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The Historical Buddha, Sakyamuni

first of four on the historical Buddha  second of four on the historical Buddha  third of four on the historical Buddha  This page: last of four on the historical Buddha

(...continued from Part 3)

8.    He then set out for Vajrasana, the place we now call Bodh Gaya. It is said to be the spiritual ‘centre of gravity' of this world and the place where each of the 1,002 Buddhas will manifest enlightenment. On the way there, he met another person with a special dharma connection: a young man who offered him a bundle of kusha grass as a meditation cushion. Arriving beneath the great tree, a ficus religiosus, he arranged the grass and sat in meditation.

9.    From an absolute point of view, Sakyamuni was already completely purified and realised. He had already become the perfection of dharmakaya. But to instil, on a relative level, an understanding of the need to attain total virtue and wisdom, he needed to show attainment of this utter purity. Having taken up his seat under the bodhi tree, he entered into the absorption in dharmakaya known as the ‘vajra-like samadhi'. With his manifestation of enlightenment imminent, the hosts of negative energies and beings of this world came to distract him. They produced phantasms of sensuality, hordes of frightening demon armies and other illusions, in a vain attempt to hinder his achievement. By his remaining unperturbed in the natural loving compassion and voidness of the vajra-like samadhi, the hosts of negative forces (mara) were defeated. The weapons they threw turned into flowers, adorning the Buddha's presence. It is said, in certain scriptures, that these evil entities were unable to affect India for many centuries following this: it seemed to them as though it were protected by a great wall of impenetrable fire. Thus the golden age of enlightened teachings could establish itself. The outer ‘evil forces' are the external mirror image of the internal ones. One could also consider the Buddha's total enlightenment as being the final elimination of every trace of the ‘four evils' (four mara): those of death, the defilements, the aggregates and pride.


Then, perfect enlightenment, the turning of the wheel of dharma and passing into supreme nirvana.
In all these places, so impure,
the nirmanakaya shows these deeds as long as worlds endure.

10.    At dawn the next morning, the day of the full moon in the Vaishakha month, he manifested total enlightenment. He was thirty-five. After three cosmic aeons of association with this world, he at last appeared in it as a fully purified being, a flawless expression of the absolute truth and the presence of omniscience. Thus he became a peerless guide for all living beings for thousands of years to come.

11.    He did not start teaching the buddhadharma immediately but remained in silence for some weeks, in order to show the profundity of what he had realised and to give the deva of the planet the chance to gather virtue by requesting him to teach. They eventually came to him, prostrated and supplicated him to turn the wheel of universal truth for the welfare of beings on Earth. Something similar to this was happening in all the other planets that fell within the scope of his activity. In the deer forests near Benares and other places, he taught the Four Truths and 84,000 dharmas common to all Buddhism. At the Vulture Peak and other lesser-known places, he taught the special path of mahayana. To King Indrabhuti and others, he taught the secret teachings of vajrayana. Over a forty-five year period, and through the three turnings of the wheel of dharma, he transmitted all that needed to be known: the profound path to peace and everlasting happiness.

12.    Throughout all this time, the Buddha had been an expression of dharmakaya, which is beyond any coming or going. Yet, in order to instil diligence and a sense of urgency in his disciples, and in order to dispel the wrong notions of his having eternal, concrete divinity or the wrong notions of nihilism, he passed into parinirvana. If even the physical presence of buddha must seem to die, how much more so the likes of ordinary beings! His passing also highlighted the need for all Buddhists to assume personal responsibility for their own welfare, and not to be over-dependent upon the spiritual radiance of others. Buddha Sakyamuni's life, chosen here to exemplify the meaning of the term ‘supreme nirmanakaya', is not unique. The twelve deeds are typical of the activity of such supreme nirmanakaya throughout the universe. Whenever worlds are ready to receive them, those already enlightened in sublime spheres demonstrate these twelve deeds, which establish the universal truths of dharma in the very best and most lasting way. It is the supreme dialogue between truth and ignorance, between the pure and the impure, that will continue for as long as worlds exist.

Om Muni Muni Mahamuni Sakyamuniye Swaha