Thursday, February 21, 2013

The world's first enlightened mission

Dhr. Seven, Amber Dorrian, Wisdom Quarterly
The first arhats were also the first missionaries -- enlightened teachers (
The Buddha spent his first rains retreat in the Deer Park at Isipatana. During those three months 50 wanderers headed by Yasa, a young man of wealth, joined the Order. 
Now at that time the Buddha had 60 enlightened disciples, arhats who had realized the Dharma (the liberating truth) and were fully competent to teach it to others. When the rainy season ended and it was safe to travel, the Buddha addressed them:

The Buddha (gingernutdesigns/
"Disciples, released is the Wayfarer from all bonds, human and divine. You are also delivered from all fetters. So go now and wander for the welfare and happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the gain, welfare, and happiness of devas and humans. Let not two of you proceed in the same direction. Proclaim the Dharma that is excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle, and excellent in the end, possessed of substance and meaning, utterly perfected. Proclaim the life of purity, the wholesome life, consummate and uplifting. There are some beings with just a little dust in their eyes who will be lost through not hearing the Dharma, and there are beings who will understand the Dharma. I shall go to Uruvela to Senanigama to teach the Dharma."

World was waiting (Deborah Stevenson)
In this way the Buddha, the Awakened One, at 35, commenced with his mission. It lasted the rest of his life. He and his male and female disciples wandered throughout India and beyond (in particular taking the Silk Road trade routes northwest) teaching, spreading a message of compassion and wisdom and complete liberation.

Although the Order of nuns and monks began with only 60 arhats, it soon expanded to thousands. As a result of its growth, many monastic complexes came into being -- first in the vicinity of the Buddha's home (the northwest frontier of India, now Afghanistan) and where he first taught: Varanasi (Benares), Rajgir, and Sravasti. Later, universities like Nalanda, Vikramasila, Jagaddala, Vikramapuri, and Odantapuri became centers of learning in India, which gradually influenced the whole of Asia then the worlds of devas and humans. (The West picked up the idea of establishing academies or universities from the ancient Greeks, who picked up the idea from Indo-Greco empires Alexander the Great and others established in Central Asia: Hellenized Bactria, Pashtun/Persian [Iran], Afghanistan, and beyond).

West of "India" into Afghanistan, Pakistan, Seistan-Baluchistan, Iran (Persia), Tajikistan...
After a ministry (sasana) of 45 years, at the age of 80, the Buddha passed into final nirvana between two trees in Kusinagar, the hinterlands between territories.

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