THICH HUYEN VI
Chapter III (2)
“THE MAIN POINTS OF SAKYAMUNI BUDDHA’S LIFE - 2”
(From Enlightenment up to the entering into Nirvana)
From the above lecture, we already knew that the Shakymuni Buddha renounce the world not for himself but for the sake of human beings. His great vow is: “Above, to seek the Enlightenment; below to transform all beings. Therefore, Lord Buddha would not like to enter into Nirvana, after he became the Enlightenment One. He though that his duty was to follow the past Buddha’s to continue to preach the Dharma’s which would enable all beings to reject the illusion of the transmit-rational worlds and enter into Par nirvana.
That mission, Lord Buddha knew was not going to be easy, because the wonderful door of Dharma is very high but the standard of knowledge of human beings are not the same. For so many lives, they already had the wrong desire, resentment and stupidity. So that they could not understand the Dharma’s.
But Lord Buddha thought: “Everybody has one with one’s own Buddha nature within. They can become the Enlightened One if they have good teaching”. As the lotus, although if grows from the mud, is really pure and delicate forever. He, therefore, started his great mission: Widely to proclaim the truth that he found.
I. THE PROPACATION OF THE BUDDHA.
The Buddha’s task, as we know, was so heavy and difficult. But thanks to his wisdom and high compassion. First of all Lord Buddha remembered two of his teachers, that is: Alara-Kalama and Udraka-Brahmaputra, but upon reflection he discovered that both of them passed away. He was thinking: “How can I complete my mission and render successful it for others”. When the time of propagation came, Lord Buddha followed three principles:
1) Propagated by order:
On the full moon day the Buddha delivered his first discourse to the five faithful disciples and upon reflection he thought that better he must find the five Wanderers who had been his compassion, and reflection he saw that they were then residing in the Deer Park at Isipatana in Benares and he resolved to go there. The five persons, formerly his attendants, being now convinced of his having found the supreme wisdom, paid homage to him and became his disciples. Their names are as follows: Ajnata-Kaundinya, Asvajit, Bhadrika, Dasabala-Kasyapa and Mahanamakilika. The first preaching is the four noble truths. These five persons became his disciplines as did many others. The he preached the doctrine for a young man Yana by name and his friends together with fifty-four companions. They attained illumination, now there were sixty disciples; he decided to send them as messengers of Truth to teach his new Dharma to all without any dips-distinction.
Lord Buddha left the Deer Park for Uruviva. Here lived three ascetics (Jatilas) with matted hair. They were worshipping the fire and keeping a fire-dragon; the chief of these was known as Uruviva Kasyapa. And two others, namely Gaya-Kasyapa and Nadi-Kasyapa. The Buddha saw that the ascetics who had practiced severe austerities and worshipped fire, would now come to him, he preached a sermon of fire and said:
“Everything, O Jatilas, is burning. The eye is burning, all the senses are burning, and thoughts are burning. They are burning with the fire of lust. There are angers, there is ignorance, there is hatred, and as long as the fire finds inflammable things upon which it can feed, as long will it burn, and there will be birth and death, decay, grief, lamentation. Suffering, despair and sorrow. Considering this, a disciple of the Dharma will see the four noble truths and walk in the eightfold path of holiness. He will become wary of his eye, wary of all his senses, wary of his thoughts. He will divest himself of passion and become free. He will be delivered from selfishness and attain the blessed state of Nirvana”. (1)
Three of them 1,000 of their disciples rejoiced and took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
The Enlightened One remembered the promise to the king Bimbisara of Magadha. He went forth to Rajagriha. Following him, there were many Bhikshu. King Bimbisara was very happy. Lord Buddha preached the Dharma to the king. He received him and admitted him to be a disciple. He also converted Sariputra and Maudgallyayana to the order. Both of them had two hundred disciples. They took refuge in the Buddha too.
