Notes on the life of Shakyamuni Buddha

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1 Notes on the life of Shakyamuni Buddha written by Vova, a layman and yogi Translated from Russian by Sasha Suvorkov, illustrated by Vova Pyatsky, and edited by Dorey Glenn

2 A note from the editor: I met Vova in the fall of 2004, while pursuing my medical studies in Haifa, Israel. Working on the text with him was an important part of my meditation practice for many months. The following work is not a complete telling of the life of the Buddha; many such books already exist. 1 Nor does it reveal any unknown information or expound on any undiscovered insight. Rather, its purpose is to warm the reader s heart and inspires the reader s mind with glimpses from the Buddha s extra-ordinary life. It was my intention when editing this text that this translation not only convey accurate portraits from the life of the Buddha, but that it also remain true to the simplicity and humility of its author. It is my wish that this short work, and its accompanying illustrations, finds itself at the feet of those interested in the Buddha s life and those ready to tread his path. I offer my sincere thanks to Sasha Suvorkov who diligently translated the text from Russian. Dorey Glenn May 2008 Massachusetts, USA About the author Vova Pyatsky, originally from Odessa, Ukraine, immigrated to Israel in 1991 with his wife Olga. They currently live with his parents and their two children in Yavne, Israel. Vova teaches the Dharma in Hebrew, Russian, and English to a small group of students. The reader interested to view larger versions of the illustrations is directed to For further inquires please contact Dorey Glenn at 1 Mitchell, R.A. The Buddha: His Life Retold, Paragon

3 1. A very long time ago dense forests covered the earth several times over. There were fewer towns and villages than today, and to their inhabitants they seemed more distant than the stars that filled the night sky. Human beings in different parts of the world put so much trust in their own beliefs and customs that even their neighbor -nations and tribes seemed half human to them. And people who lived faraway appeared to be completely different creatures altogether. In India at that time, the rich and powerful rode chariots and were waited on by servants and slaves. Enormous elephants fought battles over kingdoms which were relatively small. While the nobility and priests knew how to read and write, the tribe-folk relied on traditions and legends inherited from their clan. They either settled land together or lived in close proximity to one another; seeking protection in each other s company. The sacred fire burned in their homes, and at their alters -oils, sweetmeats and ghee were offered to the Gods. Other types of sacrifice were presented to the Gods as well - oxen, horses, goats and sheep. Such offerings took place in specially designated places. The bigger and more frequent the offering from the worshiper, the longer and more prosperous would be their life, boon, and success. If a king fortified the walls of his township, other rulers perceived his actions as a threat. To render justice, kings relied on their own fairness and good judgment, bequeathed upon them by their noble birth. At night, while flowers and herbs filled the silent earth with aroma, expert astrologers observed the movement of celestial bodies and cast predictions about the future 2

4 of the universe and its peoples. Every high-born and well-to-do man in India generously recompensed a fortune teller for a horoscope reading, especially for one foretelling a newborn heir. A desire to live a long and comfortable life, and prevent misfortune in advance is characteristic to both people and animals. But humans lifted their gaze to the sky and beheld in it a power that surpassed their collective experience. 2 That is why they gladly employed the art of the fortune-tellers. One newborn at the time was the son of the King of Shakyas. The Shakya tribe descended from the Sun Dynasty of ancient Indian kings. 3 The child was named Siddhartha which means he who has attained his goals. Though, they say Siddhartha s horoscope foretold glory; choice was always under his control. Philosopher-ascetics at that time often spoke about the existence of two main paths: downward and upward. Good and commendable acts and knowledge took people on the upward path to the sky, towards freedom, and light. Disgraceful acts and ignorance led people on the downward journey to darkness. Ascetics were mostly men who, living in groups in the woods 4, devoted long hours to meditation and selfanalysis in pursuit of salvation. At the moment when little Siddhartha was born in the royal palace, the ascetic 2 Perhaps, for this reason, astrology was able to establish itself in Egypt and Babylon and spread to the Mediterranean world and India. Although astrology adapted itself to the local belief system, it still maintained constancy in its methods of prediction. 3 Ancient Indian kings descended from two major dynasties, the Sun Dynasty and the Moon Dynasty. Krishna, Bharat, Rama, and Buddha Shakyanumi are notable examples. In Sanskrit India is named after Bharat. 4 Not all ascetics lived in the woods. Some resided in mountainous areas and others near rivers. Indeed, some traveled from one place to another in groups or alone. There were a few ascetics who devoted their lives to practice residing in only one cave or forest hut, most traveled between multiple locations throughout the year. 3

5 life was far from his consciousness; as if on a different planet. Their paths were yet to cross. 2. Maya, Siddhartha s mother, died shortly after giving birth to the prince. Yet his family surrounded him with such love and care that it seemed to fill the child s whole existence to the fullest. Siddhartha s life also abounded in luxury. In each season he lived in a different palace. Each boasted an exquisite pond in which dancers and actors performed. Everything that could please the senses existed in his life. The love and tenderness that Siddhartha received from his family brought him great happiness, but luxury made him uneasy. He felt something deceptive and frightening about it. He often recalled the impermanence of the luxuries in his mother s life. The young prince paid close attention to those who were old and sick, and reflected on the fate of those who died. How can I neglect them? he asked himself. I myself will have to face the same fate. Like all princes, Siddhartha had an instructor in martial arts and a Brahmin teacher who taught him not only grammar, but the sacred texts that deal with world creation, gods, rituals and the history of the Shakya dynasty. The inquisitive student asked questions about the path of salvation from suffering, but his teachers would avoid direct answers. A warrior serves the glory of his clan. The Gods themselves greet him for his valor, said an instructor who had himself fought many battles. I dream of vanquishing suffering itself in battle, the prince made a commitment in his heart. Every man has his own path predetermined by his actions in the past, claimed the Brahmin. The Gods send us omens and messengers to point out that which is destined to come. 4

6 Depicted is Black Tara, whose reincarnation was Shri Prajapati, the aunt of Buddha Shakyamuni. After the Buddha s mother died, she accepted responsibility for his upbringing and maturity alongside her own son, Nanda. Shri Prajapati became the head nun in Gautama s sangha and went on to attain Buddhahood in her lifetime. The sutras mention her supernatural qualities as well as her role in ordaining many male and female disciples. 5

7 I have already seen the three messengers, reflected Siddhartha. They were the sick man who was without strength, laying on the ground dependent on others, the old man who suffered in his tired and weakened body, and the dead man who was indifferent to all that he was attached in his earthly life. They pointed out to me the path that all mortals must walk. I must find salvation from suffering. Sometimes bliss would suddenly seize the young man. He could not explain the reason for these experiences except for the presentiment that the solution for the task at hand was near. But then the bliss would unexpectedly disappear without a trace and Siddhartha would return to observing his ongoing life. Siddhartha s body, well-tempered through horseriding, archery, wrestling and other martial disciplines, became beautiful and strong. His art of contemplation, fortified by memorization of the sacred texts and lessons in dialogue, ripened brilliantly. Siddhartha was ascending the stairway towards greatness. Fate offered him two more generous gifts: his beloved wife and son. The reigning king, however, was preparing his heir to the throne for the task of heading the glorious clan of descendants from the Sun Dynasty. While most people might have been satisfied with military valor or knowledge of the sacred texts, the main question in Siddhartha s consciousness remained unanswered. What is the path to salvation from suffering and insecurity in human life? 3. Why do these people live in poverty? Siddhartha asked when he once saw a group of ascetics begging for food in town. They believe their path leads to salvation from suffering, Channa, his charioteer, told him. 6

