The human qualities of a teacher are in some respects more important than his teachings as they more truly mirror the greatness of the man. This greatness has its foundation in the virtues that form part of this nature and to that extent each follower can have confidence that if he was also to persevere he could also develop these virtues.
Unfortunately, however, monastic records have not preserved much of this part of the Lord’s life. The picture that has been tried to be presented is of a mystic who for the most part of His life was wrapt in meditation. The fact, however, is that the best part of His time spent amongst people, ministering to their diverse needs, assuaging their grief, listening patiently to their problems and showing them a better way of living which would enable them to have a happier and a richer life. A few incidents of the Lord’s life are being narrated here to bring out the human qualities of the Lord’s nature and to illustrate His Teachings.
Suffer children to come unto me
The monastic records have not preserved many incidents of Lord Buddha’s dealings with the children. There was obviously not much interest in these narratives. A few examples have, however, come down to us and these bring out His great love for children. Some Jaina children were playing near Jetavana and felt thirsty. Their parents had, however, instructed them not to visit Jetavana which was the establishment of a rival sect. Lord Buddha, however, by lovingly brought them to Jetavana and served them with water. He also told them that they were always welcome to the place and could come there and quench their thirst.
One of the sisters had entered the order of nuns When she was man advanced stage of pregnancy, which fact was, however, not known to her. As days passed by her state came to be known and there was much criticism of her in the Sangha. The Lord, however, interceded on behalf of the distressed mother and had the child brought up with great loving care.
His sermon to the daughters of Mendaka so that they make good housewives and lead a happy life, His journey to Champa to relieve the distress of a young lady whom he had known as a sweet child, are shining examples of His great love and affection for children. So great was the charm of his gracious personality, that children could not fail to gather round Him wherever He went.
Ministers to the sick
There are quite a few instances recorded in Buddhist literature which show the Lord’s solicitude for the sick, the aged and the infirm. One evening, after a tiring journey the Lord reached a monastery where apparently everything was in a good state. As was usual with Him, He enquired about the welfare of the resident Bhikkhus and was assured that all was well with them. When, however, He retired for His rest He heard groans of a man who was lying sick somewhere in the monastery and was apparently in great pain. Enquiries disclosed the fact that a Bhikkhu was ill and was neglected by others, both because he was not liked and also as he was suffering from a foul disease. Lord Buddha immediately attended to this monk and along with Ananda bathed him and washed his uncleanliness. He tended him throughout his sickness and did not leave the monastery till he was fully restored to health. He admonished the Bhikkhus for neglecting the sick man and preached to them a sermon, “You, monks, have no mothers and no fathers to wait on you. If you do not wait on one another who will wait on you. Whosoever would wait on me let him wait on the sick.” Another example that has come down to us is His attendance on Vakkali who was suffering from some serious and painful sickness. He spent a good deal of is time at his bedside, ministered to his needs, consoled and uplifted him but alas the sickness proved too much for the Bhikkhu and he eventually committed suicide. The Buddha also attended Vakkali’s funeral.
Sincere Love for People Round Him
Lord Buddha’s solicitude for the well-being of His disciples and those that came in touch with him and looked to Him for support and guidance knew no bounds. Whenever He visited a monastic establishment He made earnest enquiries about their health and well-being. He invariably enquired whether they had been welt provided for by the laity with the means of livelihood, Quarrels and bickerings in large monastic establishments were frequent and possibly on that account, as also due to the fact that He placed special value on peace, amity arid concord, He always enquired whether these conditions had prevailed in the monastic establishments during “Vasa.” Similar enquiries were made from all Bhikkhus who visited Him. After these enquiries about the physical well-being of the man had been made He referred to their spiritual problems.
Bhikkhu from Avanti
When a young Bhikku visited Him from far off Avanti, a place which the Lord had not visited, He received the Bhikkhu with very great affection and kindness, enquired of his well-being and the well-being of the small cominity that had gathered round Mahakaccana. He had the young Bhikkhu’s bed spread out in His own room and treated him in every way as His own personal guest.
