SOME 2,500 years ago in ancient India, an Arya Prince was born in the gardens of Lumbini. He was Siddhartha. Although predicted to be a great ruler, he was destined to renounce his royal life to seek enlightenment that culminated in him becoming a Buddha. Wesak Day marks the day of birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Buddha.
Many have mistakenly stated the name “Gautama” to be his gotra (lineage). According to historical facts, Gautama was the name of his stepmother, who took care of him after his mother, who was Gautama’s sister, queen Mahamaya, passed away.
After he became the Buddha, he was known as Gautama’s Buddha in recognition of the care given to him. The Buddha was of the Ikshvaku lineage of the Sakya clan.
Another misconception is that Buddha renounced God. But in the surviving Pali and Sanskrit manuscripts, one would find that Buddha did not preach against God or the Vedas. The Brahman (formless God for Hindus) was referred to as Vijnana (the highest wisdom) by Buddha. During that period, so-called preachers were misinterpreting and abusing the Vedas. The consequences led people to give up the Vedas. The Buddha, however, was full of reverence for the Vedas. Buddha did not teach in Vedic terms but the essence of the Vedas and the teaching of Buddha was the same.
Among Buddha’s teachings is that man’s character is important, not money. Currently, our lives are about earning more and more money. According to Buddha, we cannot find bliss through money. It is only through the control of the senses that we can find happiness; the happiness that we derive from sensual pleasures is not real happiness. The Buddha taught that Man should cultivate as follows:
Samyag-Dhristhi — pure vision,
Samyag-Sankalpa — pure thoughts,
Samyag-Dharshanam — watching holy things,
Samyag-Vaak — purity in speech,
Samyag-Karma — pure deeds,
Samyag-Shurthi — listening to holy words from one’s religion,
Samyag-Jeevanam — living a pure life,
Samyag-Saadhana — achieving the highest goal and,
Samyag-Nirvana — pure realisation.
The Buddha taught that treating pleasure and pain, gain and loss, light and darkness, with equal mindedness is Nirvana. He stressed that mankind must see good, think good, speak good and do good. He stressed on non-violence and declared it to be the prime principal of virtue. Causing harm to anyone by thought, word or deed is clearly a sin.
Once, Buddha arrived at a village and saw a priest about to sacrifice an animal. Buddha stopped him and said: “No harm must be done in any manner whatsoever to any living being. It is wrong to kill this animal.”
The priest replied: “Sir, we are not killing it but offering it liberation.” Buddha smiled and said: “Your argument has no basis in the scriptures. The Vedas do not advocate what you are saying. Do you think liberation can be granted by inflicting harm, pain and sacrifice? What you are trying to do is the worst of sins. Never hurt, injure or kill living beings.”
Buddha preached love and stated that by practising love constantly, hatred will vanish. When evil people confronted, abused, harmed and tried to kill him, Buddha gave love in return. Today, let us all spread love to friends, foes and animals around us. Happy Wesak.
ARIFF SHAH R.K., Penang