When Lord Buddha stayed at the Bamboo Grove nearby Rajagriha news reached the ears of aged King Suddhodana. He sent many massagers to invite the Buddha to return to Kapilavastu city. But when the messengers reached the Buddha’s place they all heard the Doctrine and attaining Arahatship, entered the Sangha. They did not deliver the king’s message.
The disappointed king finally sent other messenger who was his minister Kaludayin, to bear the message to the Buddha. The Master saying to Kaludayin: “I shall go”. Lord Buddha went to Kapilavastu City to see the king and his relations. The Buddha remained in the royal city for seven days. Although a short time, the Blessed One preached the Dharma. A number of Sakya Princess came to join his congregation. They are Aniruddha, Ananda, Devadatta, Upali, Rahula, and Bhadrika and so on.
At that time there was very wealthy merchant, Anathapindika by name, who was residing in the residence of his friend at Rajagriha. Hearing that the Enlightened One had come into the world he came to the Buddha and was converted. He offered to give his Jetavana Grove which was situated in Sarcastic City. Anathapindika rejoined in the words of the Buddha and said, “I dwell at Sarcastic, the capital of Kosala, a land rich in produce and enjoying peace. Pasenadi is the king of the country, and his name is renowned among our own people and our neighbors. Now I wish to find there a Vihara which shall be a place of religious devotion for your brotherhood, and I pray you kindly to accept it”. (2)
After a short time on hearing that King Suddhodana was seriously ill, Lord Buddha returned once again to see his father during his last time. On the king’s death bed. Suddhodana heard the Dharma from the Master for the last time an attained Arahatship.
After King Suddhodana passed away, the foster mother of the Enlightened One, Maha-Prajapati Gotami, with the company of Yasodhara and many other women, went to the place where the Buddha was and entreated him earnestly to let them take the vows and be ordained as Bhiksunis.
The Blessed One and his disciples were going to propagate the Dharma. Everywhere people respected them and followed them. Many persons followed in the Anathapindika footsteps to build many monasteries and preaching halls in order to offer to the Blessed One. He preached the Doctrine for saving human beings.
Thus, we already understand the Blessed One propagated in order, from the great leaders to any people who took refuge in his Dharma. He allowed Bhikshu first and second was Bhiksunis.
2) Propagated by ways:
When the Enlightened One spread the Doctrines he met a lot of trouble from the jealousy of the outsiders and the hatred of relations. Such as the story of Devadatta: “One day when Buddha was teaching in the Bamboo Grove, Devadatta proposed that because of the Master’s advanced age, the leadership of the congregation should be vested in himself. From the time when this suggestion was plainly refused Devadatta enmity and ill-will greatly increased. Because of what had taken place the Buddha issued a decree against Devadatta as a renegade whose words were not to be recognized as proceeding from the Buddha, the law, or the community. The angry Devadatta now betook himself to Ajatasattu, King Bimbisara son and heir, and persuaded him to murder his father and usurp the throne, while Devadatta should kill the Master and become the Buddha.(3) On another day Devadatta let loose the drunk elephant to kill the Buddha, but the elephant approached him in the gentlest fashion and kneeled before him and confessed his sin.
Once, the Blessed One converted the notorious murdered Angulimala who wanted to kill the Buddha. But Lord Buddha found the good way to teach to Angulimala to become a Bhikshu.
Referring to his memorable conversion by the Buddha, he says:
“Some creature are subdued by force,
Some by the hook, and some by whips,
But I by such a One was tamed,
Who needed neither staff nor sword”. (4)
All plots against the Buddha of some person bore no results. It was due to the personality and the compassion of Blessed One. He won them over easily. On the end, the man who hated him came to respect him; the outsiders became the true Buddhists. Witness is Devadatta was given recognition by the Blessed One; Angulimala took refuge in the Master, the drunken elephants were subdued by him; Ajatasattu also took refuge in the Enlightened One.
The Buddha used many ways for saving human beings in the propagation of his religion.
