SAKA DAWA, THE MOON OF LORD BUDDHA’S BIRTH, ENLIGHTENMENT AND PARINIRVANA
On a Full Moon like today
Like all the Buddhas of the past, like all the Buddhas of the future, He was born, reached enlightement and passed away on the Full Moon of the 4th Lunar Month, which this year is celebrated on this June 7th 2009.
He made the promise to become an enlightened Buddha for the sake of all beings many ages ago, much before our last Big-Bang. At that time his name was Megha. That spring he had finished his studies and was walking back home. When he reached the city of his parents he saw it adorned with garlands and all sorts of magnificent banners. Innocent and quite naif, he thought that they were welcoming him, but everybody was walking in the same direction and didn’t pay any attention to him. Except for a charming young girl that carried a tray filled with lotus blossoms, who greeted him. He asked her where was everybody going, and she said, “Where have you been? The great Buddha is coming to our city today, with all his monks, everybody is so happy”.
Megha worried about not having any present for the Buddha, so the girl offered to share her flowers with him, and they strolled together to the place where the enlightened One was to appear. When they were in front of Him, who was carried in a beautiful high palanquin, Megha threw their flowers in his direction, and the lotus blossoms on their own accord became a beautiful crown standing around the Buddha’s head. Megha said to the Buddha: "I wish to become like You, an enlightened One for the sake of all beings". And the Blessed one replied: "You will become like me, an enlightened One for the sake of all beings. Many eons from now, you will show your enlightenment at the foot of the Bodhi tree, like I did".
The life of Siddharta
And so it came to happen, that after innumerable life times when he was born as a Bodhisattva to help beings in all sorts of realms of existence, he finally was born a few years ago, merely two thousand five hundred and fifty something years, to King Suddhodana and his wife Queen Maya, in the city of Kapilavastu. They called him Siddharta and he lost his mother very young. Alerted by his astrologers that his son was to become either a universal emperor, a Chakravartin, or universal sage, a Buddha, his father took extreme, exagerated care of him, protecting him from even knowing about the sufferings of this life, like old age, infirmity, poverty and death. The prince was surrounded by unending delights and as soon as he reached adolescence he received an entourage of many attractive young girls, along with a beautiful wife, Yashodhara. They lived like that, in a wide territory with different palaces for different seasons, for many years. During all those years it was forbidden to allow close to the prince any person who was old, or disabled, or poor.
Nevertheless the young prince was not a simpleton, he was the most intelligent and able of his generation, excelling at archery and all the mundane arts. One day he was riding Kantaka, his horse, together with his noble companions, and they reached the edge of the woods of his father’s domains. Without the others noticing, Siddharta dismounted to sit under an apple tree to rest from the burning sun, and stayed there contemplating the fields ahead, the work of men breaking the soil and sowing, observing how their effort was painful, and how they were forced to kill so many small beings to pursue their task, and he felt a deep sorrow in his heart.
When he was twenty nine years old he demanded to be allowed to go to the great city that he had never visited. The king agreed but secretly sent his soldiers to order all sick and old people to disappear from the road where the prince was going to pass. Of course this plan was absurd and the road was not as clean from suffering people as the king had wanted it to be. Among the crowd of gay people greeting him, Siddharta perceived for the first time a sick, disabled person, then an old man with all the signs of old age. Appalled, he turned to his friend and charioteer, Chandaka, who told him that everybody, unless they died young, were going to be old, and were going to be sick sooner or later. At the edge of the city they reached the crematory grounds and there the prince had the last revelation: a corpse was being carried to the burning pire.
Before returning home they also saw a mendicant wanderer, a holy man sitting in meditation. When he reached the palace of his father his decision was taken and he requested the king permission to abandon the royal life and follow the life of the renunciate. The king offered him anything he desired but begged his son not to leave. Siddharta replied that he would stay if his father could assure him that he was going to protect him from sickness, old age and death. Sadly, the king had to admit that he was unable to do that.
