On December 8 we celebrate the anniversary of the enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha. Let us reflect a little upon this.
Siddhartha Gotama was somebody who threw himself into things. In his early life he evidently was a sensitive lad given to reflection and it must have been a deep trouble to him that his birth had occasioned the death of his mother. Encouraged by his family, he did his best to put that inner pain aside by giving himself over to every kind of self-indulgence. Eventually he reached the limit and a sense of revulsion set in. He stole away from home and turned, with similar dedication, to a completely opposite course, that of self-mortification, penance and asceticism. The flesh had to be punished. Again, he pursued this until revulsion and disgust again set in.
When he was at the limit of his powers, down and out, lying in the gutter, his mother descended from heaven and appeared to him. This could, perhaps, have been the end. However, just at this moment, there arrived Sujata, a woman on the way to make an offering to the forest gods. She gave the offering to the poor man and this act of unconditional generosity must have awakened something in his tortured spirit. Over the next few days he passed through a series of life changing experiences and it is this transformation that we celebrate on this day.
It was a great turning around in his life. It gave new meaning and direction. After his awakening, the Buddha was not idle. He spent his life walking the length and breadth of India preaching love, compassion and wisdom and awakening others. He established an order of followers who would spread the light. The way he was was itself the most powerful inspiration. He walked his talk and his most powerful talk was the example that was manifest in his life. He had, it is said, 84,000 encounters and in each case gave an appropriate teaching. Although there are universal principles in the Dharma, the application to each life is unique and his acceptance of people just as they are, even, in one instance, in the case of a mass murderer, was so profound that in each encounter an appropriate blessing naturally emerged.
We are beneficiaries of the great spirit of love that he released into the world. It continues to be transmitted. In order to transmit the Dharma one does not need to have reached some extraordinary level of spiritual accomplishment; one simply needs to set one’s conceit aside and have faith in the grace that he brought into the world and that is always shining. We are all part of the great work, often unconsciously. In simply living our lives in an honest and faithful way, we are as if mirrors for that great light that is so much more than we could shine out of our little stock of personal wisdom.
Siddhartha had tried to avoid his personal pain and then had tried to pay it off. Neither strategy worked. He does not ask us to imitate his way of arriving at the truth, he asks us to be faithful to and grateful for what he has given us. On this day, let us allow ourselves to receive the light and love that have come down through eighty generations from the past and that beckon to us from innumerable generations in the future.
Reflecting upon our own lives, we might feel helpless to tackle the great problems of life and the world and it is true that each individual is often only a tiny influence, but even the smallest dewdrop can reflect the light of the whole moon and the moon in the dewdrop is no less than the whole moon. It is not by the dewdrop trying to be the moon that enlightenment spreads in the world, it is by each of us playing our own part and doing so with a happy heart.
Namo Amida Bu.
Thanks Dharmavidya. I never heard the bit about his mother descending from heaven before. Is there a suggestion that she took the form of Sujata?
Namo Amida Bu!
No. She sees from heaven that her son is near to death and comes to comfort him. He tells her that although he is at death's door, all will somehow be well.
So heartwarming to read your reflection and to feel connected across the ocean.
No, I'm in Canada at the Bodhi Retreat with Prajña. Namo Amida Bu !
Lovely to read this after returning from Amida Mandala's Bodhi retreat. Makes a nice dharma talk transition back into everyday life as I work through the hillock of emails which greeted me on my return. A lovely, inclusive talk, thank you.