Not only for the outside people, but also for his disciples inside the congregation. A concrete example is Nanda the Buddha’s stepbrother, although he left home to become a monk, he always remembered the customs of the world. The Blessed One was using his psychic powers and took Nanda to the Tavatimsa Heaven to show something there. Sometimes Lord Buddha guided him to the hells to show the conditions of suffering.
Theraghatha attributes the following verses to him:
“Heedless and shallow once my thoughts were set,
On all the bravery of outward show;
Fickly was I and frivolous; all my days were worn with wanton sensuality.
But by the Buddha’s skillful art benign,
Who of sun’s lineage cometh, was I brought?
To live by deeper thoughts, whereby my heart,
From (the great swamp of endless) life I drew”. (5)
As regards Venerable Ananda a cousin of Prince Siddhartha, he was noted as the most learned disciple of Buddha and famed for hearing and remembering his teaching. He was inveigled by Matangi, a low caste woman. Lord Buddha immediately preached the SurangamasOtra to guide him to reject the illusion of the transmigration worlds and enter into the enlightenment. (According to Mahayana Doctrine).
Referring to Venerable Ananda’s knowledge of the doctrine, in answer to the question put Brahmin, he said:
“Eighty-two thousand from the Buddha’s self,
I’ve learned, from brethren yet two thousand more:
Hence four and eighty thousand texts in all
The number that for me have currency”. (6)
As we know that the Blessed One used many ways to convert people. He was the best doctor; according to the patients he gave the doctrinal medicines. To the closely related, the enemies, the wise men or the common people, the rich or the poor, Lord Buddha taught the essentials of the Truth in order to lead then towards enlightenment.
3) The spirit of equality in propagation.
The spirit of equality in Buddhism is its great point. It was advocated by the Blessed One. When he was a child that spirit manifested in his behavior to help the poor, the animals as we know from the above essay.
In the old days when Prince Siddhartha became Enlightened One, such spirit of equality appeared to be most clear. He said, “All beings can become Buddha, for all have the Buddha-nature and must ultimately become enlightened”.
In the Saddharmapundarika Sutra it is mentioned, “If there be any who hear the Dharma, not one will fail to become a Buddha. In the Buddha’s congregation, as we know, he allowed all members of the social classes, even the low class as Venerable Upali, a barber of low caste, who became a disciple of Shakymuni, was one of the three shavers of the first Synod, and reputed as the principal compiler of the Vinaya, hence his title, keeper of the laws.
Lord Buddha allowed Upali in his discipleship. It made the kings discontented, King Prassenajit of Sravasti who was the contemporary of the Buddha, asked, “Respected Master! Why do you accept the low class person into the Sangha? I think that allowing so it can make the pebble mixed up with pearls, and it can spoil the three great values?”
Lord Buddha austerely replied, “The Buddha-nature is now low classes if they are pure beings, do noble action, practice the doctrines, they can attain the Arat-hood. As the lotus appeared from mud, but it is always delicate and pure. Everybody born is not ready with the emblem ‘this is a Brahmanas (priestly) or that is a Sutra (serfs’)’. It is due to their actions”.
Lord Buddha was ready to thread a needle for old woman. He received the clays of the children who were very happy to offer it to him. He accepted the meal from a poor person who is Chunda by name.
Exactly speaking, Lord Buddha propagated the doctrine of such high degree. One of his disciples, Venerable Sariputta, had already praised him as follows:
“Enlightening the Bikkhu with several other discourses, the Buddha, accompanied by Venerable Ananda, left Rajagaha and went to Ambalatthika and thence to Nalanda where he stayed at the Pavarika mango grove. On this occasion, the Venerable Sariputta approached the Buddha and extolled the wisdom of the Buddha, saying, “Lord, so pleased am I with the Exalted One that me thinks there never was, nor will there be, nor is there now, any other ascetic or Brahman who is greater and wiser than the Buddha as regards self-enlightenment”.
The Buddha, who did not approve of such an encomium from a disciple of His, He reminded the Venerable Sariputta that he had burst into such a song of ecstasy without fully appreciating the merits of the Buddha of the past and of the future.
Venerable Sariputta acknowledged that he had no intimate knowledge of the entire supremely Enlightened One, but maintained that he was acquainted with the Dharma lineage, the process through which all attain supreme Buddha hood, that is by overcoming the five Hindrances, namely (1) sense-desires, (2) ill-will, (3) sloth and torpor, (4) restlessness and brooding, (5) indecision; by weakling the strong passion of the heart through wisdom, by thoroughly establishing the mind in the four kinds of mindfulness, and by rightly developing the seven factors of Enlightenment”.(6)
II. THE FIVE PERIOD OF LORD BUDDHA’S TEACHING
According to Mahayana Buddhism, after Lord Buddha became Samyaksam Buddha, he preached the Doctrines for 49 or 50 years (Theravada Buddhism mentioned more than 45 years) depending on mankind’s degree of development. It continued up to Par nirvana of the Buddha. The Doctrines that Lord Buddha preached, after that his chief disciple collected and fixed the Buddhist canon. According to T’ien-T’ai school-one of Mahayana sects-divided into five divisions:
1) The Avatamsaka or first period.
When Siddhartha Bodhisattva just became Enlightened One, under the Bodhi tree, first period in three divisions each of seven days, after his enlightenment, he preached the contents of this Sutra. There are two purposes:
a) To guide the Bodhisattvas to get on to Buddha hood.
b) To show the high-test doctrine of the Blessed One, this doctrine only the Buddha
understanding and not others.
2) The Agamas or second period.
The twelve years of his preaching’s the Agamas in the deer park. Lord Buddha would like to guide people from low level to high level. He preached from practical experience. It was very easy is understand.
3) The Vaipulya or third period.
The eight years of preaching Maha-yanacum-Hinayana doctrines, the Vaipulya period. Lord Buddha taught a person not only to do for self but also for others that is practiced in the Mahayana doctrine.
4) The Prajna or fourth period.
The twenty-two years of his preaching’s the Prajna or wisdom Sutra, the Blessed One saw the standard of knowledge of the Buddhists who could understand the highest doctrines. He taught the one Bhutatathata reality, and
5) The Nirvana Sutra or fifth period.
The Buddha’s propagation was nearly complete. He thought that his disciples can carry the Buddha-Dharma. He explained the reason why he appeared in this world, that is, Lord Buddha wanted to open up, to indicate for human beings to apprehend, to lead into the penetrative power of Buddha’s wisdom, i.e. the Buddha-nature. This period was the eight years of his preaching the Lotus Sutra and, in a day and a night the Nirvana Sutra.
In brief, in a gatha (chant) as follows:
“First preached Avatamsaka 21 days,
Agamas 12, Vaipulya 8 years,
22 years preached Prajna Sutra,
Lotus and Nirvana Sutras all 8 years”.
According to Theravada Buddhism, the Buddha had Mahaparinibbana, but his sublime teaching remained forever. The following chart will show the distribution of books in the Tipitaka
This contains the following fifteen books:
(1) Khuddakapatha (Shorter texts)
(2) Dhammapada (The way of Truth)
(3) Udana (Paeans of Joy)
(4) Itivuttaka (‘Thus said’ Discourses)
(5) Suttanipata (Collected Discourses)
(6) Vimanavatthu (Stories of Celestial Mansions)
(7) Petavatthu (Stories of Petas)
(8) Theragatha (Psalms of the Brethren)
(9) Therigatha (Psalms of the Sisters)
(10) Jataka (Birth Stories of the Bodhisattva)
(11) Niddesa (Expositions)
(12) Patisambhidamagga (Book on Analytical Knowledge)
(13) Apadana (Lives of Arahat)
(14) Buddhavamsa (History of the Buddha)
(15) Cariyapitaka (Modes of conduct).
III. THE WAY OF CONVERSION COMPLETELY FULL.
From his becoming enlightened up to his entering into Nirvana, Lord Buddha went here and there all over the India, from state to state. In places the Exalted One went the Buddha-Dharma flourished.
