International Forum for NeoVedantins

The Compassionate Buddha
And a Story from the life of Buddha

'The absolutely sane man' the world had ever seen. He refused rituals and gods, Atman and Paramatman, but never compromised on reason. His efforts at last led him to experience the Truth and he became the Buddha, the Enlightened. The highest Knowledge of Nirvana flowed from his every pore as universal compassion, as austerities and tapas, kindness and humility. And what a sacrifice to realize the Truth! Palace and luxury, wife and son appeared pigmy in front of the loftiness of the desire to seek the Highest. He was ahead for his time, liberal and progressive.

He had selected Yashodhara as his bride. They lead a very happy married life; a nice family after their son was born. No want, no misery, no worries. And one dark night (one is tempted to say 'one fine night') the farewell! Thrice he went back to his sleeping wife. Struggle was visible in his actions. What was the problem that vexed him? Was that ultimate selfishness? No, he was not grieving for himself; he grieved for Yashodhara, for the fact that again someone else, his wife, instead of him, was making a sacrifice for the world. That was the struggle; he cared nothing for himself.

Imparting a gentle kiss at the feet of his wife, so gentle that she was not disturbed in her sleep, the king bade farewell to the world. Lonely and restless, he suffered the onslaught of desires and vasanas, but in the end won the battle. He became the Buddha.

Returning to the gardens of his hometown, Kapilvastu, seven years later, he paid a memorable visit to his wife and son. Yashodhara received him as a nun, in yellow clothes, in a hut that was without the comfort of mattress, her son beside her. In silence and intensity unknown to secular-minded people, Buddha talked about the Knowledge and Truth. Turning to leave, he cast the last glance at his two dearest ones, now simple sadhakas.

Yashodhara, realizing that Buddha was to leave for good, pushed her son to ask for his patrimony from his father. Bewildered, the son ran after his father, and said, "O Father, please give me my inheritance." Thrice he had to ask before The Lord, turning to his beloved disciple Ananda, said, "Give the boy the ochre (gerrua) cloth."

Yashodhara, realizing that Buddha was to leave for good, pushed her son to ask for his patrimony (inheritance) from his father. Bewildered, the son ran after his father, and said, "O Father, please give me my inheritance." Thrice he had to ask, before The Lord, turning to his beloved disciple Ananda, said, "Give the boy the ochre (gerrua) cloth."

Ananda, aware of the silent but searching and expectant eyes of Yashodhara, asked the Lord, "And Sir, are we not to take ladies into our fold?" The large hearted Buddha replied, "Why, Ananda, since when has sex (gender) come into the arena of Truth? She is most welcome." Thus joined the wife, the mother, and the son in the sangha of Tathagata, melting the heart of a true Jnani.

The heart that melted soon merged with the hearts of the masses. Now the Buddha felt in hundreds of bodies, ate from hundreds of mouths, and shed tears from hundreds of eyes of weak, exploited, and depressed. He walked slowly, for the flag of compassion that he was carrying was too heavy for any chariot or horseback to endure. Only the Mother Earth was capable of sustaining such a heavy load and responsibility that her noblest son was upholding.

While evil and hatred, war and bloodshed, continued to march ahead with trumpets and bugles, arrows and swords, horses and elephants, his compassion was slow to reach there in time. At last it caught up with King Ashoka in the middle of Kalinga War. With a soothing ochre robe, Tathagata gently covered the king, half-finished, famished, and aghast as he was in the middle of holocaust and destruction. That was just the beginning; a piece from the huge and lofty flag of compassion that fluttered for centuries.

Today also, wherever one sees kindness and compassion, the soul of Buddha flashes for a while and we get a glimpse of his serene and radiant face that represents 'Truth as Compassion'. The world continues to wait for more and more Buddhas, for Buddha is not a person but is a state of being. And we get assurances in the Gita that another Buddha is sure to arrive; another fearless soul will leave the palace, wife, and son silently in the middle of the night in response to death, disease and depression.
Practical Teaching

The widow suffered one more shock when her young son died due to the snakebite. Her tormented soul was not ready to accept this fact. Weeping incessantly, her eyes dried up of all the tears. Then she remembered that Lord Buddha was camping in the gardens of the outskirts of the town. She was aware of his Holiness and compassion. She perceived a faint ray of hope in the power and kindness of that great soul. Rushing at the holy feet of Tathagata, the lady lamented, "O Lord, see! What great tragedy has befallen me! The cruel death has taken away my beloved and the only son. Now what is the purpose for my survival; where is the support? O Lord, I know you can work wonders; you have given lifeline to many, why not grace me now? Please O Merciful, be kind enough to bring my son back to life."

The relentless pleading of a grief-stricken mother touched the core of Buddha's heart. He knew he couldn't reverse the law of nature, but he could not be blunt and rude as well. After thinking for a while, the Lord addressed the lady thus, "O mother, do not grieve. I shall try to bring back your son to life." The joy of the lady knew no bounds. She got up and expectantly looked at the Lord to perform the miracle.

Just then the Lord said, "Mother, but there is one condition. I shall require a few seeds of mustard and a pinch of salt to effectively succeed in this endeavor. Will you please bring the seeds and salt?" "Yes, yes, my Lord. Here I go," said the mother, and was about to run to neighborhood when the Lord said, "But remember, bring the items only from such a family which is not yet smitten by death." The lady did not realize the deep meaning in such a demand, and saying, 'I shall bring them in no time' rushed to collect the same.

"O woman of the house, will you be kind enough to give me a few mustard seeds and some common slat?"

"Yes, why not? Take as much as you require."

"But," said the mother, "One thing should be clear; I can accept these two things only if there has been no death in your family."

The other woman replied, "Oh, how can that be! My aged father-in-law died six months back."
Thus went the mother from one house to another, but she could not find any family where death had not already paid its visit. A son or a daughter, father or mother, brother or sister, wife or husband someone or the other was the victim of cruel death sometime or the other, everywhere.

Now the bereaved mother realized the import of the words 'where no death has ever occurred'. She could see the inevitability and definiteness of death as necessary part of life. She could see that suffering and sorrow were inevitable; no one could escape this fact. No one ever can be free from unhappiness and tragedies. She became calm, and wise too. Her grief for the loss of her son turned into wisdom of realization of Truth. Bending low at the holy feet of Lord Buddha, now the lady prayed, "O Wise One, please take me in your fold; allow me to join the Sangha."
C S Shah

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