8 Luxury and honor do not give me the peace and detachment that their faces and gestures express. I will try their way to see if it contains the Highest Truth, Siddhartha decided. The prince said farewell to his loved ones in his heart and secretly left the palace. Accompanied by his devoted servants, he rode away into the night. As soon as they reached the forest, Siddhartha dismounted his horse, changed into plain clothes and, with his sword, cut his hair short. Except for one plain bowl, he then gave the servants all his belongings and told them to inform the King of his abdication. When I find Truth, I will come back to share it with you, he promised. Thus Siddhartha, now a simple ascetic and member of a community of forest-philosophers, was given the name Gautama. The brotherhood was led by a yogi teacher, who taught his disciples the rules of discipline and contemplation for the attainment of non-existence. This is the highest good, the blessed resting point of mind in its own source, the home-coming, yogi teacher insisted. All existence comes from non-existence and plunges back into non-existence again. The mind that can rest in pure, unsoiled non-existence is called skillful. Regular minds suffer from being unskillful. Bewitched by existence, they wander in the world of rebirth and transition from one body to the next like a thread's end upon which beads are strung one after another. Earnestly restraining his senses and eschewing desires, Gautama first learned to concentrate his mind on red, blue, yellow, or white geometric forms. When he learned to focus his thoughts continuously on one object, Gautama experienced various degrees of ecstasy. He then transitioned to meditating on the nature of space, which contains all beings and material things. The ascetics called this first sphere of concentration the realm of limitless space. 7

9 When his perception became vast, Gautama meditated on the limitlessness of consciousness. Thus, he entered the second sphere of concentration. "Thoughts revolve around thoughts, sensations abide in sensations, and bodily conditions engender new conditions." These tenets were taught to the ascetics while they meditated on the second sphere so that they could release themselves from absorption in the stream of stimulation produced by awareness of existence. Experiencing deep relaxation, the ascetic concentrated his mind on the third realm of No-Thing from which consciousness springs and into which it sinks back. Heedless to the obstacles that beset his fellow seekers, Gautama quickly mastered these methods of contemplation. It seemed to them that he did not experience drowsiness, bodily weaknesses, or doubts to lead him astray. It took Gautama a year to comprehend the realm of Nothing. 5 The young seeker finally beheld the source of detachment and peace that had astounded him so much when he first beheld it on the faces of the ascetics. The prince, having renounced royal greatness in the secular world 6, informed his teacher about his experience in dissolving himself in nothingness. "You have reached the highest state, the true source of mental activity" said the teacher. Would you help me run this community?" But Gautama felt that there existed a state that surpassed his experience. Even the Brahmin priests who despised the forest ascetics knew that this world had emerged from the Great Silent Ocean where only the breath of life existed. This and other descriptions of the primary state brought his mind back to the Realm of No-Thing. 5 Attainment of the realm of Nothing signifies complete renunciation of ones own mind. 6 Having renounced kingship, Gautama s journey towards the realm of nothing was hastened. 8

10 Both ascetics and Brahmins considered their way of life to be the best and most worthy of emulation. They argued with each other like the neighbor-kings who extolled the nobility of their birth in order to uplift themselves in people's eyes. In relation to human suffering such arguments seemed useless to Gautama. The ascetic Gautama, distinguished by the dignified spirit of a true warrior, bid a courteous farewell to his fellow seekers; and continued meditative practices on his own. At times the lonely wanderer experienced the inspiration of true knowledge. 7 When his awareness became sharp and clear, he felt assured of the genuineness of his path and the righteousness of his goal. 4. Some time later Gautama met another teacher of contemplation who was instructing a large brotherhood of truth-seekers. When the teacher learned about his new student's past experiences and doubts, he uttered the following: "You are right, noble Gautama. The experience in the Realm of No-Thing stops any mental activity but fails to release one from it. Similarly, a strong man can protect himself from the attack of an adversary by gripping him powerfully and holding him tight. Nevertheless, this man is not free in this tight embrace. His very gripping ties him to his adversary." "You need to experience the fourth and highest concentration. Free from strife and duality, it is the untainted contemplation of the Realm of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception., Concentration on an inanimate object, however, cannot bring you into this highest abode. Non-existence is the limit of abstraction and the inanimate is abstract in its essence. Do not sow the seeds of wise aspirations on a rock. The path that 7 Inspiration of true knowledge is akin to Bodhichita, the genuine aspiration to be of service to others. 9

11 leads to the highest lies in your concentration on the formless breath which is the substance of life and forces of consciousness." Once again the ascetic began to study contemplation and train his mind in concentration on formlessness. Through his ever expanding inner awareness, not through visualization, he beheld the realm of Limitless Space. Then he moved to contemplating the realm of Limitless Consciousness where he could distinctly perceive the life force movements in his body. Here he learned how energy currents in the body engender, maintain, and dissipate sense perception. When he satiated himself with the contemplation of energy currents, he entered the realm of Nothing where self-awareness dissolves even the compulsion to think. Gautama realized that he could more easily enter the realm of Nothing via manipulating the energy currents of his body. 8 Next the ascetic explored the reality that underlies the three spheres of concentration. He discovered its cohesiveness and naturalness. As he developed the supernatural abilities of clairvoyance and mindreading, the earnest seeker saw that he was gaining a foothold in the realm of neither Perception nor Non- Perception. It seemed that there was a light over Gautama's head at all times - so clearly could he perceive the essence of all events and arising thoughts. He could actually experience freedom in the movements of his mind. The teacher's face beamed with joy when he learned about Gautama's achievements. "You are equal to me now. Do as you please," he said. 8 Whereas, previously he had to laboriously contemplate the idea of nothingness, now he could easily enter this mind state via control of energy currents. 10

12 "Preceptor," answered Gautama. I doubt that my experience of the highest, untainted contemplation is sufficient for my salvation from suffering. Although my experience is blissful and free of unfavorable qualities, it is not constant and fades into tainted existence. Similarly, an elephant, proud of his strength and certain of his security, will carelessly fall into a pit prepared by hunters." Warmly he bid farewell to his teacher and comrades and left the commune to continue his search for the highest path. 5. Gautama departed the commune dedicated to the contemplation of the Formless Absolute. He visited many teachers who espoused various methods and truths they had discovered. However, Gautama sought a teaching that could connect the flawless experience of contemplation with the attainment of salvation from suffering. The various metaphysical doctrines that Gautama had studied often contradicted each other. It appeared that each viewpoint had its own followers and advocates. Analyzing them, Gautama came to the conclusion that differences of opinion were based on differences in selfperception. Overtly or covertly the philosophers talked about their own self. Undoubtedly, each position expressed some advantage for controlling mental activities. The trouble was that the merits of the various doctrines were impossible to unite, while their drawbacks inevitably contributed to mental and moral flaws. Two schools of thought carried a debate about the existence of Self. The first school affirmed its existence while the second denied it. Both schools enjoyed the pleasure of certainty and the superiority of conviction. Remarkably though, their views on the reality of Self 11

13 did not define their moral principles. The adherents of both schools either embraced a strict moral code or altogether denied the law of retribution. 9 Some philosophers explained the Self to be a regulatory principle, mediating the relationship between two primal elements of Truth- material and spiritual. Others asserted that the Self was merely a reflection of phenomena and events in human life. Followers of the Brahmin teachers held a common belief that only Brahma, the Creator, possessed a true Self. They believed that, like the sun's rays, Brahma infused all his creatures with Self. Yet other philosophers shunned straight answers altogether. Themselves without direct experience of higher knowledge, they mainly resorted to applying various methods of mental and emotional manipulation to the questioners' minds. They became obsessed with the rebuttal of all arguments and the negation of any beliefs that a seeker could hold about Truth. 10 The philosophers arguments did not satisfy Gautama. In addition to speculation, many teachers practiced contemplation without a deep aspiration for the welfare of others. Instead, they preferred to rely on the power of persuasion. In reality Gautama saw that adherence to philosophical tenets was in reality only a crutch to support ones delusions and hinder ones progression on the path. Ordinary human frailties surfaced underneath such convictions. But a true teaching must be like a victory banner over the forces of ignorance. As Gautama made his way from one settlement to the next he reminded himself that, Endless speculation, put forward with a desire to assert personal attachments, is useless. I will not confuse contemplation 9 In other words, these practitioners were did not consider their behavior as an essential part of view. 10 This was mainly a type of nihilistic debate. 12

