in recollection all his former births passed before his eyes. He vividly recollected them all:

 “ ‘Born in such a place, of such a name, and downwards to his present birth, so through hundreds, thousands, myriad, all his births and deaths he knew; countless in number were they, of every kind and sort; then knowing, too, his family relationships, great pity rose within his heart. This sense of deep compassion passed, he once again considered ‘all that lives’ (that is, he again experienced the ultimate truth of all that seems to live) and how they moved in six modes of life’s transmigration, with no final end to birth and death.”

  Ashvaghosha recounts the experience of Gautam, who had become Buddha by now, thus, in his ‘Buddhacharitam’: “‘He rose in consciousness through the planes and sub-planes of material existence. He linked the various component parts of self to the Self which uses them, and the Self by the faculty of Buddhi (intuition) to the Maha Boddhi (utmost wisdom) of which, in his inmost being, he was a manifestation on earth. Finally he bound in one the Self, which still is human, and the SELF of pure Enlightenment. The journey was over, and a new Buddha, the fourth of his line, was born.”

  This was pure spiritual experience of the highest order – of Divine, called by Buddhist Sramanas the Law, Christians God, Hindu Yogis Sachchiddananda and Sufis Allah – that a mortal being in human frame could have had. It was an experience that opened before Buddha the secret of the cycle of creation, existence and destruction of all that exists in universe.

  This secret was neither meant then in that ancient age nor is it meant today in modern times to be divulged to ordinary and worldly man. Equally, then as well as today, neither has it been possible by any amount of intellectual exposition to understand it nor permissible by the rules applicable to that mystic and secret world to let worldly minds comprehend the Secret.

  The Law of Buddha, Sachchiddananda of Yogis or Allah of Sufis is beyond words. Only one who attains it or Him knows the secret and the rest fight over words.

Last instructions:

  Just before his death, a lay householder, Kanda, requested Buddha to accept an offering of a meal at his house. Buddha accepted the request, went to his house and took meal. It was his last meal. He preached the Truth to the householder and departed from there to Kusinagar. After crossing Tsaku and Hiranyavati rivers he arrived at Sala grove- a quiet and secluded Ashram- and took his seat.

  After resting for a while he went to nearby Hiranyavati, entered the water, took a bath there and came back to the grove.

  Then he told his disciple Ananda who was nearby to prepare a clean place between two Sala trees by sweeping and sprinkling water and arrange for a sitting mat for him and while telling so, addressing Ananda, he said’ at the coming midnight I shall leave my body.’

  On hearing such words from the mouth of his Guru, Ananda’s breath was choked and his heart sank. He started weeping but somehow he spread the mat etc. and informed his Guru.

  There was weeping all around by the assembled disciples who were in good numbers. Buddha lay down on the mat with his head towards the north, on his right side and resting his head upon his hands like a pillow with his crossed feet – one leg resting on the other; and he slept for some time. After a while, he arose from the sleep and addressed Ananda thus: “‘go! Tell the Mallas, the time of my decease is come; ‘They, if they see me not, will ever grieve and suffer deep regret’”

  Ananda, weeping and listening the bidding of his Guru, went along the road to the Mallas and informed them ‘The Lord is near to death’

  The Mallas weeping, crying and grieving proceeded and bewailing reached the place where Buddha was. With piteous cries, they reached the grove and weeping, adoring and bowing to his feet prayed Buddha to behold his failing strength. Tathagata Buddha, composed and quiet, spoke thus:

  Lord Buddha uttered thus: “‘Grieve not, the time is one for joy; no call for sorrow or for anguish here. That which for ages I have aimed at, now am I just about to obtain; delivered now from the narrow bounds of sense, I go to the place of never-ending rest and peace.

  ‘I leave these things, earth, water, fire, and air, to rest secure where neither birth nor death can come. Eternally delivered there from grief, oh! Tell me! Why should I be sorrowful?

  ‘Of yore on Shirsh’s mount, I longed to rid me of this body, but to fulfill my destiny I have remained till now with men (in the world).