All the Buddhas to be manifested have to have a son before renouncing the householder’s life. That day Yashodhara gave birth to a son. His father named him Rahula … the obstacle. His heart had now to renounce not only the life of a prince, all his companions and his beloved wife, but also the most cherished being, his own newborn son, in order to go and seek the welfare of all beings. In the middle of the night, helped by the gods who plunged the palace in a quiet sleep, he mounted Kantaka and left with his faithful charioteer. When they were far away, he gave Chandaka his horse and his clothes and sent them back, he cut his hair and put on some rags, and all alone he abandoned life as he had known it.
For six years he wandered in search of liberation. He had the two highest Masters of philosophy and meditation of those years, but when he mastered the same levels of meditation as his teachers he realized that meditation alone was not going to get them nor himself to liberation from the wheel of conditioned existence, samsara. He abandoned the life of a disciple and went away with five companions to the woods, to practice the most severe asceticism.
He learned first how to survive with a few grains of rice, then how to survive just fasting. In the end he was so emaciated that he had only the skin hanging from his skeleton, all his flesh had gone. But his mind was not clear either, and having gone to the end of that path he realized that with asceticism he was not going to reach liberation. When he announced his companions that he was going to break the fast, they made fun of him and abandoned him.
He went to the Jamuna river where he took a bath. His rags had disintegrated so he washed a yellow shroud that had covered the corpse of a servant girl and covered with it his own body. The young daughter of a brahmin, Sujata, offered a bowl of rice and milk, that he accepted. Upon eating it, his body was restored to his full strength, and he looked for a cave in which to meditate. But the gods told him that he had to seat under the tree where all the Buddhas of the past had manifested their enlightenment.
THE LAST TEMPTATIONS
When he sat under the Bodhi tree he had decided that he would not move until he understood the causes of being’s enslavement to death and rebirth. Understanding his decision, the Earth had a tremor of joy and anticipation that alerted the tempter, Mara, the powerful king of desire, that somebody was going to dare put and end to his dominion. He came with his terrifying magic and power, and staged a complete attack against the Boddhisattva, with storms of water and wind and fire and the clapping of thunder like the end of the eon. The meditator was undisturbed. Then Mara deployed his hosts of otherworldly warriors that attacked with the most varied and powerful weapons … that transformed in flowers when reaching the unmovable yogi.
Thus beaten, the tempter tried something different. He sent a sweet breeze, some intoxicating perfumes, and the three most adorable goddesses that any male could desire, his own daughters, who started dancing in front of Siddharta. When this childish trick failed too, then Mara came in person and invoked the Law, telling his enemy that he had no right whatsoever to sit under the tree of the enlightened Ones and to defy his reign. Without uttering a word, the Bodhisattva touched with his fingers the Earth who had carried him for such innumerable life times and knew all of his deeds of merit that had finally brought him to the place prophesied to him by a forgotten Buddha of the past. The Earth, his best witness, shook in approval and Mara left, defeated.
THE FULL MOON OF ENLIGHTENMENT
While the moon rose in the sky, the light of supreme knowledge rose in the mind of the Boddhisattva. He contemplated first his own past lives, and then he saw the birth and rebirth of all beings, going up and down the wheel of samsara blown by the winds of karma and mental afflictions, from worlds of vanishing enjoyments to worlds of pain and torture, life after life enduring the unending cycle of suffering.
When the moon reached the peak of its splendor, his mind utterly clear and at peace in the deepest level of meditation, he focused his intelligence in understanding how such horrendous infinite cycle of suffering was perpetuated. He then saw the nature of reality, that things and beings don’t have any inherent existence, that a false perception of self had caught sentient beings in this reign of inescapable suffering. When he understood the unutterable it was dawn. He opened his eyes, fully enlightened, and contemplated something that only Him was able to see: a cluster of splendor, the full moon and the rising sun and the morning star, shining together to greet him, the Sage, the One who knew, the omniscient Buddha.