Tag: meditation

Story of the Golden Bowl going upstream

An account narrates a miracle in the Buddha’s life involving a golden bowl. It goes like this:

One day, Buddha had a vivid dream and interpreted it to mean the day he would achieve his enlightenment.

He went to have his meal of the day at the house of a devotee named Sujata. She was a rich noblewoman who believed in charity and providing to bhikkus.

She served him his meal in a golden bowl, offering it to him along with the food. Gautama asked her as to what shall he do with the bowl. To which she said that it belonged to him and he can do whatever he wishes with it. He remarked that he had no use of such a bowl, to which she told him that it would be rude of her to not offer the bowl despite offering the food.

Thus, he left with the bowl in his hands. He came across banks of a river and bathed and ate. Now that the bowl was empty, he threw it into the water as he said “If I am to become a Buddha today, then may the bowl go upstream, else let it go with the current.”

The bowl is said to have floated out of the river and have went upstream, eventually disappearing in a whirlpool. Said to have eventually gone to where bowls of previous Buddhas too went when they were emptied and thrown.

Thus, Buddha ventured forth to find a suitable spot along the river to meditate. Evening came and he discovered a tree of Peepal, now considered the Bodhi tree, or the “Tree of Knowledge”.

He came across a man reaping grass. The reaper is said to have given him eight handfuls of grass for his seat.

Gautama then sat under the tree and began meditating with the strongest resolve to attain the supreme truth.

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The Buddha’s Discovery of the Middle Path

Siddhartha Gautama discovered the Middle Path upon contemplation of his practiced lifestyles. He understood that the moderate path with no extremes would be the best.

Now that Gautama had seen and practiced both extremes of life, he had realised that neither of the two extremes would do any good to him or any individual who would indulge in them. He was now convinced that self harm was no good. Despite the fact that it was considered essential for enlightenment in his day, it actually weakened the body and intelligence.

He thus gave up this extreme of painfulness as he had given up indulgence in his life as a prince. He then thought about swaying towards neither side but rather living a life which would be the mean of these two. This would later be known as the Middle Path.

Gautama then recalled the ploughing incident in his childhood and how he had attained the first jhāna. He realised that this was the path of enlightenment; by living by the Middle path and meditating as he did back then, he can attain his goal.

Realising that enlightenment cannot be achieved with a weak and exhausted body, he decided to take care of his body. Even when his companions had left him alone, he did not lose hope. Contrary, it benefitted him in the same manner as it did when they had accompanied him in struggles.

After his enlightenment, this concept of moderation was manifested as the Eightfold Noble Path. Which is now considered a means to live by moderation and achieve enlightenment with practice.

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Buddha’s second teacher – Uddaka Ramaputta

After leaving Alara Kalama, Gautama went in search to find a new teacher. He came across Uddaka Ramaputta, who was well known for his wisdom and meditation techniques.

“Ramaputta” implies that he was either son or disciple of Rama. His predecessor had achieved the highest realm of “jhana” and was able to attain a deep state of mind with meditation.

He expressed his desire to lead Holy Life in solace and became his pupil. However, here too, he soon mastered the teachings and was able to achieve a high level of meditation as taught to him; It is called “N’eva Sanna N’asannayatana” or the realm of neither perception nor Non-perception.

The difference here was that while Alara Kalama had taught to concentrate on ‘nothingness’, Uddaka taught him to enter this state of mind.

Uddaka too was delighted to hear of his pupil’s success. Unlike Alara Kalama, Uddaka Ramaputta invited Gautama to take full charge of all the ascetics and lead them.
Yet, he felt that his aim was not yet achieved. He had attained mastery of his mind but his ultimate goal extended these limits. Ascetics of his day considered this to be the highest level of achievement, even so, it did not satisfy Gautama. Even Uddaka had no heard of somebody who could help him further. Uddaka himself was not enlightened and realised that Gautama’s goal was beyond his confinements of doctrine and teachings.
Still searching for Nirvana/Nibbana, he left his company.

By now he had realised that his aspirations surpassed under those who taught him. He came to understand that nobody could teach him the highest truth unless he searches for it within himself rather than seek external aid. Thus, he endured by himself to seek a means to find a means to end the cycle of suffering.

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Alara Kalama: One of Buddha’s First Teachers

Alara Kalama was one of the first ascetic teachers the Buddha came across in his journey.

As a wandering bhikku, a searcher after what is great, seeking the ultimate Peace, he came across Alara Kalama, a recognized monk, and stated his desire to live a holy life under his guidance. Alara Kalama agreed and let him stay in the abode. Alara Kalama said that his teachings are simple and a smartman can realize them by his own wisdom and contemplation and follow it likewise.
A while later, he had learnt his teachings, however they presented to him no acknowledgment of the most astounding Truth.

At that point there came to him the idea that the doctrine is not just based on faith. When Alara Kalama himself agrees that anybody can understand it with their own endeavours and follow it; undoubtedly, Alara Kalama lives having comprehended and seen this teaching.

So he went to him and asked “How far does this teaching of intuitive wisdom extend to?”. Alara Kalama told him about the Realm of Nothingness (Akincannayatana), a advance phase of Concentration.

He thought that while his teacher possessed confidence, power, focus, and knowledge, he too had those qualities. Likewise, he also understood the doctrine which his guru had arrived at.

Thus, he realised that while he understands the doctrine, it is not helping him realise his goal. He sought the higher Truth of life.
He then approached Alara Kalama and asked him if his doctrine was limited to this extent, he wanted to learn more.

Kalama was glad to hear how much Siddhartha had achieved. He honoured him by offering him to lead his company of ascetics.

Siddhartha Gautama was not content. He sought more than just mental concentration, he wanted to cease disgust, suffering, and achieve detachment and calmness. He was not anxious to lead the company too, yet he felt the need to perfect himself before he does something similar. He likened it to blind leading the blind and politely took his leave.

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Monk : The sight which gave Buddha inspiration

The sight of a monk was the last of the four sights which compelled the Buddha to seek a means to end suffering and eventually be enlightened.
After numerous days of consideration and pain, Siddhartha went to the city for the fourth time. As he was heading to the park, he saw a man wearing an orange shaded robe. He asked Channa about the man in robes. Channa told him that the robed man was a monk. He was enthralled by the ascetic in saffron robes. The monk’s serene strides, calm face, tranquility and the look of being unbound from the world. The Prince wondered how brilliant it would be, to become a Samanna. At that point it struck Him, this is the path, to go in seeking for the truth. He knew, when one doesn’t have anything to own, one feels free. In this manner, letting the characteristics of the psyche to develop and appear, bringing peace, and the acknowledgment of the cause of suffering.

Living in the Palace could never give the freedom of the monk. It would, however, be a deterrent to the path of freedom and truth. He made plans to leave the Palace and turn into a sammana(wandering monk), and carry on with an ascetic life, endeavoring until discovering the cause of suffering. By doing so, he could help everybody live a tranquil and content life. Resolved to do that, the Prince came back to the Palace.

He strolled for a while to think some more. As he was sitting under the cool shady tree, news came that his wife had given birth to a son. When he heard the news he stated, “An obstruction (“rahula”) has been destined to me, a barrier to my abandonment has been conceived,”. Along these lines, his child was named Rahula. Rahula implies a block in way. A newborn child implies a barrier on the way to become a monk.

As he was coming back to the palace he met a Princess named Kisagotami. She had been watching out of the castle window and, seeing the sovereign coming, was so taken by his attractive looks that she said uproariously, “Gracious! How cheerful must be the mother, and father, and the spouse of such a nice looking youthful prince!”

As he passed this lady, Siddhartha heard this and pondered internally, “In a nice looking figure the mother, father and spouse discover bliss. Be that as it may, but how can one escape snags and enduring to achieve nirvana?”. He understood what he should do after this question and decided to abandon his family life and resign from the world in journey of illumination. He sent her a teacher’s fee. Siddhartha respected his pledge and sent it to Kisagotami to appreciate what she unknowingly taught him.

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Ploughing Festival – Incident in Buddha’s life and its legacy

The Ploughing Festival originates from the times when Prince Gautama seven years old. It is also known as Royal Ploughing Ceremony. It was the premise of an ordeal which would later assist him in his search for Enlightenment.
The King  Sudhodana organized a ploughing festival to promote agriculture. It was for sure a merry event for all, as the both nobles and average citizens partook in the function.

The King went to the field on the designated day, joined by his squires. He brought along with him the young child along with the caretakers. The King took part in the furrowing celebration too. He seated young Siddhartha at a place under the cool shade of a singular rose-apple tree to be taken care of by the nurses. The attendants too wandered off from the young prince to get a look at the exhibition when the celebration was at its peak.

It was quiet and calm under the rose-apple tree, contrasting the cheerfulness of the celebration. The conditions were right for meditation, the thoughtful prince, sat with folded legs and grabbed the chance to start the extremely critical routine with regards to purpose : fixation on the breath – on exhalations and inward breaths – which picked up for him without further ado that one sharpness of mind known as Samādhi.

He, in this way, built up the First Jhāna (Ecstasy). His attendants hurried to the child when they understood their obligation, and were astounded to see him sitting leg over leg dove in profound meditation. The King, knowing about it, rushed to the spot and saw the youngster in reflective stance, saluted him, saying – “This child is my second homage”.

The Ploughing Festival in Theravada Countries

The Ploughing Festival is an ancient royal custom held in many South East Asian countries, signifying the traditional beginning of the rice growing season. The royal ploughing ceremony was also a custom in Myanmar before colonization until the monarchy was abolished in 1885.

As of now, the festival is practiced in Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

Royal Ploughing Festival

The Ritual

It is usually held in the month of May. Buddhist monks sit with folded legs near a Buddha statue looking down on the rice ploughing. White oxen pull decorated plough as they are followed by people playing music and bearing banners. Then the Lord of the Festival digs three short furrows rice is sown in them.

The oxen are offered food after the ploughing, including rice, green beans, sesame, corn, fresh-cut grass, water and rice whisky.

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