Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Buddha's Enlightenment

All Buddhists celebrate the Buddha's Enlightenment because it reminds us of our own potential to wake up.

According to the Tibetan calendar, Wednesday 18 June 2008 is an auspicious day to rejoice and celebrate the momentous truth of enlightenment.

But what is enlightenment? What would it feel like? what exactly would we be waking up from?

This is how Thich Nhat Hanh describes the Buddha's moment of awakening -
"Enlightenment for the Buddha felt as though a prison which had confined him for thousands of lifetimes had broken open. Ignorance had been the jailkeeper. Because of ignorance, his mind had been obscured, just like the moon and stars hidden by storm clouds. Clouded by endless waves of deluded thoughts, the mind had falsely divided reality into subject and object, self and others, existence and non-existence, birth and death, and from these discriminations arose wrong views-the prisons of feelings, craving, grasping, and becoming. The suffering of birth, old age, sickness, and death only made the prison walls thicker. The only thing to do was to seize the jailkeeper and see his true face. The jailkeeper was ignorance. Once the jailkeeper was gone, the jail would disappear and never be rebuilt again."
So what is revealed once the muddy layer of ignorance has been purified?

The 'heart of the enlightened mind', [Bodhichitta], its very essence, is Compassion.

Under the 'Bodhi' tree at Bodhgaya, India, pictured left, the Buddha discovered that one is already enlightened, so to speak. Beneath the outer grimey layers of ego and delusion lies the Natural Mind.

It is Open, Aware, and limitlessly Compassionate. Moreover, Buddha realised that an enlightened being is one who cherishes the welfare of others more than his own. Plain and simple; all our troubles come from thinking only of ourselves, all our joys come from loving others and wishing to take away their suffering and dissatisfaction.

Nowadays, the ancient Mahabodhi Temple stands on the spot where this profound yet simple realisation occurred. A descendant of the original tree still grows there, its branches spreading far and wide, its weight carried by wooden supports.

It is a very precious place of pilgrimage and meditation for people of any or no particular faith.

The Buddha instructed his first followers not to venerate him but to honour him by becoming enlightened themselves.

From this small back-water in North India flowed a lineage of enlightened masters.

Mindfulness - the method for attaining this perfect awakened state - spread to the four corners of the earth, where individuals continue to realise their true nature for the benefit of others.

Long after the Muslim invasion, Buddhism declined in India. This was, of course, due to its being wiped out by Islam. However there is also a strong case supporting the theory that Buddhism had become far too ritualistic, structured, institutionalised and stale. So the population merely abandoned it en masse and returned to Hinduism.

During a later revival, an enormous gold statue of the Buddha was unearthed in the fields near the Maha Bodhi Temple. It now sits in its rightful place inside the temple where its uniquely perfect presence and inimitable dimensions continue to pacify and inspire all who are open to it.

But, beyond history, beyond religion, beyond all concepts - what the Buddha realised was so pure and simple...

Just love...

Be compassionate to all beings...

Rejoice in the positive...

Remain stable and open.

1 comment:

  1. the picture, Under the Bodhi Tree, at http://brunonua.blogspot.com/2008/06/buddhas-enlightenment.html is taken without permission from my site, www.thezensite.com. If you wish to use any of my pictures, please just ask and give credit and a link back to my site. Or don't use them.
    Vladimir K.