Friday, June 28, 2024

Thích Đồng Thành: The significance of the Buddha bathing ceremony

 

The Buddha bathing ceremony is one of the most important aspects of the yearly Vesak festival in many Buddhist traditions. This ceremony has long been practiced in India, Central Asia, and China. It is still done in most Buddhist groups around the world as a sign of respect and to demonstrate how happy the Buddha's children were when the Enlightened One arrived on this planet more than 2600 years ago.

The bathing ritual dates back to when Prince Siddhartha was born in the Lumbini garden. According to both the Southern and Northern stories, when Queen Mada was pregnant with the crown prince, two streams of water from the gods, one warm and one cool, descended from the sky to bathe the queen and the crown prince. This occurrence is described in the Great Sutta (Department of the School II), the sutras for Dharma property (Central Division III), and the introduction to the commentary on the original story (Nidanakatha)[1]. According to the Department of Great Affairs (Mahvastu), two streams of fresh, fragrant, warm and cold water fell from the sky to bathe the prince when he was born. Mr. Ma Minh's Buddhist practice is also documented, as shown above[3].

According to the Universal Magical Sutra, nine dragons sprayed water from the sky to wash the crown prince at the time[4]. Many statues depicting the birth of the prince with a dragon shooting water have been created by Buddhist artists in Deer Park in North India and Amarvat in South India. These works inspired the sculptures. A piece of Gandhara School art in the Peshawar Museum in Pakistan depicts two palace maids standing next to the crown prince while Emperor Thich and Brahma sprinkle water from a lotus branch on the prince from above. Four gods stood on either side of the prince, respectfully looking at him.

When the crown prince was born, four heavenly kings lifted him using precious cloths from heaven, according to the past, present, and cause and effect sutras. On either side stood Thich De Hoan Nhon, who was holding a valuable umbrella, and Dai Brahma. Two dragon kings, Nanda and Upananda, descended from the sky and spat out two streams of warm and cool water for the prince to bathe in. 

Perhaps the gods' respect for the prince's birth, which is mentioned in this sutra, inspired the Buddha's birthday. Buddhists frequently pay their respects to a statue of the prince's birth in a basin. Alternatively, use clean, valuable brass and place it in the Buddha's shrine or somewhere dignified. Then, bathe the Buddha in clean water and fragrant flowers to honor Him and remember all that he has done for you.

Although no one knows for certain when the Buddha bathing ceremony began in India, it is certain that it began in India and spread to other Buddhist countries. According to the Great Treasure Sutra, Princess Vimaladatt, daughter of King Prajna of Savatthi, left the city with 500 brahmins carrying pots of water to attend a god's bathing ceremony. The group had just left the city gate when they encountered some monks. These Brahmins thought that running into a group of bhikkhus was a bad omen, so they discussed returning. Princess Vimaladatta, on the other hand, explained to the Brahmins, and her kind ways and sharp mind made them respect the Buddhadharma. This story demonstrates how the Buddhist practice of bathing the Buddha is similar to the Brahmanic practice of bathing god figures. Since ancient times, Hindus have believed that the Ganges River is a goddess whose water can wash away sins for those who bathe and pray in it. However, the Buddha stated in the Udana Sutta that neither the Ganges nor the Gida rivers have water that can wash away sins and make people clean. True Dharma practice is the only way to purify people.

Mr. Nghia Tinh (635-713), who left China in 671 and studied for ten years in India, wrote Nam Hai Ky Quy Noi Dharma, which is one of the most important historical records about the monastic practices and rules of the Buddhist Sangha in India at the time. 

In the fourth volume of this work, it is written about how Buddhist monasteries clean their statues: "In the western countries (India and Central Asia), on the morning of the statues' bathing, the guru (the monk in charge) sets up a golden amulet and spreads a treasure parasol around the courtyard. Temple, line the Buddha's hall with rows of fragrant water vases, and then put a figure made of gold, silver, bronze, or stone in a basin made of gold, bronze, stone, or wood. While the young women played music as a gift, the monks spread fragrant oil (made from the lute, which is a type of incense) all over the statue and then bathed it with fragrant water. After giving the figure a bath, the monks dry it with a clean white cloth. They then put it in the Buddha's temple and decorate it with different kinds of flowers. This practice is done in the temple by the Sangha with the help of Tho Su. Every day, monks in monasteries use the above method to carefully clean the figures in their rooms[6]. For small or big bronze figures, they use fine ash or brick powder. To clean spheres, they wash them with clean water until they are as clear and beautiful as a mirror. Large statues are cleaned and bathed by everyone in the abbey once every two weeks or a month. If possible, each person cleans and bathes a small figurine every day. Doing so wastes less, but is a better thing to do. It is called "auspicious water" if you dip two fingers in the water that was just used to wash the figure and put them on its head.

The book of Wushu is one of the earliest records in China that mentions the Buddha bathing ceremony from the Three Kingdoms period. In the 4th century, Thach Lac of the Later Trieu Dynasty, who reigned from 319 to 333, held a celebration to bathe Buddha. According to the Cao Sangha story, the biography of Buddha Do Trung, Thach Lac frequently sent his children to temples so that monks could raise and teach them. 

Every year, on the eighth day of the fourth month, Thach Lac went to the monastery to ask for blessings for his son at the Buddha bathing ceremony. The Buddha's ancestors also wrote down that on the eighth day of the fourth month of the sixth year of Dai Minh's rule (462), King Hieu Vo De held a ceremony in the palace to bathe the Buddha and give gifts to the monks[9]. 

Because different Buddhist groups in India held different historical views about when the Buddha was born[10], and because Chinese society and culture changed over time, the Buddha Bathing Day has been observed in this country at various times. 

The Buddha bathing event was held on the eighth day of the fourth month during the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-577), on the eighth day of the fourth month during the Liang Dynasty (502-557) to the Lieu Dynasty (916-1125), on the eighth day of February[11], and on the eighth day of April during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). 

The Eastern Book of Dreams and Nightmares mentions a Buddha bathing event at the end of the Song dynasty. On the eighth day of the fourth month, each of the ten largest monasteries in Luoyang held a ceremony to wash the Buddha and give gifts to the monks. Bathing the Buddha is an important part of the Bach Truc Thanh Quy set, and has been done in monasteries since the time of Bach Truong (749-814).

Mr. Nghia Tinh translated the Buddha's Bathing Merit Sutra from Sanskrit into Chinese in the year 710. This is a short text that is only kept in the Chinese Tripitaka at the moment. This sutta has a lot of the same ideas as the Buddha's Bathing of Virtue Sutras, which were translated from India by Mr. Bao Tu Duy in 705 CE. The line talks about reason in particular. Born in the sutra is like the line in

The Buddha Bathing Merit Sutra begins with Bodhisattva Thanh Tinh Hue questioning him on two critical points: 

1. Why do Buddhas have white bodies covered in good signs? 

2. Those who are born into the world, meet the Buddha, and make offerings will receive a great reward; however, after the Buddha dies, to whom should beings make offerings and what merits should they make in order to quickly attain unsurpassed Bodhi? 

The Buddha taught that the Tathagata had a pure form and body because he practiced noble dharmas such as the Six Lands, the Four Immeasurables, the dharmas of fearlessness, and the dharmas of wisdom. He said that the Tathagata became pure by practicing noble dharmas such as the Six Lands, the Four Immeasurables, the dharmas of fearlessness, and the dharmas of wisdom. 

The three forms that all Buddhas have are the dharma body, the life body, and the nirmanakaya body. So, after the Buddha died, you should make gifts to the relics if you want to honor these three bodies. But there are two kinds of relics: the body of the object and the words that are said about it. Anyone who wants to make an image of Buddha but cannot afford to can make a very small statue, a small tower to worship re 

Those who make these heartfelt gifts will reap the following fifteen significant benefits: 

1. are familiar with the three valuable stones; 

2. foster genuine faith; 

3. a straight back; 

4. be close friends while recovering; 

5. proof that no smuggling occurred; 

6. numerous encounters with Buddhas 

7. Always do the right thing; 

8. keep your word; 

9. by chance born in the land of the Buddhas; 

10. In the human world, if you are born into a noble family, people will respect you and you will begin to feel happy. 

11. If you are born in the world of people, you will be familiar with the name Buddha. 

12. No spirits will harm you; 

13. or keep the Dharma in the Age of the Dharma's End; 

14. receive blessings from the Buddhas in the ten directions; 

15. Gather the five parts of the body of law as soon as possible. 

The Buddha said the verse to repeat what he had just said after telling people to live that way.

The second important part of the text is the Buddha's response to Bodhisattva Thanh Tinh Hue's question about how to clean the Buddha picture in the next life. Buddha said that to clean a figure, you should mix different scents, such as ox-head, eucalyptus, frankincense, tulips, camphor, musk, and so on, with clean water and put it in a clean vase. 