14 with bias or beliefs that entice with their convenience. I will find consolation in a pure aspiration for salvation from vice and weakness. I will remember sickness, old age, and death as the true judges of my attainment and virtue. He spent a great deal of time near cemeteries contemplating the various stages in the dissolution of a corpse. Destroying in himself attachment to his own body, Gautama perceived the world of reincarnation to be a flame that tightly surrounded him. These dead bodies are like my body devoid of the spirit of life. They consist of bones, flesh, bile, mucus, blood, vital parts, organs of perception, brain and waste, covered like a sack with skin. These bodies are the subject of human attachment, the reason for self deception. In order to forget our bodies impermanence, we create contradictory opinions and conduct heated debates. Those who argue or remain indifferent don t they all deceive themselves in their refusal to find a path to liberation? I will not be like them. I will attain victory over ignorance! The philosophers were absorbed in refuting various teachings they found alien to their own viewpoints, including those of the ascetics. One such group of ascetics, to whom Gautama felt more and more connected were called the "the ford-makers". By means of extended fasts, protracted and difficult physical postures, and other strenuous exercises they tried to develop an unshakable will and thus overcome the lures of the world of reincarnation. In contrast to other groups who were more preoccupied with establishing their own versions of truth, the ford-makers made it their mission to end suffering in the universe by purifying their minds. 11 Gautama s experience with ascetic practice helped him tame his body and cultivate his determination. 13

15 One of their main teachers, Mahavira, the Great Hero, attained enlightenment, victory over ignorance and announced the good news to the world. Mahavira was an extreme ascetic. His guiding principle, the avoidance of violence to all sentient beings including animals and plants, has become known as "ahimsa". Mahavira hardly ate anything at all, and when he did, he chose food that was begotten non-violently like fruit that fell from a tree. He walked around naked and was persecuted and even beaten by villagers. Trials did not break his spirit, but strengthened his good will towards others. 12 At the age of forty Mahavira attained perfect perception of all realms including those of astral beings and bodiless siddhas. 13 He became a Jina, a victor over suffering. His example was inspiring to all ascetics, including Gautama, who decided to join them. Indeed, no other past teaching was as clear and appealing to him. Mahavira relied on understanding gained from personal experiences to boldly preach the truth. He described the universe as a wheel of time where the higher spheres of liberated beings served as a hub and the world of suffering as its rim. Gautama recognized some of Mahavira s ideas as salvation theories he had already contemplated and realized in the company of the forest ascetics. In particular he noted in Mahavira s teachings the emphasis placed on goodwill to all sentient beings. 14 Gautama was also partly familiar with the ascetics' concept of the five bodies that constitute a human being. The first four spheres are directly experienced by 12 Mahavira is known as the most remarkable teacher of what today is known as Jainism. 13 Siddas are perfected beings who abide in the pure radiance of mind. 14

16 a determined seeker as a result of the development of concentration: 1. a material body 2. an astral body of perception 3. a subtle body of mind capable of magical transmutations 4. a body of light By perfecting his body of light, Mahavira attained complete dissolution of his physical body's material elements. Departing from his physical frame, subject to suffering for over seventy two years, Mahavira left behind only hair and nails. His human form dissolved into pure light. This attainment established him in the realm of neither perception nor non-perception. Although the ascetic Gautama of the Sakhya clan did not experience the full amplitude of these forces, he already knew that they could be developed by sharpening meditation techniques. The mental freedom that he beheld in the realm of neither Perception nor Non-Perception was already described by the ascetics as the third sphere of concentration. This attainment was made possible by a single-minded focus and the use of breath-activating forces of the nervous system. Mahavira s followers called these forces will. The fifth body mentioned by the ascetics was the missing link in the chain of knowledge sought by Gautama. According to Mahavira, it is this body that generates the impulses that lead to the accumulation of wrong actions which trap consciousness in physical reality. 15 The fifth body, however, also generates good intentions that purify consciousness from physical entrapment and take one to the incomparable state of 15 Karma is synonymous with action, however, in Buddhadarma karma is more conventionally thought of as the combination of action and mental attitude. The enlightened Sidda can be said to have entered the karma, which means his actions are real, not preconditioned. 15

17 the Conquerer. As for worldly phenomena, Mahavira's opinion was practical and well-founded. "Every object has an unlimited number of characteristics. One can pass relative and inconclusive judgments about them. The universe allows for the movement of objects in an unlimited number of ways. This enticing display of material reality intoxicates ignorant beings into slavery. Like a swan escaping from a net, the conqueror of deluded mind frees himself from captivity." Like a goldsmith with gold-sand, Gautama pondered these theories and embraced asceticism with fervor. He distinctly felt that the ultimate realization, which could illumine the world of darkness and free his father, wife, son and Sakhya tribe from suffering, was drawing near. 7. "I doff this mind intoxicated with material perception like clothes, like habits, like dreams. I leave it behind without pity and remorse. I direct my whole being towards the sky. Like the sun, my higher mind flares up and shines forth illuminating the worlds of Gods, titans, humans, animals, spirits, and hell-dwellers." Gautama patiently tended the garden of his mind wishing for the Heavenly Eye of Truth. 16 He suffered from hunger and thirst, but was able to calm his body s breath using both exercise and stillness. Eating dried cow dung and bird droppings the ascetic destroyed his attachment to pleasure. His fortitude and courage inspired reverence in his comrades and five of them followed him as their senior. Clarity in concentration and rejection of his body became a habitual state of being for Gautama. But one day he realized that his mind ceased experiencing gladness: it became heavy and clouded. His body could no longer support him in 16 The heavenly eye of truth is also known as the third eye; located between the eyebrows. 16

18 his quest for heavenly omniscience. Soon Gautama found he was no longer able to enter the spheres of concentration. He realized that all along his body was not his enemy but rather provided support for his noble efforts. Bringing back to mind his face, neck, nape, arms, legs, hands and the spine that bound all his body parts into a single whole, Gautama perceived his body as a precious tool indispensable for future endeavors. As he pondered the value of human birth, the emaciated contemplator washed his hands in the river and in amazement observed how the enjoyment of relaxation and cleanliness strengthened his mind. A shepherd girl from a nearby village saw the noble face of the ascetic and offered him milk and rice as one would a benign Deity. Gautama accepted the offering with gladness. When his followers observed what appeared to them to be clearly a sacrilege, they abandoned him. The ascetic did not stop them for he was preparing himself for a decisive and penetrating effort of mind, and felt that any explanation at this point would be premature and useless. Gautama saw a shady tree that seemed especially familiar and friendly to him. There he placed a grass mat and sat cross-legged in posture. He was determined to explore the nature of consciousness until he attained complete liberation from ignorance. Siddhartha recalled the contentment he often experienced when he lived in the palace and immediately entered the first sphere of concentration. Once he became aware of the nature of these joyous experiences, inner contentment and openness of feeling, he entered the second sphere. Siddhartha next explored the concentration that formed the nature of his contentment. He observed how mental formations became the basis of freedom when he recognized their true empty essence. However this 17

