Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why Request for Buddhas to stay?

... and why perform long life pujas to our Gurus? The article below from Mahidol university will clarify these questions. The story below is the exact reason why the Mahayana (inclusive of Vajrayana) tradition have taken the cue from this story to perform longlife pujas for their gurus and why there is so much emphasis on Guru devotion. If the guru gives you a cue (may not be a direct instruction such as in the story below) to do something, you must be quick to understand what needs to be done even though you may need to guess what he is trying to indicate to you. Venerable Ananda did not understand the Buddha even though he had been the Buddha's close attendant. Are you sure you understand your Guru's actions? Are you sure you are smarter than Ven. Ananda? Maybe by the time you understand, it will be too late, just like what happened to Ven. Ananda.

You need to also think what is the significance of the Buddha accepting Mara's invitation, even though he knew Mara is evil? Does it mean evil has a role to play in the grand design of things (whatever this design or scheme is)?

Read on and reflect deeply. This blog is not just for your reading pleasure!

Notice Mara's hologram-like image in front of the Buddha?

On the full moon of the third month of the Buddha's 45th rains retreat, Mara approached the Buddha and invited him to pass away; the Buddha accepted the invitation.

The Buddha traveled spreading his teaching around various countries and towns for 45 years, counting from the day of his enlightenment. The 45th rains retreat was thus the Buddha's last rains retreat, and at that time the Buddha was 80 years old.

During the last rains retreat the Buddha stayed at Velugama in the state of the town of Vesali. During that rains the Buddha was seriously ill and almost passed away. All the monks who were still unenlightened, even Ananda, the Buddha's personal attendant, felt very ill at ease seeing the Buddha so ill. The Buddha told Ananda that now his body was very old, like an old worn out carriage held together with bamboo.

The Buddha recovered from that illness and after the rains retreat went with Ananda to stay under a tree at the Pavala cetiya in the area of Vesali. During the day the Buddha gave an obhasa nimitta to Ananda that one who had fully developed the four pathways to success (iddhipada) could extend his life for a considerable time.
An obhasa nimitta is in general terms "sign language". The Buddha's life was going to end that very year, so the Buddha was intimating to Ananda that he could invite him to extend his life for a further time, but Ananda did not invite him, even though the Buddha made his statement about the iddhipada three times.

The Pathamasambodhi states that since Ananda didn't catch on, the Buddha sent him off to sit at another tree nearby. It was then that Mara approached the Buddha and invited him to pass away (nibbana). The Buddha accepted his invitation and mentally renounced his life.

To say he "renounced his life" means that he appointed the day of his death. That day was the full moon of the third lunar month. The Buddha said that three months from that day (in the middle of the sixth month) he would pass away at the town of Kusinara.

The Buddha announces to Ananda that he has renounced his life and in three months will pass away

When the Buddha renounced his life, that is, announced the date of his passing away three months in advance, an earthquake occurred. When people heard it their hair stood on end. The Pathamasambodhi states that magical drums resounded through the heavens to announce the event. Ananda, seeing the miraculous events, came out from the foot of the tree he was staying at and approached the Buddha, asking him the reason for the miraculous earthquake. The Buddha told Ananda that there were eight reasons for an earthquake, as follows:

1. Winds [geological factors]
2. Psychic powers
3. A Bodhisatta has come down from heaven to take birth in the human world
4. A Bodhisatta has been born
5. A Buddha has been enlightened
6. A Buddha gives his first sermon
7. A Buddha renounces his life
8. A Buddha passes away

The Buddha told Ananda that the earthquake on that day was a result of him renouncing the rest of his life. Hearing this, Ananda realized what the Buddha had been saying to him earlier in the day, how one who fully developed the four conditions called iddhipada, which are zeal, effort, application and investigation, if he so desired, could extend his life beyond the designated time of its expiry.

Realizing this, Ananda formally invited the Buddha to use the four iddhipada to extend his life, but the Buddha refused. This happened three times. The Buddha explained that he had given the obhasa nimitta (intimations) to Ananda to invite him to extend his life many times, and in many places, and if Ananda had been mindful and invited him then he would have accepted the invitation. In ordinary terms, the Buddha was telling Ananda that it was "too late," because the Buddha has already declared that he had renounced the remainder of his life and would pass away.

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