‘Understood are the things to be understood,
Cultivated are the things to be cultivated,
Eradicated are the things to be eradicated,
Therefore Brahmin, I am the Buddha.’ (Sutta Nipata)
‘As long, brethren, as the Moon and Sun have not arisen in the world, just as long is there no shining forth a great light of great radiance. There prevails gross darkness, the darkness of bewilderment. Night is not distinguishable from the day, nor the month, the half-moon and the seasons of the years from each other.
‘But, brethren, when the Moon and Sun arise in the world then a great light of great radiance shines forth. Gross darkness, the darkness of bewilderment, is no more. Then are months and the half-moon and the seasons of years.’
‘Just so, brethren, as long as a Buddha, who is an Arahant, a Buddha Supreme, arises not, there is no shining forth a great light of great radiance. But gross darkness, the darkness of bewilderment, prevails. There is no proclaiming, no teaching, no showing forth, no setting up, no opening up, no analysis, no making clear of the Four Noble Truths.
‘What Four? The Noble Truth of Suffering, the Arising of Suffering, the ceasing of Suffering, and the approach to the ceasing of Suffering.
‘Wherefore, brethren, do you exert yourselves to realize ‘This is suffering; this is the arising of Suffering; this is the ceasing of Suffering; this is the approach to the ceasing of Suffering.’
The above words give us a clear picture of the great value of the arising of the Buddha to the world. The Buddha arose at a time when Western Philosophy as inaugurated by the Greeks, was led by Heraclites who gave a new turn to the early religions of the Olympian gods. It was a time when Jeremiah was giving a new message among the Jews in Babylon.
It was a time when Pythagoras was introducing a doctrine of reincarnation in Italy. It was a time when Confucius was establishing the national life of China by his ethics of conduct.
It was a time when India’s social fabric was heavily encrusted with priestcraft, self-mortification, caste distinctions, corrupt feudalism, subjection of women and fear of Brahmancial dominance.
It was at such time that the Buddha, the most fragrant flower of the human race, appeared in the land where saints and sages dedicated their lives in the search for truth.
He was a great man who wielded an extraordinary influences on others even during His lifetime. His personal magnetism, moral prestige and radiant confidence in His discovery, made Him a popular success. During His active life as a Teacher, the Buddha enlightened many who listened to Him. He attracted the high and low, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, men and women, householders and ascetics, nobles and peasants. He went in search for the vicious to teach, while the pure and virtuous came in search of Him to learn. To all, He gave the gift of the Truth that He had discovered. His disciples were kings and soldiers, merchants and millionaires, beggars and courtesans, religious as well as deluded people. When people were deluded, He enlightened them. When they were inflamed with rage and lust, He gave them the cooling water of Truth. When they were forsaken and wretched. He extended to them the infinite love of His compassionate heart.
He did not set out to remold the world. He was ‘Lokavidu’?’The knower of the world.’ He knew the world too well to have any illusions about its nature, or to believe that its laws could be completely refashioned to suit the desires of man. He knew that the world does not exist for the pleasure of the man, He knew about the nature of worldly conditions. He realized the vicissitude of worldly life. He knew the futility of human imagination or day dreaming about the world.
He did not encourage wishful-thinking in terms of establishing a worldly Utopia. Rather, He told each one of the Way by which one could later conquer one’s own world?the inner subjective world that is everyone’s private domain. In simple languages, He told us that the whole world is within us and the world is led by the mind and that mind must be trained and cleansed properly.
His teaching was basically simple and meaningful: ‘To put an end to evil; to fulfill all good; to purify the mind. This is the advice of all the Buddhas.'(Dhammapada, 183).
He taught the people how to eradicate ignorance. He encouraged them to maintain freedom in the mind to think freely. Rigid rituals, rigid dogmas, blind faith and the caste system, all had no place in His way of life. All people were one in the eyes of the Buddha.
By every test of what He said, did and was, He demonstrated Himself to be the preeminent man in His day. He declared a faith of service, a ministry of sacrifice and achievement. He advised us to start our life from today onwards as if it is the beginning of our life, and to fulfill our endless responsibilities and duties of daily existence here and now without depending on others to do it for us.
He gave the world a new explanation of the universe. He gave a new vision of eternal Happiness, the achievement of perfection in Buddhahood. He pointed out the way to the permanent state beyond all impermanence, the Way to Nibbana, the final deliverance from the misery of existence.
His time was 2,500 years ago. Yet, even today this great Teacher is honored not only by the religious-minded people, He is also honored by atheists, historians, rationalists and intellectuals all over the world who have acknowledged Him as the Enlightened, most liberal minded and compassionate Teacher.