THE TRIPLE GEM
The Buddha's Attributes
Why do people hold different views?
Why should you pay respect to the image of the Buddha?
1. Why is he worthy of honour?
|2. In what sense is he the Fully Enlightened One?|
|3. What is the Buddha's knowledge and conduct?||4. Why is he called the Blessed One?|
|5. How does he know the worlds?||6. Why is he the guide of unruly men?|
7. Why is he the teacher of gods and men?
8. What is the meaning of Buddha?
What are the four noble truths?
9. Why is he called the Exalted One?
|WHAT IS THE DHAMMA?|
2. Relating to the Present
3. Immediately Effective
4. Inviting Investigation
5. Leading on
6. To be comprehended by
everyone for himself
1) Practised Well
2) Practised Correctly
4) Practised Respectably
5) Worthy of Offerings
6) Worthy of Hospitality
7) Worthy of Gifts
8) Worthy of Reverence
9) The Finest Field of
Merit In the World
Victory breeds hatred, the defeated live in pain.
Happily the peaceful live; giving up victory and defeat. (Dhp. v 201)
All tremble at punishment, all fear death;
comparing others with oneself, one should neither kill nor cause to kill. (Dhp. v 129)
Page numbers in the footnotes refer to the Pali texts of the Pali Text Society. In the translations the page number will be found in square brackets at the top of the page or, in the case of Vinaya and Jataka books, In the body of the text.
Some Dhammapada stories are taken from the translation by Daw Mya Tin (M.A) published by the Burma Pitaka Association, Rangoon, 1986.
Ven. Dr. Hammalawa Saddhitissa
The book entitled "The Triple Gem", written by Venerable Pyinnyathiha is an excellent guide to understanding the main articles of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha. The Buddha said that by Saddha one can cross over the stream of samsara, the circle of birth and death. This book really generates and develops real saddha, confidence based on knowledge. Without understanding the Buddha, the teacher; the Dhamma, the teaching; and the Samgha, the followers of the teaching; it is impossible to appreciate the Buddhist Path. Venerable Pyinnyathiha, I am quite sure, has written this book with these views at heart, to help the Buddhists and the intelligentsia to understand and appreciate this sublime path.
I read this book with great interest and I have noticed that he has followed Buddhaghosa's interpretation of the Three Recollections dealing with the Triple Gem in his Path of Purification, the Visuddhi magga. Also, he has used other relevant parts of the Buddhist Canon in writing this valuable book. The presentation of the subject, the contents as well as the elegant language, are inviting to all sorts of readers. Venerable Pyinnyathiha is a graduate of Rangoon University and he has trained In the Mahasi Sasana Yeiktha on the practice of Vipassana meditation. He is well-versed in the Theravada Canon.
It is highly creditable for him to write a book of this standard after pursuing the study of English for less than one year under an able teacher. This is really an authentic presentation of one facet of the Dhamma. It is a readable book, not only for Buddhists and the people who appreciate Buddhism, but also for non-Buddhists who are learning comparative religion. Without any hesitation I am delighted to recommend this book to the readers as an illuminating and accurate interpretation of the Three Gems.
"Ciram titthatu lokasmim sammasambuddhasasanam."
"May the teaching of the Fully Enlightened Buddha endure long in the world."
I was selected by Ven. Panditabhivamsa (Ovadacariya) and the Buddha Sasana Organization, 16, Hermitage Road, Rangoon, to propagate Buddhism in England. Ven. Dr. Rewata Dhamma, the Spiritual Director of the Britain Burma Buddhist Trust, and the Trustees and supporters made it possible for me to come to England, so I am much indebted to them. Soon after I arrived here I realised that most Burmese young people in England did not know about the attributes of the Three Gems. When they were asked about Buddhism, they could not give satisfactory answers. So, the idea came to me that it would be good to write a booklet about the Three Gems. I wrote it with considerable effort because my English is like a child's. My only purpose is to hand over the knowledge of Buddhism to the younger generation. Although it is not a classic book, if the readers, having read this book, learn the ABC of Buddhism my weariness will vanish away like a drop of water slips off a lotus leaf.