19 White Tara, in her magnificent form, residing in the dakini s paradise. The shepherd girl who brought Buddha Shakyamuni rice and milk is thought to be a manifestation of White Tara. She is pictured surrounded by eight auspicious symbols. (sacred knot, lotus flower, umbrella, playing fish, wheel of Dharma, vessel, flag, and shell. 18

20 condition only manifested after development of goodwill towards others. The ease with which he meditated made it possible for Gautama to examine his body and mind. His realization of non-duality that his body and mind were neither one unit nor two separate entities opened his mind to profound inward and outward compassion. Thus he attained the third realm of neither Perception nor Non- Perception. But what was the way to enter the mysterious fifth sphere of concentration? Is mind really capable of embracing it - the cause of all causes? His body strengthened by ascetic exercise and recent nourishment, the contemplator next chose the sensation of entanglement and obstruction as the object of his analysis. What was the cursed dark cloud that obscured the alluring light of the full moon of liberation? Were not myriads of living beings destined to suffer multiple deaths and tribulations coming from this cloud of ignorance? The Bodhisattva was piercing the veils of mind. He was awakening in goodness and filling himself with compassion for all sentient beings. He perceived how while the smallest manifestations of ill-will were leaving him, the glow of his mind was expanding and deepening. 8. The Bodhisattva was resting in unperturbed peace in the shade of a tree when his purified consciousness presented him with the image of Mara the Demon, whose name signifies "the one who brings the bitterness of death." There he was - the source of all damnation, sovereign over the armies of the Destroyer-Kings, the overlord of the lands of temptation and delusion. How did damnation gain power? Why did living beings get 19

21 caught in the seductive net woven by the world of reincarnation? "I will find Truth!" The Bodhisattva decided. "Knowledge of truth is more precious to me than my youth or my throne. I will break Mara s spell of delusion. His black magic is indivisible from my own weaknesses. Therefore I will treat them both with my healing attention." In great renunciation the Bodhisattva perceived all sentient beings being lead from one incarnation to the next by their faith in "self" and were therefore dependent on it. Faith in a manufactured self, shrouded by the guise of will, results in both positive and negative karma. This ignorance, which is indistinguishable from Mara s magic, forms the fifth body. It was as if the smallest candlewick of realization had caught fire in the middle of Mara's body and his image, illuminated from within, turned into the radiant body of Brahma, the Creator of the Universe, whose name means "The One Who Expands Himself." Seeing Brahma face to face, the Bodhisattva perceived in him the subtlest and highest manifestation of his own mind. "Here is the Blessed and Divine Brahma who is the pinnacle of existence. He elevated himself due to his incomparable feat - he has attained the infinite state of ecstasy, peace, love and compassion. But even He depends on the law of cause and effect. Like all sentient beings, he is the product of his thoughts and actions. He does not possess a perfect self, rather his wisdom and virtue create his joy. "Belief in the permanence of self keeps the ignorant being captive and the virtuous being in danger of delusion. Those who claim that the self does not exist 20

22 walk from one kind of darkness into another. They develop a steadfast belief in the non-existence of self." "Thus, beings distract themselves from the observation of impermanence, manifestation and disappearance, inherent in all phenomena and thought. This is how they sustain the unskilled habits of consciousness and as a result sink into delusion." "The mind enchained by its unskilled activities develops a host of delusions that form the triple craving: a desire for existence, a desire for sense pleasures, and a desire for nonexistence. "I have exhausted my involvement with ignorance and my dependence on mental judgment. I have completed this path. Now, the newly acquired, well-assimilated virtue, ever-increasing through wisdom, is my new lot in life. When testifying about my experience, I do not fear words nor do I avoid them. While committing high-minded and noble acts and eschewing base and ignoble deeds, I create neither attachment nor repulsion. Thus, my tendency to create new ideas about myself is akin to roasted grain that can never sprout. " "I have exhausted past karma in this body. I will ward off rebirth. This is how I will enter sublime, untainted nirvana which extinguishes all suffering." Realizing more and more the extent of his own achievement, the Buddha, the Awakened One, rested in Truth. 9. "Will I be able to share with people what I discovered and attained? I have purified my mind through exerting an incredible amount of effort for any being. Will others be capable of walking this Path?" Such were the Buddha's concerns. He gave a searching look over the human world and saw that only a few could comprehend his teachings. How can he expand this Path and make it more accessible and simple? 21

23 The Buddha reexamined his experiences searching for the necessary components for attaining Truth. His deliberations aroused both waves of tension and confusion in his mind. Nevertheless, the Buddha abided in meditative equipoise and continued to deepen his Samadhi. 17 The Buddha embraced the Wheel of Existence with his heavenly wisdom. He saw that suffering arose from ignorance following this causal link: 1. Ignorance 2. Sankharas (Sanskaras) - residual impressions, traces of both skillful and unskillful experiences. 3. Individual consciousness - interaction of integrated sankharas. 4. Embryo consciousness a type of consciousness that connects the individual consciousness with the physical body Organs of perception and action developing in the physical body. 6. Contact - interactions between outer objects and inner sensations. 7. Perception. 8. Dependence on pleasure and revulsion towards displeasure 9. Intentions. 10. Actions (karma). 11. Birth in the illusory space of the six realms: Gods, Titans, human beings, animals, hungry ghosts and hell beings 12. Dissolution and death which plunge all living beings back into ignorance. 17 resting in the empty nature of mental phenomena, undisturbed by its emergence and disappearance 18 This process occurs during development of the organism, for example in a mother's womb for humans and animals or grain and spores for plant life. 22

24 "The power of ignorance is great. The wheel of preconditioned existence is durable. By renunciation I will turn it into the wheel of the sacred Dharma which will serve as a crossing between the world of suffering and the pure realm of perfection." 10. With his new hard earned wisdom, the Buddha went to find his former fellow-seekers, the ascetics. With grievance and vexation they recalled their "fallen friend" who once used to set the example for their community; which now consisted only of five members. At first their eyes met the Awakened One with distrust, but suddenly a sweet thrill overtook their bodies and their heightened perception registered a glow coming from the face of their victorious friend. They were the first to behold the perfected being after he discovered the sacred Middle Way. "Friends! The extremes of attraction and repulsion to sense pleasures are harmful. They lead to delusion. The path to salvation surpasses extremes - it rests in Truth. What is this perfect Truth that may lead to the abode of permanence?" 19 "The following is the Truth on suffering: unfavorable change, dissolution, and death are suffering. Attraction, repulsion, indifference, and fear are suffering. Ignorance is suffering." "The following is the Truth on the source of suffering: three desires are its source: an insatiable desire for sense-experience akin to the thirst of a man drinking salty water; a desire for existence that sucks-dry mental and emotional strength, stupefies and binds with 19 Nirvana is pure permanent awareness. Nirvana can be said to be a result of the path, and Buddha-nature or Bodhichita is the fuel to follow that path. One well known Buddhist saying says that all sentient beings are at heart Buddhas, those that realize this truth are entering nirvana, and those that do not remain trapped in samsara. 23

