As practitioners of any religious discipline, we can fill our lives with spiritual practice: serving others without expectations of them serving us. We can give of our wealth and time to others without expecting anything in return. We can share the Dharma with as many people as possible without expecting them to listen attentively or understand. We can chant regularly from the heart and adopt the sutras and teachings as our guidance in daily life. Of course, all of the Buddha’s disciples were engaged totally in such practices by the time he lay down in the Sala grove to pass into Parinirvana, many of them enlightened or very close to it.
However, as human beings marooned in samsara, distracted by self-serving needs and ego, the Buddha felt his spiritually elevated disciples had become complacent, even arrogant, their joy muted. Perhaps it is possible to become too attached to a lifetime of dedicated practice, and feel that we are doing all we possibly can to reach enlightenment. The Buddha wanted to wake them up to new insights, to ignite their exultation once again. Chunda, on the other hand, as we saw in the last article, was wide-awake by comparison. He was a simple beginner with a sincere heart who recognized and was in awe of the Buddha, and wanted to bring his friends to mark his passing into Great Nirvana. It was his sincerity that was impressive; a living example of Buddha Nature shining out, without training or knowledge, and without the Buddha’s direct teachings unlike his disciples. The Buddha accepted his offerings because he recognized in him his ‘true nature.’ (see my article at http://wp.me/p3O6mn-cF)
The Buddha knew his last moments were approaching and that he had to comfort and reassure his grieving disciples. During his enlightenment he had confronted the suffering of humans, and had realized that nothing could be done in actual terms to change the nature of suffering. He had gained understanding of what he called the ‘Four Noble Truths: what suffering is; what causes it; what it means to end it; and what path to follow in order to do so. Through his determination to not leave his seat until he reached Enlightenment and his deep meditation, he had shifted himself out of samsara (the world of spiritual darkness, ignorance, and other negative emotions) and passed into Nirvana, a realm where all cravings and fears cease. His focus had been greatly tested by an onslaught of terrifying delusions conjured up by Mara, the King of Delusions, but every obstacle was transformed by his empty mind in single-pointed focus, and they fell at his feet in the form of beautiful blossoms. By shifting into Nirvana, the cause for his being further reborn into samsara had been eradicated.
When he first started to teach the findings of his enlightenment to others, he said,
I have now found the cause of delusion that could not be found before, and which had caused me to endlessly repeat lives of suffering. But now, I have uncovered the cause. Oh Delusion, you have been vanquished and I have entered the state of Nirvana. Where once there was delusion, there is now the wondrous balm of Nirvana.’
Then, at the end of his long ministry, the final teachings were revealed for the first time exactly to bring out the Buddha Nature (see my article) of all attending. Buddha referred to it in another memorable phrase as, ‘the hidden essence of tathagatas (fully enlightened beings), something ever-present and unchanging.’ This is the mystical universal element of the Buddha’s teachings, which he deliberately revealed before his physical death so that the body of the teachings were perfected and would live on in the Dharmakaya – the body of the Buddha’s teachings, tantamount to the Buddha’s physical body.(see my article athttp://wp.me/p3O6mn-4P) He lists the numerous benefits of being able to encounter and hear such Dharma (see my article) at the time of his Great Parinirvana.
Here are just a few. He compares the Nirvana teachings to the sun, which will make any fog vanish. If the teachings reach the ears of sentient beings, all ills and unrelenting negative karma will be extinguished. Because of this final teaching, the Dharma will never cease, and the sangha (spiritual community) will overcome any obstacles. The Nirvana teachings lead to attaining ‘immeasurable merit and inexhaustible enlightenment.’
As the culmination of his human existence, this teaching was the Buddha’s final gift to the world of samsara so that all sentient beings, without discrimination, could reach Nirvana and the extinguishing of all suffering.
Perhaps the most surprising and magical benefit of this teaching is that even if seekers of enlightenment cannot actually hear this wonderful Dharma, it will radiate through the 84,000 pores of their skin, and cause all beings to aspire to attaining supreme enlightenment. This is a truly mystical aspect of the teachings that had never been presented before. Once the teaching passes in through the pores of the body, the aspiration for enlightenment is strengthened in a wondrous way.
There is a mystical aspect to most religions, but when a spiritual leader dies, this is the time that certain powers are activated so that the teachings can continue onwards, and the faith of its believers is deepened and made unwavering. But, what is the mystical and why do human beings need it to deepen their faith? By its nature, the mystical is often not logical or visible to the naked eye, and concerns powers locked in the storehouse of the universe, which only the initiated can access. Some call it Universal Truth.
I myself have encountered the mystical while practicing these Nirvana Teachings. Through my training I have learned to discern signs and indications, which give me an insight into the vast invisible world of which the visible is only a tiny part, and into the past, present and future. If we view difficult or painful situations in everyday life with human eyes, then often we cannot apprehend or perhaps accept them. But if we are able to open our spiritual eyes, through practice and guidance from our Masters, then we can discern a bigger picture, more extensive conditions which have precipitated the perplexing event or situation.
Knock upon yourself as upon a door, and walk upon yourself as on a straight road. For if you walk on that path, you cannot go astray; and when you knock on that door, what you open for yourself shall open.’
This is another mystical hint. Because we each construct the world in our own minds and we are convinced it is real, then our capacity to catch the mystical depends on our ability to step outside that construction and experience reality, experience the actual weather and quality of the air for ourselves instead of interpreting it with our minds through concepts. Therefore, the first step is to take control of our minds and touch our self-honesty, because the mystical cannot be accessed if we are not totally sincere in our beliefs and practices. As we are architects of our own worlds, we are the only ones who can deconstruct them and start to connect directly with the Universe.
In the case of indigenous tribes, which as mentioned in previous article I have had direct experience of, it really is clear from they way they live their daily lives that they do not make concepts or interpret the world as we do, but instead live in direct commune with the spiritual, the mystical. In our so-called ‘developed’ civilisations, we have become distant from the sacred, the divine spark. It has been replaced by the secular, diversity, layers and layers of thinking, speculating, measuring and comparing. Indigenes live directly and retain the skills that we all once had when the gods walked among us. I have seen this with my own eyes. The Dreaming Lands of Australian aboriginals is the invisible world, it is the mystical, in which they are totally immersed. There is no duality for them as there is for us. (see my experience in Easy-Happy-Sexy which is being serialized on ValidLit.com at http://wp.me/p3PG1V-3m)
We humans relate to the mystical, to the boundless and eternal, because we are originally spirit. We are born flesh in order to learn the lessons of becoming an excellent human being, who can love unconditionally and live in true happiness. We may try to convince ourselves consciously that we cannot possibly believe in something formless, invisible, which we can have little control over. But the bulk of the iceberg of consciousness that lies below the water, craves the formless, the welling up of feelings, the unwavering belief that our spirits are indestructible and pristine and bright. That goodness and light are natural; evil and darkness, the handywork of delusions; and that words are crude tools to attempt to describe the fundamental presence or ever-presence of the spirit. Human life without true awe and humility is shallow and weak, and often declines into a self-serving and limited existence. We are each inseparable from the divine.
The supreme power of the universe once extended to us weak sense-bound humans makes anything possible. In Shinnyo Buddhism, which places the Nirvana teachings at it centre, by tapping into the storehouse of power of the MahaParinirvana Sutra, my Master H.H. Shinjo Ito released 3 such powers which benefit sincere practitioners: Shouju – the power of embracement beyond barriers of culture, creed, race or religion; Saisho – compassion with no distinction between friend or foe; and Bakudaiju – which protects people from death, disease and accident. Such transcendent powers (Skt. Abhijna) are not easily accepted by modern people who seem able to find sufficient magic in technology and science, in consciousness-altering substances, in wealth and fame. They view such phenomena with superstition.
Regarding these transcendent powers, the Buddha pointed out to his devotees that:
Since these bodhisattva-mahasattvas dwell in great nirvana, they will manifest various kinds of transcendent powers limitlessly.’
Nirvana is also the dwelling place of tathagatas, so we are able to directly experience the remarkable power that Buddhas manifest there. They can further help us to open our eyes of wisdom. This is the legacy the Buddha left as he shifted back to the spiritual source, having perfected the teachings during his time in human form and made keys available to unlock the treasure house of the MahaParinirvana Teachings.