In the time of Shakyamuni Buddha India was divided into quite a number of small states. Different states were ruled in different ways. Magadha was a kingdom, other states were, I suppose we would say, republics or tribal states with a tribal council. The Vajjis were a confederacy of numerous smaller tribal groups who gathered together for mutual co-operation and defence.
The Buddha had wandered through most of Northern India and had supporters in many different places. When he was 80 years old he realised that his life was coming towards a close. He says to Mara: “You’ll soon have your way, but I have a few months left before then,” and during these few months he seems to have made a tour. He was still fit enough to walk considerable distances; and in the Parinibbana Sutra we see him going from place to place. He gives a talk enthusing people and then he says to Ananda: “Come, let’s go to…” such and such a place, and off they go, and he gives another rousing, motivating sermon at the new place and then: “Now, Ananda, we will go to…” and they go on to the next place, like this. So, he does a kind of tour and I suppose you can see in this his concern to rouse the energy of his followers knowing that soon he is not going to be there to lead them. They’re going to have to stand on their own feet. So, he goes to as many places as possible.
Also, it’s a difficult time because there is impending warfare between these different countries hanging in the air in the background and some of the talks that the Buddha gives are about how to live in peace or how to have strength in communities. And the same principles can be extended to the sangha itself and he gives talks on that - how to maintain a good sangha.
Eventually he finds his way to the country of the Mallas. There was much support for him among the Mallas and so, it would be a place where he would feel secure and content; and he goes to the Sal Forest, a forest of Sala trees and this is where his life comes to an end. The actual death seems to have been precipitated by a bout of food poisoning. The Buddha lies down between two big trees and gives his last instructions to his immediate disciples.
And then, when he has died, the Malla people come and they carry his body into the city. There are rituals to perform; and then they carry it outside of the city and the body is cremated.
During the week that they have been holding these ceremonies, of course, the word has spread that the Tathagata has died. Ambassadors come from a number of other countries and tribes. There is a negotiation about the distribution of the relicts when the Buddha’s body has been cremated. The relicts are divided into eight parts and these are taken to different parts of India; and stupas are erected as reliquaries, where the faithful can come and show their respects and also receive inspiration: empowerment from the presence of the Buddha.
And this setting up of stupas and going to be in the presence of the Buddha, receiving the power of the Buddha, this is the origin of Pureland Buddhism. This is the origin of Other Power Buddhism. Even if we don’t have a stupa, still we can turn ourselves to the Buddha and we can receive that spirit and that empowerment. By calling Namo Amida Bu we will never be refused.
Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much