When He was invited to meals with His Bhikkhus He never began the meal till he had made sure that all the Bhikkhus that had been invited had come and He never finished His own meal till He had made sure that all others who had sat for a meal with Him had finished. He never departed from a house without blessing it and giving to the members suitable religious instructions which gladdened their heart and established them in spiritual well-being.
Asks for a meal
One evening while He was delivering a sermon to a large gathering it was disturbed by the visit of a man who attended the sermon late. The audience naturally resented this late attendance and murmured their resentment. The defaulting party expressed his sincere regret and explained that he had been delayed as he had gone in search of a strayed ox and had hurried to attend the sermon without even taking his meal. When this information reached the Lord’s ears He suspended His sermon, had a resumed first served to the hungry man and then resumed His discourse.
Another example of His loving care has been recorded by the recipient Bhikkhu in the Theragatha, had been cast out from my house. I strayed to the place where the Lord was staying. I sat at the doorway weeping. The Lord came to me, He touched my head and He brought me inside. He provided me with water and towel to clean and refresh my body. It were these little acts of personal kindness which endeared Him so greatly to the people round Him.
On Roja the Mallan prince the Lord poured out such an affluence of love that he could not help following the Lord as a calf follows the cow. He would not permit the monks to drive away a demented woman from Him. He would not permit Ananda to keep away the aged and much enquiring Sumedha at His deathbed, as He was interested in the personal well-being of both these persons and both of them were made whole spiritually. To save any reproach to Chunda the blacksmith whose meal had proved so fatal He proclaimed that of all the gifts that had been given to Him by devout laymen, Chunda’s gift of the last meal will rank with that of Sujata. His words to Ananda are worth repetition.
“It may happen, Ananda, that some one might stir up regret in Churida the metal-worker by saying, It is no gain to you friend Chanda it is an ill-gotten thing for you Chunda that the Tathagata passed away after eating His last meal at your hands.’ Any regret so arising Ananda in Chunda the metal-worker should be banished by saying to him face to face Ã¢â‚¬ËœFriend Chunda, with the Exalted one did I hear it said, face to face I received the saying.’ These two meals are of like fruit and merit and what are they, that meal after eating of which the Tathagata was enlightened and that meal after eating which the Tathagata passed away”.
He had disclosed great solicitude for the aged Sariputra, for Ananda His faithful and loving disciple and for Anath Pindika the great philanthropist in their trials and tribulations and sufferings, many instances of which are preserved in our texts.
Accepts advice from all
A wrong impression seems to exist and it has been created by our texts that His communion with His disciples and all those that came to Him was always a one-way traffic, in which all that He had to do was to give a discourse after which the audience dispersed. His communion with His people was, however, very much more intimate. He not only gave them advice but also patiently listened to every advice that was given to Him, and all that was good was accepted by Him gladly and cheerfully. He had the dynamic nature which absorbed all that was good in the sum total of humanity and uplifted it to a still higher plane. Nothing that was good was foreign to Him as it partook of His own essential goodness.
There are many instances recorded of things which had not occurred to Him in the first instance but when they came to His notice He immediately took cognisance of them and provided for or against them. All these find mention in the Vinaypitaka. Many instances are also recorded in which He gladly accepted advice from His lay friends and a few are being mentioned here for illustration.
When Rahula was initiated as a monk the aged grandfather Suddhodana was struck with grief and expressed his grief in the following moving words:-
“Lord, he said,” When the Blessed One went forth it was no small grief to me, so when Nanda did, very great is it now that Rahula has done so. The love of a son cuts the skin having cut the skin it cuts the hide, it cuts in like order into flesh, the sinews, the bones, the marrow. It would be well Lord if their reverences admitted no son without the consent of his father and his mother and Buddha made it a rule accordingly.
He readily accepted king Bimbisara’s advice for observing the weekly upsatha days. He accepted the suggestion from Vishakha that nuns need have an extra clothing for their body so that they may be better able to maintain their modesty. He accepted the advice of Ananda and established the order of Nuns. He accepted Jivaka’s advice for Bhikkhus having only one midday meal and taking open air exercises. He also accepted the physicians’ advice that sick be not initiated in the Sangha as they become a burden to it. He introduced the Vasa, i.e. 4 months’ retreat on hearing criticism against His wandering monks.
When Rajagriha was facing famine He accepted the suggestion that monks be fed only by special invitation or by distribution of tickets. At a very early period in His ministry he accepted the suggestion that monks may accept gifts of cloth which must be, however, strictly limited to their requirements and also gifts of huts and Viharas for residence. He permitted Mahakaccana to have a chapter of less than ten monks, when He became aware of Maha kaccana’s difficulty in getting a larger body. He permitted the use of shoes and of coverings of skins to monks residing in hilly regions as soon as He became aware of their difficulties. The use of garlic was not encouraged in the Sangha but He remonstrated with Sariputra and pressed Him to take garlic when it was prescribed to him as a medicine.
He kept His mind always open for new ideas and suggestions and was ever willing to modify or cancel a rule when any difficulties in its observation were brought to His notice. It was not mere magnanimity, it was through conviction that He had spoken to Ananda at His deathbed “If the Sangha so wishes Ananda let it when I have passed away abolish the minor precepts”.
The Lord discouraged idolatrous worship of his person. Worship of a higher being or beings is inculcated in some shape or form in almost all religions. Religions which believe in God or in gods and goddesses exalt this worship to the highest. In all these religions a secondary place is assigned to efforts for self improvement. Even virtue in thoughts, words and deeds is made dependent on the pleasure of the deity, where due to false teaching or superstitious beliefs, it is held that an immoral act will be found more pleasing to the deity or some magic formula, ritual or chants well be more acceptable to him, virtue is given a gobye and the efforts of the devotees are directed towards the accomplishment of the immoral act. This may be as heinous as the sacrifice of a person or animal. Unchastely, use of intoxicants, etc. is treated as lightly as the performance of some magic ritual and ceremony. Efforts for self-improvement and for perfection in the practice of virtue in thoughts, words and deeds are made only when it is believed that these will be pleasing to the deity.
The teachings of Saints
As against this saints and sages have always preached that earnest and sincere efforts self-improvement and practice of virtue its own reward.
It is through self-improvement that a man grows into the divine and recovers his lost heritage. The true function of a saint or sage is to act as a guide, to radiate goodness, preach goodness and be an example of goodness. The true saint and sage never inculcates His own worship on the disciples. In fact he discourages all tendencies which transcend the bound of reverence and affection and tend towards dolatrous worship.
Whatever views may be held on this matter in other religions which have some great teachers as theft guide we have a very clear indication of the Lord’s stand in this matter. He did not claim any divinity for Himself. Nor did He claim any powers which could uplift a disciple who will not make the effort for himself for the higher state.
The Parable of the man who loses his way
When Maggalana the Brahmin accountant questioned the Lord, how was it that some of His disciples were able to attain Nirvana and perfect themselves in virtue, others did not, the Lord gave him the parable of the two men who had enquired from the accountant of the way leading to Rajagriha, one man took the road pointed out to him and reached RajÃƒÂ griha safely while the other took to the wrong road and lost his way. He enquired from the Brahmin, “Now Brahmin what is the reason, what is the cause. Here we have Rajagriha, here we have the road to Rajagriha and we have you as the instructor. But after all your advice and instructions one man took the wrong road and went west while the other man got safe to Rajagriha. Is that my business master Gautama? I am just the shower of the way”. Having brought home the lesson to the Brahmin the Lord stated, “Well Brahmin, here we have Nirvana, here we have the way to Nirvana and here stand I as instructor of the way, yet some of my disciples thus advised and trained by me do attain to Nirvana and others do not attain, what do I in the matter Brahmin? The Tathagata is one who only shows the way”.