If two fingers are dipped in the water that was just used to wash the figure and then pressed against the head, this water is known as "auspicious water." 

Do not step in the water to get to the clean ground where the figure is. After bathing the statue, dry it with a soft, clean, and smooth towel, and then burn all kinds of fragrant incense around the statue before returning it to the Buddha's temple. 

Buddha also said that by bathing these statues, sentient beings in this life can receive many great blessings, have their dreams come true, feel safe and at peace, and quickly attain right enlightenment. After relocating the image, hands must be clasped in respect in front of the incense offering object, and the following verse must be read:

"I'm washing the Tathagatas right now."

Virtuous, respectable, and knowledgeable

May all living things forget about the previous year.

Say quickly that the Tathagata's body is composed entirely of Dharma.

Precepts, focus, and wisdom are the five components of valuable incense.

Suffocating on all ten sides

This incense smoke will never go away.

Buddha put in a lot of effort.

May all the problems of the three paths be resolved.

Maintain your cool, heat without a brain.

Making an unbeatable Bodhi mind together

"Leave the sea of love and come to the shore of great wisdom."

So, the main point of the preceding sutra is about the advantages of erecting stupas to worship relics and creating Buddha images, as well as the practice of bathing the Buddha. 

Aside from the sambhogakaya, the Buddha has two other bodies: the dharmakaya and the nirmanakaya. This means that even though He appeared and died in Kosina, His communication with beings in previous lives continued because His dharmakaya transcended both space and time. 

After attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, he traveled throughout northern India as a spiritual teacher who was both simple and holy. He taught his disciples and those who were meant to follow him how to taste freedom through their own lives and practices as a teacher and an enlightened being. 

The Dharma, not the Buddha, is the most important thing in Buddhism. This is what distinguishes Buddhism from other religions.

Mr. Nghia Tinh mentioned in his diary that one of the things the monastery in India did was bathe the Buddha image. This is not only a traditional ritual, but it is also practiced by monks, nuns, and Buddhists. 

It allows practitioners to practice mindful living, cultivate humility, and devote themselves wholeheartedly to the Buddha, or, in other words, to the perfection of virtue and wisdom. The above qualities of each person attending the ceremony will be the most important factors in transforming, taming, and sublimating their consciousness.

But what distinguishes this ceremony is that the practitioner generates bodhicitta, or great compassion for the Dharma Realm. This is the motivation that allows the practitioner to remain true to himself and make a great vow like the sages. 

Mr. Nghia Tinh wrote about the meaning of bathing the Buddha: "There is nothing like respecting the Three Jewels, practicing visualization, and thinking about the Four Noble Truths," but the truth is profound. However, because the ordinary mind is entangled with many external conditions, the ritual of bathing the statue is both practical and correct.

The Buddha bathing ceremony is a long-standing tradition and an important part of the Buddha's birthday in both Southern and Northern Buddhist countries. In Vietnam, this ceremony is usually held on April 8th, the Buddha's birthday. 

According to the Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu and the Dai Viet History Brief, on the eighth day of the fourth month of the year Nham Ty (1072), King Ly Nhan Tong attended the Buddha bathing ceremony. According to the Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu, the king frequently visited the Dien Huu pagoda on the full moon day, the first day of the month, and especially on the eighth day of the fourth month to pray for blessings and to set up a ceremony. 

The Buddha's Birthday and the Buddha bathing ceremony were not only Buddhist rituals, but also common cultural activities dating back to the Ly dynasty. "On the eighth day of the fourth month, Man Nuong was born spontaneously in the sky, and his body was wrapped and buried in the temple, and people take it as Buddha's birthday. Every year on this day, boys, girls, young, and old gather in the temple." 

In the section of his book titled "Customs," which is about the folk customs of the Annam society, Le Tac wrote about the unity between Buddhist culture in general and the Buddha bathing ceremony in particular. 

"On the eighth day of the fourth month, grind agarwood and eucalyptus incense, bathe the Buddha image with water, and offer a kind of cake to the Buddha. On May 5th, a guard house was built in the middle of the river, and the king sat in it to watch boat races." 

This work depicts something very different from the time it was created: folklore says that you should bathe the Buddha figure with all kinds of scents, just as it says in the section above about the benefits of bathing the Buddha, which demonstrates how common this practice is in the native people's culture.

