Prince Siddhartha was born on 563 BC, attained ‘Sammasambuddhathvaya - ‘Enlightenment on 528 BC and Mahaparinibbana in 483 BC on Vesak Full Moon Poya Day in India. For Buddhists, it's a great significant day. They pay their homage, gratitude to this ‘Mahapurisha’ - the Greatest Man ever born in this universe. All these three events took place on the Vesak Poya Day.
Buddhism is the religion and philosophy founded in 528 BC in India by Gautama Siddhartha the Buddha. Buddhism is based on Four Noble Truths: Existence is suffering; the cause of suffering is desire; the end of suffering comes with the achievement of the Bliss of Nibbana, Deathlessness.
It can be achieved through the Eightfold Path: Right view, Right Resolve, Right speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. There are no Gods in Buddhism. ‘Karma’ (Action) one of Buddhism's most important concepts, say good actions are rewarded. Evil ones are punished, either in this life or throughout long series of lives resulting from Samsara, the cycle of Death and Re-birth by Reincarnation. The achievement of Nibbana or Nirvana breaks the cycle.
Buddhism is a worldwide religion. Its main divisions are Theravada or Hinayana in South East Asia, Mahayana in North Asia: Lamanism or Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet, Zen in Japan.
Today there are about 600 million Buddhists all over the world.
Why does millions of people, worship the Enlightened One – Sammasambuddha on this Vesak Full Moon Poya Day? He is endowed with wisdom courage and knowledge. He knows the good state of Nibbana; He is the knower of the world. By wisdom and conduct He is unrivalled. He is revered as an Incomparable – Anuttaro Puja Lokasmim – One in the world. He gives the highest fruits, and they subdue (their defilements, to the knower of men, My homage be – Loke Agga Phalam Dadam Dadantam Damayantanam – Purisa Janna Te Namo.
One of the cardinal principles of Buddhism is to shower the Blessings of Metta or universal compassion to all Beings. Violence in any form under any pretext whatsoever is absolutely against the Teachings of the Buddha. Out of all the Religious Leaders, this Great son of Royalty, Gautama Siddhartha, has made an enormous contribution, terrific impact on human civilization by discovering the Middle Path. Buddhism is not only a philosophy or religion but it is a way of life. To put it in a nutshell:
Sabbapapassa Akaranam – Kusalassa Upasampada
Sacittapariyodapanam – Etam Buddhana Sasanam
To refrain from doing Evil;
To indulge in doing Good;
To cleanse One's Mind;
This is the Teaching of All Buddhas
This Philosophy is Universal Truth. Its message is common to all religions. This world will be a wonderful place to live, if you follow these noble principles.
Buddhism is a Religion of Wisdom. In this world of storm and strife, hatred and violence, the message of the Buddha shines like the radiant sun. The immortal message helped immensely to fashion our thoughts and actions according to the Buddhist way of life. Today, the need of the hour is to follow the message of the Triple Gem – Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. The knowledge in Buddhism is the key to Higher Path, which brings calmness and peace to life through Meditation.
There is no Blind Faith in Buddhism. Humans are their own masters. There is no External Higher Being or Power that sits in judgement. Even the advanced science and technology have proved the Truth expounded by the Buddha.
The Thathagatha Sammasambuddha was the greatest communicator of the world. Through kindness and compassion, the Blessed One had sometimes direct dialogue with the public. He was never class conscious. He always believed that Good Action will bring you happiness not hatred or blood-shed.
Once a Sakyan named Mahanama approached Buddha and questioned Him, how to become a Virtuous One.
Buddha gave a simple answer.
‘Mahanama, abstain from destroying Living Beings; abstain from taking things not given; abstain from sexual misconduct; abstain from false speech; abstain from taking anything that causes intoxication or heedlessness.
This is an Absolute Truth to Everyone in the world. If you follow these principles, mentally and physically you will lead a good life.
This basic principle is known as Panchaseela – should be followed by all Buddhists all over the world. Buddha only showed the way. What He said ‘Don't believe anything just because you have heard. Think about it. If you think and if you believe it, follow it. Buddhism is a thinking religion. Do not follow anything blindly.’
Buddha always encouraged harmonious and peaceful living. He never believed in converting through blood-shed any person to Buddhism by force. It was a hundred percent, Democratic Religion, where you have all the Right to Question. The word Democracy is from the Greek word Demos (People) + Krateein (to rule).