I wrote this book following the example of a translation of the Paritta Pali written by Venerable Vasettabhivamsa (Tha Pye Gan). I thank and pay respect to him as a most venerable teacher.
Mary Hale, a retired teacher, has been very kind to me and generous with her time. She has corrected my exercises with great patience. Without her help this book could not have been published. I should also thank Mrs. Jacquetta Gomes who introduced me to Mary and asked her to teach me English. Two more people deserve thanks. One is Venerable Pesala who helped me by typing the draft and gave many suggestions. The other is Indrajit Samaranayike who offered the use of his computer to Venerable Pesala which greatly facilitated the preparation of the manuscript. Last but not least I would like to thank all of the donors who contributed to the costs of printing this book so that it is possible to offer it free as a gift of the Dhamma.
May all of them get great happiness and merit from their worthy efforts in this Dhamma work.
Even during the time of the Buddha there were sixty-two kinds of views on the basis of three main views; and so, it goes without saying, that there are various kinds of views nowadays. The three main views expressed in the life-time of the Buddha are Pubbekata vada, Issaranimmana vada and Ahetuka vada.
The first view is that everything in the present life is only due to deeds done in former existences. It rejects the idea of a Creator and the consequences of good and bad deeds in the present life. With reference to this view, it is assumed that all evils that stem from killing, stealing, etc. are only the results of actions in the past and there is no consideration for the deeds which must be practised or avoided in the present life. If everybody does what he wants without mind and body under restraint, there cannot be security, peace, freedom and happiness in the world; which is longed for by all human beings.
The second view accepts that everything, including human beings and the happiness and suffering that they undergo, is created. Beings are unequal in strength, courage, ability, wisdom, wealth, faith, etc. Why are all living beings unequal? Who causes evil? Why does evil arise? Who wants evil? Who creates evil; killing, stealing, etc.? Who can control It? The Buddha said that all beings are dominated by envy and meanness and hence come into conflict with one another.
The third view describes everything as happening by chance. This view is completely untenable, for everything that we see has its corresponding cause; the good benefits us and the bad harms us. If a person holds this view he will think that there is no moral action that produces good results or immoral action that produces evil results, since death annihilates every living being. And then he will surely try to earn his livelihood without considering whether it is good or not. Therefore he will be a menace to others. More over, a person who holds this view is unable to make any spiritual progress because he is unlikely to make any effort for it. After death he cannot attain the status even of the lowest human being but is bound to land up in the lower worlds.
Buddhism dissents from all these views. It accepts the "golden mean' (majjhima patipada)and believes in cause and effect.
Why do people hold different views?
The Buddha answered the question as follows. In this world people do not have the same kind of temperaments. They obsessively cling to the views that suit their temperaments. They insist that only their views are right and that the other views are wrong. Owing to their different temperaments people differ from one another in their preferences in regard to colours, sounds, clothes and so forth. Likewise they talk about the beliefs which they have accepted on the basis of their attachments and speculations. (1. D. ii. 282)
The Buddha's doctrine or teaching is called Buddhism. Everyone who follows the Buddha's teaching is a Buddhist. To be a Buddhist it is sufficient to regard the three jewels; the Buddha, Dhamma, and Samgha as one's refuge and to believe in kamma and rebirth. Every Buddhist commits himself or herself to the three jewels by reciting the formula;
Buddham saranam gacchami,
I go to the Buddha for refuge
Dhammam saranam gacchami,
I go to the Dhamma for refuge,
Samgham saranam gacchami,
I go to the Samgha for refuge.
The name of the Buddha is just an honorary title which means he was enlightened. He was named Siddhatta which means "Wish fulfilled". He was born in the year 623 B.C. at Kappilavatthu on the Indian borders of present-day Nepal. His parents were King Suddhodana and Queen Mahamaya.