Buddha's birthday and the ritual of bathing the Buddha have become beautiful spiritual activities in Vietnam, tied to the country's past. Respect and excitement for the Buddha based on the right view truly give Buddhists a clean faith and real, long-lasting peace.

Tâm Quảng Nhuận translated.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Tuệ Sỹ: Ngồi giữa bãi tha ma

 Ngồi giữa bãi tha ma


I

Lửa đã tắt từ buổi đầu sáng thế 
Một kiếp người ray rứt bụi tro bay 
Tôi ngồi mãi giữa tha ma mộ địa 
Lạnh trăng ngà lụa trắng trải ngàn cây 
Khuya lành lạnh gió vào run bóng quỷ 
Quỷ run run hôn mãi đống xương gầy
Khóc năn nỉ sao hình hài chưa rã 
Để hồn tan theo đầu lửa ma trơi 
Khi tâm tư chưa là gỗ mục 
Lòng đất đen còn giọt máu xanh ngời. 


II 

Ta làm kẻ rong chơi từ hỗn độn 
Treo gót hài trên mái tóc vào thu 
Ngồi đếm mộng đi qua từng đọt lá 
Rủ mi dài trên bến cỏ sương khô 
Vì lêu lổng mười năm dài gối mộng 
Ôm tình già quên bẵng tuổi hoàng hôn 
Một buổi sáng nghe chim trời đổi giọng 
Người thấy ta xô dạt bóng thiên thần 
Ðất đỏ thắm nên lòng người hăm hở 
Ðá chưa mòn nên lòng dạ trơ vơ 
Thành phố nọ bởi mưa phùn nắng quái 
Nên mười năm quên hết mộng đợi chờ. 


III 

Cầm lòng lại dấu chân ngày biệt xứ, 
Cuộc buồn vui đâu hẹn giữa vô cùng. 
Bờ bến lạ biết đâu mòn cuộc lữ 
Ðể ta về uống cạn nét thu phong 
Như cánh hải âu cuối trời biển lộng 
Bồng bềnh bay theo cánh mỏng ngàn đời 
Chạnh nhớ người xưa miền nguyệt ẩn 
Thôi một lần thương gởi giữa mênh mông 
Chiều lắng đọng thênh thang ghềnh đá dựng 
Những nỗi buồn nhân thế cũng phôi pha, 
Mầu nhiệm nào đằng sau bao huỷ diệt
Mà nụ hồng vừa nở thắm ven khe. 
Khắp cả chốn đâu chẳng là tịnh độ, 
Vô sự một đời trắc trở gì đâu, 
Không phiền trược mong cầu chi giải thoát, 
Cứ thong dong như nước chảy qua cầu. 
Từ độ biết buồn câu sinh tử, 
Bỏ nhà đi một thoáng riêng mình, 
Mẹ già thôi khóc cho thân phụ, 
Lại khóc cho đời ta phiêu linh. 
Nhớ mẹ một lần trong muôn một, 
Thương em biết vậy chẳng gì hơn, 
Suối trăng về tắm bên đồi lạ, 
Chiều thu sang hải đảo xanh rờn 


IV 

Một kiếp sống, một đoạn đường lây lất 
Một đêm dài nghe thác đổ trên cao 
Ta bước vội qua dòng sông biền biệt 
Ðợi mưa dầm trong cánh bướm xôn xao 
Một buổi sáng mắt bỗng đầy quá khứ 
Ðường âm u nối lại mấy tiền thân 
Ta đứng mãi trên suối ngàn vĩnh viễn 
Mộng vô thường máu đỏ giữa hoàng hôn.

Tuệ Sỹ


Sitting Amidst the Graveyard


I

Fire has been extinct since the genesis,
A lifetime harrowed by flipping ephemeral dust and ashes.
Persistently, I am sitting amidst the deserted cemetery,
The cold ivory moon emulates a ribbon of silk spreading over myriad trees.
The frigid night rushes the cold wind into shaking the silhouette of the devil,
The quivering devil keeps kissing a pile of skinny bones,
Supplicating that the bodies be disintegrated,
So their souls evanesce with the spectral burning sparks.
While consciousness has not yet turned into decayed wood,
The heart of the black earth still preserves the drops of enthusiastic youth blood.


