Buddha Poornima - Thrice Blessed Day
Buddha Poornima is one of the most sacred festivals in the Buddhist calendar. It celebrates three important events in the Buddha’s life: birth, enlightenment, and final mergence (parinirvana). It occurs on the full moon day in the fourth lunar month of Vaisakha.
Siddhartha Becomes The Buddha
After a visit beyond the palace walls, the Hindu prince, Siddhartha Gautama, was tormented by the realization that there is suffering and impermanence in the world. Leaving his luxurious life in the palace, his wife and young son, and the promise of the throne, at the young age of 29 he went in search of truth and permanent happiness.
His journey took him onto many paths, yet none provided him the answers he was seeking. He came to realize that Self-realization cannot be attained through penance or prayers or austerities. He realized that rituals and ascetic practices do not lead one to the destination. Embarking on his own path, he sat under a Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya (Eastern India), in meditation. He emerged therefrom, at the age of 35, as the Buddha, the Awakened One. When He achieved the ultimate goal of discovering the truth of Himself, He experienced Ananda (bliss).
Four Noble Truths
He then dedicated His life to teaching the Four Noble Truths:
- there is suffering,
- the cause of this suffering,
- the cessation of suffering, and
- the Eightfold Path – the path that frees one from suffering.
The Noble Eightfold Path
The actual practice of the Eightfold Path is the Buddha’s central teaching. In the Dhammapada, it is written:
This is the path; there is no other that leads to the purification of the mind. Follow this path and conquer Mara. This path will lead to the end of suffering. This is the path I made known after the arrows of sorrow fell away.
It is a path that leads to pure wisdom, and cessation of suffering. It is the Middle Way.
As Buddha explained to the monks:
There are two extremes which should be avoided. The first extreme is a life devoted to pleasure; this is degrading and worthless. The second extreme is a life devoted to self-mortification; this is painful and worthless. The middle path, between these two extremes, leads to insight, which leads to wisdom, which leads to serenity, which leads to truth, which leads to nirvana.
Mahavagga 1:6. 17-18.
The Eightfold Path is:
- Right Vision (Samyak Drishti),
- Right Speech (Samyak Vak),
- Right Action (Samyak Karma),
- Right Living (Samyak Jeevanam),
- Right Effort (Samyak Vyayama),
- Right Thinking (Samyak Sankalpa),
- Right Mindfulness (Samyak Sathi) and
- Right Concentration, (Samyak Samadhi)
During the Buddha Poornima celebration on May 15, 1997, Bhagawan Sri sathya Sai Baba elucidated upon the sadhana the Buddha had spoken about:
- “How can a man who is not aware of his humanness recognize the Divinity within him? Hence, the first requisite is the recognition by everyone of his human essence. Basing on this truth, Buddha declared that everyone should cultivate at the outset Samyak-Drishti (a pure vision). It is only when man has a pure vision that he can get rid of impurities in the body, speech, and mind. It is this purity that can protect man from invasion of impurities through the eyes and ears. Hence, the first requirement for every man is Samyak-Drishti.
- Another quality that is needed is Samyak-Sankalpa (pure thoughts). Everyone should have pure thoughts. Only the person who has developed purity in vision can have purity in thoughts.
- Another requirement for every man, along with purity in vision and thought, is Samyak-Karma (pure deeds). Everyone should do pure deeds. Through pure deeds man is able to recognize his human essence. Man is not merely an embodied being. By his capacity for developing good vision, entertaining good thoughts, and performing good deeds, he has the power to transform humanness into Divinity.
- Another quality prescribed by Buddha is Samyak-Jeevanam (living a pure life). What is meant by ‘living’? It is not leading a worldly life attached to worldly pursuits. True living means making one’s life meaningful by ideal actions. Man’s life must be governed by idealism in action.
- Another quality is what Buddha called Samyak-Samadhi, or Nirvana (pure realization or liberation). What is meant by Samadhi? It means treating pleasure and pain, gain and loss alike. Sama-dhi (equal-mindedness) is ‘Samadhi’. To look upon light and darkness, pleasure and pain, profit and loss, fame and censure with an equal mind is Samadhi. Buddha termed this equal-mindedness as Nirvana.
- It is the recognition of the sacredness of the qualities of all the senses in man that constitutes real humanness. At the very outset, one has to keep the tongue pure. This was referred to as Samyak-Vak (purity in speech). The tongue has to be sanctified by refraining from falsehood, slander and abusive speech.”
The Path to Nirvana
Mukti, or liberation, is freedom from suffering. It is said that in order to attain Nirvana, one should have a pure heart. Indeed, the Buddha’s emphasis was entirely on purity in every aspect of daily life.
In his last moments, the Buddha spoke to Ananda and the gathered monks. Ananda started shedding tears and the Buddha said: “It may be, Ananda, that some of you may think my words have come to an end, that you have a teacher no longer, but you should not think so. For the Dharma I have proclaimed will be your teacher when I am gone.”
The Buddha lives on as the supreme ideal of man’s potential for Buddhahood. Within us all lies the potential to become a Buddha, an ‘Awakened One’.
In His divine discourse on Buddha Poornima day, May 13, 2006, Swami said:
People do not enquire into the teachings of Buddha and do not understand the sacredness of his heart. They only talk about his story. Truly speaking, Buddha is not just one individual. All of you are Buddhas. You will see unity everywhere once you understand this truth. There is unity in the apparent multiplicity.
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