Loving Oneness Now

GAUTAMA THE BUDDHA

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[NOTE: The following account of the life of Gautama the Buddha is as accurate as I can make it. Understand that only anecdotal accounts of Gautama's life have survived from more than 2500 years ago, but just because they are legends does not discount the likelihood of them having happened. Troy, and Homer's accounts of that period, were long regarded as fictitious legends until Herman Schliemann dug up Troy! When I was a boy many erudite skeptics said the life of Jesus was a fictitious legend, with no evidence to support it. Now we know very differently. 

Anyway, please read the following account, not as strict history, but rather for its inspirational content and spiritual message.]

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Siddhartha was a spiritual Being who, even before his incarnation, agreed to found a pure, egoless philosophical religion which would be casteless, open to all, free of ritual and sacrifice, and able to be fulfilled by any individual willing to meditate. Even so, it would have clear guidelines and practical prescriptions which, if followed by adherents, would lead them to their own enlightenment.

Prince Siddhartha Gautama, by agreement with them, was born to Queen Maya and King Suddhodana Gautama in 563 BC. His mother died seven days later so Siddhartha was thereafter cared for by his aunt, Mahaprajapati.

The infant prince was visited by Wise Hermit Asita who told the king that Siddhartha would become the Enlightened One who would have perfect Knowledge and set the peoples of the world free. Now the King was both pleased and dismayed by this prophecy because, though he wanted a famous son, he also wanted grandsons who would guarantee the continuance of his family lineage. An Enlightened One would almost surely be celibate, so Suddhodana made plans to keep his son firmly anchored in the delights of palace life.

The King gave orders, not to Siddhartha, but to the staff of the royal household, never to allow the prince outside the extensive palace grounds. This was to be done indirectly, without coercion. Thus, Siddhartha would lead an idyllic life quite unaware of villainy, crime, sickness, or death. Everything negative was to be concealed from him——and so it was. He was not overly spoiled, and he did receive an excellent, though narrow, education.

At the age of sixteen he married his beloved Gopa who was his exact anima counterpart. King Suddhodana brimmed with happiness when his grandson Rahula was born. By this time Siddhartha was aware of his wider destiny and determined on his own authority to explore the city outside the palace gates. There, he was appalled to see sick people, poverty, the handicapped and the dying. Closely questioning his personal charioteer the prince soon extracted from him the sad truths of human suffering and was deeply moved.

“Will I, too, suffer and die?” Siddhartha asked.

“It is the destined fate of every one of us, my Lord,” his aide answered. “All living things on earth wither and cease to be.”

The prince was shocked by this realization of his own mortality and for the first time in his life felt true fear. He returned to the palace but now all the pleasures and pleasantries of the royal household were tasteless to him and depression set in. Siddhartha continued to roam through the city and countryside until on one such excursion he met a simple monk who was sitting in solitude under a shade tree.

“And what do you do, my good fellow?” he asked the monk respectfully.

“Nothing, young man, I do nothing.”

“Then what do you want?”

“Nothing, I want nothing.”

“Do you fear death?”

“I fear nothing, my friend, nothing.”

“Are you happy?” asked the prince.

“Happiness is not sought. It only happens.”

When does happiness just happen?”

“When you want nothing and find nothing in your mind, then you will be serene.” The monk then closed his eyes to indicate he had no more to say.

Siddhartha reflected on the monk’s words for several days before he went to his father to announce his newfound determination to become a monk. When the King remonstrated against this crazy idea, his son asked him this crucial question.

“Sir, can you guarantee that, if I stay here, I will never suffer sickness, grow old, experience misfortune, or die?”

“Of course not. Even divine beings cannot guarantee that.”

“Then I must leave.”

That night Siddhartha, donned some simple clothes and left the palace while everyone slept. He had kissed his loving wife and toddler son very gently so as not to awaken them, then disappeared.

He entered the ashram of the guru Arata Kalama where he studied the doctrines of asceticism and renunciation, and learned several methods of meditation. But the extreme austerity, the constant mortification of the body and the continuous proximity of others soon led Siddhartha to seek a more solitary, less vain path to ultimate wisdom.

After much meditation while alone on a distant mountain, Siddhartha experienced deep peace and, as a result, decided to visit the nearby city of Rajagriha to give them his message. Crowds gathered and when they heard his wisdom took him to Vimbasara, their king, who offered him whatever rewards he wanted in return for his permanent residency there. But once Vimbasara learned from Siddhartha that he had been a prince, he knew that any offer of material rewards was pointless.

The next stop for the wandering Siddhartha was the ashram of the saintly Rudraka, a teacher who had many followers. After listening intently for several days, the young man left the ashram, again disappointed that no new knowledge was forthcoming there. To Siddhartha’s surprise five of Rudraka’s disciples followed him even though he had said little. The names of these five were Asvajit, Bhadrika, Kaundinya, Mahanaman and Vashpa.

Siddhartha and his followers wandered on until they settled by the fertile banks of the Nairanjara River, the waters of which were clean and clear.

“Here, there is pure water to drink with plenty of nuts, fruits and herbs to eat, even as the natural beauty around us will nourish our inner vision. Here, we will stay and mediate on peace. We shall live simple, quiet lives eating enough to keep healthy, sleeping enough to be refreshed, and exercising enough to keep fit. We will speak only when necessary so that we can hear the inner voice of wisdom.

Several weeks after this Siddhartha, while meditating, fell into a profound trance. His breathing became so shallow it was unnoticeable, while his pulse seemed to have disappeared. The five disciples thought he had died but he had only gone out-of-body quite spontaneously. During this state he spoke with both his Guide and his ascended mother who jointly reassured him he was well along his chosen path to supreme knowledge.

Siddhartha and his friends meditated by the river for six years, during which time he became emaciated and very weak mostly because he forgot to eat. This debilitation led to an inability to sit or walk upright, and it was then he realized, yet again, that austerities and denial were not the way to further spiritual progress. He began accepting nourishing food from local villagers, until he had fully regained his health and strength. The five disciples felt Siddhartha had betrayed his sacred trust and, disillusioned, they departed for Benares in order to find a “real” holy man.

A local woman, a farm owner, presented him with a new homespun robe, and thereafter regularly supplied him with sufficient, wholesome food for his needs. As he sat down under a huge tree, near the farm and river, he resolved not to move until he achieved full enlightenment. Within a week the darkest aspects of his unconscious Shadow archetype appeared before him as Mara, the Destroyer. At first Mara faced Siddhartha with his own projected fear but the fury of the manifested storms, the floods and the earthquakes did not make him quail or move. Next Mara’s armies, as projections of Siddhartha’s own aggression, hurled rocks and arrows at him. When these fell harmlessly they attacked him with pikes and swords. Still, was Siddhartha unharmed and he did not move. He had demonstrated not only that he had no fear of either aggression or fear, be they inside himself or outside. For him these two human ego-emotions had been transformed into only Love. Siddhartha now extended that Love to embrace Mara and his legions causing them to disappear from his Mind; he had Loved his “enemies.”

This liberation from his own darkest ego allowed Siddhartha’s Mind to be flooded with a succession of remarkable insights, the first of which was a knowledge of all his previous lifetimes. He saw not only his own numerous cycles of birth and death, but also the folly of this fruitless process for all humans. It was the ego’s desires which initiated each cycle of birth to death and thus it was the ego which was the builder of its own shabby house in the Mind. To relinquish the ego and its desires, he saw, is to rid oneself of the house by tearing it down—gently. Once that ego-demolition is accomplished, he realized, one is freed from all birth and death and all attachment to meaningless activities and objects.

Siddhartha had become the Enlightened One, the Buddha, who would dispel darkness. His body continued to sit under the tree but his released Mind traveled all through the Universe, and through all the other domains, including Reality. It was at this point that Mara returned briefly with his final ego-temptation.

“Blessed One,” he flattered Siddhartha, “now you know the Reality of Formless Mind-as-such and have experienced the supreme bliss of Silent Oneness, stay there in that endless Ultimate State.”

The Buddha knew it would be most unloving to desert all the human beings on Terra leaving them to the dark ego-machinations of Mara, who, of course, only existed in their own unconscious fabrications. But, the Buddha realized, humans caught in the ego-birth-death cycle had to be shown how to extricate themselves from their own ego-web of attachments and desires, and from the suffering these caused. Therefore the Compassionate One did not stay permanently in the state of Nirvana. All this was accomplished during the 49 days he sat without moving.

The Buddha now realized he had a problem, namely, how to teach the set of subtle, difficult-to-understand Supreme Truths he had discovered to a disinterested, confused, ego-preoccupied, need-ridden population. Where to start? On an intuition he decided to travel to Benares, to seek out his five former disciples. He found them there in the Deer Park. They were still dubious when they met him but as he spoke of the Truths he had inwardly realized they began to listen intently.

