Buddha was born 2600 years ago in Lumbini in the Shakya state, on the Nepal-India border. Legend says that his family lived in opulence and luxurious palaces. Some days after Buddha’s birth, his mother passed away. Thereafter he was lovingly raised by his mother's younger sister Gautami. Legend also claims that a seer predicted the newborn prince would become either a great king or a revered holy man. Buddha’s father, King Suddhodana, had an ardent desire for his son to take over the reins of the kingdom. However, he feared the likelihood of Siddhartha renouncing worldly life, so he shielded Buddha from all unpleasant experiences, ensuring that he would be perfectly content with his life. He placed Siddhartha in a palace with servants at his beck and call providing everything he wanted, completely sheltering him from mundane reality. Buddha married and had a son. Nevertheless, despite a luxurious and contented life, at 28 he decided to venture out and see what lay beyond the palace walls.
Parents were subjecting their children to various kinds of bonds and making their lives miserable. As soon as the children come of age the parents are keen to get them married. They do not know what kind of happiness he can get from married life. What happiness have they derived from their own married life physically, mentally or otherwise? No person, however intelligent, thinks about this matter. Even eminent scholars do not care to examine whether it is worthwhile pursuing sensuous pleasures instead of seeking what is beyond the senses. Buddha felt intensely unhappy that his parents and others combined to commit him to the bondage of married life. One day at midnight, Buddha left the palace, giving up his wife and young son, Rahul. At the age of 28, he gave up everything and turned a renunciate. (Divine Discourse - 15th May 1997)
Buddha…could not bear to see anyone suffering. He was deeply grieved at the sight of persons afflicted with old age. He was intrigued at the sight of a dead body. None of these natural happenings gave him peace of mind. Buddha considered the movements of the planets and the sun and the stars as natural phenomena. He undertook many spiritual exercises to find out what transcended these natural phenomena. Failing to find the answers by these exercises, he approached many great elders to find the answers. None could give him satisfactory answers. Ultimately he reached Gaya [in Northern India] and sat under a banyan tree to meditate on the problems that worried him. (Divine Discourse - 15th May 1997)
Buddha realised that truth is not outside or something accessible through spiritual teachers or special rituals. Truth is inherent in oneself. Although all Avathars (divine advents) have been preaching only good things, men today are content to observe their birthdays without following their precepts. Buddha did not attach any importance to yajnas and yaagas and other religious rituals. The reason is he felt that it was more important to ensure that the five sense organs were pure to begin with. Buddha sought to find out why the mind gets disturbed. (Divine Discourse - 15th May 1997)
But none of these practices could show him the path to Nirvana. Ultimately, he realised that Nirvana lay in making use of the five senses of speech, touch, vision, taste and smell in a sacred manner. He understood that japa, dhyana, yoga, yajna, etc., were mere physical activities. These spiritual practices are needed for those who are attached to the body. (Divine Discourse - 14th Jan 1973)
Buddha was born in this sacred land of Bharat. He declared to the world 'Ahimsa paramo dharma' (non-violence is the greatest dharma). He undertook penance for several years, met many noble souls, listened to spiritual discourses, and studied various scriptures. But he was not satisfied. Man aspires for bliss, but how can he attain it? Where there is faith, there is love. Where there is love, there is peace. Where there is peace, there is truth. Where there is truth, there is God. Where there is God, there is bliss. The path of spirituality starts with faith and ends with bliss. Bliss cannot be attained from materialistic pleasures or people of the world. It can be experienced only when the five senses are put to proper use. (Divine Discourse, 30th May 1999)
The Three Jewels
The following three headings highlight the essence of Buddha’s teachings.