The Lord claimed no special sacredness for His physical body as well. When Ananda asked Him at His deathbed, “How Lord are we to deal with the body of the Tathagata?” He said, “Worry not about the body rites of the Tathagata, look you Ananda, strive for your own welfare, apply yourself to your own welfare, dwell heedful, ardent and resolute.Ã¢â‚¬Â That His body was subject to the same process of decay as the body of any other mortals and His spirit felt the same measure of pain due to its sickness, except that He bore them with courage and fortitude, is also made clear by the Lord in following touching words which cannot fail to move the heart. “As for me, Ananda, I am now a broken down old man, aged, far gone in years, I have reached the journey’s end. I have come to life’s limit. My age is turning now eighty years. Just as, Ananda, a worn out cart is kept going by being tied together with help even so, methinks Ananda, the Tathagata’s body is kept going by helps”, and further, “Only at times when the Tathagata withdraws His attention from all externals by the ceasing of His several feelings by entering on and abiding in the objectless concentration of mind only at such times Ananda is Tathagata’s body at ease”.
When He discovered Ananda weeping at His deathbed He again exhorted him, “Enough Ananda, sorrow not, lament not, lament not. Have I said to you ere now Ananda? in all things dear and delightful there is the element change, separation and of otherness How then can it be possible Ananda that what is born, what has come to be, what is put together, what is of nature to crumble away should fail to crumble away. It cannot be”.
When the Lord visited Vakkali at his death bed he told the Lord that he will now die in peace as his last wish which was to see the Lord had been fulfilled. The Lord stated in reply, “Oh, Vakkali what is in this foul body, which is subject to decay and death to be pleased about ?”
In spite of these clear indications from the Lord, idolatrous worship of the Lord’s mortal remains and of His disciples and of His statues has become the accepted feature of Buddhism. To the extent this worship is an expression of our reverence and affection for the Lord and His memory and a symbol for our own self improvement, it is good and worthy of respect. But at the stage this worship becomes idolatrous and we begin to feel that we acquire any merit through this worship or when we believe that the Lord’s own or His disciples mortal remains or their statues have any supernormal potent charm about them, we become superstitious in our worship and act against the spirit of the Lord’s teachings.
I adhere to this conviction in spite of some passages, in our literature in which it has been put into Lord’s mouth that worship of His. mortal remains and the stupas built over them or a pilgrimage to four holy spots, i. e. the place where He was born, attained enlightenment, delivered His first sermon and entered into Mahaparinirvana, will earn merit. The only merit that we rightly acquire through these acts of reverence is that we get nearer in our spirit the Lord and through this nearness our spirit becomes purer and is made more perfect.
The Lord was so very humble about Himself that once when visiting a prince He refused to walk on the cloth that was laid for His reception as He stated that He would be setting a bad precedent if He accepted this extravagant distinction. On another occasion He refused to accept the gift of a hand-woven cloth from His own step-mother Prajapati as He desired that all gifts should be made to the Sangha where He would receive His proper share.
Rebuke to Sariputra
We will close this chapter by mentioning one more incident that occurred with Sariputra. After our Lord had delivered a most enlightening discourse Sariputra became so gladdened in his heart that he bunt into a song of praise for the Lord and stated that the like of Him had not been born on this earth nor would be born again. This extravagant praise was, however, not liked by the Lord and He quietly enquired from Sariputra whether he had any yardstick to measure the greatness of men. When Sariputra confessed that he had no such yardstick with him, the Lord told him that such extravagant praise from the mouth of a discreet
person did not sound well. More need not be said on this subject. Hints are sufficient for the wise. The correct attitude for a Buddhist is to follow the golden mean. No one should receive the extravagance of personal worship and no one even the lowliest need be despised. Every person should receive the respect and consideration that is due to him as a human being.
Kindness towards animals
In the very first chapter of this book we have given a clear indication of the fact that our Lord had very great compassion for the animal world. This was a most sublime and beautiful characteristic of the Blessed One’s life. The incidents that – find mention are too numerous to be recounted and if we were to add to them the incidents that are narrated in the Jataka tales, of His very great kindness towards animals, it will well overflow a volume.
