Buddha Poornima 2023
The auspicious festival of Buddha Poornima is celebrated this year on . Whenever there is a decline in the practice of Dharma (righteousness), the Lord incarnates to re-establish Dharma and teach people to practice it. When Lord Buddha incarnated in 600 BC, people were caught up in ritualism, forgetting the spirit of the scriptures. Buddha came to teach man love, compassion, and nonviolence. He declared that Ahimsa (nonviolence) is the highest Dharma.
Buddha Poornima is a thrice-blessed day because it is the day when:
- Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini, in present-day Nepal.
- Prince Siddhartha became the ‘Enlightened One’–Buddha, under a Bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa) at Bodh Gaya, India.
- The Buddha took Parinirvana–leaving His mortal coil at Kushinagar, near Varanasi, a renowned pilgrimage place in India.
Buddhism, like all other faith traditions, contains a code of ethics for followers on the path. The Panchasila has five precepts the Buddha gave that form the basis of morality in society. These can be found in chapter 33 of the Samyuktagama Sutra.
The Panchasila (Five Precepts) are commitments to abstain from killing living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxication. Within the Buddhist doctrine, they are meant to develop the mind and character to make progress on the path to enlightenment (Nirvana).
The Panchasila and our beloved Bhagawan’s teachings are one and the same, proving the universality of Bhagawan’s teachings. Swami says that the underlying principle of all human values, including nonviolence, is Love (Prema). Love in thought is truth (Sathya). Love in action is right conduct (Dharma). Love in feeling is peace (Shanti). Love in understanding is nonviolence (Ahimsa). But Swami also gives the highest meaning of nonviolence, saying that it should be at all levels—thought, word, and deed. Not only should we abstain from physical violence, but we should also not use any hurtful words or think hurtful thoughts.
Brahma Viharas (The Four Divine States)
Buddha taught the four states to be practiced and meditated upon:
- Metta (Loving kindness)
- Karuna (Showing compassion)
- Mudita (Practicing sympathetic joy)
- Upeksha (Maintaining equanimity)
These are very important concepts because, in life, we come across people who are either equal to us, less fortunate than us, more fortunate than us, or inimical/critical of us. These four states or precepts of Lord Buddha teach us how to maintain good human relationships as spiritual seekers with all types of people.
Metta: This is the practice of cultivating universal love, friendliness, and loving kindness. It is benevolence to all beings without discrimination or attachment. It is unconditional love where ‘I’ and ‘You’ disappear. It is loving kindness to ourselves, our peers, and even people who are difficult to deal with. Lord Krishna speaks about this in describing the qualities of a devotee in Chapter 12 of Bhagavad Gita that a devotee should have no hatred towards any being and be friendly with all.
Karuna: This is sympathy towards people who are less fortunate than us. Swami says, “The heart with compassion is a temple of God.” He says that a spiritual seeker must have the heart of Buddha, the hands of Emperor Janaka, and the head of the renowned Vedic scholar and saint, Adi Shankara. Lord Krishna says, “He is the greatest Yogi who feels the pain and suffering of others as his own.”
Mudita: This is the practice of altruistic joy. It is the ability to take delight in others’ good fortunes or good deeds as a way to maintain calmness of mind and equanimity. In this state, one identifies with others and does not get jealous if they are more fortunate or have higher achievements. This is also emphasized in the Bhagavad Gita–a true Yogi feels the happiness of others as one’s own and doesn’t get envious, which is the antithesis of Mudita. We practice Mudita when we celebrate the success of others.
Upeksha: This is a state of equanimity when people criticize us, find faults, or hurt us. Swami’s definition of devotion is treating profit and loss, success and failure, praise and blame, pleasure and pain, as gifts of God. You accept everything for what it is and let go, for balance and composure. Thus, we are not agitated by expectations, attachments, and emotions.
Refuge in the Three Jewels (Triratna Sharanam)
Triratna Sharanam is the highest Buddhist prayer of refuge. In the Dhammapada, the Buddhist Scripture, this is defined as:
- Buddham Sharanam Gachchami
(I take refuge in Lord Buddha)
- Dhammam Sharanam Gachchami
(I take refuge in Dharma)
- Sangham Sharanam Gachchami
(I take refuge in the organization/community of spiritual seekers)
It is said that people who practice these will understand the significance of the four noble truths and will be able to practice the eightfold path to attain Nirvana. Swami reveals the inner meaning of the three jewels. He says that when we say ‘Buddham Sharanam Gachchami’ it means that we should take refuge in our ‘Buddhi’ (intellect). We need to follow our fundamental discrimination between what is real and what is unreal. Also, we should have discrimination to see what is the highest good for all and not just selfish ends. Similarly, when we say, ‘Dhammam Sharanam Gachchami’, Swami says that we should use Buddhi to walk on the path of Dharma (right conduct) and a righteous way of living to help others. When we say, ‘Sangham Sharanam Gachchami’ it means we should serve society by using our intellect and following the path of Dharma. Swami said in a discourse that this can be done by following the three maxims of Daiva Preeti (Love for God which corresponds to Buddham Sharanam Gachchami), Papa Bheeti (Fear of Sin which corresponds to Dhammam Sharanam Gachchami) and Sangha Neeti (Morality in Society which corresponds to Sangham Sharanam Gachchami). This practice will help us experience divinity and bliss.
In His May 13, 2006 discourse on the occasion of Buddha Poornima, Swami gifted three more Ratnas or jewels to Buddhists and all humanity. The first one is ‘Sathyam Sharanam Gachchami’ (I take refuge in Truth). For us devotees, it is also about taking refuge in our Swami, whose first name is ‘Sathya.’ The second is ‘Ekam Sharanam Gachchami’ (I take refuge in Oneness). The ultimate truth is that there is only One. The dualistic feelings of ‘I’ and ‘You’ have to be given up. Swami says that a dual mind is half-blind. Real wisdom is experiencing Oneness. The third one is ‘Premam Sharanam Gachchami’ (I take refuge in Divine Love). Swami says that Love is the greatest wealth and power that one can have. He also says that God is Love, and Love is God. He exhorts us to live in Love as Love is the source, path, and goal of human life.
One who always lives in Divine Love will realize Oneness and divinity. This way, every human being can become enlightened. Everyone is a potential Buddha, truly divine. Thus, realizing the Four Noble Truths, practicing the Eightfold Path and understanding the concepts of Brahma Viharas (four divine states), and taking refuge in the Three Jewels (as expounded by Buddha and Swami), one attains Nirvana, the state of ultimate bliss.
The same divine principle of love is present in all of you. When you take to the path of love, you will become Buddha yourself. Today is Buddha Poornima. Poornima means full moon. The underlying message of Buddha Poornima is that the mind should shine with total purity like the full moon. It should unite with its source, i.e. the Atma, which is pure and effulgent. There is no darkness on the full moon night. On this auspicious day of Buddha Poornima, we should attain full purity of the mind.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba, May 13, 2006