25 avarice and self-conceit; a desire for non-existence that distorts the obvious and natural and leads to mental delusion. "And here is the truth on the end of suffering - the untainted, incomparable Nirvana - the extinguishment of thirst and the extinction of dependence on ignorance. By attaining Nirvana, the Buddha testifies that this world with Gods and humans, titans and animals, hungry ghosts and hell-dwellers is but a dew drop, a dream, an intoxication engendered by the interplay of various physical elements." "And here is the truth on the path to salvation. It is a noble middle path that avoids extremes. The Middle Way does not follow hatred, repulsion or indifference which are dangerous feelings that lead to delusion. This path was discovered through mature thinking and noble striving. It is free of extremist and fanatical views. The Middle Way is constant. It relies on purity of consciousness, equanimity of speech, goodwill and compassion to all sentient beings. Following its own course, the Way frees the mind from ignorance as a rope is released from the entanglement of its knots." As they were listening to the explanations of the Victorious One, the ascetics beheld a clear vision of Truth and their convictions deepened. Their minds, prepared by prolonged periods of purification, cast off delusion as easily as well-roasted nuts cast off their shells. "I am going to the Shakyas," declared the Awakened One finishing his instruction. "Lord, allow us to follow you," asked his students. "Let it be so," agreed the Buddha. In their company he returned to the Shakyas. Delight filled the hearts of the Buddha's father, wife, 24

26 aunt, brother, and son when they saw his Brahma-like face. Their trust and faith in him infused his consciousness with blessed peace. He felt that his noble wish for his family's spiritual welfare had finally come true. "These worthy people, ripe for receiving the teachings, have welcomed me as their lord. I will not be seduced by the pride that attempts to overtake me. Indeed, it is for their salvation that this arhat, a ford-maker, and teacher of humans and gods has come into this world. " Throughout many past lives I have labored for the sake of finding a path of salvation from the suffering of samskara. I will now carry out my intention without hesitation. The evil spirits will not confuse me with indecisiveness, doubt, or indifference. " Addressing his family, Buddha Shakyamuni 20 told them about the three rules of the Noble Path: do not harm living being purify your mind perform good action 21 The simple truths filled the hearts of the listeners with confidence and spiritual zeal. Many of the Shakyas were immediately freed from the roughest level of thirst typical for entrapped beings not sophisticated in the path of virtue. 11. One day Indra 22, a leader from the kingdom of sky dwelling gods 23, discovered with surprise that his sky- 20 a wise man from the clan of Shakyas 21 It is said that any addition to these rules will lead to fanaticism and any attempt to remove one of these rules will lead to nihilism. 22 Indra is better known in Greek mythology as Zeus. While the Greeks emphasized his actions, Boddhidharma prefers to investigate his mind nature. 23 The kingdom of gods refers to those gods who enjoy ruling worldly affairs, especially human emotions. 25

27 dwelling 24 brethren were gathering in multitude and were listening to the teachings of an unknown hermit. Bhagavan (divine) Gautama was teaching his son Rahula the path of virtue. Curious himself, Indra and his magnificent retinue joined in. "Righteousness does not stay with one who lies," the Buddha was telling Rahula. "Create within yourself a vessel for accumulating righteousness. Goodwill is your clay, speech not weakened by lies nor spoiled by malice is your pottery wheel, and ethical conduct is your flame for firing." Indra, the king of justice, listened to these words with polite approval, but nonetheless felt a bit impatient with the Buddha s lengthy explanations. Retiring to his heavenly palace, he held a feast dedicated to the celebration of virtue and the beauty of Truth. Many deities attended the feast except for the goddess of medicine who stayed behind to listen to Gautama's words: "Attachment to pleasure and revulsion to displeasure affect human intentions. Erroneous intentions incite one to evil actions. Evil actions lead to reincarnation in the lower spheres. Reincarnation is accompanied by suffering and adjustment to a new life; attachment to pleasure and revulsion to displeasure ensue. This is how attachment redoubles itself." Reflecting on what she just heard, the Goddess of Medicine was infused with deep compassion for all living beings. Her back became bent under the weight of her contrition and her skin shriveled from the strenuous spiritual effort. But in her womb, the certainty of liberation from ignorance began to glow warmly. Unadorned, in deep reflection, and with a bent back, the Goddess appeared at Indra's feast. 24 Sky dwellers are worldly gods who reside in earth s atmosphere. 26

28 Depicted above is Chintamani, the medicine goddess, shown in her aged form. She is being supplicated by a disciple. Her one eye represents one-pointed wisdom. Grapes in her right hand represent the quality of pure ecstasy, and the in her left hand she holds scripture which represent the teachings. She accompanied by a dog which brings the power of friendship. 27

29 "Who is this wretched old lady?" asked Indra in great indignation. "Drive her away from these halls of beauty! Everything in this world is just, therefore, there must be a place for her in accordance with her pitiful and sad appearance!" Manifest as a formless invisible presence, the Buddha observed the conflict between Indra and his elderly appearing student. And so he uttered: "The manifestations of virtue are inexhaustible. Patience is like virgin soil. By refusing to sow on this soil, does not one delude oneself?" "I don't understand, sow what?" asked Indra with irritation; but the Buddha was already on his way after the banished old lady. "Who was that?" the guests whispered among themselves. "The guards did not notice him or, if they did, could not stop him? Are we truly safe to feast in these resplendent Heavens?" And so they remained doubtful and insecure. In the meantime the outcast Goddess went north, reaching the Himalayas. Amid flowers and herbs she built a hut of reflection. Climbing the snowy mountain slopes, she discovered paths of understanding. The Buddha's formless presence supported her in her constancy of effort and faith. Her mind, turned inwards, recognizing itself as an object worthy of deep reflection and contemplation. 12. Deluded by envy a thunderbolt-striking Mara wished to confuse the Buddha. Sneering, he appeared before the Awakened One:" Oh, great ascetic! Indra, the King of Justice, scorns your teachings. I feel for you. It seems your wisdom is not from this world and does not belong in this meaningless whirlabout! Leave this miserable abode for the wretched; leave it be! " 28

30 The Buddha answered:"even the King of Gods 25 is dependent on his belief in "self." This belief, useless for those who have reached salvation, rises like mount Meru. The teachings of the Awakened One do not elevate up high 26, they take one to the foundation 27 to the cessation of suffering. Establishing a true foundation in the emptiness of self, the teachings support the realm of Gods and point out righteous paths in all spheres of existence. " "And you, thunderbolt-keeping Mara, who has come to test the Awakened One. What prize has your pride promised you? Notice the deep chasm that your jealous thunderbolt creates. Situated deep within the hell realms it is too narrow to be reached by light and too deep to consider escape. Such is the place created by your selfish and prideful actions. Such is the place that karma will consider your future home. Are you aware of this?" Shakyamuni's compassion purified Mara's mind. Tears welled up in the demon's eyes. His body trembled. With a prayerful gesture, he knelt in front of the Awakened One. I seek refuge in Thee, O, Glorious One! Free me from pride!" "If you want to free yourself from pride, you should know that your prayer is incomplete. It behooves you to kneel in front of all living beings - not just me - as if they were your fathers and mothers - whether awakened or not - whether fully liberated or still wandering in the forest of delusions. Serve with loving kindness all whom you meet according to their needs and abilities." 25 Referring to Indra 26 Referring to the higher realms of existence 27 Referring to the roots of suffering, the belief in a self 29

31 "Yes, I do kneel in front of fathers and mothers! Certainty of virtue is wisdom. Wisdom, resting in emptiness, will become a thunderbolt in my hand!" The demon's face, free from delusion, shone with bliss like a thunder cloud. His mind's noble nature became distinctly visible in the radiance of his eyes and his smile. "The Blessed One frees from oblivion well and completely!" he exclaimed. "I want to sing with happiness like a wood spirit intoxicated by his own spells!" "Anger turns into loving kindness! How beautiful! Walking past the treasure of my own mind, I wasn't able to escape from luck. The Buddha, by thought, with lion s strength Managed to tear asunder the veil of the unmanifested! Looking at Nature which engenders my manifestation I realize this couldn't have been otherwise." "My song is understood by the awakened, My feelings are understood by the devoted! Anger and loving kindness Are uncreated, indestructible. They are selfsame in their physical nature. Only delusion makes anger what it is. Awakening only adds a bit of experience To loving kindness." "I freed myself When I encountered my own noble aspiration. While living beings in this world Call him the Buddha, the Victorious One, I will be the Dharma." "My song is an offering to the feet of the Noble One. My intoxication is an offering to this world." 30

