Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When The Buddha Was Bad In College

When The Buddha Was Bad In College Image
The Bodhisatta endured many rebirths on the way to "sambodhi"* (buddhasdharma blog)

Before gaining supreme enlightenment the Buddha did a few things he wished he hadn't. Prior to becoming a "buddha "(a supremely enlightened being) the Buddha is referred to as the Bodhisatta. A "buddha "is always good. It is one of the nine characteristics of those who have reached the pinnacle of compassion, virtue, and wisdom. Because having perfected the Ten Paramis, one is able to rediscover and effectively teach the timeless Dharma to beings swept away by the flood of Samsara and suffering.

But before one reaches "buddhahood", one spends an almost incalculable amount of time to get to perfect-enlightenment ("sambodhi"). That's when the Buddha was bad. During those aeons as a "bodhisatta" (Sanskrit, "bodhisattva") striving to develop the Ten Perfections, mistakes were made.

Many rebirth stories (such as Jataka Tales 498, 421, and 282 recounted here) abound with the Buddha-to-be's goodness, kindness, and developing virtue. The Bodhisatta generated a tremendous amount of good karma. He was even a Buddhist monk on a few occasions (in the dispensations of former "buddhas" in the very distant past).

Far rarer, but perhaps more instructive, are the few cases when the Bodhisatta -- who would eventually become Siddhartha, the historical Shakyamuni* -- was bad. After all, a "buddha" is a human being, not a divinity ("brahma") or radiant being ("deva") claiming moral perfection at birth.


Archeological remains of the Buddha and Ananda's alma mater: UT (Taxila College)

On account of unwholesome, unskillful actions (i.e., bad karma), one experiences unpleasant and unfortunate circumstances, such as rebirth in states of deprivation. Even if the results of skillful actions intervene and one avoids those destinations and instead is reborn in a fortunate destination, like the human world, one may nevertheless meet with the results of unskillful actions here. This happened on numerous occasions to the future Buddha and Ananda.*

The Bodhisatta and Ananda-to-be (his cousin in a previous life) were once born as outcasts due to some bad karma ripening in this fortunate world. Their job was fumigating fetid smelling places. In order to escape the contempt and discrimination they experienced, they decided to disguise themselves as brahmins and go to college.

They entered the great university at Takkasila (TAXILA in Gandhara, India, the first university in "known" history). Alas, their deception was discovered. They were beaten up by very privileged and conceited students (the equivalent of "Frat boys" in the INDO-GREEK SYSTEM). A kind and wise professor ordered the students to stop and suggested the outcasts become ascetics, one of the few upwardly mobile positions in ancient India, which at that time spread far to the west.

They followed this good advice. Yet when they died, as a consequence of their unwholesome karma (the deceit involved in passing themselves off as brahmins and trying to steal a precious higher education), they were reborn in the animal world as deer. Even then they were inseparable and were shot by a hunter with the same arrow. Following that -- since it is very difficult to ever make it out once one has fallen into subhuman planes -- they were reborn as sea hawks, who were again killed together by a hunter (Jataka 498).

Having exhausted whatever unprofitable karma had led to those rebirths, they were reborn once again in the human world. Ananda-to-be was a prince; the Bodhisatta was born the son of a brahmin priest in the royal service.

REBORN AS KINGSAnanda-to-be had more power and influence, but the Bodhisatta could remember more of his former lives.* Eventually, the Bodhisatta became an ascetic striving for wisdom and liberation, teaching the happiness of renunciation and the danger of being infatuated with sense pleasures.

Ananda-to-be, who was able to remember his former human life as an outcast, understood. But he was unable to let go of his infatuation with sensuality. He explained that he was like a noble elephant mired in a swamp unable to shake the morass of addiction to sense pleasures that he knew would eventually drag him down.

The ascetic advised him to nevertheless practice virtue, thus storing up merit which is useful in every future endeavor (even unwholesome ones): "Don't overtax the people, support the educated and those who renounce the world [brahmins and recluses]. Instead of giving into passion, look on women as you would your mother or sister. Honor your parents, without whom you would never be king..."

The advice stirred the prince. Both undertook to be ascetics in that life and as a result were reborn as "gods" ("brahmas") in the Brahma World, which is attainable only through dispassion.

Gods ("Brahmas") is neither male nor female but are beyond sex. The Indian conception of the "holy life" (brahmacariya) not only means "celibacy," it literally means "the way to [rebirth in the] brahma[-world]."

After living aeons as powerful divinities in exalted heavens, with the exhausting of that skillful karma, they were again reborn in the human world unaware of their former lives. The Bodhisatta became a poor low-caste laborer, but he resolved to keep the Lunar Observance (Uposatha, the practice of observing additional precepts four times a month) and as a result was reborn as a king. Ananda-to-be was a lowly water-carrier in his kingdom. He had only one coin, which he kept hidden under a rock.

On a festival day his wife encouraged him to celebrate, asking if he had any money. He explained that he had but one coin, hidden 12 miles away. She told him to go get it for she had saved the same amount. He set off in the heat with the expectation of having enough to buy flower garlands, incense, and drinks. He passed the king along the way while singing. The king asked him about it and was moved, offering him a coin so he would not have to travel all that way.

He said he would still travel in order to have two coins. The king gave him two, but still... until the king offered him millions of coins. Yet still Ananda-to-be wanted to fetch his coin. The Bodhisatta offered him a post on top of the money, but since he still wanted his coin, he offered him half his kingdom. They divided it and he was given the name King One Coin.

Such is "evil" (in Buddhism this term refers to latent greed, hatred, and delusion in beings who are not yet enlightened) that the two kings went hunting. Becoming tired, the Bodhisatta placed his head on his friend's lap to nap. King One Coin saw his chance to become king of the entire kingdom. He drew his sword to kill his friend but remembered how he was a poor nothing before being given half. In gratitude, he place his sword back in its sheath. But a second and third time greed overtook him, and he pulled out his sword. Finally, realizing this lust for power would again overtake him, he threw away his weapon. This awoke the king.

He explained and begged forgiveness for his dreadful intentions, but the king offered him the entire kingdom saying he would serve as viceroy. Instead, he chose to renounce his half wanting instead to become an ascetic to uproot lust and greed of all kinds. The Bodhisatta remained in the world as king. Ananda-to-be went to the Himalayas to meditate (Jataka 421).

Later they were both reborn as neighboring kings. But the Bodhisatta, as king of Benares, was too kind. When Ananda-to-be tried to conquer him, the Bodhisatta gave up his kingdom without a fight and was imprisoned. There he practiced loving-kindness meditation towards his conqueror who was overcome with guilt and a fever until he wanted nothing of his spoils. He returned Benares and swore to be a faithful ally. Seeing the danger in ruling, which could be the cause of many being harmed and killed in war, the Bodhisatta renounced his kingdom and became an ascetic and as a result was reborn in the Brahma world heaven, whereas Ananda-to-be remained in the world as king. Source: GREAT DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA

*NOTE ON NOT-SELF ("ANATTA", EMPTINESS)There is a great danger in thinking that the Bodhisatta and the Buddha are one in the same person. They are not. One led to the other -- in a conventional sense -- but is not one and the same person, not a soul, not an identical self traveling through the flood of "Samsara". This cannot be emphasized enough. For anyone who insists that it "is" in some "real" (ultimate) sense the same person being transmigrating or being "reincarnated," it is necessary to read the entry on ANATTa in BUDDHIST DICTIONARY: MANUAL OF DOCTRINES AND TERMS. It is a fundamental teaching of Buddhism that we are not reincarnated but in fact are always "becoming": flowing "impermanently" and "unsatisfactorily" as an "impersonal" process motivated by craving, trapped by ignorance, dependently-arisen, and perishing from moment to moment until such time as nirvana allows for an escape from the suffering of ignorance to the freedom from rebirth of liberation.

by Seven Dharmachari

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