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Anathapindika, the Feeder of the Helpless, was a millionaire in Savatthi. His family name was Sudatta. In the course of a visit to his brother-in-law in Rajagaha, to his indescribable joy, he heard that the Buddha was living in a forest close by.
He was so eager to meet the Buddha that he rose up very early and proceeded to the spot, pa.s.sing through a lonely cemetery. It seems that his faith in the Buddha was so intense that a light emanated from his body. With the aid of this light and the encouragement given to him by an invisible being in the cemetery, he reached Sitavana where the Buddha was walking up and down antic.i.p.ating his visit. The Buddha summoned him to his presence, addressing him by his family name. He heard the Dhamma from the Buddha and became a Sotapanna.
Returning to Savatthi he bought the park belonging to Prince Jeta, covering, so the story goes, the whole site with gold coins, and erected the famous Jetavana Monastery at great cost. Here the Buddha spent nineteen rainy seasons. This monastery, where the Buddha spent the major part of His life, was the scene of many of His sermons.
Several discourses, which are of particular interest to laymen, were delivered to him. Owing to his unparalleled generosity he was regarded as the chief lay supporter of the Buddha. It was on his suggestion that the Ananda Bodhi Tree, which stands to this day, was planted at the entrance to the monastery.
His wife was Punnalakkhana. He had three good daughters - Maha Subhadda, Cula Subhadda, and Sumana. The elder had attained Sotapanna, whilst the youngest was a Sakadagami. His only son Kala, who was at first irreligious, later attained Sotapanna, skillfully guided by his father. Anathapindika breathed his last after hearing a profound discourse from the Venerable Sariputta.
After death he was reborn in the Tusita Heaven. Books state that on the very day he was reborn as a Deva he visited the Buddha at night, and extolling the virtues of the Venerable Sariputta, expressed his pleasure on seeing the Buddha and His disciples residing in his Monastery.
Visakha was the devout daughter of Dhananjaya, a millionaire. Her mother was Sumana, and her beloved grandfather was Mendaka.
The Buddha happened to visit her birthplace when she was only seven years old. Though young in age, she was comparatively advanced in Samsara. As such when she heard the Dhamma from the Buddha for the first time she became a Sotapanna.
Books state that even in her prime she possessed masculine strength. Gifted with all womanly charms talented young Visakha excelled both in worldly wisdom and spiritual insight.
She was given in marriage to a non-Buddhist named Punnavaddhana, the son of a millionaire named Migara. On the wedding day, in addition to a large dowry and an exquisitely rich ornament (Mahalata Palandana), ten admonitions were given to her. By her tact and patience she eventually succeeded in converting her husband's house to a happy Buddhist home. Her callous father-in-law was the first to become a Sotapanna and embrace Buddhism.
Thereafter she was left free to engage in her religious activities as she liked.
It was she who constructed the Pubbarama in the east of Savatthi; as suggested by the Buddha. Here the Buddha spent six rainy seasons. She became the most prominent lay female supporter of the Buddha and His disciples. As a lady she played a very important part in many activities connected with the Sasana. At times she was even deputed by the Buddha to settle disputes that arose amongst the Bhikkhunis. Some rules were laid down for Bhikkhus at her suggestion.
By her dignified conduct, refined manners, courteous speech, obedience and reverence to elders, compa.s.sion to her less fortunate ones, and kind hospitality, she won the hearts of all who knew her.
The Buddha's Daily Routine.
The Buddha performed His duties systematically in accordance with a pre-arranged plan. The whole day He was fully occupied with His religious work, except when He was attending to His essential physical needs. Though, on several occasions, He delivered discourses that tend to worldly happiness, His main concern was the moral uplift-ment of the people. Himself enlightened, He endeavored His best to enlighten others.
His day was divided into five parts - namely, I. The Forenoon Session, II. The Afternoon Session, III. The First Watch, IV. The Middle Watch and V. the Last Watch.
The Forenoon Session.