II

I’m a vagabond from chaos,
Hanging my shoes over my autumn hair.
I sit and count my dreams traversing each leaf,
Dropping my eyes long over the grassy shores of dried-up dew.
Because of the ten wandering years teeming with dreams,
I, embracing a love of old, forget all about my crepuscular age.
One morning, listening to the birds changing songs,
I saw shadows of angels being pushed aside,
The earth turning crimson red, breeding eagerness in people’s hearts,
Stones not being worn out and lonely becoming the souls.
That city of yesteryears imbibed with drizzles and stifling evening heat
Has thusly discarded the ten years of waiting dreams.


III

I’m holding back emotions from the despondent imprints of a life in exile,
Has the rendezvous of joy and sorrow ever betided amidst immensity?
Who knows if the journey will end on faraway foreign shores
To let me go home and imbibe all the luscious Fall winds.
Emulating the seagull at the end of the immense-sea-bordering horizon,
Forever floating in rhythm with its thin long wings,
Suddenly I remember my old flame of the land of the hidden moon;
Let it be evaporated into the immense universe.
Crepuscule is coagulating over the vast rocky cliffs,
Human sorrows are fading away.
What magical mysteries behind all the destruction
That nudge the roses to bloom gorgeously along the bank of the brook?
Pure Land is ubiquitous
That brings about innocence and frees people of stress and difficulties.
How can one aspire toward emancipation if he does not worry about bad karma,
And remains lackadaisical like water streaming indolently under the bridge?
Since the time I was aware of life and mortality,
In a trice, I left home just to be alone.
Mom had no sooner ceased to cry for Dad’s departure
than she started to cry for my life as a drifter.
I remember Mom once and for all,
And acknowledge my love for my old flame all for naught.
The moon avalanche is taking a bath on the hill yonder,
The Fall evening is transposing itself onto a deep green island.


IV

A lifetime, a journey of a vagrant,
A long night of listening to the cataract cascading from high above.
I hurriedly cross the faraway infinitely long river,
Waiting for the lasting rain amidst the flustered butterflies.
One morning, all the past suddenly flooded my eyes,
A somber path reconnected the prior karmas.
I keep standing persistently on the everlasting stream,
In a blood-soaked twilight impermanence dream.

Poetry by Tuệ Sỹ

Translated by Phe Bach



Sunday, May 26, 2024

"Walk With Me" Mindfully (IX) - Đồng Hành Trong Chánh Niệm (IX): Hành Trình đến Tamarack Lake Lake and Beyond


Echo lake. Photo by @PheBach

"Walk With Me" Mindfully (IX) - Đồng Hành Trong Chánh Niệm (IX): Hành Trình đến Tamarack Lake and Beyond

Promoting outdoor activities / hiking / backpacking / meditation for the our youths, GĐPT and family members

What: Celebrating  Summer and for a Great workout
Where: Echo Lake / Lake Aloha Trail 
When: Meeting at Echo Lake in South Lake Tahoe at 9:30AM on June 9, 2024
Why: For the love of outdoor, GĐPT, mindfulness, and Buddhism and Applying Buddhism and GĐPT principles and activities into the real life. It is also for family bonding time.
Coordinators: Htr. Tâm Thường Định - Bạch X. Phẻ, parents: Chị Thư  Amy Trần. 

Participants: Kim Quang Parents and family members
Parking space is very limited, so come early.
Cost: Free of charge, but must have an open heart and mind, smile and kindness along with the ability to walk and breathe. PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN FOOD AND WATER. 

Contact: @PheBach or chị Thư. Please RSVP at Tamthuongdinh@gmail.com.

The Trail Overview:
Lake Aloha Trail is a 12.5 mile heavily trafficked out and back trial located near Echo Lake, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, fishing, horses, and backpacking and is best used from June until Octocber. But we'll have picnic and walk about 3 miles or so. Take a water taxi back is optional, but you have to pay. We'll hike only 3-5miles. Here is the direction to get there. https://tinyurl.com/walk-with-me-mindfully

Aloha Lake Trail - Key Facts

Location: Desolation Wilderness, El Dorado County
Trailhead: Echo Lakes on Echo Summit, elevation 7,414 feet
Highest point on trail: 8,340 feet
Elevation Gain: 926 feet
Lake Aloha elevation: 8,116 feet
Hiking Distance: 6.7 miles (using water taxi, 4.0 miles)
Best seasons: Late spring through fall
Campsites: Along Lake Aloha's northeast shore or along the rocks on the southern shore

Please refer to these articles for details:
https://highsierratrails.com/lake_aloha/aloha_overview.html

Essential Gear (only if you want to go sometimes in the future):
Sleeping System:
-Sleeping bag (compact is key)
-Sleeping pad (must have)
-Backpacking Tent ( please bring a 1 or 2 person tent only, please ask Mr. Hiep for gear borrowing. I have one person tent, I will lend it)

Clothing system:
-3x Base layer ( any quick dry clothes, NO cotton)
-1x Mid layer ( any down or synthetic jacket, lightweight jacket that keeps you warm)
-1x Shell (a rain jacket, a rain pant is recommended because we my hike in the water due to high tide)
- 2x hiking pants, quick-dry material 
-A hat ( we will hike directly under the sun, not much shade)
- An optional fleece pant to sleep at night
- At least 2 pair of hiking socks (such as SmartWool Mountaineering Socks, Darn Tough Mountaineering Sock. Good socks will prevent blister)
- Hiking shoes/Hiking boots (water shoes is optional if we must hike in the tide)

Cooking system:
- a bowl or a cup for food or drink tea.
- a water reservoir or water bottles that can carry at least 2L water (osprey hydraulic, Platypus® hydration packs or something like that)
- Cooking stove/ gas canister 
- A Bear Canister 
- Water filter system 

Food:
- Snacks for lunch (trail mix, Payday bar, Clif bar, PROBAR, dried fruits, turkey....)
- Some noodles for breakfast but you should keep it compact
-I will be buying backpacking food for you guys, its cheaper than REI!
- No Fruits

Other: 
- First aid kit
-Toiletries ( sunscreen, bug spray)
- Headlamp / flashlight (must have)
- a small knife (optional)
- hiking poles 
- some toilet paper

After sorting your gear, please weight it! you whole backpack (include food and water) should weigh under 40lbs, under 35lb is recommended, under 30lb is ideal. If your weight is over 40lbs, it will make your trip worse. please leave some unwanted. My philosophy is all about minimalism, the less you carry, the more freedom you will have.

Prepared by: @PheBach

CLOTHING (Only bring what you need)
  • Check from head to toe, get yourself light weight stuff. You only need 2 sets of clothes and one more to be left in the car for changing after the hike.
  • Beanie/face cover/mosquito net/hat
  • Base Layer (2 pieces) - I use Under Armour, Ice Breaker
  • Mid Layer (1 piece) - I use Arc'Teryx Atom Hoody
  • Shell (1 piece) - I use Arcteryx Beta Shell
  • Underwear (2 pieces) - Exofficio or Ice Breaker
  • Short (2 pieces) - Prana Stretch Short
  • Legging (1 or 2 pieces) - Ice Breaker or Patagonia
  • Socks (2 pairs) - I use Darn Tough socks
  • Shoes - Lowa Regegade or Zephyr
  • Knee braces, compressions - Your liking

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Pramod de Silva | Tâm Thường Định dịch Việt: Vesak: Chánh niệm đem lại hạnh phúc | Vesak: Bliss through mindfulness

 

Phật tử ở Sri Lanka và khắp nơi trên thế giới kỷ niệm Đại lễ Vesak, lễ hội ba phước lành, vào ngày 5 và 6 tháng 5. Đại lễ Vesak đánh dấu sự đản sinhthành đạo và nhập diệt (Parinibbana) của Đức Phật Gautama. Đây là ngày quan trọng nhất trong lịch Phật giáo quốc tế và là ngày lễ được Liên hợp quốc (LHQ) công nhận theo sáng kiến của Sri Lanka. Đó là một ngày lễ ngay cả ở một số quốc gia không theo đạo Phật, vì Đức Phật là nguồn cảm hứng cho cả thế giới.

Người Sri Lanka đã trải qua ba năm vô cùng khó khăn – trước hết là do đại dịch và sau đó là do khủng hoảng kinh tế. Thông điệp của Đức Phật thậm chí phù hợp hơn vào những thời điểm đầy thử thách như thế này. Sức mạnh tinh thần khi đối mặt với thử thách là nền tảng của Phật giáo và chúng ta cần sự can đảm như vậy hơn bao giờ hết. Không có vấn đề gì là không thể vượt qua nếu chúng ta làm theo lời dạy vượt thời gian của Ngài, những lời này vẫn còn giá trị cả hàng ngàn năm sau. Trên thực tế, chính Đức Phật đã đưa ra khái niệm chánh niệm hơn 2.500 năm trước, mặc dù đến nay thế giới mới công nhận tầm quan trọng của nó. “Tâm dẫn đầu mọi hành động. Mọi hành động đều do tâm dẫn dắt, do tâm tạo tác”. “Nếu người ta nói hay hành động với tâm thanh thản, hạnh phúc sẽ theo sau, chắc chắn như hình bóng của người đó.” (Kinh Pháp Cú)