- The Four Noble Truths
- The Three Jewels
- The Noble Eightfold Path
The Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.In a Buddha Poornima speech, Baba beautifully explained the true meaning of the prayer used in the Three Jewels:
Buddham sharanam gachchaami, Dharmam sharanam gachchaami, Sangham sharanam gachchaami. The real meaning of the prayer is: you must divert your Buddhi (mind) towards Dharma (right conduct). And right conduct should aim at serving society. When this is done, society gets purified. (Divine Discourse, 15th May 1997)
Jewel One: Buddha
A Buddha is anyone who has fully awakened to the true nature of existence, liberated himself from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, and has eradicated all negative qualities and developed all positive qualities, including omniscience.
Baba points out that a true human being is someone who pursues the path of truth – the Dharmic path, which is comprised of:
Samyak drishti (right vision), samyak bhavam (right feeling), samyak sravanam (right listening), samyak vak (right speech), and samyak karma (right action)…Truth, righteousness and sacrifice should be the way of life…It means:
buddhi (intellect) should follow the path of dharma, and dharma should be fostered in society. Only then will the country prosper.
This is also the inner meaning of the word SAI. S denotes spiritual change, A denotes association (social) change, and I denotes individual change.
Man's mind will become pure and sacred only when these three changes take place. (Divine Discourse, 30th May 1999)
Jewel Two: Dharma
Buddha said non-violence is the greatest dharma. Love will be fostered only when non-violence is practiced. When love is fostered, there will be peace in the world. When there is peace in the world, man will naturally take to the path of dharma. When man follows the path of dharma, he will attain Truth. It is, therefore, the primary duty of every man to foster these life principles. (Divine Discourse, 30th May 1999)
Baba points out the true meaning of Dharma:
To achieve happiness, man embarks on acquiring various kinds of knowledge and pursues various occupations. He seeks happiness through marriage and having children and building a mansion for his residence. But is he happy thereby? No! What is dharma? Is it celibacy or the duties of a householder or a renunciate (sanyasin)? These are transient obligations which have to be observed as incidental duties in the journey of life. The supreme duty is refraining from causing harm to anyone. This truth is proclaimed in the scriptures in the exhortation: ‘Speak the truth. Speak what is pleasing’ (Sathyam bruyaath; priyam bruyaath). Thus, pleasing speech is declared as a supreme duty. (Divine Discourse, 5th February, 1998)
Baba tells us:
What is the meaning of knowledge (Jnana)? It is not mere acquaintance with numerous books. Even the acquisition of information about all the objects in the animate and inanimate is not knowledge. True knowledge is awareness of the relationship between the individual and collective (Samashti) and their oneness.(Divine Discourse, 5th February, 1998)
Jewel Three: Sangha
The true Sangha embraces everyone and everything. The true Sangha is a universal heart to heart relationship with every living being. It embraces everything, from the tiny cells to the flowers and trees to the distant stars.
When we break through to this understanding, then we realize the true Sangha – the true community of all beings – and understand that the positions or labels we might give ourselves are barriers to our understanding of oneness and are obstacles which must be cleansed from the mind.
Baba repeatedly tells us that the individual, society, creation and the creator are One. Therefore, the goal of education is not simply to earn money for ourselves and our immediate family but to help society. In speaking to His students, Swami once said:
You are struggling hard to acquire worldly education. You are spending hours together concentrating on it. What is the benefit that accrues from it? You acquire this education merely to fill your belly. Even this education can be used for the welfare of the society. Leave selfishness and aspire for the happiness of all. Loka samastha sukhino bhavantu. (May all the people of the world be happy!) This should be our prayer and aspiration. That is the true spiritual practice. Vyashti means individual, samashti means society. So, you should progress from vyashti to samashti, from samashti to srushti (creation), and ultimately merge in Parameshti (God). You should attain the unity of individual, society, creation, and the creator. Only spiritual transformation can bring about social welfare. The first letter S in the name Sai stands for service (work), A for adoration (worship), and I for illumination (wisdom). So, the very name of Sai symbolizes the unity of work, worship, and wisdom. (Divine Discourse, 30th May, 1999)
THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH
Buddha’s view on life was like that of a doctor. To attain wisdom and liberation, first he offered a diagnosis through the Four Noble Truths and then prescribed the Noble Eightfold Path as the cure. In order for us to fully understand the Four Noble Truths and investigate whether they are valid, Buddha recommended a certain lifestyle be followed, i.e. the Noble Eightfold Path, consisting of:
- Right Vision
- Right Thought and Feelings
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
The essential teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path is that we control our senses. When we control our senses, then we will see good in the world. Hence, Buddha declared that the first requisite is Samyak darsanam (Having the right vision). The implication of this statement is that, having been bestowed with the great gift of eyes, man should use them for seeing sacred objects and holy beings. But, on the contrary, by using his eyes to look at unsacred objects and evil persons, man fills himself with bad thoughts and becomes prey to evil tendencies.
