The Buddha and Buddhism

The Buddha

The human race has often expected someone to arise who could solve the difficulties of human beings. History shows this, the Jews expected the "Messiah", is a special being sent by God. Hindus expected avatars or messengers of God. The human race has always wanted someone to guide or lead them. In Northern India, after Vedic and Upanishad times, there appears to have been the expectation of a great leader, a be buddha, an awakened One. So when Siddhartha Gautama came from the forest and said "I have discovered the deathless" he was a fulfilment of this expectation. He was the Buddha , the Awakened One. Here was what mankind expected .Such a person never arises except once in a blue moon. Very rare, very, very.

This quotation from "The life of the Buddha" by Bhikkhu Nanamoli, proves that the urgency of such a great person. The rich merchant of Rajagaha said to the merchant, Anathapindika, " I have invited for tomorrow the Community of bhikkhus headed by the Buddha, the Enlightened One. Then this conversation took place between them.

Anathapindika : Do you say "the Buddha"?

Merchhant of Rajagaha: I say "the Buddha".

Anathapindika : Do you sasy "the Buddha"?

Merchant of Rajagaha : I say "the Buddha"

Anathapindika : Do you say "the Buddha"?

Merchant of Rajagaha : I say "the Buddha".

Anathapindika : This news "the Buddha, the Buddha" is hard to come by in the World. Is it possible to go and see this Blessed One, accomplished and fully enlightened, now at this time?"*

For our good fortune a full Enlightened being has arisen in our historical times. He was neither a Creator nor a messenger . As a human being he was born in 623 BC in India. He was known as Siddhartha Gautama. The place where he was born is called Lumbini or,today, Rummindei. It is about one hundred miles to the north from Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, India.

This is one of the four most sacred places the sight of which should arouse emotion, sense of urgency (samvejaniyani Thanani). Today most pilgrims visit there and pay their homage to the Buddha. There is a mighty stone pillar to mark this holy spot. It was erected by the Emperor Asoka about 3oo years after the demise of the Buddha.

The birth of the Master took place on the full Moon day of Vesak. According to the Buddhist scriptures he came out of the womb mindfully, lived in society, mindfully, and passed into Parinibbana, mindfully. He was born to a Royal family. His father was Suddhodana and mother was Mahamaya. According to the life story of the Buddha, his mother, Maya, passed away seven days after the delivery of the baby.

So the little prince was looked after by his foster mother, Prajapathi, who was the pioneer of the Bhikkhuni Order. As the prince was being brought up in a model manner with the provision of every need. His story spread over all the citizens of the country.

According to the custom of the day at the age of sixteen he was married to a princess , named Yasodara. The two of them led a luxurious life knowing nought of sorrow. But the prince began to see the rents in his worldy life. There was no satisfaction he could discover in all these happiness.

Day by day he was disgusted and disappointed and ultimately he decided to relinquish the worldly life. His great renunciation took placed on the Full Moon day of July(Esala). On the day of his renunciation he received a message that his wife had delivered a baby. But even that was spurred him to go from home to homelessness.

After reaching a far place he became an ascetic . Then he wandered from place to place seeking what is truth. Meeting some eminent Teacher like Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta he learnt their teachings but did not gain what he sought. Though he practised severe austerities for six years he could not achieve his goal. Therefore, Finally he himself strove to realise the Dhamma and when he was at the age of 35 ,on the Full Moon Day of Vesak he attained Full Enlightenment . When we consider the unparalleled characteristics of the Buddha we can come to a conclusion that it was because of his ever alert mindfulness that he attained full enlightenment ,realising the Dhamma which had not been known before. Realising the truth the Buddha said "Vision of insight arose in me, unshakable is the deliverance of my heart.This is my last birth. Now there is no more re-becoming." 1

Buddhism

The Dhamma realised through his intuitive wisdom and revealed by the Tathagata, the Buddha, is Buddhism. The Buddha realised the Four Noble truths. In the World there is one truth .That is suffering. So these four are not four truths but four levels of truth. "Monks it is through not understanding, not penetrating the Four Noble Truths that I as well as you have for a long time run on and gone round the cycle of birth -and -death".@ The Buddha said. These Four Noble Truths are:

The path leading to the cessation of suffering is the Middle path (The Avoiding of the two extremes). There are two extremes in the world ,namely sensual indulgence (kamasukhallikanu yoga) and self mortification (Attakilamathanuyoga). The Path he practised was the Middle Path (Majjhima Patipada).According to the Nagara Sutta of the Samyutta Nikaya it was an ancient Path(Purana Maggam).This Middle path is nothing but the Noble Eight-fold Path. To wit:

  1. Right understanding(samma ditthi)
  2. Right Thought ( samma Samkappa)
  3. Right speech(Sasmma vaca)
  4. Right Action (samma Kammantha)
  5. Right Livelihood (Samma Ajiva)
  6. Right effort (Samma Vayama)
  7. Right mindfulness (Samma Sati)
  8. Right Concentration (Samma Smadhi)

After his Enlightenment the Buddha did not remain silent. He commenced his service to all mankind, regardless of the minor differences between people. The Buddha , in his 80 years of life , from 35 to 80 rendered an unparalleled service to all beings in the world. After completion of his 45 years of mission, at the age of 80 , the Buddha passed into Parinibbana. Before his Parinibban,a the Buddha addressing his attendant Ven. Ananda, while Ananda was weeping at the approaching demise of the Buddha, said "Ananda, there is no attachment between us. There is nothing to share between us. So there is no pain of separation. Ananda, you cannot understand this. Although you have no attachmnet to anything, you are still attached to your Teacher. It is the love and attachment you have for me that has become an obstacle to your realising the Truth. Ananda , your Teacher can show you only the Path. He cannot make you enter Nibbana. It's by you that all defilements have to be destroyed. As one has to seek one's own salvation ,Ananda ,after my death , strive with diligence and gain the Fruits of Deliverance."*

This kind admonition of the Buddha is not only meant for the Venerable Ananda, but is relevant to all of us. Let us take this instruction of the Buddha deep into our hearts during this period of Vesak.

So what is Buddhism or the teaching s of the Buddha. On many occasions the Buddha very clearly pointed out what he realised and taught as the Dhamma . He Said " Monks, for this reason those matters which I have discovered and proclaimed should be thoroughly learnt by you, practised, 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. And what are those matters…?They are: The four foundations of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four roads to power, the five spiritual faculties, the five mental powers, the seven factors of enlightenment, the Noble Eight-fold Path.1 "

According to this statement of the Buddha the Dhamma he has revealed is the thirty seven factors pertaining to Enlightenment (Sattatimsati bodhipakkhiya Dhamma). So the entire doctrine of the Buddha comprises these 37 requisites of Enlightenment. Let us examine them in details; They are as follows:

1. The 4 foundations of Mindfulness

2. The 4 right efforts

3. The 4 roads to power

4. The 5 Spiritual Faculties

5. The 5 Mental Powers

6. The 7 factors of Enlightenment

  1. The Eight-fold Path

Those are the 37 requisites of Enlightenment. Now we shall carefully look at all the above factors once again. In all these factors mindfulness is a core concept. So that is the nucleus of Buddhism . Being mindful is the way to Nibbana. In the Maha Satipatthana Sutta of the Digha Nikaya ,the Buddha said ;

" O bhikkhus, this is the only way ,for the purification of beings, for the over coming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering and grief, for reaching the right Path, for the attainment of Nibbana."1 When one is mindful one can realise the three characteristics of existence in the world namely,:

Impermanence (Anicca)

Unsatisfactoriness (Dukkha )

Non- soul (Anatta)

Realising the three characteristics of existence itself is realising the teaching of the Buddha and reality. So the most important factor of the teaching of the Buddha is being mindful and cultivating wisdom. If we have adequate mindfulness and wisdom ,we can bring sufficient mindfulness and wisdom into our day-to-day activities. If we can bring sufficient mindfulness and wisdom into our day-to-day activities we can be contented peaceful and happy throughout life. Thus we can practise the teaching of the Buddha in daily life.

"Mindfulness alone has the power to reveal the deepest level of reality available to human observation. At this level of inspiration, one sees the following : (a) all conditioned things are inherently transitory;(b)every worldly thing is, in the end, unsatisfying; and (C )there are really no entities that are unchanging or permanent, only processes."1

When mindfulness of breathing is fully developed and continually increased, general mindfulness is established , and it brings fruit and great benefit. When Mindfulness of breathing is fully developed and continually increased it brings the Four Foundations of Mindfulness to perfection. When the Four Foundation of Mindfulness are fully developed and continually increased it brings the seven Factors of Enlightenment to perfection. When the Seven factors of Enlightenment are fully developed and continually increased it brings intuitive Knowledge and deliverance to perfection which is Nibbana.

Let us be mindful and cultivate Wisdom

May all beings be well and happy

-By Bhikkhu Seelananda

Paramita International Buddhist Centre

Kadugannawa .