On the fifth day after his birth, learned Brahmins predicted that he would become either a universal monarch or a Buddha. But the youngest, Kondanna, convincingly declared that the prince would definitely become a Buddha.
At the early age of sixteen, he married his beautiful cousin, princess Yasodhara. For nearly thirteen years, after his marriage, he had a luxurious life.
He knew no personal grief because his father provided more than he could ever need. Although he lived amidst comfort and prosperity, he felt a deep pity for suffering humanity and realised the universality of sorrow.
One glorious day as he went out to the pleasure park to see the world outside, he saw an old man, a diseased man, a corpse and a dignified monk. He had never seen such sights before. When he saw the first three sights he was convinced that beings are subject to birth, decay, disease, death, sorrow and defilements and so also would he be. The fourth sight suggested the means to overcome the ills of life and to attain calm and peace. So, he decided to leave the worldly life to search for truth and eternal peace. On the day when his first and only son was born he left the palace to become a hermit. At that time he was just 29 years old.
After he had searched for the truth for six years he found it and, at the age of 35, became known as the Buddha. Perhaps you may say, "His enlightenment is nothing to do with me, so I cannot go to the Buddha as my refuge." But it doesn't matter. You can choose your own way. The Buddha did not threaten you that you must take refuge in him, and neither do his disciples. He neither punishes nor gives salvation to other beings.
If that is so, why should anyone take refuge in him? He did not judge, but he gave a great deal of guidance to everyone on how to live, practise meditation and how to be liberated from all suffering. To know whether or not he is the Buddha, you can try to practise his teaching. When you get the benefit in both your worldly and spiritual life, then you will know he is the Buddha, the Awakened One.
Why should you pay respect to the Image of the Buddha?
Buddhists do not pay respect just to an image of the Buddha. Actually they are paying respect to the Buddha's attributes. To remind them of the Buddha's nine attributes they make an image of him and pay respect to him in that way. It can be compared to the images of national leaders or flags which represent a country. The citizen has to respect these images although they are merely symbols. Why is that?
The Buddha has nine attributes, namely: he is worthy of honour, he is the Fully Enlightened One, he is perfect in knowledge and conduct, he is the Blessed One, he knows the worlds, he is the tamer of unruly men, the teacher of gods and men, the Enlightened One, the Exalted One.
1. Why is he worthy of honour? (Araham)
He has no greed, ill-will, ignorance or other defilements which are the source of bad deeds. One who has these mental impurities is attached to sensual pleasures, has anger and aversion to offensive objects, and does not know the true nature of mind and matter; that is, he thinks that everything is permanent and pleasurable. Moreover, the Buddha has uprooted in himself all other defilements such as; conceit, envy, meanness, enmity, hypocrisy, boastfulness, deception, etc. Although we may wish to eradicate these things we have not been able to do so, therefore he is worthy of honour.
2. In what sense is he the Fully Enlightened One? (Sammasambuddho)
The Buddha knows everything by his own Insight without depending on the teaching of others. He is always ready to explain anything that should be explained. Once, a prince named Abhaya asked the Buddha, "If learned persons approach you and ask you a question they had constructed would the answer occur to you spontaneously, or have you already reflected on every possible question thinking, 'If anyone approaches me and asks me this, I will answer thus'?"
The Buddha answered with a counter-question, "Can you name all the various parts of a chariot?"
"Yes I can", answered the prince.
"What do you think, O Prince, if anyone who has approached you should ask thus, 'What is the name of this particular part of the chariot?' would the answer occur to you spontaneously, or would you have already reflected on It in your mind?"
"The answer would occur to me spontaneously because I am a renowned charioteer and all the particular parts of a chariot are fully known to me" replied the prince.
"In the same way, O prince, the answer occurs to me spontaneously because the Dhamma is fully penetrated by me."
Nobody can answer as many questions as the Buddha. Other teachers, when they are baffled by a question, resort to speculation and imagination. Recognizing that the Buddha does not need to resort to such speculation we pay respect to the Buddha.