Every day He preached the doctrines for Sangha, as well as for lay people. If there were any questions, he replied plainly. Every year He went to travel round in India for many months, propagating the Dharma. In the vassal period or rainy season Lord Buddha and his disciples stayed at one place only for tranquil dwelling. Varsas or Varsavassana. A retreat during the three months of the Indian rainy season, and also, say some, in the depth of winter.
From that time Buddhism became broadcast everywhere. It has become one of the main religions all over the world at present. Lord Buddha was completed in the three kinds of enlightenments: Enlightenment for self, for others, perfect enlightenment and accomplishment.
IV. BEFORE ENTERING INTO NIRVANA.
1) The Enlightened One’s last words:
When he was 80 years old, Lord Buddha perfected himself in enlightenment and accomplishment. That year he proceeded with his disciples to the Sala Grove of the Mallas, Kusinara city about 120 miles distant from Sarnath. The Buddha addressed Venerable Ananda, and said, “Behold, O Bhikkus, now I speak to you. Transient are all conditioned things. Strive on with diligence”. (7) The passing away of the Tathagata will take place before long. At the end of three months from now the Tathagata will pass away.
“Ripe is my age. Short is my life. Leaving you I shall depart. I have made myself my refuge. O Bhikkus, be diligent, mindful and virtuous. With well-directed thoughts guard your mind. He who lives heedfully in this Dispensation will escape life’s wandering and put an end to suffering”.
This message came out like lightning. The disciples who went out for propagating the religion everywhere came back stricken in order to see Lord Buddha for the last time.
Lord Buddha received the last meal from Chunda, a hereditary smith. He, mindful and self-possessed, bore it without complaint, and when he was a little he told Ananda, “Come, Ananda, let us go on to Kusinara”. “Even so, Lord,” said the Venerable Ananda.
He went to Sala Grove and told Venerable Ananda to prepare a couch, Lord Buddha with the head to the north and with one leg resting on the other, laid himself down on His right side between the twins Sala Grove.
With the news of Lord Buddha, entry into Nirvana, Subhadra, and the wandering ascetic went to Upavattana Sala Grove of Mallas. Subhadra was the last convert of the Buddha, a Brahman 120 year old.
2) The Sutra of Blessed One’s bequeathed teaching
At that time all His disciples: Bhikkus, Bhiksunis, Upasaka, Upasika, Kings, Ministers, people were present, except Venerable Mahakasyapa who went out for propagating the Dharma. He could not come back in time. Lord Buddha called all disciples to come around his place in order to hear bequeath his last. The Buddha’s bequeathed teaching is as follow:
1. Mahakasyapa will become Leader of my-congregation.
2. All Buddhists have to respect the sila and Vinaya as the Master.
3. Every Sutra must use the term: “Evamme Sutam”. (Thus have I heard?)
4. My relies will be divided into three parts: One for Devapure, the replace of devas one for Dragon’s palace, but it is associated with Nagarjuna, and one for the seven King all over the India.
Here is the Buddha’s bequeathed teaching for the last time:
“……..Ye Bhikshu! If you strive energetically for the unadulterated progress, there is nothing that is difficult. Ye therefore, must strive energetically for the unadulterated progress. For example, a constant trickle of water will bore a hole in a rock. If the mind of an Acarin (performing the duties of a disciple) becomes in many ways lazy and inattentive frequently, it is just like making a fire by friction and resting before it is hot. Though you want to have fire, you cannot get it. This is what is called “the unadulterated progress”. (8)
In other words, he taught “Henceforth all disciple of mine, turning it over in their minds, must practice it, thereby it is that the eternal reality of the Dharma-kaya of Tathagata will never be annihilated. You will, therefore, come to know that the mundane world is all transient, a meeting certainly implies separation. Do not feel sorrow and distress since the phenomenon of the world is thus. You must strive in zeal to progress towards immediate salvation. With the Prajna’s light destroy all darkness of ignorance. The world is dangerous and perishable, and there is nothing of strength and stability in it. To attain annihilation is just like getting rid of an evil disease. Which we call physical body is a criminal and evil thing that out to be abandoned. It is sunk in the great ocean of decay, sickness, birth and death. Is there a wise man that would be glad to get rid of this, just like one who would kill a hateful brigand? (9)
In conclusion, Lord Buddha taught, “Ye Bhikshu! Ye ought to always aspire whole heartedly to the way of salvation. The changeable and unchangeable phenomenon is in appearance corrupt and disturbing. Stop ye a moment and do not speak any more. The time will pass away and I wish to the state of annihilation. This is what I have taught at the last”. (10)
Then, the Blessed One fell into a deep meditation, and having passed through the four Jhanas, entered into Nirvana.
