Saturday, March 7, 2009

Gautam Siddhartha- The Buddha

Religion and Spirituality is a topic I absolutely love and can read on and on about it and write too. In fact I even had suggestions or requests to write more on this topic but so far I have only had two posts on it.

Yesterday was Buddha Purnima or Buddha's birthday and called by various other names in various places. It actually encompasses the birth, enlightenment Nirvana, and passing (Parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha which is always on the full moon day. And I felt that the best way to celebrate or observe this day was obviously to go into meditation and also I read and saw videos related to Gautam Buddha on YouTube and specially one of BBC video of around 50 minutes was really good! You can watch it HERE

Observe that I am using the phrase 'going into meditation' instead of 'doing meditation' because it is not an act, it is just the way you are- the state of being as it can be said..........
 And the reason I don't write much on this topic of Spirituality or Religion is because I don't feel it proper to write here quoting others or writing what others have said but it would be better if I wrote from my own experience and since I am not enlightened or whatever meditative experiences I have had, that is quite a personal thing not correct to share on something like a blog.

The story of Gautam Buddha is something everyone must have come across and read or heard. To me, it is the greatest story in the history of mankind and so significant too. It is almost timeless. More than 2500 years have passed but anyone who comes across it, cannot help but be influenced by it and start thinking this way for his own life. As a child I read his story a man- a prince born to a King, who had all the luxuries in life and everything that anyone can ever want, a whole world of beauty and joy was created around him because of the prediction by the Astrologers or soothsayers upon observing the 32 signs of a great man on his body that he will go on to become a ruler of the world or a great ascetic or spiritual leader. And since his father wanted him to take his place and continue their kingdom, he devised this artificial world. But when the young Siddharth came across the realities of life, he was shocked. This really is one of the most important points of this story because it signifies that we really have a very short time with us. Since we have become accustomed to these facts of old age, disease and death from our childhood, we don't consider them much. For us, it is always the other who dies. We may have attended many funerals and everytime it is the 'other' who died so somewhere there is a feeling that it won't happen to us just as it is the case with all things in life. Anything negative, maybe an accident or something else, we never feel that it will happen to us. But when it does, it comes as a shock.

Whether we really recognize the fact or not, the truth is this that we are going to die and infact are dying every moment, although only very slowly. From the moment of birth, it is only in one direction that we are headed and that is death. We all know it in the mind but it is an absolutely different thing to actually know and realize it. In fact there is even a method to meditate on death meaning once in a while lie down and just feel your body as it will in death. Re-enact your own death as realistically as possible. Just feel your body completely loose and relaxed as if you have no control over your body- that you are not able to move anything in your body. Be in that position and just feel it. It will help you to break a few attachments with the body.

And when I read this story that this man- prince decided that he will try and find the solution to all these life's problems, he gave up everything, tortured himself in innumerable ways of fasting and others not really knowing what to do, with no proper guidance, only with his intuitive feel and his own intelligence finally found life's answers and became 'enlightened'. Which at that time I understood that he was filled with wisdom and light and became free from the cycle of birth and death and was full of bliss. Now anyone who reads this, if he is intelligent enough, how can he not want this. I have questioned many people about this Buddha's story and his enlightenment that don't you want to be enlightened too and be full of bliss, then why you too don't follow this path and meditate and from the responses I got, I gather that people feel that:

1) He was an 'avatar' of God so he did it and it is not for ordinary people
2) He did so much of penances and fasting and what not for a long time of 6 years so it is really difficult to achieve and in today's times it is not possible- that one has to leave one's family and work and everything and live alone in a forest or mountain etc

These I feel are misconceptions and although I am not an authority on this as I have already said I am not enlightened but from the enlightened masters, I can gather that as Buddha himself has said that "Be a light unto yourself". Every single human being has the potential to be a Buddha and here 'Buddha' just means the awakened one not necessarily Gautam Siddharth Buddha. This is also one point where people get confused about the term Buddha. It is a term given to any enlightened or awakened one and Gautam was only one such.

And also the fact that Buddhahood is actually our nature. We cannot be any other way. We just have to wake up to realize it. We are facing outward. All we need is to turn in to see and realize that we are indeed Buddhas and have always been . We only forgot!

Buddha is one person whom I admire tremendously almost at the top of all mankind that ever existed. To me he was the greatest person that ever existed. And by birth I am a Hindu and although some people consider Buddhism to be a part of Hinduism itself but it is all irrelevant. I love Buddha and always wanted a statue of Buddha with me so that whenever I looked at it, it would remind me to be wakeful and aware- mindful. Not in the normal sense but in a meditative sense and it was my sister who gifted me one small beautiful statue which I really like. And one of my roommate on seeing it once thought that I am a Buddhist and his follower and as is the case thought my family is too. Actually I think he did not have much idea about it so he was confused between Buddha and Mahavir who were contemporaries. So he thought my family worships him or something like that and I said to him- "Not my family, only me. It is a personal thing for me." He was definitely surprised, I can tell you that; because normally whatever family one is born into, he follows the same religion or at the most gets converted into other for some reason. If you ask me, I would want to remove collective religion. It should only be individual and there is no need for other people to know which religion you have. Even one's own family members need not necessarily know about it and as and when one develops a liking towards someone else say a Christ or Krishna from Mohammed or Buddha or whatever, he can be into that.

What more do I write about Buddha? Actually you should just go through any of the story of Buddha. Perhaps a few good books are- "The Light of Asia" by Edwin Arnold or "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse. But for me the best is always one by Osho. And there is one book where he has spoken on Buddha. It is special because of one Buddha talking about other and it involves two of the people I love the most! One example I can give is that all stories say that Gautam on the day of fullmoon decided that he will sit under the Bodhi tree and not get up till he found the solutions and became enlightened. No one else says this but Osho goes further and says that finally as the sun was about to rise and he had tried everything he could, made every effort and at that time he dropped all effort. In fact effort dropped by itself because it had reached its peak. he had tried everything that any person can do. It simply dropped and that was the moment. He also goes on to say that enlightenment always happens in such a state of non-doing but even to reach this state of non-doing, initially effort has to be there and that too all out effort. Only then when it reaches its height, it drops off by itself.

Finally to come to the point of why I like Buddha and his story so much is because of such single minded devotion, brushing aside all kinds of blocks and temptations and what not. To overcome one's mind is truely the greatest victory there can be. He must have fought and struggled with himself and his mind must have played games with him, tried to make his task that much harder, tempting him and all its games. In his story, it is depicted or symbolised as the demon Mara and what is important is that 'Mara' is actually the demon within and you cannot win by fighting it that is what makes it tough. If you could fight and kill him, many would have been enlightened already. We always swing from one to the other but to be exactly in the center, neither like nor dislike, neither love nor hate, neither attraction nor repulsion. To be in that point is the most difficult and that is what he achieved by himself and that is what makes him the greatest plus the fact that he decided to stay on and teach others to help others when he could have just dissolved and disappeared into bliss. That is one thing if you are wondering why all the Spiritual greats have generally died at such a young age because it becomes difficult to continue living in the body after that as life starts losing contact with the body and the body itself becomes weak and susceptible and also since there is no point hanging around more as everything that life had to offer is experienced!

Finally I end this with the line:
Buddham Sharanam Gachami, Dhammam Sharanam Gachami, Sangham Sharanam Gachami
Fact- Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world!
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