3. What is the Buddha's knowledge and conduct? (Vijjacaranasampanno)
The Buddha perfected fifteen kinds of conduct, namely: morality, sense restraint, moderation in eating, vigilance, moral shame, moral dread, great learning, wisdom, confidence, industry, concentration and the four-fold jhana of the non-material sphere. Because of these attributes it is proper to pay respect to the Buddha.
Without right conduct no one can get knowledge. Some may have knowledge without having to study because of acquiring it in previous lives. For four aeons and one hundred thousand world-cycles, throughout innumerable lives the Bodhisatta (the future Buddha) sought for the well-being of mankind. Therefore he practised the ten perfections (parami), namely: charity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, industry, tolerance, truthfulness, resolution, loving- kindness, and equanimity.
In his last life, knowing that sensual pleasures could never give inner peace, the Bodhisatta renounced lay life and for six years practised austerities such as suppression of breathing, starvation and so on. When he realised that self-mortification was also not the way to enlightenment he gave it up and followed the middle way to become a Buddha.
What is the Middle Way?
The middle way comprises eight factors, namely:
Right understanding - There is no ego, soul or creator. There is only mind and matter, and cause and effect. Every second they are arising and vanishing.
Right thought - Thoughts free from hate are for the welfare of all living beings. They are based on love and good-will. Thoughts of harmlessness arise from compassion and sympathy. Thoughts of renunciation arise from the intention to liberate oneself from sensual desire, defilements and the cycle of life.
Right speech is speech which is free from lying, slander, abuse and frivolous chatter.
Right action means abstention from killing, stealing and sexual misconduct.
Right livelihood is to make one's living in an honest way and to avoid dealing in armaments, animals for slaughter, slaves, intoxicating drinks, drugs and poisons.
Right effort - There are four kinds of right effort. The first is to remove unwholesome thoughts which have arisen and if you have done wrong in the past you should try not to repeat it. The second is to prevent wrong deeds that have not yet occurred. The third is to try to do good deeds which you have not yet done. For example, you should give alms and observe moral precepts more often. Fourthly, you should strengthen and perfect the wholesome deeds which you have already developed.
Right mindfulness is bearing in mind wholesome thoughts which lead to further development of good qualities. It is not beneficial to dwell on past mistakes but you must only resolve to do good in the present moment.
Right concentration - This refers to mental development by overcoming the restless and scattered nature of the mind.
It was by following this middle way that the Bodhisatta gained enlightenment. In the early part of the full-moon night of May in 588 B.C. the Bodhisatta acquired the extraordinary knowledge whereby he could recollect all his former lives. In the middle part of the night he attained the celestial eye by means of which he could see all the celestial worlds and the destiny of beings. In the last part of the night he attained the extinction of all ignorance and attained the supreme enlightenment. With the extinction of all the defilements and the attainment of Arahantship the Bodhisatta realised Nibbana and became the Omniscient Buddha.
4. Why is he called the Blessed One? (Sugato)
The Buddha's fourth attribute is 'Sugato' which is translated as the Blessed One or the Happy One. It is a combination of the prefix 'su' and the word 'gato'. Su means good, and gato means speech. The Buddha never speaks anything which is false or meaningless. There are six kinds of speech:
i) speech which is not true, not factual, not connected with benefit and which is disagreeable to others,
ii) speech which is true, factual, not connected with benefit and which is pleasing to others,
iii) speech which is true, factual, connected with benefit but which is disagreeable to others,
iv) speech which is not true or factual, nor connected with benefit but which is pleasing to others,
v) speech which is true, factual, not connected with benefit and which is disagreeable to others,
vi) and speech which is true, factual, connected with benefit and which is pleasing to others.
The Buddha's speech is usually the last type and on some occasions he speaks the third, but for that he knows the right time. As a mother would remove a stick from a baby's throat even though it might draw blood, so too the Buddha sometimes admonishes his disciples severely out of compassion. (Abhayarajakumara Sutta, MLS Sta. 58, M. i. 395.)