“You once despised my rejection of asceticism as unholy, but now I wish you to understand that both self-indulgence and self-mortification or denial rest on the (false) assumption that ego-desires are Real. If they were Real we could never be rid of them. Therefore I now teach the Middle Way which recognizes the essential unreality of the ego, its needs and its worldly preoccupations. But you must first know and accept in principle the four Noble Truths.”

The Buddha had caught their attention and the five listened raptly.

“The first Truth is that all life on Terra is suffering no matter how much it may appear to be otherwise superficially. The second Truth is that this suffering is caused by ego-needs, ego-desires, and ego-preoccupations. The third Truth is that all these ego wants are merely belief systems in the Mind. The fourth Truth is that the ego’s belief systems can be relinquished by the determined adherence to the Eightfold Path.”

“So, how do the four Noble Truths and this Way or Path of yours propose we relinquish these ego-desires? How do we attain this blissful state of Nirvana?” asked Kaundinya.

“The Eightfold Path has eight learning tracks” the Buddha replied, “and each of these eight methods has to be followed and completed if you would attain the egoless state of Nirvana. The eight tracks are: right knowledge (of the True Self), right motive (the aspiration to achieve enlightenment), right speech (without harm), right action (always helpful, never hurtful), right living (contributing to Life with compassion), right effort (persevering with patience), right concentration (mindfulness), right (practice of egoless) meditation. Follow these eight paths to their end and the Truth will be yours.”

Vashpa needed some clarification. “Siddhartha, will your Eightfold Way eliminate all my suffering?”

“Yes, yours and anyone else’s. It is one’s ego-desires, such as the need for power, sensations and possessions, as well as the ego’s clinging to false securities, that condemn one to repeated cycles of birth and death, and the many lifetimes of pain and suffering they incur. Let them go! Free yourself from these vain pursuits of the ego by using my eight positive methods of right knowledge, right motive, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right concentration and right meditation. If you focus your attention unwaveringly on these right-minded principles, you will soon be Enlightened. But remember, mortification, denial and deprivation are only negative. They will get you nowhere. Seek and follow only the Right Way to realize Reality.”

The Blessed One soon had sixty disciples to all of whom he taught his True Way. He had realized that teaching the Eightfold Process of reaching Nirvana was more essential to their eventual understanding than detailed, abstruse descriptions of Reality, Formlessness, Mind-as-such, Supreme Truth and Infinite Bliss as the One Goal.

Siddhartha often used simple stories or similes to illustrate his teachings. He wandered from place to place gently explaining his Truths and the Right Path to any who would listen. Some disciples stayed with him while others went off to spread their Master’s words of Wisdom. The Buddha decided to re-visit King Vimbasara at Rajagriha who was so overjoyed that, on his arrival, he presented the Master with a large tract of verdant land which included a large grove of bamboo. The Buddha was so delighted with its peacefulness and beauty that he made it his headquarters.

Gautama, as the Buddha was now called, eventually returned to Kapilavastu to visit his father and family who rejoiced to see him. His brother Nanda, who was now the heir to their father’s throne, was very happy with his own privileged situation. He had every right to be because not only would he succeed to a wealthy, well governed kingdom, but he was also about to marry a gorgeous, bright princess who loved him dearly.

The Buddha, dismayed by Nanda’s attachment to ego-relationships and worldly possessions, took his brother aside to counsel him.

“Nanda, do not seek the satisfactions or pleasures of this mundane existence because they will always bring you pain. This ego-world of everyday life is only made of flame and smoke. Everything in it experiences pain, decay and death. You have had many previous lifetimes and all have resulted in frequent tears, crushed ambitions, debilitating illnesses and insoluble problems. Many times you have grieved in deep despair over the loss of loved ones—your children, spouses, parents, friends and even favorite animals. You, in human form, have died numerous times, often after considerable suffering. And now you desire to repeat that insane process yet again. This palace, this place of pleasure and heartache, is no more real than froth and foam. It is only a fraudulent dream from which, if you wish, you can awaken into Buddhahood.”

When Gautama left his father’s kingdom he was accompanied by both Nanda and his own son, Rahula. They all returned to the Bamboo Grove near Rajagriha.