As a young boy the Blessed One was moved to pity when His cousin Deva Dutta shot down a swan and He lovingly nursed the wounded bird back to. life and health. As a wayfarer in quest of truth He took compassion on a wounded lamb who was being mercilessly driven along with its mother and other animals for sacrifice at the king’s yagna. He lovingly took the lamb in His lap arid offered His own head in its place on the sacrificial block and delivered
a beautiful and moving sermon on Ahinsa which saved the life of the herd and made the great king abandon sacrificial yagnas for all time. As a Buddha He admonished the naughty children who were teasing fishes in a dried up pond near His monastery.
All these instances and the entire trend of His teaching are convincing proof that He had prohibited killing of animals for sacrifice, sports and meat and all that is written in the Tripitaka to the contrary indicating any compromise on this subject, to say the least does not correctly represent Him.
The more correct representation of His attitude towards animals has come down to us in the Lalitvistara whose immortal rendering in English verse has been given by Sir Edwith Adnold in “The Light of Asia”
“Then, craving leave, He spoke of life, which all can take but none can give, Life which all creatures love and strive to keep, Wonderful, clear, and pleasant with each, Even to the meanest, yea a boon to all where pity is, for pity makes the world soft to the weak and noble for the strong. Unto the dumb lips of His flock He lent sad pleading words, showing how man, who prays for mercy to the Gods is merciless, Being as god to those, albeit all life. Is linked and kin, and what we slay have given Meek tribute of the milk and wool, and set Fast trust upon the hand which murder them.
In other places the Lord had stated:-
“All tremble at punishment, All fear death.
Comparing others with oneself
One should neither kill nor cause to be killed.
All tremble at punishment,
To all life is dear.
Comparing others with oneself
One should neither kill nor cause to be killed”
“From the meanest worm up to a man, you shall kill no animal”
“Whatsoever but shall have regard for life,
Let him not destroy or cause to be destroyed any life at all or sanction the acts of those who do so”
“Let him refrain even from hurting any creature both those that are strong and those that tremble in the world”
“Suffuse the world with friendliness, let all creatures both strong and weak see nothing in you that will bode them harm and they will then learn the, ways of peace”
“Putting away murder of that which lives he abstains from destroying life. The cudgel and the sword he lays aside and full of modesty and pity he is compassionate and kind to all creatures that have life”.
“If a man lives a hundred years and engages the whole of his time and attention in religious offerings to the Gods, sacrificing elephants, horses and other things, all this is not equal to one act of pure love saving life”.
Reverence and sympathy towards Women
The bulk of the Buddhist teachings have come to us through monastic sources and they do not therefore give us a correct picture of Lord Buddha’s attitude towards women. There can be no denying the fact that at the young age of twenty-nine years, under the impelling influence of His times He renounced His hi and home, His aged parents, a beloved and to loving wife and a newly born child and spent six years in practising the severest austerities which eventually gave up as useless.
When after six years He became fully enlightened He returned to the world not as an inconspicuous householder, tending His family and ruling over the destiny of a small principality, but as an incomparable Teacher who delivered a great message for the benefit of mankind. So greatly was He taken up with His great mission that He not only spent His own life on it but He also recruited all noble men of high endeavour whom He could gather for the noble task.
All these men bade good-bye to their hearths and homes and like Him led a monastic life. The largest single contingent was recruited from people of His own clan. His brother cousins, brothers-in-law and son joined Him.
Men from all stations of life were recruited and some of these men came to Him form other monastic establishments. There can be also no denying the fact that before this noble land of people He held out the ideal of a monastic life and also enforced on them a fairly rigid discipline which helped them to live their life.
If one were to make a sincere study of the conditions obtaining in the Lord’s time he cannot help reaching the conclusion that it was possible for the Lord to fulfil His noble mission without living a monastic life and recruiting for it a noble band of people. The need of a highly organised monastic order continued for a long time afterwards. In fact it is only in recent times that conditions have so much changed for the better that one can dispense with it. Nobody can deny that a strictly celibate life was an absolute necessity for an itinerant preacher and it was equally necessary for the monk to take the vow of poverty and non-possession.