32 A depiction of the thunderbolt mara, Vajrapani, (lower right corner) who awakened as Samantabhadra / Shiva (center). He is shown in union with Samantabhadri, the feminine representation of the lightening of enlightenment, surrounded by accompanying deities. 31

33 The newly Awakened One bowed in front of Shakyamuni, and at that moment the many formless beings around them became silent, spellbound by the sound of the falling rain of wisdom 28. The master of his pride, now glorified with the name Vajrapani 29 (the Hand that Holds a Thunderbolt) ascended the heavens amid a multitude of earthly Goddesses. There he manifested his wrathful and spellbinding forms. 13. Many came to the Buddha seeking refuge and a ford in the ocean of suffering. Confused, they would ask questions that bore no direct relation to the fulfillment of their true goal, but the Tathagata (One Who Has Crossed) kindly explained to them the differences between useful reflections and delusion-inducing sophistry. He taught them the essential components for achievement of enlightenment: right conduct, right concentration, and right wisdom. Right conduct is like a vessel for drinking that does not leak and is this pure and well-fitted for its purpose. Right concentration is like water that has no flavor other than the taste of satisfaction. Right wisdom is to skillfully tread the path so as not to spill from the vessel. Yet for the confused beings, even simplicity was a struggle. The Buddha encountered many such beings, especially from the human realm. Channa, once Siddhartha's charioteer, fell ill with a condition called the disease of the son of Gods In tantric terms the rain of wisdom refers to one manifestation resulting from the attainment of some particular stage of attainment. For example, rain of flowers, or rain of golden rays. 29 In Hindu tradition Vajrapani is named Shiva (The Blessed One) 30 i.e.the illusion of self-grandeur 32

34 "The Buddha and Dharma is all mine," he claimed. "I was the young master's charioteer when he discovered the truth. I steered the chariot then, now it behooves me to steer the Sangha (Community)." Though Channa tended to look down on his Dharma brothers, the Tathagata asked others not to scold or admonish him. Soon Channa discovered that his pride was becoming dull for him. With time he began to sober up and follow the Buddha's teachings with great fervor. Another student, Devadatta, was a relative of the Buddha. At first he observed the rules of the community, but soon became envious of the Buddha's fame. Devadatta declared that he too had reached enlightenment and, attempting to emulate the great teacher's conduct, established his own sangha. However, his delusion came to an end one day when, after declaring he was going to be engaged in a profound contemplation, he fell asleep. While weeds grow fast, cultivated plants mature slowly. Time followed its own course and many of the Buddha's students reached the freeing abode of nirvana. One of the Arhats approached the Blessed One with a question: Is it possible for other beings to reach spontaneous self-liberation the way it happened with the Bhagavan?" "You should know, my friend," answered the Buddha, "that in my past incarnations I also had virtuous teachers. 31 Following their determination in noble truth, they too freed themselves from ignorance. Their wisdom, though shrouded in different words, had the same taste of freedom in the beginning, middle, and end." 31 The sutras mention Buddha Dipankara as one of Buddha Shakyamuni s teachers in a previous life. 33

35 Depicted is Buddha Dipankara, a former teacher of Buddha Shakyamuni, in a previous lifetime. 34

36 Another student once declared: I am convinced that there can be no other Buddha equal to you in resplendent virtue and wisdom!" "Tell me, friend," asked Shakyamuni, "do you know the qualities of all the Buddhas from the past, present and future?" "No, I do not know them, Lord." "Then why do you declare and assert your admiration for me over others? Could this be because the vessel of your humility cannot contain your devotion? Perhaps, through this declaration you increase your own pride?" Students often had difficulty establishing the right relationship between explanations of the teachings and their implementation in practice. The Buddha clarified: "Tathagata's words are like a raft for crossing a river. Would you carry the raft on your back after reaching the other shore?" "No, Lord." What were you to do then if there were a need for another raft? "I would use my knowledge and skills to build another raft" "What is knowledge of liberation other than liberation itself? The Buddha passes his teachings on as a direct experience of liberation, transmitting it through various Truths. That is why the Buddha's name and teachings are not burdensome to his followers. They do not fetter or make one stagnant." "How then can an immature person recognize that he beholds the wisdom of the Bhagavan upon encountering teachings disguised by various words?" 35

37 "Those teachings that unify wisdom and virtue are my path. Through purification of mind and refinement of conduct my path leads to the cessation of suffering. If you discover there to be some additional requirement or condition, then it is a path decorated by worldly weaknesses. If you find less than the unity of wisdom and virtue, then it is a path diseased by pride "Lord, allow me to ask you a question", inquired a disciple. "Ask, my friend." "What will happen to the Awakened One after his physical death?" "To answer your question please permit me to pose one in return. What troubles and torments you?" "My lack of experience of nirvana troubles and torments me. I wish my contemplations would result in a taste of nirvana, but such experience is unknown to me." "Your troubles are not dependent on the subject of your experience but rather on the nature of your thinking. Are you not worried and tormented by the fact that when seeking experience of nirvana you are fettered by the triple craving - the desire for existence, the desire for non-existence and the desire for sense pleasures?" "Perhaps it is so, Lord." "Isn't it true that even in everyday thoughts, which are experiences well known to you, the triple craving 32 The most difficult task is to unify virtue and wisdom, to believe that either alone is sufficient is pride. To be enticed by these extremes is nothing else but the influence of Mara. 36

38 troubles and torments you?" "Yes, Lord." "Then, shouldn't your thinking be free from dependency on experience, free from the triple craving? "Indeed it is so." When contemplating nirvana realize it to be free and untainted by the triple craving." "I have another doubt, Lord." "Speak, Friend." "The actions of the Awakened One do not lead to a new incarnation. Yet even in the funeral pyre there remain ashes and cinder. What are the remainders that the world will inherit after the Tathagata's passing?" "These remainders will be like a well-made vessel." "How can one preserve this vessel? How can it manifest its wondrous qualities?" "The heavenly form 33 preserves these qualities like a vessel and is a sanctuary for Brahmas, the creators, and Maras turned to the Dharma. When their offerings fill the vessel to its brim, it will manifest itself in samsara as the Maitreya Buddha (the Buddha of Loving Kindness). He will manifest the qualities of the Buddhas of the three epochs. He will teach with his body, speech, and mind. Such are the future consequences of the Tathagata's departure. Such are his remainders left for samsara." 33 Located in the pure lands, the heavenly form is the Buddha s stupa. When completed it will manifest its wisdom and energy as the body of Buddha Maiytreya. 37

39 "I am delighted and overwhelmed, Bhagavan. I see the wheel of samsara that is stopped by Dharma. I see Maitreya Buddha who is like merciful rain. " "It is well-realized, friend. Untie the knots of ignorance one by one, end the triple craving, and strengthen your striving for virtue." "After the explanations of the Awakened One I experience clarity and peace. But in my solitude I feel helplessness as well. What can I do, Lord?" "Just as the appearance and texture of a knot provide support to the person untying it, so too can you maintain your focus and concentration by practicing deeper awareness of the obstacles you encounter on your way. Realize your weaknesses, understand which desires engender them, and identify what kinds of virtue can overcome them. Indeed, nothing but desire conceals one's weaknesses, and nothing but virtue can replace them. " 15. In one of the parks visited by Gautama, there stood a house built without windows and with only a small door. In seclusion, the Buddha contemplated the formless, faultless, limitless, and blessed radiance of mind, attained by beings that have ended animosity and attachment to sense pleasures. When waves of aspiration to free living beings from suffering moved bodily winds into the area between Gautama s eyebrows, his experience transitioned from acute awareness to a perception of the siddhas' realm. Perceiving himself endowed with the body of beings from this realm, the Buddha entered their gathering. There he beheld wise beings, submerged in the silent nature of mind. The aroma of goodness exuded from the pores of their skin. Surrounded by their own radiance, awareness of their own wisdom purified their minds. 38

40 In their vision the whole world flew by like a sacred river. They appeared satisfied, like elephants that bath themselves on a hot day with filthy water without embarrassment over the water's impurities. A number of these beings bowed before the Victorious One. One of them, whose body emitted a golden glow, addressed him with a bow: "Oh, Master of Wisdom! In the previous kalpa 34 I attained this realm thanks to my compassion for people and my detachment from the notions of "self" and "mine." It was predicted that in this realm I would meet a perfect arhat and through his mercy I would attain final awakening. I beseech thee, Blessed One! Banish the ignorance and restlessness of all those who found refuge in my heart!" The heart of the titan-siddha opened up before the Buddha's eyes. It appeared as samsara itself. In its embrace it held all living and transitioning beings. From empty space the Awakened One withdrew a fragrant lotus flower. Lifting it up high, he released it back into space. The flower disappeared but its aroma kept spreading. The Buddha gave an approving smile to the questioning titan. The light of completeness illumined his student's face, who uttered a prayer accepting refuge in the Buddha, Sangha, and Dharma. The Buddha gave his new follower the name Manjushri which means the master of wisdom. Many beings in that realm felt bewilderment and surprise and asked: "What is it that is disrupting our unperturbed and unclouded state? From where does this glorious and genuine feeling of compassion come? 34 an aeon of time 39

41 Some of them joined Manjushri's awakening, others became involved in questioning the essence of things, and some remained perplexed. 16. In the meantime a few local Brahmins arrived at Gautama s hut seeking his audience. The Buddha decided that the time was propitious for a conversation, and went out to greet his guests. People who sought contact with the Awakened One often displayed qualities characteristic of competitive relationships: such as arrogance, cunning, and distrust. Brahmins who belonged to the highest cast in their society behaved fatuously more often than others. "Hey you, dirty ascetic!" one of them called to the Buddha who was passing by with a beggar's bowl in His hands. "That which is dirt is not what you know to be dirt," Bhagavan replied with compassion. He noticed that the insolent Brahmin had noble Dharma tendencies that were being concealed by a thin layer of delusion acquired in his present reincarnation. "What is it then?" the Brahmin asked mockingly. "Envy and ill-will are the real dirt. Do you understand my words?" The Brahmin stood petrified, stricken by sudden realization. He looked at the Buddha and his eyes filled with tears. "Is it possible for me to enter your path, Kind Lord?" "Just don't walk off it," the Awakened One replied softly. To visitors prepared to argue or show off, Gautama would offer to reflect on the value of human birth and 40

42 the seriousness of its purpose. Our ability to value wisdom can be severely tested by the difficult experiences of reincarnating in the lower realms of helldwellers, hungry ghosts and animals. It can also waver under the influence of disease or old age. When pulling out mental weeds, a human being acquires true happiness. He no longer has a need to assert his own significance in an argument or in intellectual sophistry. Often the Awakened One was asked about his attitude toward the sacred texts. "I rely on my personal experience when I speak about the wheel of existence. I advise you to always rely on your experience, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you. Even your trust in the council of the Awakened One, comes from your own experience of communicating, listening and reflecting. A thoughtless and doubting man seeks support in blind faith or ignorance. I explain the Dharma that is not limited by extremes. Untainted by desire, my path is comprehended through right action and right outlook. This is the Dharma that I have learned to be the path to end suffering." When outlining the path, the Buddha advised to carefully develop awareness of four foundations: 1. Awareness of one's conduct. 2. Awareness of one's body based in sensations. 3. Awareness of one's mind that presupposes attention to emerging thoughts and intentions. 4. Awareness of the qualities of one's mind. When these qualities are manifested unskillfully, they acquire the form of five obstructions: avarice, ill-will, stagnation, restlessness and doubt. Their skillful opposites are generosity, goodwill, single-minded awareness, fortitude and discriminating understanding. Examination of one's mental qualities leads to increasingly subtle purification which the Buddha 41

43 compared to the art of a bath attendant. 35 These teachings were developed by Shakyamuni from instructions he received from the ascetics on the four spheres of concentration. They significantly improve upon the ascetics teachings by shifting the focus of a contemplator s attention from the limitlessness of a realm to the perception of the impermanence of phenomenon within that realm. Wisdom in the Buddha's teachings became more valuable than concentration, and furthermore the only way to cultivate wisdom is to practice good deeds It came about that Indra's pride matured, found expression in his conduct, and lead to his rebirth in the animal kingdom in the form of a deer. He wandered in the forest and mountain slopes, and ate grass redolent of the aromas from the realm of Gods. He drank water from springs that sang with the voices of heavenly maidens until one day he met a hunter who wounded him with an arrow as sharp as a needle. In dismay the wounded deer escaped his pursuer and found refuge in a cave high in the mountains. An old woman, who happened to be gathering medicinal herbs in that area, discovered him and took upon herself his care until he regained strength. As the medicine restored his strength and memory, the divine deer recognized his healer as the goddess of medicine whom he had once before banished from his celestial banquet. Intense remorse overcame his heart and Indra the Deer bowed before the merciful old lady. At that moment radiant deities descended to her 35 The art of bathing includes massage, the use of aromatic oils and herbs, and general bathing. Similar to a modern spa. 36 Concentration is a contemplative method that relies on the experience of self and thus leaves room for delusion. On the other hand, wisdom is not dependent on a particular mind state (i.e. concentration or any ordinary mind states) 42

44 and invited her to ascend into the Heavenly Realms. However, she refused to abandon her forests and mountains and with one glance she embraced the Heavenly Realms. Bowing their heads, the deities asked the healer to give them her name so that they could turn to her in their prayers of repetition (mantras). She uncovered for them the essence of contemplation that is self-recognition and gave them her name- Chittamani. (Mind Treasure) After reaching a ripe old age, Indra left the body of the deer and reincarnated in the Heavenly Realms. He was born through an instantaneous transfer of his consciousness into an opening lotus flower amid a heavenly pond protected by fierce blood-drinking deities. There Indra single-mindedly concentrated in meditation on Chittamani's qualities. In a short time his body manifested the signs of goodwill and compassion and acquired its awakened form of eleven faces and one thousand arms. Ten of the faces pointed in the ten directions of the world 37, and the eleventh remained absorbed in contemplation of his teacher, Chittamani. A thousand arms stretched out in support of those wavering between the extremes of worldly thinking. His hearing expanded itself and became identical with cosmic sound. 38 When they observed this miracle, wrathful and peaceful deities alike gathered in multitudes, to rest near the feet of the newly Awakened One. Faithful to the example set by his teacher, Indra decided to remain in the conditioned world under many wondrous and common disguises until the complete cessation of suffering of all sentient beings. He later became known as 37 Eight directions of the conventional compass and the directions above and below. 38 Cosmic sound separates truth from lies 43

45 Avaloketeshvara, bodhisattva of compassion, depicted with dharma protectors from different realms. (hungry ghost realm, lower right) (animal realm, lower left) (semi-god realm, upper left, and hell realm, upper right) His eleven faces and many arms support sentient beings journey to liberation. 44