In another sense, 'su' means peace, extinction or Nibbana. 'Gato' means getting or realising. The Buddha was the first to realise Nibbana so he bore the title Sugato. Although other people realise Nibbana they are not given the title Sugato because their attainment depends on the guidance of the Buddha.
Again, we can divide Sugato into 'su' and 'agato'. 'Su' means straightly or zealously and 'agato' means coming or practising. To reach one's destination or objective one must choose the best way and follow it without deviating. From the time of hearing the prediction from the former Buddha Dipankara that he would become a Buddha, the Bodhisatta practised the ten perfections (parami) and the five great sacrifices* which lead to omniscience.(* Giving up his wealth, wife and children, limbs, eyes and life.) Having reached his goal of Perfect enlightenment he is called Sugato.
5. How does he know the worlds? (Lokavidu)
The Buddha has knowledge of all existences, that is, he can perceive the nature of all beings, planes and phenomena. He knows all the past, present and future lives of beings as well as their temperament.
Beings differ from one another in their inclinations and preferences. Without the practice of meditation suitable for their particular temperament no one can get the best results. Only the Buddha was able to give the method of meditating for each person in conformity with his temperament.
For example, a young son of a goldsmith became a bhikkhu. Venerable Sariputta gave him the meditation object of loathsomeness of the body. Although he practised meditation keenly, he made little progress. So Sariputta sent him to the Buddha. The Buddha knew that he had been born in families of goldsmiths for the previous five hundred existences therefore he created a beautiful golden lotus flower with his psychic powers and told the bhikkhu to concentrate on it. While the bhikkhu concentrated on it the flower gradually withered. Seeing the flower wither he realised the impermanent nature of all things including himself. Thus he was able to get rid of craving. Had he not met the Buddha he would not have been able to overcome his craving.( DhA. v 285.)
The Buddha also fully knows the true nature of mind and matter. Perhaps other people may think that mind and matter are permanent and pleasant. But the Buddha perceives that they are always changing, that they are ceaselessly arising and vanishing.
8. Why is he the guide of unruly men? (Anuttaro purisadammasirathi)
The Buddha is also known as the peerless tamer and guide of the hearts of men. This is related to the previous attribute. He has the ability to instruct and tame other people because he knows people's temperament. As a physician can cure someone effectively only when he knows what is wrong with him. Other wise, not only may the patient not recover but he may die due to the wrong treatment.
Human beings are treacherous, tricky and guileful. So, it is hard to tame them. One day, when the Buddha was near the pond named Gaggra at the city of Sampa, an elephant trainer named Pessa arrived there. When he saw the quiet, serene bhikkhus surrounding the Buddha he thought, "I am able to tame elephants with ease because they show their minds by their behaviour but I have difficulty controlling my slaves and workers who do one thing with their body, another with their speech, and their thought is still another. But the Buddha can instruct human beings. It is truly wonderful how the Buddha knows the progress and deterioration of beings." (Kandaraka Sutta, MLS Sta. 51, M. i. 340)
Perhaps the question arises, "Could the Buddha help everyone with his teaching?" It depends on the individual's spiritual maturity.
Once, a horse-trainer, Kesi, came to visit the Buddha. The Buddha put this question to him, "How do you train a tameable horse?"
Kesi answered, "I train a horse sometimes by kindness and sometimes by harshness or by both together."
"And if the horse does not submit to your training by either of these methods, what do you do?"
"In that case I kill him because I cannot let him be a discredit to my teaching."
Then Kesi asked the Buddha, "How do you train a tameable man?"
"I train him sometimes by kindness and sometimes by harshness and sometimes by both. And if he does not submit to the training, I kill him,"
At this, Kesi was shocked, "Surely you do not mean that you kill him! Taking life is not proper for a Buddha."
"That is right, taking life is not proper. Yet if any man does not submit to my training then I think it is not worthwhile to admonish that man and that is destruction for him as regards the holy life." (A. ii. 110)
So we should be very careful that we do not become such a person who takes no notice of guidance.