Made no difference
But all these factors did not in any way affect Lord Buddha’s attitude towards the fair sex. He held them in very great esteem as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters and owed them much in life. Even those who had strayed from the strict path of virtue received from Him a saint’s love, sympathy and assistance in rehabilitating their life. He had the misfortune of losing His divine mother when He was only seven days old. This must have been a matter of deep personal regret. The aunt and step-mother who tended Him, as her own dearly beloved child, received from Him the respect which was due to her as a mother as a saint. She eventually became the head of the order of nuns and is remembered in Buddhist literature as Maha Prajapati Gautami. On the day of His renunciation He is believed to have given His last loving glances to His dearly beloved wife and child and another account credits Him with having reverently taken rounds of the bridal bed.
A Graceful Act
When after attaining enlightenment He returned to Kapilvastu for a family reunion He found that all had come to greet Him except His own dear wife and with love and courtesy so characteristic of Him He made enquiries about her and went to greet her in her own palace. The two disciples who accompanied Him were told not to place any hindrance in the way of the princess even if she were to embrace Him. He told them, “I am free, the princess, however, is not as yet free. Not having seen me for a long time she is exceedingly sorrowful, unless her grief be allowed its course her heart will cleave. Should she even touch the Tathagata, you must not prevent her”.
The simple and beautiful incident narrated with characteristic frankness and candour gives a lie to all statements that He ever considered married life as vulgar and low. It is also mentioned that to console His noble partner He told her that she was a sharer in His enlightenment and that in many previous births of which she had no memory she had helped Him in diverse ways to reach His present state and made great sacrifices for their common cause.
In the very story of the Lords enlightenment is woven the story of a mother’s loving offering of a dish of rice cooked in milk of well-tended cows which rapidly nourished His famished body and recouped His strength. Mother Sujata’s gift has been ranked as one of the two most pre-eminent of all gifts made to our Lord and the very mention of her name arouses a fervour of devotion in the heart of all Buddhists.
Others who share
Other mothers whose names shine out in the annals of our Lord’s life for their acts of faith, affection, love, reverence and selfless offering are Vishakha the talented wife of Purnavardhana and daughter-in-law of Migara the merchant prince of Sarvasti.
This noble daughter of Bengal was wise beyond her years and her wise counsel was greatly welcome to the Lord in solving knotty and difficult problems which cropped up from time to time in connection with the order of nuns. Her humility was as great as her charity and she felt privileged and blessed when her gifts were accepted.
A beautiful story is told about her gift of a monastery to our Lord. She had once gone to a fair and was wearing a costly head-dress of jewellery. Returning from the fair the could she cot not resist the desire to pay her respects to the Lord who was in residence at Jetawana Vihar which was close by. She could not, however, think of presenting herself before the Lord while wearing her costly jewellery, and therefore took the same out and gave the bundle to her accompanying maidservant for safe custody. This bundle containing a precious charge was through forgetfulness left behind by the maid servant in the main hall of the monastery and was discovered by Ananda who kept it safely, for being reclaimed by the rightful owner. No sooner Visakha discovered her loss, she returned post-haste to search for the missing bundle. When however, Ananda delivered the bundle, thought came to the devout lady that by his very touch Ananda had sanctified the jewels and made them unfit for mortal wear and she sold them to provide funds for building the spacious double-storeyed monastery which is so frequently mentioned in the Buddhist texts as the Eastern monastry.
A unique tribute
Her apostate father-in-law the great merchant prince Migara after his conversion to Buddhism paid the unique tribute of owning Visakha thegreat benefactress as his little mother and in all our literature Visakha is known as Migara’s mother.
Ambapali is one other great name which come down in history and numerous are the tales that are connected with this beautiful courtesan’s love life. The Lord had strayed into her famous garden for a night’s rest and when the news of His blessed stay was conveyed to her, she beside herself and rode post-haste to make comfortable arrangements for the Lord’s stay and she also requested Him for a meal at her place next day. As invitation came from a penitent heart it was immediately accepted.
