Monday, November 13, 2017

"Escape to Reality"

Ananda Pereira (, rewritten by Dhr. Seven, Ananda, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly

Buddhahood (samma-sam-bodhi or supremely fulfilled enlightenment) is a process of self-improvement that goes far beyond the level sufficient for personal liberation. It comes with the ability to effectively teach the Dharma enlightenment rediscovers.

This kind of buddha -- like the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, Siddhartha Gautama the Scythian/Sakyian prince from Central Asia -- wishes to guide others as well. But one can only do so by teaching them how to help themselves. There is no "salvation by proxy." No one can save another, although one can certainly help so much that it seems that this is what has happened.

Kick ass, Buddha! Hell yeah, Ireland!
This may sound like a hard or callous teaching, but it is the marriage of wisdom and compassion, a reasonable one, and it fits into the pattern of life as we know it. Would it be better to drown trying to swim for others?

One cannot eat for another or learn meditating for another or keep healthy for another -- no matter how much we love them, how selfless we are, or how wise we may consider ourselves. Our wisdom shines in effectively encouraging others. In a sense, we can't do it ourselves, yet no one can do it for us. So what to do? Let us do it with help, with advice, with some guidance, with our own effort and determination tempered by those who have already succeeded in reaching complete freedom.

Oh, I get it now. I thought I could hire someone.
Nor can one “atone” for the wickedness and folly of another. Each must pay one's own debts and shape one's own destiny. Even supreme teaching buddhas (as contrasted with nonteaching buddhas and personal buddhas, pacceka-buddhas, and disciple-arhats) can only show the way.

No one saves us but ourselves
No one can and no one may
We ourselves must tread the Path;
Buddhas only point the way.

A buddha, also called a Tathāgata (a Wayfarer, Well-Gone One, Welcome One), is a teacher in the truest and highest sense of the word. One cannot place a limit to the value of such a teacher. Life after life, through countless aeons (kalpas), beings live in darkness. They cling to this false beliefs (wrong views) and to that. They live, die, and live again, life after life on and on, now in states of pleasure, now in states of pain. But they do not know how to win freedom from it all, how to get off the tiresome merry-go-round of samsara.

I get it, I get it now. It's as simple as this.
Then, like the dawning of a glorious day, a buddha appears. He teaches the Way of Freedom. Some leap to this Teaching and profit by it immediately. They are the ready ones, like the great arhats of the Buddha’s day. For them, a single stanza, a phrase, a word [some say even an intimation like picking up a flower and looking at it, as in a famous albeit apocryphal Mahayana sutra] may be sufficient.

Others take longer to learn. Still others do not learn at all. They are as unprepared for the Buddha-Dharma as a kindergarten child is unprepared for the Theory of Relativity.

Who are those ready ones who profit immediately by the appearance of a buddha? According to the Buddha himself, they are those who are meditative. Already, on their own, perhaps in many past lives, they have trained themselves to be calm and think clearly. They have developed their minds and hearts with wisdom and compassion.

To them, the “effort” of following the Buddha’s Teaching is a glad one. They do not yearn after the so-called prizes of life, the wealth, the fame, the power, the worldly reputation that others find so alluring. They see much greater worth in such things as peace of mind, joyful contentment, and true freedom. They take easily to the Way and are delivered from the bonds of Māra (Rebirth and Death), the bonds of desire, ill-will, and ignorance. They win freedom.

Higher than lordship over all earth,
Higher than residing in heavens supreme,
Higher than imperial power over all the worlds,
Is the Fruit of Entrance into the Dharma Stream.
The Dhammapada

We ordinary worldlings see greatness in worldly success. To us a reigning sovereign [like Trump or star entertainer] is great, a multi-millionaire is great, a famous actor, designer, doctor, business owner, lawyer, or photographer is great. We measure greatness by the yardstick of worldly influence or fame.
To the historical Buddha, greatness was something entirely different. He saw beings dying and being reborn according to their karma (the storehouse of their "actions" -- thoughts, words, and deeds).
He knew that an emperor can be reborn as a termite. He saw that, in this world of ceaseless change, there is only insecurity in worldly power, and there is no stability in worldly fame.

Death comes to the powerful and the famous just as surely as it comes to the meek and unknown. And with death there is a loss or shedding of worldly power, wealth, and fame. Again and again it happens.
Seen against the background of unceasing change, there is only the unreal in worldly greatness. Even ordinary worldlings can see things as they truly are, in this way, if we take the Buddha’s Teaching to heart and use our discerning intelligence. But few of us do so.

That is why the Buddha said, “Blind is this world. Few are they who truly see.” If, seeing things as they truly are, we refuse to grant that greatness is an attribute of worldly power, fame, or success, must we conclude, that there is no such thing as greatness?
The Buddha’s answer was to point to the stream-winner (sotāpanna), the being who has attained the first stage of enlightenment or "sainthood," as this term (arhat) is understood in Buddhism.

“There” said the Buddha, “is one who is greater than any reigning sovereign (chakravartin, world ruler), than any celestial being (deva), be he even a Brahmā (divinity).”
And, be it remembered, there are three higher stages of enlightenment/sainthood, culminating in the attainment of Final Emancipation as an arhat.
Why is this? A stream-winner o(or stream enterer) may well be a poor person, unknown, and unhonored. By worldly standards one may be a person of no account at all. In what lies this greatness?
Greatness lies in the security of having taken a step upward from which there can be no falling back. Never again will he have the “ego” delusion. Never again will one have doubts as to the true road. Never again will one believe in mere rites and ceremonies. Never again will one break a single one of the five cardinal precepts of virtue (sila).

Never again will one be reborn in a plane lower than the human plane (which includes countless planets like this). One can be reborn, at most, only seven times more before one attains nirvana. [This is by the impersonal cosmic order of things, not by anyone's decree.]

The arhat is like one who, having traversed a terrible desert or barren wilderness, sees ahead the end of the journey: The sand still burns the feet, the sun still blazes down on the head, one is tired and thirsty, but there, within sight, lie the shady trees, the cool ponds of crystal-clear water.

Seeing the goal within sight, one presses on gladly, knowing that soon one will reach the journey’s end. Not for anything in the world would such a person change places with one who is still lost and wandering, hopelessly lost in the desert with no guide to point the way out.

That other person may be a wealthy worldling, richly-dressed, with a large following. But such a person is to be pitied. For that person is a long, long way off from the “journey’s end.”

Power and Freedom

Time and time again in the beginningless succession of past lives which is our existence in saṃsāra, we worldlings have sought power for its own sake [or for its false sense of safety and many possible privileges]. There is something terribly fascinating about the idea of power.

We wish to be “big.” We wish to do “big” things [like conquering, vanquishing, giving, or helping]. We wish to exercise control over our environment. Hardly any of us wishes, or attempts, to exercise control over ourselves.
If a wise person were asked, “What would you do if you were offered dictatorship over all the earth?” that person would answer, “Refuse it, of course.” For the wise do not seek power, nor are they impressed by it. And yet how many of us are wise?

We seek power, imagining that it is the key to happiness. We strive for power, and if we happen to get it, we generally abuse it. The wise seek dominance only over themselves, realizing that therein lies the key to freedom. “Fruit of Entrance into the Dharma Stream” is the first stage of awakening, as taught by the Buddha. It is the threshold of freedom. The stream-winner is beyond the reach of worldly ambition.
One has done away, once and for all, with the desire for worldly trappings. Politicians, every one of whom is at heart a power seeker, sometimes talk of “freedom” as though it were a commodity that could be bought with votes or won in the bloody gambit of a war. But there is no such thing as mass-deliverance into freedom, and there never will be, whatever politicians tell us.

Humanity in the mass is fit only for what it already has, and just at present that looks like the brink of hell. Humanity in the mass may, and very likely will, plunge over the brink and suffer the consequences, for a while. It has happened before and can happen again, for that is the endless story of human foolishness that follows fools for leaders.
But, for the individual, there is always the opportunity to seek freedom. That was the glorious truth taught by the Buddha, and it still holds good. Freedom is not the fruit of worldly power. It is the fruit of virtue and collectedness (mental coherence sometimes labelled concentration or focus), leading to insight (liberating wisdom).
On this road to deliverance, power too comes as a byproduct, a strange new power such as worldlings never dream of. But that is not the goal. It is merely a sign of progress made, an encouragement to further effort.
Freedom is the one and only goal. The Buddha had such power in incalculable measure, and so too did many of the arhats, the enlightened ones. They used it wisely and kindly, to help others, never to exercise dominance over them. More

No comments: