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Buddha Poornima is one of the most sacred festivals in the Buddhist calendar. It celebrates three important events in Buddha’s life- birth, enlightenment and final mergence. It occurs on the full moon day in the fourth lunar month of Vaisakha.  In many of His discourses, especially to educators, students and youth, Sathya Sai Baba has said that one must have the head of Shankara (founder of the non-dualism school of philosophy), the heart of Buddha and the hands of Janaka (renowned emperor).  The name and form of Buddha spontaneously evokes feelings of compassion and peace. This is primarily due to the life of purity and sacrifice rooted in the principle of avoiding harm (ahimsa) that Buddha led.

As we prepare to celebrate Buddha Poornima, let us reflect deeply on the life and teachings of Buddha, derive inspiration and strive to apply it in our daily lives. Here are excerpts from Sathya Sai Baba’s discourses revealing the heart of Buddha, given during Buddha Poornima celebrations for individual or group study.  

Purity- the path to liberation

How can a man who is not aware of his humanness recognise the Divinity within him? Hence the first requisite is the recognition by everyone of his human essence. Based on this truth, Buddha declared that everyone should cultivate at the outset samyak-dhrishti (pure vision). It is only when man has a pure vision that he can get rid of impurities in the body, speech and mind. Hence the first requirement for every man is samyak-dhrishti.

The second quality that is needed is samyak-sankalpa (pure thoughts). Everyone should have pure thoughts. Only the person who has developed purity in vision can have purity in thoughts.

The third requirement for every man, along with purity in vision and thought, is samyak-karma (pure deeds). Everyone should do pure deeds.  By his capacity for developing good vision, entertaining good thoughts and performing good deeds, man has the power to transform humanness into Divinity.

A fourth requirement for man is samyak-shruthi (listening to sacred words). When one listens to sacred words he can have only sacred thoughts.

The fifth quality prescribed by Buddha is samyak-jevanam (living a pure life). What is meant by "living"? It is not leading a worldly life attached to worldly pursuits. True living means making one's life meaningful by ideal actions. Man's life must be governed by idealism in action.

Next, Buddha declared that everyone should aim at samyak-sadhana (right spiritual practice). Sadhana means elimination of the evil tendencies in man and acquiring good and sacred qualities. True sadhana is the eradication of all evil in a man. Study of sacred texts, meditation and penance do not constitute the whole of sadhana (spiritual exercise). To remove all the impurities in the mind is real sadhana.

After this comes what Buddha called samyak-samadhi or nirvaana (realisation or liberation). What is meant by samadhi? It means treating pleasure and pain, gain and loss alike. Sama-dhi (equal mindedness) is "samadhi". To look upon light and darkness, pleasure and pain, profit and loss, fame and censure with an equal mind is samadhi. Buddha termed this equal mindedness as nirvana.

It is the recognition of the sacredness of the qualities of all the senses in man that constitutes real humanness. At the very outset, one has to keep the tongue pure. This was referred to as samyak-vaak (purity in speech). The tongue has to be sanctified by refraining from falsehood, slander and abusive speech.

Next comes samyak-darshanam (seeing only things that are holy). You must see only things which please your conscience. Seeing all worldly things is not proper seeing at all. Buddha laid emphasis on seeing good, thinking good, speaking good and doing good. Seeing all sorts of things is not good for anyone. The eyes should be used for seeing only what is pure, what is holy and what is edifying.1

True spirit of sacrifice and contentment

Buddha was once asked: "Who is the richest man in the world?" Buddha replied: "He who has contentment with what he has is the richest man." To the question, "Who is the poorest man?" Buddha replied: "He who has many desires."

A Maharaja, who was listening to Buddha's sermons on contentment and renunciation, wished to earn the approbation of Buddha.

Buddha used to keep with him always a rattle-drum. His disciples once asked him: "Master! Why are you always keeping this rattle-drum by your side?" Buddha replied: "I shall play on this drum the day a person who has made the greatest sacrifice approaches me." Everyone was eager to know who this person would be. Such persons are often the forgotten men of history.

Wishing to attain this distinction, a Maharaja loaded his elephants with considerable treasure and went to Buddha. He hoped to offer the treasure to Buddha and earn his praise.

On the way, an old woman greeted the Maharaja and pleaded: "I am hungry. Will you give me some food?" The Maharaja took out a pomegranate fruit from his palanquin and gave it to the old woman. The old woman came to Buddha with the fruit.

By then, the Maharaja had also come to Buddha and was eagerly waiting to see when Buddha would sound the rattle-drum. For a long time Buddha did not use it. The Maharaja stayed on.

The old woman approached Buddha staggering on her legs, and offered him the pomegranate fruit. Buddha took it immediately and sounded the little drum.

The Maharaja asked Buddha: "I offered so much wealth to you. You did not sound the drum. But you rattled it after receiving a small fruit. Is this a great sacrifice?

Buddha replied: "Maharaja! In sacrifice, it is not quantity that counts. It is the quality of sacrifice that matters. It is natural for a Maharaja to offer gold. But what great sacrifice is made when a hungry old women offers the pomegranate fruit to the guru despite her hunger. She did not care even for her life and gave the fruit. What greater sacrifice can there be? It is not sacrifice to offer what is superfluous. True sacrifice means giving up that which is most dear to you, that which you value most.2

Three maxims                                     

Buddham saranam gacchami

Dharmam saranam gacchami

Sangam saranam gacchami

These three maxims imply that firstly, one must sharpen the intellect and the capacity for spiritual discrimination. Next, intelligence has to be used in the service of society. Thirdly, service must be based on dharma or righteousness. If these three steps are followed, they would lead to Bliss. Never harm any living creature in any way whatsoever. Help ever, hurt never – this is the essence of Buddha’s teachings. 

Ahimsa paramo dharmah. Nonviolence is the supreme dharma. One must never ever hurt or injure another person by thought, word, or action. You may wonder: “Is such a thing possible?” Yes it is, provided you have firm determination. With resolution and absolute determination, there is nothing in this world that cannot be achieved. Fear is a great obstacle to achievement. Once you realise that the same divinity resides in all, you will never be afraid of anything or anyone.3

Take refuge in Love

Sathyam saranam gacchami

Ekam saranam gacchami

Premam saranam gacchami

In this transient and ephemeral world, there is one thing that is true and eternal. That is divinity and that is what everyone should aspire to attain. Sathyam saranam gacchami (I take refuge in Truth). Ekam saranam gacchami (I take refuge in the Self). Everything is the manifestation of divinity in this world; there is no second entity other than divinity. It is the divine principle that governs the entire world.4

There is an underlying message of unity in Buddha’s teachings. He had only one feeling in his heart, the feeling of love. He taught, Dharmam saranam gacchami (I take refuge in righteousness), Premam saranam gacchami (I take refuge in Love). Bereft of love, humanness has no existence. We should love all, irrespective of the fact whether one is a pauper or a rich man. Money should not be the criterion to share your love with your fellowmen. Money is not important. Money comes and goes, morality comes and grows. Do not hurt others. Help Ever, Hurt Never. Only then can you attain the state of Buddha.

For reflection and discussion

  1. How can we strive for purity in our thoughts, words and deeds?
  2. What steps can we take every day to practice ceiling on desires and experience contentment?
  3. How can we practice non-violence in thought, word and deed?
  4. How can we cultivate the spirit of sacrifice?

References

1. http://sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume30/sss30-13.pdf, May 15, 1997

2. http://sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume21/sss21-16.pdf , June 26, 1988

3. http://sssbpt.info/summershowers/ss2000/ss2000-08.pdf, May 21, 2000

4. http://www.sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume39/sss39-09.pdf, May 13, 2006