The Lichhavi nobles in their shining dress and dazzling jewellery, seated in golden chariots, came a little later and remonstrated vainly with the Lord to give preference to their invitation. They also offered large sums of money to the courtesan for exchanging this unique honour, but the brave girl, who had been trans-formed by one contact with the Lord, spurned the offer with the remark that even the gift of the entire domain of the Lichhavi Republic’ was not a fair price for foregoing such a unique honour as to be the first in Vesali to fill in a beggar’s bowl with alms. Next day after Lord Buddha had dined at her house with His company of disciples, she made the gift of her entire property for the Dhamma and entered the Sangha as a nun. Ambapali soon rose to be a saint poetess of great distinction and is amongst the immortals who trode the path of virtue and attained perfection in spite of their dubious past.
Patachara is another great name in our records. As a girl she had eloped with her own servant and had two children by him. While she was returning to Sarvasti for a reconciliation with her parents she lost her lover and her two children in most tragic circumstances. Nearing Sarvasti she also learnt the news of the tragic death of her parents and brother in a house collapse a night previous.
These lightning strokes of misfortunes completely deranged her and in this state of mental anguish and with absolutely no covering on her nude body she was seen coming towards the Lord when Bhikkhus tried to chase her away. Suffer the mother to come to meÃ¢â‚¬Â, said the Lord and asked Ananda to throw a robe on her body. This robe became her wear for sainthood and she rose to be the leader of a band of five hundred nuns who took pride in her leadership.
Vimala the beautiful dancer and many others tasted the bliss of Nirvana under the Lord’s guidance. Dharma Dina the great missionary preacher, Sundari Nanda, the Lord’s own half-sister, Kashima the queen of Bimbisara who became a nun, His own wife Yashodhra, Uttara and Kujjali hunchback are other distinguished names amongst the many who have become immortal. The number of those who had received rough treatment from the world and who were helped to rehabilitate themselves under His divine guidance was truly great.
The last tribute
The last and most touching tribute came from the aged Mallan princess, the widowed of the Kosalan Commander-in-Chief, who in her youth had fired her warrior husband to acts of unsurpassed valour. He, however, lost his life with his eight valiant sons in a treacherous ambush. When the Lord’s body was being carried in a procession through the streets of Kusinara the widowed princess made an humble offering of all her costly jewellery and laid it reverently on His bier.
A man who could inspire so much love, affection and reverence in the heart of women could not have possibly treated them with any disdian and contempt. It could not have been possible for the Lord to inspire confidence in Ambapali and Patchara or assuage the grief of a Krisha Gautami if His compassionate heart had seen them as Mara’s snares.
Love of a little girl
So great was His love for some of them that for one small sister of Sarvasti who was unhappily married in distant Champa in Bihar, He walked all that distance to intercede on her behalf and bring sanity to the people of h household who had been maltreating her.
He showed similar solicitude for queen Mallika and brought about a reconciliation between her royal consort. On another occasion when the Lord noticed signs of dejection on the face of the Koalan king, when the news of the birth of a daughter was given to him, He remonstrated with him and told him that birth of a daughter must be hailed with the same delight as the birth of a son.
I have mentioned all these incidents and episodes to bring out the fact that it would not be correct for us to entirely rely on records which have come down to us from monastic sources to get a true picture of the-Lord’s views on
many matters, specially those that concern women and the householder’s life.
It will be more helpful and possibly we will get a more correct picture if we turn for guidance to these episodes of His life and to His sermons to householders, some of which have fortunately come down to us. We can also seek inspiration from a verse of Mangala sutra in which the Lord has showered high praise on a house-holder’s life.
Much learning and much science.
And discipline well learned.
Yea and a pleasant utterance.
This is the great blessing.
The support of mother and father.
The cherishing of child and wife.
To follow a peaceful livelihood.
This is the greatest blessing.
Giving of alms, the righteous life.
To cherish kith and kin.
And to do deeds that bring no blame.
This is the greatest blessing.
