Thursday, July 8, 2010

Being Present: the Buddha's Relationships

Eckhart Tolle explains being present in relationships that have a past, such as those with partners, parents, and people who trigger us. How will we be happy in spite of the content of forms appearing in the present moment (the now)? If we ourselves become the space for those things to appear in then the future or whatever comes into it is no longer threatening. Why? So long as we are not trying to find ourselves in the future, our identity is not in things, and nothing that matters can be added or taken away. Then we find peace here and now. Otherwise, our lives are full of effort, strain, and stress -- and we are not being ourselves. Being caught up in relationships, the same things happened to the Buddha before his renunciation and enlightenment. (That period is designated by referring to him as the Bodhisatta, the being bent on enlightenment, or as Siddhartha Gautama also spelled Gotama).

Siddhartha's Life Before Renouncing
Buddhist Scriptures by E.J. Thomas (pp. 32-36)
SIDDHARTHA GOTAMA, at the age of sixteen, was married to his cousin, Yasodhara, who in the sacred texts is usually called "the mother of Rahula." After his enlightenment Gotama returned to his native city, [wandering for] alms through the streets. His father came and was converted.

His wife remained in her room till Gotama should come to her, saying, "If I am virtuous enough to merit this honor, my husband will come himself to see me, and then I will salute him respectfully." This he did, and his father told how since she had heard that her husband was wearing yellow robes and eating one meal a day, she had done the same. His son Rahula entered the Order (Sangha).

AT that time, on hearing that the mother of Rahula had borne a son, [his father] King Suddhodana sent the message, "Announce the happy news to my son." The Bodhisatta, when he heard, said, "Rahula [an impediment] is born, a fetter is born." The king asked, "What did my son say?" and on hearing the words, said, "Henceforth let the name of my grandson be prince Rahula." But the Bodhisatta mounted a splendid chariot and entered the city with great honor and most delightful majestic glory.

At that time a girl of the warrior caste named Kisagotami had gone to the top of the palace and beheld the beauty and glory of the Bodhisatta, as he made a rightwise procession round the city; and, filled with joy and delight, she made this solemn utterance:

Happy indeed that mother is,
Happy indeed that father is,
Happy indeed that wife is,
Whose husband is such as he.

The Bodhisatta, on hearing it, thought, "Thus she spoke; on her seeing such a form a mother's heart wins nirvana, a father's heart wins nirvana, a wife's heart wins nirvana. Now on what being extinguished* [nirvaner'ed, or quenched, slaked, cooled] does the heart attain nirvana?"

[*NOTE: The word is nibbuta. It is the same word that is translated "happy" in the utterance of Kisagotami. Gotama plays on the other meaning of the word and makes her saying an argument for renunciation. Buddhist Scriptures, by E.J. Thomas, [1913], at]

And with aversion in his mind for the passions he thought, "When the fire of lust is extinguished nirvana is won; when the fire of hate, the fire of delusion are extinguished, nirvana is won; when pride, false views, and all the passions and pains are extinguished, nirvana is won. She has taught me a good lesson, for I am in search of nirvana; even today ought I to reject and leave a household life, and go forth from the world to seek nirvana. Let this be her teacher's fee."

And taking from his neck a pearl necklace worth 100,000 pieces, he sent it to Kisagotami. She was filled with delight, and thought, "Prince Siddhattha has fallen in love with me, and has sent me a present."

But the Bodhisatta with great majestic glory entered his palace and lay down on the royal bed. Now beautiful women, decked with all adornments, well trained in dancing, singing, and so on, like celestial girls [devas or asparvas], took various musical instruments, and came round him, diverting him with dancing, singing, and music.


The Bodhisatta, through his mind being averse to the passions, took no pleasure in the dancing and music, and fell asleep for a short time. The women thought, "He for whose sake we are dancing and singing has fallen asleep; why do we now weary ourselves?" And taking their instruments they strewed them about and lay down. Lamps of perfumed oil were burning.

The Bodhisatta, on waking up, sat cross-legged upon the bed and saw the women sleeping with their instruments thrown about, some with [slobber] trickling and their bodies wet with spittle, some grinding their teeth, some snoring, some muttering, some with open mouths, some with their dress fallen apart and [normally covered] parts disclosed. On seeing their disgraceful appearance he was still more averse to pleasures.

The hall, though adorned and decorated like the palace of Sakka [king of the devas in the Heaven of the Thirty-three], seemed to him like a cemetery filled with all sorts of corpses strewn about, and the three modes of existence [in the sense sphere, the fine material sphere, and the immaterial sphere] appeared like a house on fire. His solemn utterance broke forth, "How oppressive it is, how afflicting it is!" and his thought turned mightily to abandoning the world.

Thinking, "Today I must make the great renunciation," he rose from his bed and went towards the door. "Who is there?" he [asked]. Channa, who had put his head on the threshold, said, "Noble sir, it is I, Channa."

The Bodhisatta said,] "Today I wish to [renounce and leave the palace]; saddle me a horse." Channa replied, "Yes, your Highness," and taking the horse-trappings he went to the stable, and by the light of scented oil-lamps he saw Kanthaka, [the Bodhisatta's horse] the king of horses, standing in a goodly stall beneath a jasmine-flowered canopy. "This is the one I must saddle today," he said, and he saddled Kanthaka.


The horse, as he was being saddled, thought, "This is very tight harness; it is not like harness used on other days in going for pleasure in the park. My noble master must today be wishing to make the great renunciation." So with delighted mind he gave a great neigh. The sound would have extended through the whole city, but the [devas] suppressed the sound and allowed no one to hear.

When the Bodhisatta had sent Channa [for the horse], he thought, "Now I will go and see my son," and rising from where he was sitting cross-legged When the Bodhisatta had sent Channa, he thought, "Now I will go and see my son," and rising from where he was sitting cross-legged he went to the room of [his wife] Rahula's mother and opened the door.

At that moment a scented oil-lamp was burning in the room. The mother of Rahula was sleeping on a bed strewn with jasmine and other flowers and with her hand on her son's head. The Bodhisatta put his foot on the threshold and stood looking. "If I move the queen's hand and take my son, the queen will awake. Thus there will be an obstacle to my going. When I have become [enlightened] I will come and see him." And he went down from the palace.


[With Channa riding behind him he passed through the city-gates, which were opened by divine beings (devas), and rode as far as the river Anoma. He there crossed the river, cut off his hair, and sent Channa back with the horse.]

But the horse Kanthaka, who stood listening to the voice of the Bodhisatta, as he deliberated with Channa, thought, "Now I shall never see my master again." And when he passed out of sight, he was unable to bear the grief, and his heart broke, and he died and was born again in the heaven of the Thirty-three [devas] as a son of the gods [a devaputra, which simply means reborn among celestial devas] named Kanthaka.

At first Channa had had one grief, but when Kanthaka died, he was overcome by a second grief and returned weeping and lamenting to the city. (Jatakas. Introduction I. 60 f.) More stories at

No comments: