The assembly of distinguished monks and dignitaries under the twin Sala trees implored the Buddha for his final instructions and blessings about how bodhisattvas in the Land Immovable (in Nirvana) attain wisdom and become masters of great virtue. He states them from the clarity of his pure treasure mind, stipulating exactly those who may be reborn in the Land Immovable (Nirvana).
The important requirements are:
- not to harm any living being
- to abide by the precepts
- to accept the Buddha’s teachings without question
- to not steal from others but instead to give to others indiscriminately
He then gives instructions for living in human life and not monastic, which as we saw from the last article, was a departure from all previous teachings aimed at monastics. But now, by accepting lay Chunda’s offering and praising his sincerity above his knowledge or religious practice, he broadens the field so that all beings may become enlightened to Nirvana.
He cites the building of living quarters and lodges for monastic practitioners, and the creation of Buddha images. If great joy is taken in these undertakings it is a sure way to be reborn. And those who do not seek worldly profit, or harbour fears or tell lies about themselves or others, are good candidates. Those who do not hurt or harm teachers of the Dharma, stay away from unwholesome circles, and try to harmonise with everyone they come into contact with in their interactions, will become enlightened. The Buddha stresses the importance of choosing and saying proper words to the appropriate people at all times.
He wishes his disciples to be able to stand whole-heartedly in the shoes of others, to share their pain and their joy, and for them to avoid making others worry or suffer through their behaviour. Also, to speak always in a kind way to their parents, and to avoid having wrong views of life in general. Reciting sutras every day for the welfare of others, and observing the precepts (8 precepts- the usual 5 and the 3 monastic precepts on certain days of the month) are essential.
Then he implores his disciples not to violate the precepts in daily life, or to mingle with those who violate them, and he strongly requests that they should speak sternly to anyone who slanders the sutras. All Buddhist paraphernalia should be protected and cherished, and the ground around monasteries should be cleaned regularly. Those who give their wealth to Dharma teachers, and copy and recite the profound teachings of all Buddhas will, without doubt, be born again in the Land Immovable.
This is the legacy that the fading Buddha leaves, entrusting it to his disciples, and instructing them to go forwards into the future, scrupulously handing down the wisdom and compassion to their own disciples so that the Dharma can be preserved forever. This is also the legacy that we have been handed from our gurus and masters today. It has been flawlessly transmitted through the lineages and adapted to new cultures and epochs. Today, in the 21st century, Buddhists follow his last instructions still, though various schools emphasize earlier teachings.
It is a truly marvelous and auspicious privilege to be connected to the Buddhadharma, and especially so today when the beings in the world are mostly intent upon satisfying their own self-centred needs. To repeat a sentiment from an earlier article, encountering the Buddha’s teachings is tantamount to a sea turtle poking it’s head through a hole in a piece of drift-wood on the surface of a vast ocean (see Hearing the Dharma article). I personally could have no physical connection with Buddhism in working class northern Britain, and yet I heard a radio feature in my childhood introducing the rareness of encountering the Buddha’s teachings, and so developed an aspiration to find the Buddha and his Dharma. You can read more about my spiritual journey into Buddhism in ‘My Path So Far.” (see may article, http://wp.me/P3O6mn-i)
In respect of Holy Precepts, Holy meditation, and Holy wisdom, the Buddha a little later goes on to advise against straying from the correct path. He warns that the precepts are to be followed for the happiness of others, not primarily our own, so that the Dharma may be protected for eternity. Neither must we vow to keep the precepts out of fear of falling into the lower realms of existence. They should not be practiced in order to gain benefits and to access the superb power to be liberated from all happiness. He warns too about not mindlessly heeding the precepts in order to avoid damage to your reputation.
True practice of the precepts then is to generate Bodhicitta, the force which will liberate all beings from suffering and protect and uphold the Dharma and the Dharma still to come, to enlighten the unenlightened, and coax people back to the sacred, their natural state. In one respect, as chronological time moves in a linear way always forward, we humans are getting further and further away from our original state of Grace. Once, before the Buddha’s time, Indian having already started to decline when he started to teach in this way, the divine was near at hand. It is said that in the Golden Era, the gods walked among men so there was no distance between the secular and the sacred, no dualism. All beings were sacred and quickly attained enlightenment. Nowadays, many of us are far from the sacred, and the divine spark which we are all blessed with, is virtually extinguished. We need to approach the sacred once again and polish our true nature. (see my article, http://wp.me/p3O6mn-cF)
He also tells his disciples that those who truly abide by the precepts are not aware consciously of doing so. When they are sincerely practicing for the liberation of all sentient beings at every possible moment, their practice is not self-conscious. In other words, they are not aware they are doing anything special or unusual. They have naturally connected with their divine nature and are able to accept everything that occurs in their lives with equanimity, and to live with sincere joy.
In terms of Holy Meditation, his instructions are also very clear. Again, if the motivation to meditate is to achieve one’s own enlightenment and to gain benefits, then this is not the correct way. If, on the other hand, the aspirant is practicing for the sake of other beings or the protection of the Dharma, and to stay away from the impurities of the body, greed, disputes, and physical violence, then this is the correct way. Focused meditation in these last teachings is defined as ‘altruistic action that benefits others.’
Another way of expressing this is through mindfulness. If we practice mindfulness at every moment of our daily lives as householders, we can: prevent regression into lower states of mind; have pure faith; work for the sake of others; protect the precious Dharma; encourage all beings to aspire to become enlightened; be free from delusions; achieve an unwavering state of mind; acquire merit by reciting dharanis (mantras); be able to expound the Dharma freely; and finally, to perceive our Buddha Nature or True Nature.
It is clear that the motivation or intent to meditate must be pure. It should be conducted at an unconscious level, without attention to form or even to be aware of meditating, and certainly to have no outcomes in mind. If our conscious state shifts when we meditate, approaching a state of emptiness, then we can truly connect with the flawless Dharma stream directly to the Buddha, the Dharmakaya or body of the teachings.
Holy Wisdom follows a similar vein. It should not be conscious or self-serving. If the aspirant is seeking an aim to or level of wisdom, then they will never acquire ultimate wisdom. True wisdom is closely dovetailed with compassion. We can vow to take on the agony and suffering of others, to release them from their negative wrong views and from the cycle of perpetual rebirth in the lower realms. The wise are able to put aside their own needs and wishes entirely and be willing to stay in samsara expressly to help to liberate others who are trapped in their delusions. In conclusion, the wise wish all beings to attain perfect universal enlightenment – in Sanskrit – anuttara-samyak-sambodai-shin.
If we are truly wise, we do not recognize the acquisition or form of that wisdom. There should be no conditions placed on attaining wisdom. We train wholly for the sake of others, and eventually the mundane ego-mind entirely disappears. To put this more succinctly, someone who observes the precepts, meditates in the fashion described, and acquires wisdom unknowingly, is called a Bodhisattva. (see my article -http://wp.me/p3O6mn-6r)
As an aspirant myself, I try to abide by this advice. I have found it useful to keep the following in mind when aspiring. To help us to aspire in the right way, we might remember that our origin, before our appearance in the physical dimension as a human of flesh and blood, was spirit. And when our human body decays, as the Buddha’s did, we will return to the spirit world. We take on the form of a human being to learn how to become a Bodhisattva, how to become consistently compassionate and unconditionally loving. We can easily connect with our spiritual pathway if we open our hearts and empty our minds, then devote ourselves to the Bodhisattva’s Way for the sake of all sentient beings.
Article 8: The Importance of Meditation.