This month we celebrated the sacred day of Buddha Purnima.
There are so many beautiful lessons to learn from the life of the Buddha. His life is the epitome of enlightenment in action.
When he was born, an astrologer told Buddha’s father that his son would either be an emperor or a sanyasi (holy renunciant). The king understood that in order to prevent his son from renouncing the material world in favor of the spiritual world, he would have to keep him sheltered and protected. Thus, Siddharth (the young Buddha) was raised in the castle and never had even a view of the outside world.
Finally, one day as a young man, he told the charioteer to take him to the city. Along the way, he saw a sick man. The charioteer explained the meaning of illness for Siddharth had never before seen or heard of anyone who was not in the peak of health). “Everyone gets sick sometimes,” the charioteer explained.
Later, Siddharth saw an old man walking with a cane along the side of the road. “Why is he walking like that? Why is his hair so white and his step so slow? Is he also having a sickness?” The Charioteer explained to Siddharth that the man was simply old and that everyone eventually becomes old. “Everyone?” Siddharth inquired incredulously. “Yes, everyone,” the charioteer confirmed.
As they drove through the city, Siddharth saw four men carrying a casket in a funeral procession to the crematorium. “What are they doing?” Siddharth asked his charioteer. As the charioteer explained about death, Siddharth was stunned, and immediately realized the inevitably transitory nature of our time on Earth.
Upon returning to the castle, filled with the knowledge of sickness, old age and death, Siddharth renounced the material world for the search of Truth. “If sickness, old age and death are inevitable on this path of life, then surely the nature of existence and the point of life must be deeper than we are currently experiencing.” With that, he left the castle to spend many years in sadhana deep in the forest.
One glimpse of sickness, age and death and the Buddha realized how temporary and elusive the material existence is. We, however, get sick ourselves over and over again. We watch our loved ones age, and we have seen so many deaths. However, we never seem to get the message. We continue to run after transitory pleasure and material wealth in the illusion that somehow that is the point of our existence on Earth. We see so many wealthy people, accomplished businessmen pass out of this body empty-handed. Yet we continue to run after wealth. This is the nature of our ignorance. The Buddha had one glimpse of sickness and death, and he saw the truth. We must also try to see this truth, for we have not only glimpsed evidence of the ephemeral nature of life but we have also lived it and experienced it daily.
The Buddha went to forests to seek enlightenment and to find the Truth. Thus, people ask, “So, must we also leave everything to see the Truth.”No. Once Edison discovered the laws of electricity, we merely have to use these laws and apply them in our daily lives. We do not have to rediscover them. Once Newton developed the laws of physics, we use these laws in our lives and in our work. We do not have to re-discover these laws. We only need to use them and apply them.
Similarly, the Buddha went to the forest and discovered the Truth. We don’t have to leave everything, go to the forest and re-discover this. We only have to take the Truth that he discovered and apply it in our lives.
After many years of sadhana in the forest, the Buddha attained enlightenment. However, once he attained this state, what did he do? Did he stay in the forest and continue only to enjoy the divine ecstasy of union with God? Did he spend all of his time in meditation, puja and silence? No. He immediately came back to the world and started serving. He immediately started to share this treasure chest of wisdom with all. Whatever he knew, whatever he had realized, he spent every minute of his life sharing it with everyone who would listen.
The Buddha’s gift was his wisdom. So, he spent the rest of his life sharing this knowledge with all. Our gifts may be different. Our gifts may be certain talents or may be our financial wealth or may be something else. But, we must take this message to heart. We all must spend our lives sharing our gifts with the world.
Whatever gifts God has bestowed upon us – whether divine knowledge, expertise in a certain field, a particular talent, or financial wealth – must be shared with all.
He not only preached the Truth, but he lived the Truth
One day, as the Buddha was traveling on foot preaching his divine knowledge, a local man spat on him and verbally abused him. It always happens, anyway. There are always people who try to oppose the truth and who abuse those who are living and spreading the truth. But, what did the Buddha do? He remained very quiet and very still while the man continued his abusive tirade. At the end, he asked the man “Aur kooch kehana hai?” [Do you have anything else to say?].
The following day, when the Buddha was again passing through the same place, the man came up to him, fell at his feet and begged forgiveness. He said, “All night long I could not sleep for the abuses I hurled at Your Holiness. Please forgive me.” The Buddha replied, “Forgive whom? For what? You are not the same person as the one who abused me yesterday. You have realized and changed. So, whom should I forgive? The “you” of today needs no forgiving and the “you” of yesterday is no longer with us. That which happened is like water in a river. It is long since gone, and the river is still flowing.”
Be calm and move on
This is the Buddha’s message: Be calm and move on. Do not react.
The Buddha represents fullness. He was born on a full moon. He attained enlightenment on a full moon. He departed this body on a full moon. When we are full inside, then nothing outside can affect us. When we are full inside, then we become unrockable and unshockable. We become shock-proof and rock-proof. It is only when we are empty inside that we react to little little things in the outside world.
The true test of spirituality, the true test of “fullness” is not how nicely and peacefully you can sit in meditation on a deserted mountain. Rather, the true test of spirituality is how calmly and peacefully you can live in the world without being affected by the world. The real test of “fullness” is how you can be unshockable and unrockable by the ups and downs of the world.
We spend so much energy to earn money so that we can have expensive air conditioning in our homes and in our cars. But, inside of us, the heat is still on. Our hearts and our minds ignite in flames at the slightest insult or disappointment or failure. We must learn to be cool on the inside. We must learn to have the A/C on inside!
Be calm and move on. Let us take this as our mantra on this day of Buddha Purnima. Let us be filled with spirituality, with God, with love and with piety so that there is no room for us to be affected by little little things.
Let us realize the true, temporary and illusory nature of the material world, and instead dedicate ourselves to Truth, to God, to spirituality and let us give, give and give whatever we have to others. This is the message of the Buddha.