Lord Buddha’s body had been burned with ceremony. Afterwards, the relics were divided and distributed everywhere.
The Blessed One entered into Mahanadi-Nirvana, but his brilliant example still is shining. Throughout his life of 80 years he never forgot his main purpose in saving human beings who were in the long night of births-and-deaths. When he was Prince Siddhartha, was first a lucky boy and was next a happy man. Though he took no interest in a happy life, when he became a monk, he was ‘Anuttara Samyaksambuddha’, but he always worried about programmed ‘save all beings’. He went here and there, never thought of the sufferings at all. That is, his compassion was immeasurable, his favor was boundless.
a) Buddhists must follow Lord Buddha’s foot-steps.
“Righteousness if the place in which truth dwell, and here in the hearts of mankind aspiring after the realization of righteousness, there is ample space for a rich and over richer revelation of the truth. This is the Gospel of the Blessed One. This is the revelation of the Enlightened One. This is the bequest of the Holy One. Those who accept the truth and have faith in the truth, take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
Receive us, O Buddha, as they disciples from this day hence, so long as our life lasts”. (11)
b) Believers have to remember Lord Buddha’s Teachings
We, Buddhists, knew the life of the Buddha was very penetrating and high. The lesson of his life was really precious and very profound! But, if we do not try our best to study and practice it, that lesson becomes useless. Lord Buddha, before entering into Nirvana, reminded us in his last words:
“You ought to acquire progress skillfully and diligently and subdue your mind”. Non- permanence, non-personality and Nirvana you must know. “You do not feel sad and distressed. If I were to live in this mundane word for the period of kalpak, our association would still be ended. It is impossible to obtain any association that does not separate. The doctrine of improving oneself for the purpose of benefitting others has been completed. If I were to live in this mundane world it would be of no benefit to us. Those who have not been save, they have all made the causes for their attaining salvation”. (12)
THE PRAISE OF ALL THE BUDDHAS
All the Buddha’s are wonderful and glorious.
There is not their equal upon earth.
They reveal to us the path of life,
And we hail their appearance with pious reverence.
All the Buddha’s teach the same truth.
They point out the path to those who go astray.
The Truth is our hope and comfort.
We gratefully accept its illimitable light.
All the Buddha’s are one in essence,
Which is omnipresent in all modes of being?
Sanctifying the bonds that tie all souls together,
And we rest in its bliss as our final refuge.
The Gospel of Buddha
1) The Gospel of Buddha by Paul Carus, p.53.
2) P.61. The Gospel of Buddha by Paul Carus.
3) Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, p. 68
4) Psalm of the Brethren, p. 323.
5) Psalm of the Brethren, p. 127
6) The Buddha and His teachings by Narada Thera, pp. 236-237.
7) Vayadhamma Sam khara. Appamadena sampadetha. From the Buddha and his Teachings by Narada Thera, p. 248.
8, 9, 10) Translated by Dr. Chou-Hsiang-Kuang Ph.D. (Delhi).
11) The Gospel of Buddha by Paul Carus p. 208.
12) The sutra of Bequeath Teaching, Translated by Dr. Chou-Hsiang-Kuang, p. 18.
The end of chapter III (2)