According to Harry Emerson Fosdick ‘Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.’ Supreme security from bondage is the keynote of Buddhism. Inspite of material and external developments and improvements, most people are not in a state of security. The people of the world are today, restless, weary and racked with fear and discontent.
If only Love and Compassion prevails, we should not be living in this atmosphere of suspicion, fear, jealousy, greed, hate and delusion. The Buddhist concept of Love and Compassion. Metta and Karuna have no compromising limitations. These two are common to all, whether rich or poor, Brahmin or Chandala, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew or Buddhists. Metta and compassion are truly a common factor.
Before the advent of Buddha, Brahmin hegemony or leadership held India in its iron clasp. Women were reduced to menial labour. They were like slaves. They had no freedom. It was the Blessed One – Gautama Buddha, who elevated the position and status of women. The Buddha gave the green light for women to enter the order. It was Buddha's Foster Mother Prajapathi Gotami, who was responsible in the establishment of the Bhikkuni Sasana or the Order of the Nuns.
Even today, we follow the moral, mental and intellectual training proclaimed by the Buddha. Rituals, have a place in all religions. Buddhavandana - is paying reverence and obeisance to the Buddha. Then, devotees think of Buddha's virtues. It is not only the ordinary people, even great leaders, philosophers, Intellectuals, Thinkers were inspired by the serene, compassionate, Buddha image.
The Great Prime Minister, world renowned statesman Pandit Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, in his autobiography states: ‘At Anuradhapura in Ceylon, I liked greatly an old seated statue of Buddha. When I was in Dehra Dun Goal, a friend in Ceylon sent me a picture of this statue, and I kept it on my little table in my cell. It became a precious companion for me, and the strong calm features of the Buddha's statue soothed and gave me strength and helped me to overcome many a period of depression.’
When one offers flowers, lights to Buddha, he thinks of Impermanency - Anicca – of all conditioned things. The Image of the Buddha serves him as an object for concentration and meditation.
Many observe sil – offer alms, meditate, listen to Dhamma sermons and temples are filled to the capacity on Vesak day.
The Great Master, the Sammasambuddha was the first religious universalist. He told his disciples to spread, the Buddhist Doctrine, far and wide:-
‘Go forth for the good of many for the happiness of many. Out of compassion for the words for the welfare of the world, good and happiness of the world; let no two of you go in the same direction.’
Buddha influenced the entire society for fair play and justice. He was the greatest orator par excellence ever lived. With his compassionate words he tamed many.
The Blessed One was a fountain of compassion. He treated his own son Rahula and vicious Devadatta in the same loving kindness. He was the Greatest Social Reformer.
The Blessed One Gautama Buddha was a great communicator par excellence. He met Devas, Suras, Asuras as well as kings, ministers, men, women from all walks of life. He followed the basic principles of fruitful, successful, communication.
The Parahada Sutta, the discussion between an Asura and Buddha, symbolises the philosophy of Buddha in a nutshell. This particular Asura was fond of the ocean or sea. He stated that the edge of the sea, water is shallow and when you proceed forward, you go to the deep end. For this reason, they like the ocean.’
In reply Buddha said ‘Asura, you cannot achieve the Bliss of Nibbana at once. Just like you said, you have to proceed to the deep sec to achieve it.’ Then Asura remarked they like the ocean as its water is pure. When a person drowns in the sea, the body will wash away to the shore in a day or two. Buddha replied thats His Dhamma, Buddhist Philosophy is pure. Then the Asura stated that all the waters that flow from the Rivers – Ganga – Yamuna – Achiravti – Mahi – Sarabhu – when they fall to the sea or ocean, they are not identified by their names, but an en-masse waters of ocean.
Then Buddha spoke.
‘Asura, like those rivers which falls to the sea,even in my philosophy its open to all – there is no caste, creed, colour in my religion. We treat all equal with compassion and kindness. The Asura stated they like the ocean, because, however much waters flow to the ocean, it never overflows. ‘Dear Asura, even in my philosophy, there are no restrictions in becoming a Follower’ stated Buddha.
‘The water in the sea is ‘salty’. We like it’, stated Asura.
Buddha replied ‘Dear Asura, even in my philosophy it has only one taste. The Taste of Emancipation or ‘Vimukthi Rasaya’.
The Taste of ultimate Bliss of Nibbana – total extinction of desire and suffering.’
Daily News by Premasara Epasinghe