Last week I was in hospital, watching the nurses jabbing a patient’s arm repeatedly with an injection. They were trying to find the vein to give the intravenous medication.
Although painful, the exercise was necessary to sustain life and restore health, healing and happiness.
As I captured pictures of the full moon outside I marvelled at its power. Tonight was Buddha Purnima – the day when Gautama the Buddha got enlightened.
Siddhartha Gautama (490 BCE – 410 BCE) was born in Lumbini in Nepal, about 2500 years ago. He grew to be a prince of a small kingdom. It was prophesied that he would become a great conqueror, or a great sage. To prevent him becoming the latter his father cocooned him in a palace of sensual delights and married him at 18 to a beautiful woman.
On a chance foray out of the palace he saw an old man, a suffering man and a procession carrying a dead man. He asked his charioteer, ‘Will I become like this also?’ He was told, ‘Yes.’
Deeply troubled, he left his wife and child of one and a half years and slipped out of the palace. After many years of searching and self-denial he came to sit under the bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya (in Bihar). He realised that the key to apprehending the nature of suffering is within oneself.
Gautama, propounded the four noble truths, viz. i) All existence is suffering (dukkha) ii) All suffering lies in attachment iii) By liberating one’s mind of attachment one can overcome suffering iv) This quest can be realised by following the 8-fold path.
The 8 fold path is 1. Avoid the wish to hurt others or covet other things (Correct thought) 2) Avoid gossip (Correct speech) 3) Avoid killing, stealing and sexual misconduct (Correct action) 4) Make your living with correct thought, speech and action (Correct livelihood).
The remaining 4 are, viz. 5) Develop genuine wisdom (Correct understanding) 6) Strive with joyful perseverance (Correct effort) 7) Be aware of the ‘here and now’ rather than dreaming of the ‘there and then’ (Correct mindfulness) 8) Develop a calm, steady and attentive state of mind (Correct concentration)*
This path does not depend on a God to help you attain self-realization. The nature of truth can be attained by one’s own spiritual practice.
I visited the Deer Park at Sarnath, where the Buddha preached his first sermon. We had travelled the distance of 10 kms. from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, where we were holed up for our annual editorial conference in 1999.
It is from the Deer Park that the chant in Pali of ‘Buddham, Saranam, Gacchami’/ ‘I take refuge in the Buddha,’ emanates. The intricate carvings on the massive Dhamekh stupa, and the Ashoka pillar, give you a sense of timelessness.
On Buddha Purnima on 10 May,the masthead of the Navbharat Times in Hindi displayed a banner depicting various scenes from Gautama’s life. The rest of the papers simply ignored the event.
----------------------------------------------------*www.viewonbuddhism.org; Pix of masthead of Navbharat Times (Hindi), Mumbai on Buddha Purnima, 10 May 2017.