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Vesākha

Vesākha

On this, the day of a May's full moon, Buddhists around the world celebrate the triple anniversary of the Tathāgata's Birth, Enlightenment, and Parinibbana.

The Five Precepts


Today it is fitting to recall the five precepts (which I've taken the liberty to expand a bit here) and undertake the training to:

  1. Abstain from killing or harming any living beings
  2. Abstain from taking anything which is not freely given
  3. Abstain from any sexual misconduct
  4. Abstain from unwise or unskillful speech, especially by
    • Abandoning:
      • False speech
      • Divisive speech
      • Abusive speech
      • Idle chatter
        — AN 10.176
    • And speaking only:
      • At the right time
      • Affectionately
      • Beneficially
      • With a mind of good will
        — AN 5.198
  5. Abstain from anything that intoxicates or clouds the mind

Thanissaro Bhikkhu has a fine article on The Healing Power of the Precepts, in which he suggests:

The Buddha's path consisted not only of mindfulness, concentration, and insight practices, but also of virtue, beginning with the five precepts. In fact, the precepts constitute the first step in the path. There is a tendency in the West to dismiss the five precepts as Sunday-school rules bound to old cultural norms that no longer apply to our modern society, but this misses the role that the Buddha intended for them: They are part of a course of therapy for wounded minds. In particular, they are aimed at curing two ailments that underlie low self-esteem: regret and denial.

A Good Day


It is a good day to listen to Dhamma talks.

It is a good day to soften the heart and greet all with kindness and friendliness.

In short, it is a good day.

Here, then, are some recollections on this anniversary of these three, world-changing, full-moon events in the life of the Buddha.

 

The Tathāgata's Birth


"Asita the seer, in his mid-day meditation,
saw the devas of the Group of Thirty
— exultant, ecstatic —
dressed in pure white, honoring Indra,
holding up banners, cheering wildly,
& on seeing the devas so joyful & happy,
having paid his respects, he said:

"Why is the deva community
so wildly elated?
Why are they holding up banners
& waving them around?
Even after the war with the Asuras
— when victory was the devas',
the Asuras defeated —
even then there was no excitement like this.
Seeing what marvel
are the devas so joyful?
They shout,
they sing,
play music,
clap their hands,
dance.
So I ask you, who live on Mount Meru's summit.
Please dispel my doubt quickly, dear sirs."

"The Bodhisatta, the foremost jewel,
unequaled,
has been born for welfare & ease
in the human world,
in a town in the Sakyan countryside,
Lumbini.
That's why we're all so wildly elated.
He, the highest of all beings,
the ultimate person,
a bull among men, foremost of all people,
will set turning the Wheel [of Dhamma]
in the grove named after the seers,
like a strong, roaring lion,
the conqueror of beasts."

Snp III.11

 

The Tathāgata's Awakening


"When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of recollecting my past lives. I recollected my manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two... five, ten... fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many eons of cosmic contraction, many eons of cosmic expansion, many eons of cosmic contraction & expansion: 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.' Thus I remembered my manifold past lives in their modes & details.

"This was the first knowledge I attained in the first watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.

"When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of beings. I saw — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings — who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, & mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. But these beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech & mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus — by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human — I saw beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.

"This was the second knowledge I attained in the second watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain.

"When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. I discerned, as it had come to be, that 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress... These are fermentations... This is the origination of fermentations... This is the cessation of fermentations... This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.' My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the fermentation of sensuality, released from the fermentation of becoming, released from the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, 'Released.' I discerned that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

"This was the third knowledge I attained in the third watch of the night. Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, & resolute. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain."

MN 36

 

The Tathāgata's Parinibbana


"Then the Blessed One addressed the monks, 'Now, then, monks, I exhort you: All fabrications are subject to decay. Bring about completion by being heedful.' Those were the Tathagata's last words.

"Then the Blessed One entered the first jhana. Emerging from that he entered the second jhana. Emerging from that, he entered the third... the fourth jhana... the dimension of the infinitude of space... the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness... the dimension of nothingness... the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. Emerging from that, he entered the cessation of perception & feeling.

...

"Then the Blessed One, emerging from the cessation of perception & feeling, entered the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. Emerging from that, he entered the dimension of nothingness... the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness... the dimension of the infinitude of space... the fourth jhana... the third... the second... the first jhana. Emerging from the first jhana he entered the second... the third... the fourth jhana. Emerging from the fourth jhana, he immediately was totally Unbound."

DN 16

 

Celebrate!


May all know happiness and freedom and their causes.

Finally, let's have  Brother Leonard Tan's Wesak Day Song have the last words.

Wesak Day

In the morning of Wesak Day,
I close my eyes and pray
For all the beings in this world
Live in peace and harmony.

May we all be well.
May we all be happy
Far from pain and sufferings.
Let this love shines in you and me.

Sweet incense fills the air.
Soothing Suttas chants everywhere.
We celebrate this moment to remember
The Buddha our Teacher.

[Repeat verses 2 and 3.]

Happy Wesak Day

[Repeat verses 1 and 2.]

 

 

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