19. Whom To Teach?
All of nature rejoiced that glorious morning. Fresh flowers blossomed everywhereand sent their sweet perfume into the air. Birds sang joyfully and creatureseverywhere forgot their fear. Rainbows and beautifully coloured cloudsappeared in the sky, and people marveled to see such wondrous sights.
Buddha himself was filled with the highest happiness. His mind, free fromall darkness and pain, felt a boundless joy. For days and weeks he stayednear the Tree of Enlightenment, enjoying the bliss and happiness only aBuddha knows.
Then he thought, "It was so difficult for me to reach the end of sufferingand become a Buddha. I had to work so hard for so long. When I see howblind and ignorant most people are, I wonder if there is anyone who canunderstand the truths I have discovered. How could I possibly teach them?Perhaps it is better for me to live the rest of my life in the forestsalone and enjoy the happiness of being a Buddha myself."
Then he heard an inner voice which said, "Please do not forget us! We aresuffering beings of the world. We have been waiting for this moment eversince your birth, and even before that. We have hoped and prayed thesemany years that you would leave the princely life and discover the wayto end all suffering. Now that you have found this path, please teach itto us. Unlike you, we are still suffering."
But another thought arose in Buddha's mind: "Who will be able to followthe teachings I have to give? Who is strong and brave enough? Who willtry hard and long enough?"
And the inner voice came again: "It is true that our minds are cloudedin ignorance, O Buddha. But for some people this ignorance, is not so thick.They will be able to understand you. For their sake, please teach us allthe true path!"
And the Buddha smiled and said, "Of course, of course, I shall teach. Theonly reason I left the princely life was to find a way to help others.Now that I have become a Buddha, I shall do everything I can.
"But even a Buddha cannot remove the sufferings of others if they do nottry to help themselves. People must want to get better before a doctorcan cure them. In the same way, they must want to hear the teachings ofthe truth before anyone can help them. But whoever comes to me with anopen mind will find that I am ready to teach them in every way I can."
Then he thought, "Who, among all the people in the world, should I teachfirst? Who is the most ready?" He remembered Arada and Udraka, the twoteachers he had met six years
before. "They would be the best to teach, but I can see that they havealready died and left this world."
Then he thought of the five men who lived with him for so long in the forest."They are ready to understand the truth," he thought. "I shall teach themfirst."
He knew that he would find these men in the Deer Park near Benares, theholiest city of ancient India. "I shall go there," Buddha procclaimed,"and begin the work I came to do."