What one sees influences the feelings in the heart. The state of the heart determines the nature of one’s thoughts. The thoughts influence one's life. Hence to lead a good life the first prerequisite is pure vision. Man has to cultivate a sacred outlook. As a result of looking at cruel, ugly, and wicked scenes man leads an animal existence.
The very first inquiry one should make is to ascertain what is pure, edifying, and godly that he should see. Whatever he sees leaves its imprint on man. Few realize the effects of this. (Divine Discourse, 5th Feb 1998) This was the first lesson Buddha taught. Buddha wandered all over the country in search of spiritual peace and liberation. After many years of inquiry he came to the conclusion that the secret of spiritual wisdom was not to be derived from scholars or by study. He realized that spiritual understanding could only come from mastery of the senses. (Divine Discourse, 5th Feb 1998)
2. Right Thoughts and Feelings
Swami tells us that the Noble Eight fold path can be easily followed when we fill our hearts with love.
Baba also explains that love is the way to God and that love and life are the best teachers.
There is no need for you to follow this person or that person in the search for a Guru. The heart full of compassion is the altar of God. Nature is the best preacher. Life is the best teacher. Fill yourselves with awe and reverence at the handiwork of God, the manifestation of His Power and Glory that is called the World. This is enough instruction and enough inspiration for you. (Divine Discourse, 14th January, 1973)
3. Right Speech
Speech is the most important aspect to every human contact. Sai says:
From developing sacred vision, man should proceed to samyak vachanam (sacred speech). Buddha declared that only sacred thoughts could lead to sacred speech. Buddha declared that the tongue should not be used recklessly to utter whateverone thinks. The tongue has been given to speak the truth, to amplify on what is sacred and pure.
The tongue has not been given to man to pamper the palate with delicious sweets. It is not given for talking as one likes. It is not to be used for causing displeasure to others. Nor is it to be used for indulging in falsehood. The tongue has been given to man to speak the truth, to be sweet to others, to praise the Divine and enjoy the bliss derived from such sacred speech. (Divine Discourse, 5th Febuary, 1998)
4. Right Action
Buddha emphasized goodness in action (samyak-karma). The mark of good action is harmony in thought, word, and deed. When there is no such harmony, the action belies what is said or thought. Buddha went on to declare that good action is conducive to good spiritual progress (samyak-sadhana). Good deeds constitute genuine spirituality. Mere formal worship or ritualistic practices do not constitute spiritual striving. These religious practices are good in a way but they do not constitute spiritual sadhana.
True spirituality consists in the unity of thought, word and deed in all their purity and sacredness.Buddha declared that when spiritual striving of this nature has been completed, there is samyak-jivanam (leading a pure life).(Divine Discourse, 5th Febuary, 1998)
5. - 8. From Right Livelihood to Right Concentration
The next four steps of the Noble Eight fold Path are Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
Buddha) stressed the need for Samyak Vak (sacred speech). Anudvegakaram Vakyam Sathyam Priya-hitham Cha Yat (one should speak only those words, which cause no annoyance to others and which are truthful, agreeable and wholesome). Whatever you speak should not cause any disturbance to others. It should be truthful as well as pleasing. You cannot always oblige but you can speak always obligingly. Sacred speech is the manifestation of divinity. God exists in the form of Sabda Brahmam (sound principle).