7. Why is he the teacher of gods and men (Sattha devamanussanam)
The Buddha was able to solve many problems which could not be solved by anyone else. Then he enlightened others. He taught them how to live, how to practise meditation in order to be released from the cycle of suffering. Some may think that the Buddha was pessimistic and cynical because he often stressed the loathsome aspects of life. But the Buddha not only taught detachment from the world but also gave many instructions on how to live happily and purely, how to relate to others, how to judge a person, how to make an honest livelihood etc. For one's daily life the 'Mangala sutta and Sigalovida sutta are very useful and practical.
Before the birth of the Buddha, there was much dispute on what was a mangala or auspicious sign. In those days people believed that seeing certain sights or hearing certain sounds in the morning was a sign of good things to come. But no one could agree on what were the best signs. Eventually, the dispute even reached the heavenly planes.
Then, one night, a certain Deva approached the Buddha, and, standing respectfully to one side, asked the Buddha to preach on mangalas. The Buddha enumerated thirty-eight kinds of mangala. These can be summarized by saying that everything which causes good results and does not degrade a person is a mangala or auspicious sign for the future. Everyone accepted his explanation and the dispute was ended. So the Buddha was the teacher of gods and men.
8. What is the meaning of Buddha? (Buddho)
The eighth attribute of the Buddha is 'Enlightened One' or 'Awakened One' - Buddha. Anyone who attains omniscience deserves to be called by that name. One who possesses great wealth is known as a millionaire, it is not necessary for him to announce it. If a poor man claims to be a millionaire he will be ridiculed.
There are three kinds of understanding: under standing based on thinking, understanding based on learning from others and understanding based on mental development which has reached the stage of full concentration. It is by the last of these that the Buddha knows the four noble truths. There is nothing to know beyond the four noble truths because all phenomena fall within their scope. Without realising the four noble truths, no one can be free from suffering.
What are the four noble truths?
The first is the noble truth about suffering. Birth is suffering, old age is suffering; illness, death, association with the unpleasant is suffering, separation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering. In brief the five aggregates of clinging are suffering.
The second is the noble truth of the arising of suffering. It is that craving which is potent for rebirth, which is accompanied by pleasure and lust, seeking satisfaction here and there, namely; the craving for sensual pleasure, the craving for existence and the craving for non-existence.
The third is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering. It is the utter fading away and cessation of that very craving.
The fourth is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering or the noble eightfold path. It has already been explained above.
9. Why is he called the Exalted One? (Bhagava)
The Buddha possesses six special qualities:
i) control over his mind,
ii) nine supramundane attributes,
iii) good disciples,
v) the wish to further the welfare of all beings.
vi) untiring energy.
i) Control over his mind
The mind is very difficult to control; it wanders far and moves about alone. It lies in the cave of the heart and goes wherever it likes. It is good to tame the mind for a well tamed mind brings much happiness. Those who can control their mind will get free from the bondage of craving.
The Buddha has the ability to control his mind well. He can regard a loathsome object as pleasant, or vice versa. He can ignore both pleasant and unpleasant objects. He can concentrate firmly on any object.
ii) Nine supramundane attributes
This refers to his attainment of the four paths and the four fruits (of sotapatti etc.) and to Nibbana as the ninth.
iii) Good disciples
The Buddha's disciples have acquired great reputation because of' the Buddha's excellence. Even though he passed away more than 2,500 years ago his name is still alive today because his teachings are so beneficial. If the veil of' superstition and prejudice is stripped away the Buddha's teachings are too convincing for any intelligent person to deny.
It Is not easy to win over religious bigots. Although they know that the Buddha's teachings are beyond defect they find it difficult to accept his teachings. You can understand how difficult It is from the following story.
