The Buddha, the immortal titan is the rational and spiritual guide to the common man
Man is for himself and society.
My heart throbs with awe, pride, and joy to write about the Buddha, one of the tallest ancient rationalists and spiritual teachers of the world. The Buddha is revered and Buddhism is adhered to in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Tibet, part of China, small parts of India, and other South Asian, Southeast Asian, and East Asian countries. Today, the yoga part of Buddhism has gripped the minds and hearts of many in Europe and America.
The Buddha, like Basavanna, India’s other great mystic- rebel social reformer, is the answer to long-continued social ills such as superstitions and discrimination between social classes called castes in India. The four Indian castes, namely, Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra exist to this day in a modified and somewhat mild form in India. The Indian caste system is still to disappear from Indian society. Its roots are so deep. Even today the roots are sought to be nourished and strengthened by upper castes.
Man’s right to knowledge and spiritual practice
At the time of the birth of the Buddha in the sixth century B.C, the Hindu priests, the Brahmins in India were rank exploiters of the common masses of India. They denied them access to the Vedas, knowledge, and any spiritual practice. They created thousands of lengthy religious rituals and circumlocutory ceremonies for them to reach their spiritual goal. Only through the priests, they further haughtily declared, the masses could reach God or find the truth or go to heaven after their death!
They began to claim powers and privileges for themselves. To quote Swami Vivekananda, the venerated Indian Vedantic monk about the Brahmin priests: “If a Brahmin killed a man, he would not be punished. The Brahmin, by his very birth, is the lord of the universe! Even the most wicked Brahmin must be worshipped!” They enjoyed dictatorial, oppressive social and religious authority.
Rise of the Buddha as the symbol of human conscience
The Buddha’s conscience was shocked at these anti-human exploitative weapons used by the wily and cruel Brahmin priests. The priests’ exploitative malpractices resulted in ignorance of the masses in spiritual matters. The masses were suffering from social exploitation, educational deprivation, misery, degradation, and subservience to the priests.
He arose out of this despicable social situation as the rational thinker, spiritual teacher, and compassionate social reformer.
He searched for a solution to this problem of human suffering and misery. He started a movement for a new rational and practical spirituality among his followers and the oppressed masses.
He proclaimed: “ I am a man among men.” “Work out diligently your own salvation. Each one of you is just what I am. I am nothing but one of you. What I am today is what I made myself….” He did not wish to be remembered as a guru. He desired to be only a rational and spiritual guide to his monks and society.
The Buddha’s philosophy and spirituality
The Buddha did not believe in-
1. a god,
4. prayer to god and other religious rituals,
5. scriptures, and
6. animal sacrifice to propitiate god and obtain his grace.
He practiced rational spirituality. He, like Basavanna, kept the religious priests at bay and asked the masses to do so, and succeeded in his movement.
He believed in human potentiality, mental, spiritual, and physical, and human equality and simplicity, and good human character.
He was a rational and spiritual rebel extraordinary. The essence of his dhamma or teaching is: Follow his path. Be simple, unselfish, ethical,self-dependent, hard-working not only for yourself but also for society. Herein lies both individual and social happiness. Doing good to others is doing good for good’s sake. Your work reflects your character; character is everything.
He espoused equality for women and Shudras, the lowest class of the Hindu society in India.
Individual happiness is linked to society’s happiness.“Everything independent is happy; everything dependent is unhappy.”In Dhammapada, the Buddha lays down the basic principle of his spiritual practice system that “ you yourself must strive; the Buddhas only point the way.” (Dhammapada, Verse 276).
Man is god, according to him. Man is the center and not any invented, invisible divine being on whom all human activities should be concentrated.
A man should be self-reliant and not dependent upon any non-existent supernatural god.
In the words of R.S.Sharma in his India’s Ancient Past, “right observation, right determination, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right awareness, and right concern” is the Buddha’s eight-fold path for the masses’ freedom from the wiles and machinations of the priests and their spiritual goal. The Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, namely, suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to the cessation of suffering are the framework for achieving the ultimate ideal of nirvana or release from birth and death.
The Buddha prescribed his code of conduct for his monks and the masses: Do not-
- commit violence,
2. covet the property of others,
3. tell a lie,
4. use intoxicants, and
5. indulge in sexual misconduct and adultery.
Laymen can practice the spiritual processes of Buddhism for peace and happiness in their lives and even attain nirvana or release from the cycle of birth and death.
Swami Vivekananda’s view on the Buddha
Swami Vivekananda, the venerable Indian Vedantic monk holds the Buddha in the highest esteem. I quote him:
“All my life, I have been very fond of Buddha.”
“Even when dying, he(the Buddha) would not claim any distinction for himself. I worship him for that… Of all the teachers of the world, he was the one who taught us most to be self-reliant, who freed us not only from the bondage of our false selves but from dependence on the invisible being or beings called God or gods.”
“Lord Buddha is my Istha-my God.”
“……Only one kind of work I understand, and that is doing good to others, all else is doing evil. I, therefore, prostrate myself before the Lord Buddha…”
“Verily was He the only man in the world who was ever quite sane, the only sane man ever born.”
The only sane man ever born!
Common man’s spiritual guide
The Buddha is the common man’s true guide to spiritual practice for peace and happiness in life here and now and for nirvana or release from the cycle of birth and death. He is the first and the one and only Buddha among the Buddhas for the world.