…Under any circumstances, do not let your speech be tainted by harshness. Never become agitated. When you understand that all are one, there will be no chance to get agitated. All bodies are like mirrors, showing you your own reflection in them. How can you be angry with your own reflection? You should speak with love. There is no divinity greater than love. When you fill your heart with love, your thoughts, vision, words and deeds will be suffused with love. (Divine Discourse, 5th Febuary, 1998)
The Goal Of The Noble Eightfold Path Is Nirvana
Baba speaks about Nirvana in this way:
Today man aspires to attain mukti (liberation). What is mukti? It is not the attainment of a heavenly abode. Mukti means freedom from suffering. You need to have mukti at three levels – body, mind and soul. For example, you are hungry. When you eat food, your hunger is satiated. This is also a kind of mukti. You are suffering from a disease. You take a medicine and get cured. This is also mukti. All this is related to the body.
At the mental level, mukti means controlling the vagaries of the mind. But true liberation lies in understanding the principle of the Atma, which neither comes nor goes. This is termed as Nirvana. (Divine Discourse, 7th May, 2001)
In 1997 Swami also said:
Buddha's emphasis was entirely on purity in every aspect of daily life. Purity in vision, purity in thought, purity in speech and purity in action. He considered the spirit of sacrifice as true yajna. Sacrifice is the means for attaining Nirvaana (freedom from the bondage of mundane existence. (Divine Discourse, 15th May, 1997)
Buddha Poornima or Vesakh is an auspicious Buddhist festival. It is the first full moon night of May. Significantly Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and entered into Parinirvana on the first full moon night of May, symbolically demonstrating that we are born and die each moment and in the same moment we are carried by eternity.
Baba has observed on Buddha Poornima in this way:
Embodiments of Love! We are celebrating today Buddha Poornima, or Buddha Jayanthi. What does Poornima (full moon) signify? It signifies wholeness. When the mind is filled with love, it achieves fullness. As long as the mind is filled with darkness (evil thoughts) there is no meaning in celebrating Buddha Poornima. Get rid of this darkness. Without the light of love in the heart, what use is there in having illuminations outside? Light the lamp of the Divine in your minds. Banish hatred and envy from your hearts. Man is the victim of two evil planets: attachment and hatred. To escape from their grip, the only way is to cultivate love. (Divine Discourse, 15th May, 1997)
Siddhartha advocated the practice of meditation. What is that you have to meditate upon? What is meant by meditation? Does it mean concentrating upon a particular object? No, no. That is not meditation at all. To meditate upon the principle of “I am I” is true meditation. No other Sadhana (spiritual practice) can match this… Buddha recognised the principle of unity and based his life on this truth. Under the direction of many yogis, he had performed various kinds of meditation and penance, but ultimately found them to be a mere waste of time as none of these could lead him to the ultimate experience of oneness.
He regretted having wasted his time in such a manner. One should find fulfillment in life by making proper use of the time. This is the primary duty of man.
Buddha could attain the experience the unity of all creation. There was total transformation in him once he attained the vision of Ekatma (oneness of the Atma). He realised that all worldly relations like mother, father, wife, children were false. He transcended body consciousness. That is why he earned the appellation Buddha (enlightened one).
Truly speaking, Buddha is not just one individual. All of you are Buddhas. You will see unity everywhere once you understand this truth. There is unity in the apparent multiplicity. When you are surrounded by many mirrors, you see a number of your reflections. Reflections are many, but the person is one.
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhasaya
Buddham Sharanam Gacchami
Dhammam Sharanam Gacchami
Sangam Sharanam Gacchami
Always think of good thoughts, say good words, do good deeds
Always think of good thoughts
these are good seeds
Good thoughts are like Kindness, Gratitude, Mindfulness,
Good words of Gentleness, Truthfulness and Patience
Good deeds of Helpfulness,Right effort, Generous
Good deeds have all these three
These will make us Happy
These will make us Happy
These will make us Happy