In the life-time of the Buddha there were two young men from the villages of Upatissa and Kolita near Rajagaha. One day, while watching a show, they realised that the span of life was very short and so should not be wasted in the pursuit of sensual pleasures. There and then they decided to search for the way to liberation. First they approached Sanjaya, one of six famous religious leaders. But they were not satisfied with his teachings so they continued to search for the truth by themselves, each going his own way. One day, Upatissa met Venerable Assaji who said, "Of all things which come from a cause; my teacher has shown the cause and the way leading to the cessation of them." On hearing this, Upatissa became established in the first path of sotapatti. When he repeated the same verse to Kolita, Kolita too realised Nibbana.
They both wanted to share this extraordinary teaching with their former teacher, Sanjaya, so they went to him and said, "We have found someone who can point out the path to the deathless; the true Buddha, the true Dhamma and true Samgha have appeared. Come, let us all go to the teacher."
But Sanjaya refused saying, "I am also a religious leader, I cannot acknowledge anyone else as my teacher. Having been a teacher to so many pupils, for me to become his pupil would be like a water jar turning into a cup."
Then they said, "No one who really loves the truth will come to you. You will remain here alone."
To this Sanjaya replied. 'In the world, who are in the majority, the wise or the foolish?"
"The majority are foolish."
"Then do not worry about me, because even though the wise may go to Gotama Buddha; the foolish will come to me. Go your own way my pupils."
Because of his false pride he never arrived at the truth. (DhA. vv 11, 12.) To realise the Dhamma everyone must remove the veil of religious bigotry.
The Buddha was always surrounded by noble disciples who were established in at least the first path. Perhaps, in number, his followers were sometimes less than those of other teachers but quality has nothing to do with quantity.
The Buddha is majestic to look at because he has the thirty-two marks of a great man and the eighty minor marks. Five days after his birth, when his father asked learned Brahmins to observe his marks, six of them prophesied that the child would become either an emperor of the whole world or a Perfect Buddha. But the youngest of all, Kondanna, said quite definitely, "The child will become a supreme Buddha."
Appearance is important because it shows one's standards. We should bear in mind that it does not follow that every good looking person is noble minded. But we can estimate most people by their appearance. In the world, famous people often possess good appearance. When we see their statues or pictures they arouse our admiration.
In the life-time of the Buddha a Brahmin named Magandiya had a very beautiful daughter. He thought that an ordinary person was not worthy of his daughter. But when he saw the Buddha he decided that he was the only one worthy of his daughter. He approached the Buddha and said, "I have a very beautiful daughter; I want to give her to you, please wait here a moment." He hurriedly went off to fetch his wife and daughter but when he returned they saw only a foot print which the Buddha had left. As soon as the wife saw the footprint she said, "This person is not a worldling," because she was an expert in astrology. After searching for the Buddha who was meditating under a tree, they offered their daughter to the Buddha.
Turning down their offer the Buddha said, "Even after seeing the beautiful daughters of Mara, I felt no desire in me for sexual pleasure, after all, what is your daughter's body which is full of filth?"
On hearing these words of the Buddha, both the Brahmin and his wife attained the path of non-returner (anagami) but the daughter became very bitter and vowed to take revenge if and when an opportunity arose. Although the Buddha had foreseen her animosity to him he spoke out of consideration of the well being of her parents.
Because of the Buddha's glorious appearance the Brahmin approached him and was blessed with the realisation of the deathless. But although the Buddha's saying was true the daughter did not get any good result because of her false pride. (DhA. vv 179, 180)
v) The wish to further the well-being of all beings
The Buddha was always zealous for the well-being of all beings. Even though he could have easily realised Nibbana during the time of Dipankara Buddha who arose four aeons and a hundred thousand world cycles* ago he did not wish for it.(* A Kappa or world cycle is the period of evolution and dissolution of the world. An aeon (asankheyya) or incalculable period is even longer than that.)
As soon as he received a prediction that he would become a Buddha he practised the perfections in order to gain supreme enlightenment and to teach all beings to be free from suffering. In his last life, desiring to become Buddha, he carried out self-mortification until his body became like a skeleton and he fell down in a dead faint. Such was his zealousness in the pursuit of the well-being of humanity.
vi) Untiring energy
The Buddha was the most energetic of all religious teachers. Throughout the forty-five years of his ministry, he was occupied with religious activities except when attending to his physical needs. Only taking a short rest after the meal and sleeping about one and a half hours at night. If anyone needed his spiritual guidance he went on long journeys to help them, sometimes by psychic powers but also by foot.