Usually early in the morning He surveys the world with His Divine Eye to see whom He could help. If any person needs his a.s.sistance, uninvited He goes - on foot, as a rule, otherwise according to circ.u.mstances, exercising His psychic powers - and leads him or her on the right path. He went in search of the vicious and the impure; the virtuous and the pure came in search of Him. Rendering any such spiritual service to whom so ever it is necessary; He proceeds on his alms-round, if He is not invited to any particular place, either alone or with the Bhikkhus. Before midday He finishes His meal.
Immediately after the meal He delivers a short discourse to the people, establishes them in the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts, and if the persons are spiritually matured, they are shown the Path to Sainthood. At times He grants ordination if there are candidates for the Order. He then retires to the monastery.
The Afternoon Session.
After the noon meal He takes a seat in the monastery when Bhikkhus a.s.semble to listen to His exposition of the Dhamma. Some get objects of meditation according to their temperaments and retire to congenial places. Others pay their due respects to Him and retire to their chambers to spend the afternoon.
Having exhorted the disciples thus, He himself retires to His private 'Perfumed Chamber' to rest. It He so desires, He lies to His right side and sleeps for a while with mindfulness. On rising He attains to the Ecstasy of Great Compa.s.sion - Maha Karuna Samapatti and surveys with His Divine Eye the world, especially the Bhikkhus who retired to solitude for meditation, and others in order to give them any spiritual advice that is needed. If the erring ones that need advice happen to be at a distance, there He goes by His psychic powers, advises them and then retires to His chamber.
Towards evening the lay followers flock to Him to hear the Dhamma. Perceiving their innate tendencies and their temperaments with the Buddha-Eye, He preaches to them for about one hour.' Each member of the audience, though differently const.i.tuted, thinks that the Buddha's sermon is directed particularly to him. Such was the Buddha's method of exposition of the Dhamma.
As a rule the Buddha converts others chiefly by expounding the Dhamma, for He appeals more to the intellect than to emotion. The Buddha advises the seekers of Truth not to accept anything merely on the authority of another, but to exercise their own reasoning and judge for themselves whether anything is right or wrong.
On one occasion the Kalamas of Kessaputta approached the Buddha, and said that many ascetics and Brahmins who came to preach to them used to exalt their own doctrines and denounce the doctrines of others, and that they were at a loss to understand who of those worthies were speaking the truth and who were not.
"Yes, O Kalamas, it is right for you to doubt, it is right for you to waver. In a doubtful matter wavering has arisen."
Thus remarked the Buddha and gave them the following advice, which applies with equal force to the modern rationalists as it did to those skeptic Brahmins of yore. "Come, O Kalamas!
Do not accept anything on (mere) hearsay. Do not accept anything on mere tradition. Do not accept anything on account of rumors. Do not accept anything just because it accords with your scriptures. Do not accept anything by mere supposition. Do not accept anything by merely considering the reasons. Do not accept anything merely because it agrees with your preconceived notions. Do not accept anything merely because it seems acceptable. Do not accept anything thinking that the ascetic is respected by us."
"But, Kalamas, when you know for yourselves - These things are immoral; these things are blame-worthy; these things are censured by the wise; these things when performed and undertaken, conduce to ruin and sorrow - then indeed do you reject them."
"When, Kalamas, you know for yourselves - These things are moral; these things are blameless; these things are praised by the wise; these things when performed and undertaken, conduce to well-being and happiness - then do you live acting accordingly."
These words of the Buddha, uttered some 2500 years ago, still retain their original force and freshness.
On rare occasions, as in the case of Angulimala, Khema and others, the Buddha resorts to His psychic powers.
The sublime Teachings of the Buddha appealed to all alike. There was milk for the babe and meat for the strong in His rational teachings. Both rich and poor, high and low renounced their former faiths and embraced the new Message of Peace. The infant Sasana, which began with five ascetics soon developed into millions andpeacefully spread throughout central India.
The First Watch.
This period of the night extends from 6 to 10, and is exclusively reserved for Bhikkhus. It is during this period that Bhikkhus get their doubts cleared question the Buddha on the intricacies of the Dhamma, obtain suitable objects of meditation, and hear the Dhamma from the Buddha.
The Middle Watch.
During this period which extends from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., Celestial Beings such as Devas and Brahmas, who are invisible to ordinary human beings, approach the Buddha to question Him on the Dhamma. Several such discourses and answers given to their queries appear mostly in the Samyutta Nikaya.
The Last Watch.
The small hours of the morning extending from 2 to 6, which comprise the last watch, are divided into four parts.
The first part is devoted to pacing up and down (Cankamana). This serves as a mild physical exercise to him. During the second part (3 to 4), mindfully He sleeps lying to the right side. Throughout the third part (4 to 5) He attains the Fruit of Arahantship and enjoys Nibbanic Bliss. The last hour (5 to 6) He spends in attaining to the Ecstasy of Great Compa.s.sion - Maha Karuna Samapatti.
At this early hour He radiates thoughts of Loving-Kindness towards all beings and surveys the world with His Buddha-Eye to see whether He could be of service to any. If there be any worthy case, He goes of His own accord and gives the necessary spiritual a.s.sistance.
The whole day He is occupied with His religious activities. He sleeps only for one hour a day at night. For two solid hours in the noon and at dawn He pervades the whole world with thoughts of Metta - Loving-Kindness. He seeks His own food without inconveniencing any. Leading a life of voluntary poverty, begging His food from door to door, wandering from place to place for eight months throughout the year. He tirelessly worked in the foregoing manner till His eightieth year.
The Buddha's Greatness.
The Buddha was a unique Being. He was the profoundest of thinkers, the most persuasive of speakers, the most energetic of workers, the most successful of reformers, the most compa.s.sionate and tolerant of teachers, the most efficient of administrators, and above all - the Holiest of Holies.
During the early period of His renunciation He sought the advice of distinguished religious teachers, but He could not obtain what He sought from outside sources. Circ.u.mstances compelled Him to think for Himself and seek within. He sought, He thought, He reflected; ultimately He found His goal of life. Having discovered the Truth, He opened the gates of Immortality to all who wish to hear Him and seek their Deliverance from this ever-recurring cycle of births and deaths, and not because He was an infant prodigy in the ordinary accepted sense.
As He knew everything that ought to be known and as He obtained the key to all knowledge. He is called Sabbannu-Omniscient. This knowledge He acquired by His own efforts as the result of a countless series of births.
What He taught was merely an infinitesimal part of what He knew. He taught only what was necessary for our Deliverance. On one occasion while the Buddha was residing in a forest He took a handful of leaves and said:-"O Bhikkhus, what I have taught you is com-parable to the leaves in my hand, what I have not taught you is comparable to the number of leaves in the forest."
Daily He preached His Doctrine to both the Sangha (ordained disciples) and the laity. In the forenoon He goes in search of individuals who need His advice. Immediately after His noon meal He exhorts and instructs His ordained disciples. In the evening for about an hour He preaches to the lay folk who flock to hear Him. During the first watch of the night He again preaches to His ordained disciples. Throughout the middle watch He receives the Devas and other invisible beings and explains the doctrine to them.
Practicing what He preached, He worked incessantly for forty-five long years for the good and happiness of all to His last moment.
The Buddha and the Caste System.
Very wisely and very effectively He labored to eradicate the social evils that prevailed in His day. He vehemently protested against the caste system that blocked the progress of mankind.
In His opinion:- "Birth makes no Brahman, nor non-Brahman makes; this life doing that mould the Brahman true.
Their lives mould farmers, tradesmen, merchants, serfs; their lives mould robbers, soldiers, chaplains, kings.
By birth is not one an outcast, by birth is not one a Brahman, by deeds is one an outcast, by deeds is one a Brahman."
According to the Buddha, caste or color does not preclude one from becoming a Buddhist or entering the Order. Fishermen, scavengers, courtesans, together with warriors and Brahmins, were freely admitted into the Order and enjoyed equal privileges and were equally given positions of rank.
