Today is Buddha Purinma or Vesak day – The day when Buddha was born. A few weeks back I mentioned about the six attributes that attract humans viz fame, money, strength, beauty, knowledge and lastly renunciation. The world has not known a greater renunciant – A 29 year old prince who gave it all: the kingdom, his wife and even his son!
The greatest renunciant of all time was well protected against all that could propel him towards renunciation. His father ensured that no suffering ever met Buddha’s sight. Yet as Victor Hugo would say, “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come”. One of the greatest ideas of all times was knocking at the canvas of time – Buddhism!
Vesak day is traditionally a commemoration or celebration of three most important stages in Buddha’s life: his birth, enlightenment and Nirvana. Buddha’s four Noble Truths explain the origin and cure of human sufferings.
· Dukkha - One who is born is bound to have suffering or dukkha
· Samudaya – Samudya or the root cause of dukkha is desires
· Nirodha – Nirodha or Cessation of suffering can be achieved by eliminating desires
· Marga – Marga or way to nirodh is through the Eightfold Path - right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi
When we have no desires, we have no sufferings. But how is it possible to have no desires? We talk about choosing what we like and following our passion. And then all of a sudden, no desires? How can we follow our passion without wanting it? Let’s see what Buddha has to say about it.
One of the greatest lessons we can learn from Buddha is balance or moderation. What does moderation mean? We often hear that everything is good in moderation.
The simplest thing is to remember our mother reminding us in the childhood, “ Don’t eat too many sweets, don’t put too much salt in your soup”.
We want to have a taste, we want to feel good but what is good? Good is when we do things well enough to make them run well – developing human knowledge and helping others– but without causing damage to anything including ourselves. Too much sugar might ruin one’s teeth, too much salt might ruin one’s kidneys. In life there are so many things whose effect is much more complex than the simple effect of sugar and salt. Excessive pursuit of one’s passion without taking rest or breaks can lead one to physical or mental health problems, diseases which are, as Buddha defined them, one of the three sufferings in this world - the other two being old age and death. One might say that renunciation may help. But unduly renunciation, when our loved ones still need our help and support, will not be the end of our sufferings but only their possible beginning. I have illustrated this in one of my earlier posts here – Do your Duty.
The method to avoid suffering which Buddha teaches us is to follow the middle way of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. Don’t go into the extremes when trying to reach goals, or sufferings are inevitable. Don’t indulge too much into enjoyment but also don’t torture your body too much in pursuit.
This Buddha’s teaching nicely resonates with another world-famous scripture, Bhagavad Gita. Verse 2.14 says that happiness and distress are non-permanent, and their appearance and disappearance are like the appearance and disappearance of seasons. They arise from sense perception and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.
Do not be too happy or do not be too stressed. Follow the middle way. Things will come and go in their due course. Realizing it is one’s personal enlightenment which came to Buddha at the age of 35 and which comes to all of us at the age we are ready. Vesak day is a good opportunity to remind ourselves that things are transitory and they are the way we perceive them.
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