Even in the last minutes before attaining Parinibbana, the Buddha had to preach. When an ascetic named Subhadda came to the Buddha to dispel his doubt, Ananda objected to his meeting the Buddha, who was sick and close to death. But the Buddha told Ananda not to prevent him from approaching. As a result of the Buddha's instruction, Subhadda was ordained and became an Arahant. Before the Buddha passed away finally, he addressed his disciples thus, "Behold, O disciples, I exhort you. All compounded things are subject to decay. Practise the Dhamma with diligence."
The benefits of reciting the Buddha's attributes
Mind is like pure, colourless water. If someone puts a drop of red dye into pure, colourless water its colour swiftly changes to red. In the same way, although one's mind may be intrinsically pure, as soon as one sees or imagines any sensual pleasure the mind is defiled with lust or greed; as soon as one sees unpleasant objects the mind is defiled with anger or hatred.
To purify and compose the mind, the Buddha urged his disciples to imagine the attributes of the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Samgha, or one's own morality, generosity etc. While one is contemplating these pure objects the heart is never overwhelmed by passion, hatred, infatuation; the mind is at least temporarily free from defilements. When the mind is free from defilements it becomes well concentrated and joyful and when it is thus well composed one is ready to understand the truths and realise Nibbana.
Elsewhere the Buddha said, "When someone has gone into the forest, or to an empty place, if he feels fear, panic, creeping of the flesh, he should call to mind the Buddha's attributes or those of the Dhamma or Samgha. If he does so his fear will be overcome."
In the life-time of the Buddha there were two ten year old boys named Tissa and Datta. While they were playing Tissa always recited "I pay homage to the Buddha" (Namo Buddhassa), so he always defeated Datta. Gradually Datta recited the same although he did not know the meaning of it.
Then, one day Datta went into the forest with his father, a woodcutter, to cut some firewood. On their return home in the evening, they stopped near a cemetery to have their meal. They also removed the yoke from the two oxen to enable them to graze nearby; but the oxen wandered off unnoticed. As soon as they discovered that the oxen had disappeared the father went to look for them, leaving his son with the cart of firewood. The father entered the town looking for the oxen. When he went to fetch his son it was getting late and the city-gate was closed, so the boy had to spend the night alone underneath the cart.
Datta, although young, was in the habit of reciting the qualities of the Buddha; so, that night when two ogres came to frighten him and one of them pulled his leg, he cried out, "I pay homage to the Buddha". Hearing these words the ogres got frightened and felt obliged to guard the boy; so, one of them remained nearby, while the other went to the king's palace and brought some food on King Bimbisara's tray. The two ogres then fed the boy as if he was their own son and left a written message on the tray that was visible only to the king.
In the morning when the king's servants discovered that the king's tray was missing they frantically searched the whole city for it and eventually found it among the firewood in the cart. They also found the boy, still asleep underneath. They arrested him as a thief and took him with the tray into the presence of the king. When the king examined the tray he saw the message and asked the boy about it. The boy answered that his parents had come to feed him during the night and that he went to sleep contentedly after his meal. He knew nothing more. The king sent for the boy's parents and took them to the Buddha.
The Buddha explained what had happened and said that the boy's life had been saved by his reciting "Namo Buddhassa." The king asked if only mindfulness of the Buddha could give such protection from danger or was mindfulness of the Dhamma equally effective. The Buddha replied that there were Six things, mindfulness of which, protected one from danger; the qualities of the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Samgha, the Thirty-two component parts of the body, the meditation on compassion, and the meditation on loving-kindness. At the end of the discourse the boy and his parents attained sotapatti and they later joined the Order and all became arahants. (DhA. vv 296-301)
This page at Nibbana.com was last modified: