Greetings on this most auspicious of days in the Buddhist calendar – Vesak. The full moon day of May.
The day, a little baby boy, named Siddhartha Gotama was born to Queen Mahamaya over 2,600 years ago (624 BC) in Lumbini, present day Nepal. At just 29 years of age Siddhartha, renounced the palace luxuries seeking to find the Truth of our existence and end to our suffering. Six years later on the full moon day of May, under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India – He realised this Truth – freedom from this cycle of suffering (Samsara).
He thus became known as the Enlightened One, The Buddha, The Tathagata.
He then with great compassion teaches this Path He discovered to help countless beings free their own hearts from suffering. He does this for 45 years up until the full moon day of May 2563 years ago (543BC) at the age of 80 years, at Kusinara, when Gotama Buddha passes away – leaving the Dhamma, his teaching – for those who have since come to seek and realise this Truth for themselves over the last two and half millennia.
‘It may be, Ananda, that to some among you the thought will come: ‘Ended is the word of the Master; we have a Master no longer.’ But it should not, Ananda, be so considered. For that which I have proclaimed and made known as the Dhamma and the Discipline, that shall be your Master when I am gone.’
– DN 16 – Mahaparinibbana Sutta
So what is is this Truth? What is this teaching? Can we still free ourselves in this present day?
If we just take a moment to pause we will see that these teachings are with us everyday in every moment – in the most mundane of experiences – the ones we try and escape from. We habitually tend to run away from suffering but the Buddha encouraged us to look at it as the very door to the end of our suffering. We need to understand suffering (Dukkha) to realise the end of it (Nibbana).
So what Dukkha are we experiencing now?
Our Dhamma friend Tidi is taking a moment to contemplate
In the present day with the pandemic – the country in lockdown – what we experience is our judgements, our views and opinions over how things should be. We see the world in the way we do and think we are right or that is how things should be. We form judgements over other people and how they think but if we stop and look at this situation wisely, what it’s doing is showing up our own kilesas or our mental defilements which were hidden away. It’s like giving bait. The lockdown restrictions are like bait. The kilesas are attracted to it. They come up.
Instead of being fooled by them and following what they say, those who are mindful and wise will think ‘ha ha – the kilesa was fooled, it didn’t realise this was a trap, now it’s exposed, now I can watch it and understand it’, then the kilesa is the fool, not the heart. The kilesais the one that loses, not Dhamma. Wisdom arises. The heart liberates. The heart is no longer the victim.
The Viruses within us
So instead of complaining about the situation we find ourselves in and trying to change the external – we notice how these conditions are letting out these viruses within us – anger, frustration, not wanting, wanting – they were lurking around in our hearts, hidden away. Now the conditions are such, they are out and about, we can see them, we can understand them. The wise will not let these precious opportunities slip away.
All we need to do is understand their behaviour, by watching them – like a scientist observing a new species of a virus. ‘What is this really? I’ve read about similar viruses, heard about similar viruses, but really what is this virus, I have to find out for myself.’
The beauty of Dhamma is that once things are understood, they cease to exist – it’s as if their existence was merely to be understood but in reality, once you know it for what it is, the heart is no longer fooled by it.
What a wonderful opportunity to free one’s heart from its own viruses, the conditions have been served up to us, it’s just up to each of us to see them with wisdom. We too can then liberate our own hearts in this present day looking at our own experience, no matter what it may be, wherever we may be – two and half millennia after the Buddha’s own Enlightenment.
The Path has been clearly laid out to us by the Buddha. It is still open and blossoming. Where this Path leads to – is to be discovered by each one of us for ourselves by walking it in the woods of our own experience.
Amaravati woods a week ago. Photo thanks to Tan Indapannyo.
To end with Lung Por Liem,
‘So seeing the practice in this way, we know: If all of us truly and sincerely keep up our efforts in the training, with practice (patipati), eventually there has to be liberation (pativedi). That is why the Buddha praised this training, conduct and practice. It is because of this practice that the True Dhamma still exists as a counterpart to the world.’
– Santi -Peace beyond delusion; Teachings on Practising for Tranquillity and Peace
Wishing you all well in your practice – in the Path to liberating your own hearts, realising your own efforts in turn helps keep the Dhamma alive for the benefit of many more generations to come.
6 May 2020