46 Avalokiteshwara (Listening Compassionate Creator). 18. During the time of Indra's transformation Shakyamuni Buddha was traveling with Ananda through blooming meadows. Bees filled the air with even and broad buzzing sounds that streamed in all directions, yet Ananda felt sad in his heart. Ananda received his name, which means "bliss", from Shakyamuni when he entered the Sangha. However, rather than bliss, Ananda experienced helplessness and powerlessness while traveling with the Awakened One. He doubted his spiritual progress and thought himself unable to experience enlightenment. As a result, he often asked the Blessed One about the various stages in spiritual development and tried to build a stepwise understanding of the path to liberation. He then thought about which realms his fellow practitioners - including monks, nuns and lay people - would reincarnate after their passing. When the Teacher instructed him during their conversation, Ananda felt some relief from his doubts. Especially when he learned about the various stages of spiritual development: 1. "Entering the stream" Accepting refuge and gaining certainty. 2. "Returning 39 once." The state of mind that is sufficient for decisive re- examination of personal drawbacks and unskillful qualities. 3. "Non-return." The stage for cultivating a natural, unconstructed bliss of absorption in mind's nature. 4. "Becoming Arahat." Perfection in attainment, awakening and pacification of mind in itself. 39 There are two meanings to the word returning in Buddhist Dharma. The relative meaning refers to reincarnation, and the absolute or (profound) meaning refers to the developing mind state for example described by the four yogas of Mahamudra. 45

47 But even with the inspiration of these teachings, Ananda still carried the burden of sorrow. The Tathagata often drew the youth's attention to the surrounding meadows, spacious fields, green mountains, and hills proclaiming to him, "How beautiful is this view!" The Awakened One never insists on pointing out beauty and spaciousness to other students so much. Am I the only one who is so indifferent to it all!" thought Ananda feeling more and more guilty. "Ananda, my friend, this burden of sorrow and doubt that you carry with you is nothing but Sukhavati, the Land of Pure Bliss," the Bhagavan said to him unexpectedly. "How is it so, Lord? exclaimed Ananda. "Simply see that." The buzzing streamed into Ananda's ears and the aroma from the flowers became even more distinct. But he was still expecting something else. "Friend! Just as milk turns to butter, nectar turns to honey, and flour turns to bread, so does your mental disunity, formed from residual memories from the limitless past, become the substance for noble, skillful and wholesome qualities in your mind. Think of that!" Soon they settled to rest in the shade of a mango tree. Ananda crossed his legs, relaxed his shoulders, and solar plexus. He felt his back straightening itself out and he began to reflect on his teacher's words. The youth's mind embraced the despondency and confusion that reigned in his heart. He perceived it as just one phenomena in the limitless space of this world. 46

48 Transitioning to the second level of concentration, Ananda perceived the outlines of his despondency and confusion, their transitoriness and constructedness. When entering the realm of No-thing, he saw that, like the sound of beating wings or clothes tearing, the despondency and confusion were uncovering their empty nature before him. Ananda's perception became lucid and free. He became aware of the un-manifested qualities in his mind which he amassed thanks to his association with Bhagavan Shakyamuni. Ananda's eyes beheld the Land of Pure Bliss that lies to the west in the direction of the setting sun. It is a realm where the righteous abide after passing from this world with good karma. The harmonious colors and forms in Ananda s vision seemed both familiar and transformed. All living things here breathed the happiness of liberation from unskillful qualities. They shared their joy with space itself and, supported by mental clarity, rested in equanimity. Birth and dissolution happened here in direct relation to the accumulation or lack of virtuous qualities. Beings emerged from lotuses or prayers uttered by the siddhas. Death in this world did not have a terrifying appearance. She appeared as a conductress and preceptress during the transition into other realms. In a beautiful palace 40, surrounded by blooming orchards, amidst gods, spirits, animals, plants and shining crystals there sat an Awakened One, a Buddha. Youthful in appearance, his body was glowing with the noble red radiance of a setting Sun. When Ananda saw him tears of happiness welled up in his eyes and he experienced the completeness of joyous peace. The delighted Ananda told his teacher about his vision 40 The palace was in the form of a shimmering yantra (a geometric symbol often used to develop concentration). 47

49 The Buddha explained to him: "Such is the Pure Land that you have experienced in your residual impressions 41. Such is the Buddha of this Land who is worshipped as Amitabha (Infinite Light). Such is the noble, generous, joy-giving extinguishment of doubts that brings edification to all beings suffering in the fire of desires." Contemplating the generosity and luminosity of his Dharma-consciousness, Ananda gradually exhausted his doubts and despondency. 19. The honorable Maudgalyayana was experienced in the ways of the siddhas He was already in charge of one of the communes established by the Buddha's disciples when he encountered a difficulty requiring him to seek council from his grey-haired preceptor. "My parents left this world," he explained o the Buddha. While penetrating subtle realms with an Awakened eye, I discovered that my father reincarnated in a pure heavenly abode, but my mother in a fiery hell. No matter how hard I tried to cool the hellish flames and save her from torment, they fire kept flaring-up again and again driving me to exhaustion and despair." "Maudgalyayana! You are trying to destroy hell itself instead of saving your own mother. Isn't that so?" "It is true, Lord!" replied the astounded student. "What inclination steered your mind in this direction? "I don't know, Lord." "It is an inclination to escape from contact with your 41 Memories from a previous incarnation. 48

50 The transformation of the delirium state by the Dakini of wisdom in her human and animal forms (owl). Her heart guru is visualized at the top of the painting. 49

51 mother. It is an animosity and repulsion from unforgiven grievances that, like growing weeds, have steered your mind in an unskillful way." "Indeed, this is how I am seeing this now, Lord!" "How can one overcome this inclination to escape and the aversion that causes it?" asked the Buddha. "Because we act in a similar way in relation to our bodily perceptions, we can use the same approach to overcome these obstacles. This technique is becoming aware, re-examining, changing and releasing, Lord". "True, Maudgalyayana! Embrace with an aware mind the painful and suffering-filled perception which connects you with your mother. " "In embracing it, I see that my exhaustion and despair is the actual perception of it." "Do you feel relieved, friend?" "I feel great relief, Lord." "What caused this relief?" "I felt how the animosity in my attitude towards my mother left me. This is like being healed from a severe illness, o, Bhagavan!" "What is happening to this animosity now?" "It is remaining without support. Without fuel it is dissolving as it is no longer fed by delusion." "Good. It is well-realized, friend. Can you see your mother with your Awakened eye now?" "I see her leaving the abode of suffering. She feels 50

52 repelled by hatred and she is moving towards rebirth in a family that honors the Dharma of the Awakened One." "Good! It is skillfully realized, friend." After conversations with his students the Buddha rested and purified his mind from any aversion or attachment caused by his interaction. He saw within the heat of his mind the formation and growth of self-conception, like a fire emerging from the interaction of consciousness and worldly phenomena. He recognized the feeling of self as that which accumulates delusions and follows extremes. To the Awakened One, however, there was no room for self perception, the builder of samsara. Turning his mind inward he dissolved this stream of ignorance and let his mind become pure awareness. 20. One day the Buddha and Ananda were resting in a lovely groove presented to the Sangha by a local king. Covered with their yellow cloaks, they reclined in a hut built near a flowing brook. The Buddha was suffering from an ailment that caused him pain and wore out his body. The old man Gautama decided to direct the energy of his concentrated consciousness towards balancing and healing his bodily winds. This was a method he and his disciples often used during times of illness and physical weakness. Relaxing his body, the Awakened one's mind began to expose itself in its entirety. As his mental energy calmed he became able to observe various spheres of concentration manifesting in his mind. The King of Teachings mixed lucid emptiness with the excited tension within his nerve channels and thus entered a state of conscious clairvoyance. 51

53 Depicted is Green Tara, the mind essence of Buddha s mother, Maya. 52

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