The Blessed One was only halfway home to the Bamboo Grove when six of his relatives and a stranger, a barber, caught up with him, asking to be his disciples. He agreed so long as they followed his teachings. One of his relatives was named Ananda, and it was he who interceded for Siddhartha’s aunt Mahaprajapati—the one who had nurtured Siddhartha as a child—when she made several attempts to join his disciples as a devout nun. Eventually the Buddha consented, but he did have misgivings that mixing male and female devotees would place a sexual strain on both.

Shortly after this, Gautama decided to visit his Guide and his mother a second time. Leaving the experienced monk Sariputra in charge of the community the Master walked alone to an isolated corner of the dense woods, sat down, and promptly dropped into a deep, altered state. At this advanced stage of his full spiritual realization the Buddha had extensive control over his Mind and body.

After loving greetings all round, his Guide asked him if there was anything further they could do for him.

“No, not while I am on Terra, but once I ascend to these domains I wish to emulate Maya here, my loving mother. She has cared for me ceaselessly, just as I would wish to love and watch over everyone who follows my precepts, at least until all Terra is liberated from ego-darkness.”

His Guide was impressed. “You already know you can do whatever you want to do here, and so you only grant yourself your own wish. It will be so. Now, Gautama, do you wish to visit what you call Formlessness, in Reality?”

“No, because I can bring It to me at any time I enter a Nirvanic State during meditation. Formlessness is, for me, an extreme dynamic and continuous state of Silent Love and Complete Joy within the One Mind. When in It I do not exist because I am Oneness.”

“You do have a perfect understanding of Oneness, don’t you my Buddha. Your contribution to eradicating the darkness on Terra will be enormous. You are a superb Teacher.”

“Then I shall now return there and continue with my avowed purpose of teaching humans how to enlighten themselves, because no one can do it for them. Teachers can only point the Way.”

Some years later, while traveling with a few monks, Gautama became thirsty. Soon he espied a well from which a devout woman was drawing water.

“Please may I have a drink,” he asked her quietly.

The woman turned to see who was asking, but when she saw it was the Buddha she backed away with downcast eyes saying, “My Lord, I am of low caste. If I give you water you will become unclean.” Secretly though, she wished to embrace the Master and receive his blessing and he knew this intuitively.

“But I did not ask you about caste. There is no caste, for we are all One. Now embrace me and receive my Loving blessing.”

In wonder the woman embraced him and knew Real Love. Ecstatic, she gave him cool water to drink, then he moved on.

One of his disciples was shocked. “Master, you hugged a woman—how could you do such a thing?”

“I have no thoughts of sexual desire, my friend, and so I left her behind at the well. But she is still in your mind because of your own unrelinquished desires, desires which you ascribe to her, to me and to others. Release yourself from all your own ego-needs and ego-emotions first, and then you will see spiritual purity in the Minds of others. Keep only Real Love in your Mind, and Love every human being.”

Gradually other sincere women joined the Buddhist communities which Gautama and other itinerant monks had founded around the country. The numbers of his followers grew daily as his message was spread wide and far by his disciples. The Buddha, when quite old, set out on his last journey. First, he and his close followers visited the new city of Pataliputra on the Ganges and he predicted it would see greatness. After crossing the river he fell gravely ill and suffered much pain. Ananda, his most selfless disciple, was extremely concerned but his Master recovered and they walked on towards Vaisali.

“I am eighty years old,” said the Buddha to his devotees, “and I am close to the end of my mission here. I have taught all of you every point of my doctrine, my truth, my sacred law, my Dharma very thoroughly. Each of you must now be your own Light. Always look nowhere but inside your own Mind-as-such for that Light.” The Master paused a moment then continued, “Ananda has never asked to be my successor, here on Terra, because he has no ego, so in the future look to him to be your True Guide in my place. Ananda Knows the Right Way to Live.” Ananda felt no reaction in himself.

The Blessed One held onto life for three more months. He and his group reached the banks of the peaceful Kakutstha River where the Master bathed in the pure waters. That night they slept in a mango grove, then over the weeks moved on to Kusinagara where, in a nearby wood by the Hiranyavati River, the Buddha noticed two identical trees.

He asked Ananda to prepare his couch between the twin trees which symbolized the identical nature of the True Life of Mind-as-such on earth and the True Life of Mind-in-Nirvana. As he lay there his monks, nuns, and other devotees paid him homage.

With his final breath the Buddha said to everyone, everywhere, “All that exists in time must perish. Have no investment in it. Relinquish all that is not eternal and seek only Nirvana, Reality, through the Eightfold Path.” Then he Lived.

 

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Loving Oneness Now -- Copyright © 2007 Alexander Bannatyne, PhD

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