Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammâ-Sambuddhassa
the fullmoon day of May, in the year 623 B.C., there was born
in the district of Nepal an Indian Sakya Prince named Siddhartha
Gotama, who was destined to be the greatest religious teacher
in the world. Brought up in the lap of luxury, receiving an education
befitting a prince, he married and had a son.
contemplative nature and boundless compassion did not permit him
to enjoy the fleeting material pleasures of a royal household.
He knew no woe, but he felt a deep pity for sorrowing humanity.
Amidst comfort and prosperity, he realized the universality of
sorrow. The palace, with all its worldly amusements, was no longer
a congenial place for the compassionate prince. The time was ripe
for him to depart. Realizing the vanity of sensual enjoyments,
in his twenty-ninth year, he renounced all worldly pleasures and
donning the simple yellow garb of an ascetic, alone, penniless,
wandered forth in search of Truth and Peace.
was an unprecedented historic renunciation; for he renounced not
in his old age but in the prime of manhood, not in poverty but
in plenty. As it was the belief in the ancient days that no deliverance
could be gained unless one leads a life of strict asceticism,
he strenuously practiced all forms of severe austerities. "Adding
vigil after vigil, and penance after penance," he made a
superhuman effort for six long years.
His body was reduced to almost a skeleton. The more he tormented
his body, the farther his goal receded from him. The painful,
unsuccessful austerities which he strenuously practiced proved
absolutely futile. He was now fully convinced, through personal
experience, of the utter futility of self-mortification which
weakened his body and resulted in lassitude of spirit.
by this invaluable experience of his, he finally decided to follow
an independent course, avoiding the two extremes of self-indulgence
and self-mortification. The former retards one's spiritual progress,
and the latter weakens one's intellect. The new way which he himself
discovered was the Middle Path, Majjhima Patipada, which
subsequently became one of the salient characteristics of his
happy morning, while he was deeply absorbed in meditation, unaided
and unguided by any supernatural power and solely relying on his
efforts and wisdom, he eradicated all defilements, purified himself,
and, realizing things as they truly are, attained Enlightenment
(Buddhahood) at the age of 35. He was not born a Buddha,
but he became a Buddha by his own striving. As the perfect embodiment
of all the virtues he preached, endowed with deep wisdom commensurate
with his boundless compassion. He devoted the remainder of his
precious life to serve humanity both by example and precept, dominated
by no personal motive whatever.
a very successful ministry of 45 long years the Buddha, as every
other human being, succumbed to the inexorable law of change,
and finally passed away in his 80th year, exhorting his disciples
to regard his doctrine as their teacher.
Buddha was a human being. As a man he was born, as a man he lived,
and as a man his life came to an end. Though a human being, he
became an extraordinary man (acchariya manussa), but he never
arrogated to himself divinity. The Buddha laid stress on this
important point and left no room whatever for anyone to fall into
the error of thinking that he was an immortal divine being. Fortunately
there is no deification in the case of the Buddha. It should,
however, be remarked that there was no Teacher, "ever so
godless as the Buddha, yet none so god-like."
Buddha is neither an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu, as is
believed by some, nor is he a savior who freely saves others by
his personal salvation. The Buddha exhorts his disciples to depend
on themselves for their deliverance, for both purity and defilement
depend on oneself. Clarifying his relationship with his followers
and emphasizing the importance of self-reliance and individual
striving, the Buddha plainly states: "You should exert yourselves,
are only teachers." The
Buddhas point out the path, and it is left for us to follow that
path to obtain our purification.
depend on others for salvation is negative, but to depend on oneself
is positive." Dependence on others means a surrender of one's
effort. In exhorting his disciples to be self-dependent the Buddha
says in the Parinibbana Sutta: "Be ye islands unto
yourselves, be ye a refuge unto yourselves, seek not for refuge
in others." These significant words are self-elevating. They
reveal how vital is self-exertion to accomplish one's object and,
how superficial and futile it is to seek redemption through benignant
saviors and to crave for illusory happiness in an after life through
the propitiation of imaginary Gods or by irresponsive prayers
and meaningless sacrifices.
the Buddha does not claim the monopoly of Buddhahood which, as
a matter of fact, is not the prerogative of any specially graced
person. He reached the highest possible state of perfection any
person could aspire to, and without the close-fist of a teacher
he revealed the only straight path that leads thereto. According
to the Teaching of the Buddha anybody may aspire to that supreme
state of perfection if he makes the necessary exertion. The Buddha
does not condemn men by calling them wretched sinners, but, on
the contrary, he gladdens them by saying that they are pure in
heart at conception. In his opinion the world is not wicked but
is deluded by ignorance. Instead of disheartening his followers
and reserving that exalted state only to himself, he encourages
and induces them to emulate him, for Buddhahood is latent in all.
In one sense all are potential Buddhas.
who aspires to become a Buddha is called a Bodhisatta, which,
literally, means a wisdom-being. This Bodhisatta ideal is the
most beautiful and the most refined course of life that has ever
been presented to this ego-centric world, for what is nobler than
a life of service and purity?
a Man he attained Buddhahood and proclaimed to the world the latent
inconceivable possibilities and the creative power of man. Instead
of placing an unseen Almighty God over man who arbitrarily controls
the destinies of mankind, and making him subservient to a supreme
power, he raised the worth of mankind. It was he who taught that
man can gain his deliverance and purification by his own exertion
without depending on an external God or mediating priests. It
was he who taught the ego-centric world the noble ideal of selfless
service. It was he who revolted against the degrading caste system
and taught equality of mankind and gave equal opportunities for
all to distinguish themselves in every walk of life.
declared that the gates of success and prosperity were open to
all in every condition of life, high or low, saint or criminal,
who would care to turn a new leaf and aspire to perfection.
of caste, color or rank he established for both deserving men
and women a democratically constituted celibate Order. He did
not force his followers to be slaves either to his teachings or
to himself but granted complete freedom of thought.
comforted the bereaved by his consoling words. He ministered to
the sick that were deserted. He helped the poor that were neglected.
He ennobled the lives of the deluded, purified the corrupted lives
of criminals. He encouraged the feeble, united the divided, enlightened
the ignorant, clarified the mystic, guided the benighted, elevated
the base, dignified the noble. Both rich and poor, saints and
criminals loved him alike. Despotic and righteous kings, famous
and obscure princes and nobles, generous and stingy millionaires,
haughty and humble scholars, destitute paupers, down-trodden scavengers,
wicked murderers, despised courtesans all benefited by
his words of wisdom and compassion.
noble example was a source of inspiration to all. His serene and
peaceful countenance was a soothing sight to the pious eyes. His
message of peace and tolerance was welcomed by all with indescribable
joy and was of eternal benefit to every one who had the fortune
to hear and practice it.
his teachings penetrated it left an indelible impression upon
the character of the respective peoples. The cultural advancement
of all the Buddhist nations was mainly due to his sublime teachings.
In fact all Buddhist countries like Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia,
Vietnam, Laos, Nepal, Tibet, China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, etc.,
grew up in the cradle of Buddhism. Though more than 2500 years
have elapsed since the passing away of this greatest Teacher,
yet his unique personality exerts a great influence on all who
come to know him.
iron will, profound wisdom, universal love, boundless compassion,
selfless service, historic renunciation, perfect purity, magnetic
personality, exemplary methods employed to propagate the teachings,
and his final success -- all these factors have compelled about
one-fifth of the population of the world today to hail the Buddha
as their supreme Teacher.
a glowing tribute to the Buddha Sri Radhakrishnan states: "In
Gautama the Buddha we have a master-mind from the East second
to none so far as the influence on the thought and life of the
human race is concerned, and, sacred to all as the founder of
a religious tradition whose hold is hardly less wide and deep
than any other. He belongs to the history of the world's thought,
to the general inheritance of all cultivated men, for, judged
by intellectual integrity, moral earnestness, and spiritual insight,
he is undoubtedly one of the greatest figures in history."
The Three Greatest Men in History H.G. Wells writes: "In
the Buddha you see clearly a man, simple, devout, lonely, battling
for light a vivid human personality, not a myth. He too
gave a message to mankind universal in character. Many of our
best modern ideas are in closest harmony with it. All the miseries
and discontents are due, he taught, to selfishness. Before a man
can become serene he must cease to live for his senses or himself.
Then he merges into a great being. Buddha in different language
called men to self-forgetfulness 500 years before Christ. In some
ways he is nearer to us and our needs. He was more lucid upon
our individual importance and service than Christ and less ambiguous
upon the question of personal immortality."
Hilaire remarks "The perfect model of all the virtues he
preaches, his life has not a stain upon it."
Fausboll says "The more I know of him, the more I
humble follower of his would say "The more I know
him, the more I love him; the more I love him, the more I know