Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Awakening

Buddha in Sarnath Museum (Dhammajak Mutra) Loc...

Many days of painful austerities did Gautama Siddhārtha endure, but Realisation eluded him. Many days of self mortification and starvation left him emaciated, a mere bag of bones. And yet Realisation eluded him.

Was this the right path to awakening, Gautama wondered. He then recollected a time, many years ago, when he was sitting in the cool shade of a tree "quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskilful mental qualities" when he had slipped into meditation (dhyāna) and had experienced "rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation". That was the path to awakening.

But Gautama realised that such a state of serene contemplative meditation was not easy to achieve when ones body was starved. Accordingly, Gautama Siddhārtha gave up self-mortification and nourished himself on milk-rice. This so disgusted his five companions and disciples that they left him.

Whereupon, Prince Siddhārtha sat down under the sacred Bodhi Tree, facing east, his back to tree trunk, and made a mighty resolution - “Let my skin, sinews, and bones become dry, and let all the flesh and blood in my body dry up, but never from this seat will I stir, until I have attained the supreme and absolute wisdom!” And he sat himself down cross legged in an unconquerable position, from which not even the descent of a hundred thunderbolts at once could have dislodged him!

The demon Māra did all he could to thwart Prince Siddhārtha from fulfilling his resolution – fire and rocks and wind and rain and wild animals and sharp weapons – all of Māra’s fury was expended, but Prince Siddhārtha was not dislodged. Defeated, the wicked Māra and his army fled in all directions.

And Gautama Siddhartha plunged into dhyāna deeper and deeper, to a stage of purity of equanimity and mindfulness. He attained the first layer of knowledge, complete recollection of all his past lives. He attained the second layer of knowledge, of the birth and passing of beings and the accretion, unfolding and fruition of their karma.

And finally, he attained to the third and highest layer of knowledge, knowledge of the noble truths. Knowledge of suffering, origination of suffering, cessation of suffering, and the way leading to the cessation of suffering.

This was the Awakening, the Realisation. Ignorance was destroyed, knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed, light arose. Birth was ended. The Holy life fulfilled, the task done. There was nothing further for this world. The Supreme Awakening was actualised. Prince Siddhartha was now Buddha, the Enlightened One.

Having attained to Buddha hood, the Supreme Awakening, the Tathāgata exclaimed:

I have run through a course of many births
looking for the maker of this dwelling
and finding him not;
painful is birth again and again!

Now you are seen, O builder of the house*, You will not build the house again.
All your rafters are broken, your ridge-pole is destroyed,
the mind, set on the attainment of nirvāna,
has attained the extinction of desires.

- Dhammapada, Jarāvaggo – Verse 153, 154

* the builder of the house is craving (thirst), tanhā !

Today, the full moon day of the month of Vaishākha, is the day of this Supreme Awakening!

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