Upali,' the barber, for instance, was made, in preference to all others, the chief in matters pertaining to the Vinaya. The timid Sunita, the scavenger, was admitted by the Buddha Himself into the Order. The courtesan Ambapali entered the Order and attained Arahantship. Sati, the monk who maintained a deadly heresy, was the son of a fisherman. Subha was the daughter of a smith, Punna was a slave girl. Capa was the daughter of a deerstalker. Such instances could be multiplied to show that the portals of Buddhism were wide open to all without any distinction.
It was also the Buddha who attempted to abolish slavery for the first time in the known history of the world.
The Buddha and Women.
The Buddha raised the status of women and brought them to a realization of their importance to society. He did not humiliate women, but only regarded them as weak by nature. He saw the innate good of both men and women and a.s.signed to them their due place in His Teaching. s.e.x is no obstacle to attaining Sainthood.
Sometimes the Pali term used to denote woman is "Matugama", which means 'mother-folk', or 'society of mothers'. As a mother, woman holds anhonorableplaceinBuddhism. The wife is regarded as 'the best friend' (paramasakha) or the husband.
Although at first the Buddha refused to admit women into the Order, yet later He was persuaded by the entreaties of the Venerable Ananda and founded the Order of Bhikkhunis (Nuns). Just as the Arahants Sariputta and Moggallana were made the two chief disciples in the Order of Monks, even so the Arahants Khema and Uppalavanna were made the two chief female disciples in the Order of Nuns. Many other female disciples too were named by the Buddha Himself as amongst His most distinguished and devout followers.
Women were placed under unfavorable circ.u.mstances before the advent of the Buddha, and this new Order was certainly a great Blessing.
In this Order queens, princesses, daughters of n.o.ble families, widows, bereaved mothers, help-less women, courtesans - all despite their caste or rank - met on a common platform, enjoyed perfect consolation and peace, and breathed that free atmosphere which is denied to those confined in cottages and palatial mansions. Many who otherwise would have fallen into oblivion distinguished themselves in various ways and gained their emanc.i.p.ation by seeking refuge in the Order.
His Tolerance towards Dumb Animals.
The tolerance of the Buddha was extended not only to men and women but to dumb animals as well. For it was the Buddha who banned the sacrifice of poor beasts and admonished His followers to extend their Loving-Kindness (Maitri) to all living beings. No man has the right or power to destroy the life of another living animal even for the sake of one's stomach as life is precious to all.
The efficient way in which He maintained the discipline of His numerous followers, especially His Orders of Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis, testifies to His unsurpa.s.sed administrative ability. He antic.i.p.ated even the present Parliamentary system.
Lord Zetland writes:- "And it may come as a surprise to many to learn that in a.s.semblies of Buddhists in India, two thousand years and more ago, are to be found the rudiments of our own Parliamentary practice of the present day."
The most notable characteristic of the Buddha was His absolute purity and perfect holiness. He was so pure and so holy that He should be called "The Holiest of Holies." He was the perfect model of all the virtues He preached. His life had not a stain upon it." On no occasion did the Buddha manifest any moral weakness. Everybody that came in contact with Him acknowledged His indisputable greatness and was deeply influenced by His magnetic personality.
His will, wisdom, compa.s.sion, service, renunciation, perfect purity, exemplary personal life, the blameless methods that were employed to propagate the Dhamma, and His final success - all these factors have contributed to hail the Buddha as the greatest religious Teacher that ever lived on earth.
Hindus honor Him as an incarnation of Vishnu. Christians have canonized Him as Saint ) Joshaphat (a corruption of Pali term Bodhisatta). MuslimsregardHimasaspiritualteacher. Rationalists treat Him as a great freethinker. H.G. Wells, the distinguished thinker, a.s.signed to Him the first place amongst the seven great men in the world. The poet Tagore calls Him the Greatest Man ever born.
Fausboll, a Russian admirer, says:- "The more I know Him, the more I love Him."
A humble follower would say:- "The more I know Him, the more I love Him; the more I love Him, the more I know Him."