Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Theravada: "Devotion in Buddhism"

Ven. Nyanaponika (; Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly
The Buddha reclining into final nirvana with line of Thai novices offering robe (G. Larkin).
Vesak 2016, El Monte, CA (Gordon Milcham)
The Buddha repeatedly discouraged any excessive veneration paid to him personally.

He knew that an excess of purely emotional devotion can obstruct or disturb the development of a balanced character.

It can become a serious obstacle to progress on the path to liberation. The history of religion has since proved him right, as illustrated by the extravagances of emotional mysticism East and West.
The sutras relate the story of the monk Ven. Vakkali, who full of devotion and love for the Buddha, was ever desirous to see him. The Buddha said to him:

"What shall it profit you to see this impure body? One who sees the Dharma sees me."
Shortly before the Buddha passed away into final nirvana, he said: "If a monk or a nun, a devout man or a devout woman, lives in accordance with the Dharma, is upright in life, walks in conformity with the Dharma -- it is that person who rightly honors, worships, venerates, holds sacred, and reveres the Perfect One (Tathagata) with the worthiest homage."
A true and deep understanding of the Dharma, together with conduct in conformity with that understanding are vastly superior to any external homage or mere emotional devotion. This is the instruction conveyed by these two teachings of the Buddha.
Devotion is meritorious
Reverent devas in the World of the Thirty-Three listen to the Buddha teach Abhidharma.
It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that the Buddha disparaged a reverential and devotional attitude of mind/heart when it is the natural outflow of a true understanding and a deep admiration of what is great and noble (leading toward enlightenment).
Strictly speaking, only seven of the ten are actually "recollections" (anussati): recollection of the Buddha, recollection of the Dharma, recollection of the Sangha...

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