We know that Gotama
the Buddha was born in the 6 century B.C. in Madhaya-pradesha
of Bharata where the religious atmosphere was complex and
the social atmosphere was tense. Gotama the Buddha, as Prince
Siddhartha, saw that human life was sorrowful and wished to
find a lasting solution. With His own experience as a Prince,
with all the luxuries, He knew that gratification of senses
was not the answer. With rigorous self-torturing practices
He knew that the opposite end too was not the answer. Finally,
He discovered the solution, the termination of suffering by
following what is today known as the Majjhima Patipada or
the Middle Path. With this realization He came to be known
as the Buddha or the Enlightened One, who realized the Four
Noble Truths, namely, suffering, its origin, its cessation
and the path leading to its cessation.
After this great realization, the Buddha wanted to give this
message to as many people as possible. He wished to make the
people realize that, His message could be understood by anyone
who has intelligence to follow the Path. It was very difficult
for Lord Buddha to convince His listeners that they could
practise this message by themselves. On the one hand, a strong
religious belief advocated that it is through the grace of
a Divine Being that liberation from Samsara is possible.
On the other hand, there were those who denied the moral
efficacy of good and bad actions, those others that denied
human capacity to achieve any spiritual status but believed
in a determinism of some form or other, still others who were
skeptical of believed in a determinism of some form or other,
still others who were skeptical of any moral knowledge, and
holders of many other views, detrimental to human liberation.
It is on this mental and ideological environment that Lord
Buddha had to spread His message.
It was of fundamental importance for Gotama the Buddha to
show that He was only a guide who could lead His followers
to the Goal. He had to struggle to liberate people from their
ideological bonds and slaveries. In the well known Kilima
Sutta (of the Anguttara-nikaya of the basket of Discourses)
Lord Buddha, addressing a group called Kalamas said that they
should not accept assertions made by any one for any one of
the following ten reasons: one must not accept any statement
for it is presented as the revealed truth, for it is the traditional
belief, for it is hearsay, for it is the scripture; for it
is logical, for it is methodical, by reflecting on its structure,
for it agrees with one's view, for it seems agreeable
or for that the speaker is one's teacher.
Having given this advice He further said, to reject any assertion
on good and bad and what is desirable and what is not desirable
only when they see for themselves that a particular assertion
leads to what is not skilful-akusala, namely, craving, hatred
and delusion; and accept only if it leads to the absence of
those three roots of un-skillfulness.
In this statement, Lord Buddha allows freedom for knowledgeable
human beings to make their own decisions on sound grounds.
We must remember that the Buddha rejected all what He referred
to above. What He said is that they could be either true or
false. Since they are not guaranteed for what is morally right
always, the Lord Buddha said that one must know t for oneself
in order to decide one way or another.
In the teaching of Gotama the Buddha, the human being has
been given a very high place due to his or her potentiality.
We must, of course, understand this Buddhist position correctly.
Bestowing a very high position to a human being does not mean
that he is supreme and the highest and that he has the liberty
to make use of all other forms of life to satisfy his wants,
guided by his insatiable greed. Buddhism rightly admits that
human beings are endowed with vast intellectual potentiality.
But that does not mean that he can use his powers to cause
destruction to his own species or other beings. Human beings
can be superior; but they are not supreme.
Any human being without spiritual development is not superior.
Only true human beings are superior. Going through samsara
existence all beings are equal. However, due to their potentiality
human beings are in a more favourable situation than most
of other beings.
In the teaching of the Buddha, this high position given to
human beings has two meanings. One is to underscore the potentiality
of human beings to achieve the ultimate freedom from samsaric
If one has intelligence and will, any one will be able to
achieve what the Buddha achieved on His own. In this potentiality,
Buddhism does not see any distinction between men and women
or among various divisions among human beings.
In the Buddhist Sangha there are four groups, namely, bhiksu,
bhiksuni, upasaka and upasika (both male and female monastic
members and both male and female lay followers). As the followers
of the Path, monastic members are considered to be in a more
favourable condition insofar as the final goal is concerned,
than the lay followers. Still there is no real difference
among these groups if anyone of them wish to attain the final
Lord Buddha's role in the Sasana, His religious organization,
was not that of a saviour but that of a guide. The Buddha
is described, in a formula the Buddhists use everyday to honour
him, as 'the guide to gods and human beings' (satth
devamanussariam). This clearly shows how the Buddhist tradition
perceived the role of the Buddha. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha
makes the following statement; 'tumhehi kiccam ätappam
- akkhataro tathagata' - 'You must strive for
yourself; the Buddhas are there only to show the path.'
In other words, the Buddha shows the Path; but to follow it
is the responsibility of the follower. The Buddha or anyone
else, for that matter, cannot do it on behalf of another.Now,
what does this message say to us, who live in the beginning
of the 21 century? The message of the Buddha is ultimately
to create a society where people behave towards others with
wholesome motives guided by a sense of generosity, friendliness,
and right understanding.
In Buddhist terms, it is to live without Iobha, dosa or moha.
The ethical path taught by the Buddha is open for anyone and
everyone, irrespective of any gender distinction or any other
social or ethnic distinction. In this sense, the teaching
of the Buddha is a form of universalism and the Buddha is
The teaching taught by the Buddha is for human beings to
follow with his own intelligence and the final goal advocated
is achieved by any human being who has will and intelligence.
In this sense, what the Buddha taught is a form of humanism
and the Buddha is a humanist, humanist par excellence, for
He achieved the total purity by eradicating all the defiling
factors in the mind.
The Path taught by the Buddha is an ethical path which ultimately
leads human beings to cleanse their own inner being and achieve
thereby inner peace and harmony, which ultimately should serve
as the basis for the peace in the world at large.
The Buddha once said that suffering, the origin of suffering,
cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation
of suffering, lies in this fathom-long human being himself.
This is nothing other than a reminder to us about our great
potentiality. This is perhaps the greatest inspiration we
can draw from this sublime teaching.
May the Blessings of the Noble Triple Gem Guide all of us.
[Source: Daily Mirror]