  ‘I have kept (till now) this sickly, crumbling body, as dwelling with a poisonous snake (that is, full of desires); but now I am come to the great resting place, all springs of sorrow now for ever stopped.

 ‘No more shall I receive a body, all future sorrow now for ever done away…”

  Lord Buddha further taught: “‘seeking the way, you must exert yourselves and arrive with diligence – it is not enough to have seen me! Walk, as I have commanded you; get rid of all the tangled net of sorrow…’Keep your heart carefully (keep check on your heart) – give not place to listlessness! … Man born in this world is pressed by all the sorrows of the long career (that is, pressed by the results of his life-long exertion in pursuit of his desires); (man is) ceaselessly troubled – without a moment’s rest – like a lamp blown by the wind!

  “The Mallas, all, hearing Buddha’s loving instructions, inwardly composed restrained their tears and, firmly self-possessed, returned back to their villages.”

  After thus consoling and instructing the Mallas and sending them back to their  places, Buddha attended to the request of one Subhadra, a non-Buddhist Brahmchari who while young had become recluse (a sadhu) and who had reached there on getting news that Buddha was on death-bed, of showing him the true path.

  On finding him sincere and earnest Buddha told him the root of all sorrows that a man plants himself – that is, desires, lust, hate, anger (impulses of one’s worldly mind and heart) and the necessity of complete plucking this root out of one’s life – that is, out of one’s thoughts, cravings and organs of body. Subhadra was so intensely sincere and single-minded in finding an answer to the inner call of his heart that he got the Light – the Truth then and there.

  On receiving the Light, on having attained the deliverance of the cause of birth (by having extinguished with root and stem all his desires – worldly thoughts and emotions of his human-body), Subhadra could not bear to see Buddha leave his body before himself.

  He gazed with earnest look on Buddha as he (Buddha) slept, joining his hands in Pranam gesture retired from the holy face (of Buddha) and took his seat apart and sat composed and firm there. Soon, he left his body (died).

  To those who feel inclined to question Subhadra leaving his body as being contrary to the Buddhist religious concept of Nirvana – being the complete extinction having no scope of leaving anything out of body on death, it may be said they have not earned the necessary qualification to question.

  They use Mind and think mentally of what Buddha has said and ascribe it a meaning in their own fashion. It is not the correct way to understand Buddha and Buddhism.

  Buddha’s simple prescription is ‘walk you on the path’.

  Suffice it to say here that Nirvana is a state (of what?) of complete rest and peace (Bliss?) where there is no sorrow (obviously, of birth and death) and it is not an extinction of everything. Extinction is there but of birth and death and attendant sorrows and not of true SELF.

  When woke up, Buddha said to his disciples:  “’He (Subhadra) is my last disciple, he has attained Nirvana, cherish him (his remains, status as the disciple etc.) properly.”

  It was past first night watch (around mid-night) and moon and stars were brightly shining in the night sky. Buddha, moved by great compassion for the suffering world, called his disciples for the last time near him and addressed them. He said: “‘after my Nirvana you ought to revere and obey my teaching (Pratimoksha), receiving it as your teacher, a shining lamp in the dark night…

  “ ‘Ill-governed feelings (of senses), like the horse, run wild through all the six domains of sense, bringing upon us in the present world unhappiness, and in the next, birth in an evil way (in the way that should not happen).

 “’So, like the (ill-governed) horse, these land us ill broken in the ditch; therefore, the wise and prudent man will not allow his senses license.

 “‘For these senses (impulses of body organs) are, indeed, our greatest foes, cause of miseries; for men enamored thus by sensuous things cause all their miseries to recur.

 “‘Destructive as a poisonous snake, or like a savage tiger, or like raging fire, (they are) the greatest evil in the world, he who is wise must free himself from the fear of these (by conquering and exterminating these desires).

  ‘But what he should fear is only this – a small desire that seems trivial (at the beginning of yearning that becomes big and uncontrollable later on) which drags a man to future miseries – (what he should fear is this) – just (for) a little sip of pleasure, not looking at the yawning gulf (a gulf between a trivial desire at the beginning and the uncontrollable raging fire of desire it will become).”

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