He was great lover of Solitude
Buddha spent most of His life amidst people. He worked and toiled for them ceaselessly and every minute of His life. He did not spare himself this effort even on His deathbed. But with all that He was a great lover of solitude and lost no opportunity in cultivating the practice of quiet contemplation and He took to it regularly every day. This practice of quiet contemplation gave Him poise and inner strength. It enabled Him to bear all His trials and tribulations with good cheer and serenity. It enabled Him to maintain His sense of detachment and equanimity. He had firmly established Himself in Truth and lie had perfected Himself in every way. He had become the great seer. He had eradicated all His asavas, still He felt the need of quiet contemplation. How much more do we need it P No one can reach perfection and even acquire efficiency in his work unless he cultivates love of solitude and practises meditation.
The Lord once had occasion to speak about His habit of quiet contemplation to a ‘Brahman. Brahman, perhaps you may entertain thought that up till now Gautama has not been freed from worldly attachments and it is to get rid of these attachments that He retires to a lonely place and practises contemplation. I, however, tell unto you that such thoughts would not be correct. I practise quiet contemplation for my own well-being and for the good of the world so that people may follow my example and benefit from it’ This habit of quiet contemplation was a part of His divine nature. Even as a child of eight or nine years while watching the ploughing festival He had lost himself in ecstasy. Immediately after leaving His house He spent seven days in the Anupuya mango grove in the joy of retirement. Once Ajatsatru went to pay his homage to the Lord on a moonlit night and felt much surprised when on reaching the monastery he noticed the pindrop silence of the place where over twelve hundred Bhikkhus were in residence and each one of them was absorbed with the Lord in quiet contemplation. So greatly fond was the Lord of quietness that He prohibited the use of wooden sandals in monastic establishments.
Pukkhusa the Mallan once expressed his surprise when he found the Lord wrapt in deep contemplation. “It is wonderful, revered sir, it is strange, revered sir, how those who have gone forth, dwell in calm abstraction”. The Lord then narrated to Pukkhusa one incident when He sat in quiet contemplation ma threshing floor and got so absorbed in it that He remained obvious to the great storm that had raged out side and had caused the death of two brothers and four oxen which were struck with lightning. He always exhorted His disciples to lead a life of quiet contemplation and not to resist the coming of the ecstasy. He also enjoined the silence of the wise but with that reasonableness and restraint which was so characteristic of Him, He condemned the practice of silence for prolonged periods. Contemplation for Him was the means to an end and was not the end itself.
Charity towards all
Lord Buddha was noted for His charity towards all. Saints, sages, sinners, revilers, opponents, had the same uniform courteous treatment from Him. He did not speak ill of anybody, nor did He ever permit His disciples to speak ill of anybody. He also bore patiently with those who reviled Him and treated with remarkable courtesy all His opponents He was ever keen to cultivate friendship even with persons who differed from Him on fundamentals.
He admonished His monks not to lose their patience, when any one spoke ill of Him in their presence, as praise and disparagement did not in any way affect Rim. When Sinha the Lichchavi Commander accepted the Lord as his teacher and guide He cautioned him against a hasty decision. He also advised him to continue his charity towards the monks of the Jain faith as the commander’s family had been well known for its charity towards Jain monks.
When the Jatila leaders came to a accept Him as their teacher He advised them to first take counsel amongst themselves. The Lord had differed from His two early teachers but He continued to hold them in high esteem. His five disciples forsook Him when. He accepted the gift of a dish from Sujata but this betrayal did not effect His love and solicitude for their spiritual welfare, and to give them the glad tidings of a new teaching, He undertook the arduous journey from Uruvella to Sarnath. He was reviled as a shaveling and outcast as a low-born, as a beggar and heretic. He was even accused of the guilt of unchastely and seduction but He always maintained His composure even against the gravest of provocations. Several murderous attempts were made on His life but all these personal trials and tribulations did not affect His innate sense of magnanimity towards all those who caused Him injury. With charity towards all and enmity towards none, He truly lived a life of peace and concord with all.