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Ratnachuda, South London, UK
Padmatara, San Francisco, USA
Candradasa, FBA Team
Mary, FBA Team
Samudradaka, FBA Team
Viryaja, Toowoomba, Australia
Ratnaghosha, FBA Chairman
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... sorts of offerings - and they were making them in all sorts of ways.
But not only that. What struck me most of all about this particular representation, this particular sculpture, was the fact that all these figures of men and women, monks and nuns, laypeople and people in the monastic wing of the Sangha, they all expressed in so many different ways an absolute joy. You had the impression that they were absolutely overwhelmed with joy. And out of this joy they were worshipping the Buddha and making offerings. They were overjoyed, one might say, that the Buddha had gained Enlightenment, that he was teaching the Dharma, that he had taught the Dharma. One gained the impression that they felt that the fact that the Buddha had attained Enlightenment, the fact that the Buddha had taught the Dharma, communicated the Dharma, was an event of overwhelming importance, one might say almost of cosmic significance, and therefore they were expressing their joy, expressing their happiness, in this exultant and really spectacular manner. It wouldn't perhaps be an exaggeration to say that the artist had depicted these figures in such a way that they seemed mad with joy, if you can think of Buddhists really being mad about anything. But yes, in a manner of speaking they seemed mad with joy. And on this occasion, on this particular day, we ought to be feeling ourselves just a little bit of that joy, just a little bit of that joy that the Buddha has attained Enlightenment and that the Buddha has communicated the Dharma, and that we can benefit from that Dharma which he has communicated.
So today we are celebrating the most important event in the Buddha's life, and celebrating therefore the most important festival in the whole of the Buddhist year. Now since the Buddha's attainment of Enlightenment was the most important event in his life, it's only natural that in the course of ages quite a number of traditions should have clustered about that event. It's natural that a number of different teachings, teachings by the Buddha himself, should have come to be associated with that particular event. And this evening, on this particular occasion, I want to deal with just two of these, two of these traditions, two of these teachings. One of them at least I know is already well known to at least some of you, and I suspect that the other may not be familiar perhaps to any of you.
Now both of these traditions, both of these teachings, are found in what is called the Samyutta Nikaya. Samyutta Nikaya is usually translated as the Book of the Kindred Sayings- that is to say, sayings on the same subject by the Buddha. And the Samyutta Nikaya is a book of the Pali Canon. The first of these two traditions or sayings is also found elsewhere in the Pali Canon, and interestingly enough, the second of these traditions or teachings follows in teh Samyutta Nikaya immediately after the first.
In this first tradition, or perhaps we can say this first episode, the Buddha has just attained supreme Enlightenment. It's the time immediately following upon that attainment. And he's staying, according to this particular text, he's staying at a place called Uruvela. And he's staying in a very pleasant spot. We're told he's staying on the banks of a river, staying on the banks of the river Neranjara. And he's reflecting. H's just attained Enlightenment, and he's reflecting. And how is he reflecting? What is he reflecting? What train of thought, what train of ideas, is passing through his mind? He's reflecting that the Dharma, which may translate as 'law' or 'truth' or 'reality' - the Dharma that he has just realised, that he has just discovered, is very difficult to understand. Reflecting, he says to himself, 'This Dharma, this truth, this reality, which I've realised is peaceful, sublime, not a matter of mere reasoning, not a matter of mere dialectic. And it's subtle. It's intelligible only to the wise, the truly wise.' This is the way in which the Buddha reflects after the Enlightenment.
Not only that. He further reflects that people, ordinary people, the average man, the average woman, they're very attached. They're very attached in particular to the pleasures of the senses.
pleasures coming through the eye, ear, nose and so on - in fact, they delight in the pleasuregs of the sense. They're absorbed in them. They don't take anything else, perhaps, very seriously.
And for such people, absorbed as they are in the pleasures of the senses and the lower mind, it'll be very difficult for them to understand the Dharma, the truth or reality that he has discovered.
And therefore, he further reflects, it may well be a waste of time for him to teach, to try to teach, the Dharma that he had discovered to them. This is the way in which the Buddha reflected.
These are the trains of thought that occurred to him after the Enlightenment.
Well, some of you know the story. Some of you know the story very well, and you know that after the Buddha had reflected in that manner, someone appeared before him. And this was none other than the god, the great god Brahma Sahampati, which means Brahma the lord of a thousand worlds. He appears before the Buddha and he begs the Buddha very humbly to teach the Dharma that he has discovered. And he tells the Buddha that there are in the world at least a few people whose eyes are covered with just a very little of the dust of the passions, and they, he says, will surely listen to the Dharma if the Buddha proclaims it to them.
And we're then told, the Samyutta Nikaya tells us, that the Buddha thereupon surveys the whole world with what is called his Buddha eye, his transcendental vision, and he sees that beings, the beings of the world, are in different stages of development. He sees, as we saw this afternoon, that they're just like lotus plants. Some plants are sunk below the surface of the water. Some have risen to the surface itself. And some stand above the water, absolutely unwetted by it. So the Buddha sees humanity, sees the whole human race, as being in these different stages of development. And so seeing, he agrees out of compassion to teach the Dharma. And he addresses Brahma Sahampati in verse. The verses are very beautiful in Pali, very rhythmical, but I can only read you an English translation. The Buddha says, 'Open for them the door to the deathless state. Let those that hear release their faith.' The commentators interpret this expression 'release their faith' in two different ways - there are two different ways of looking at it. 'Release their faith' can mean 'let them let go of their wrong faith' and it can also mean 'let them free up their right faith'. Let them give up their faith in teachings which do not lead to Enlightenment, and let them release their faith with regard to teachings that do lead to Enlightenment. Not long afterwards, the Wheel of the Dharma starts rolling. The Buddha starts teaching.
Now this particular tradition or this particular episode is important for quite a number of different reasons, but I'm not going into all of them this evening. I want to draw attention to just one point. The Buddha has attained Enlightenment. In his own words he has 'penetrated the Dharma'. He has penetrated something which is hard to understand. So having penetrated the Dharma, having understood the Dharma, how, or in what way, does he characterise this Dharma? How does he describe this Dharma? Well, he describes it as consisting in the fact that - to quote again - 'This is conditioned by that. That all that happens is by way of a cause.' In other words the Buddha describes the Dharma in terms of what came to be known as pratitya samutpada, or dependent origination, also known as conditioned coproduction in English. The Dharma is pratitya samutpada. Pratitya samutpada is the Dharma.
Now for most of you this will be very familiar ground. But of course perhaps we can't go over this very familiar ground too often. But since it is very familiar ground I don't have on this occasion to go into it very much, certainly not in detail. I just want to remind you of one thing, and then we'll pass on to our second tradition, or second episode. Pratitya samutpada, or conditioned coproduction, is of two kinds. One is symbolised by the wheel and the other by the spiral. One represents, or is represented by, rather, the round of birth and death and rebirth, and the other is represented by the successive stages of the spiritual path, especially by the successive stages of the transcendental path. One is represented by what we've come to call the reactive mind, and the other by what we've come to call the creative mind. One consists in a process of action and reaction between factors which are opposites, while the other consists in a process of accumulation, we may say, between factors the succeeding one of which augments the effect of the preceding one.
Now the fact that the second kind of pratitya samutpada, the second kind of dependent origination or conditioned coproduction, is of this kind has a number of quite important consequences, and we shall have occasion to deal with one of them just a little later on. Anyway, now for the second tradition or the second episode with which we're concerned this evening, from the Samyutta Nikaya. Here too the Buddha is staying at Uruvela. He's staying on the banks of the river Neranjara. And here too he has just attained Enlightenment. In fact this particular episode, though it comes after the first one in the Samyutta Nikaya, appears actually to have occurred before it, chronologically speaking. According to the Theravada tradition the first episode, the previous one, took place in the eighth week after the Buddha's Enlightenment, whereas the second one, the one that we're concerned ...