Nhiều cuộc khủng hoảng

Đất nước chúng ta đã bị chia cắt theo các chính sách sắc tộc, tôn giáo và chính trị trong nhiều thập kỷ kể từ khi giành được Độc lập vào năm 1948. Những rạn nứt này đã lộ rõ trong thời gian gần đây, nó thử thách ý chí và sự tồn tại của chúng ta với tư cách là một Quốc gia. Kết quả là mọi người đã trải qua các cuộc chiến tranh và nổi dậy. Những vết nứt này dường như đã bùng phát một cách ngoạn mục trong thời gian gần đây, làm rõ nét thêm nhiều cuộc khủng hoảng mà chúng ta phải đối mặt.

Tuy nhiên, trong thời gian gần đây đã có nhiều dấu hiệu cho thấy thế hệ trẻ không quan tâm đến những chia rẽ do con người tạo ra và thậm chí cả chính trị. Các chính trị gia không còn có thể chia rẽ họ nữa. Họ cũng tôn trọng mọi tôn giáo như nhau. Đây là một dấu hiệu lành mạnh cho thấy tương lai của chúng ta sẽ tươi sáng hơn nhiều khi có họ ở vị trí của những nhà lãnh đạo.

Vì vậy, Vesak năm nay là thời điểm thích hợp nhất để truyền bá thông điệp đoàn kết, hòa bình và hòa giải, sự cần thiết của thời đại. Ngày nay, Đất nước đang ở ngã ba đường, phải đối mặt với con đường dài và khó khăn phía trước để vươn lên như Phượng hoàng trước những thử thách. Nhưng điều này có thể đạt được vào thời điểm thích hợp với sự thống nhất và xác tín về mục đích, nhờ đó chúng ta có thể lấy cảm hứng từ những lời dạy của Đức Phật. Chúng ta nên đạt được chánh niệm tập thể để đạt được những mục tiêu này.

Chúng ta phải lựa chọn sự đoàn kết và hòa bình vào thời điểm này thay vì bất hòa và hận thù. Chúng ta có nhiệm vụ trước mắt nặng nề là xây dựng lại Quốc gia. Và Phật Pháp đưa ra những hướng dẫn phong phú cho một quá trình chữa lành và tái xây dựng mang lại lợi ích cho tất cả các dân tộc của chúng ta bất kể sự khác biệt hay tín ngưỡng về cộng đồng, tôn giáo hay chính trị.

Bất tử và vượt thời gian

Đức Phật trong một chuyến viếng thăm xứ sở của chúng ta đã giải quyết tranh chấp giữa hai phe phái ở Nagadeepa, nhấn mạnh tầm quan trọng của hòa bình. Thông điệp của Ngài về hòa bình và đoàn kết dành cho toàn thể Nhân loại còn vang vọng cho đến ngày nay, vì lời Ngài là bất diệt và trường tồn với thời gian. Đức Phật chủ trương lòng từ bi đối với tất cả chúng sinh, con người và động vật và tuyên bố rằng hận thù không chấm dứt bằng hận thù mà bằng vào tình thương. “Cảnh giác! Đừng lơ là! Hãy sống một cuộc sống chân chính. Người chân chính sống hạnh phúc cả ở đời này và đời sau.” (Lokavagga, Kinh Pháp Cú)

Quả thực, các đảng phái chính trị và người dân của chúng ta phải lấy cảm hứng từ lời khuyên của Đức Phật, giải quyết những khác biệt và đi đến một thỏa thuận để cứu đất nước vào thời điểm của Ngài. Thù hận và hận thù sẽ không đưa chúng ta đến đâu cả. Mặt khác, sự kiềm chế, kiên nhẫn và bất bạo động có thể giải quyết được rất nhiều vấn đề về lâu dài. “Người nào trong khi tìm kiếm hạnh phúc mà lại dùng bạo lực đàn áp những chúng sinh khác cũng mong muốn hạnh phúc, người đó sẽ không đạt được hạnh phúc ở kiếp sau.” (Kinh Pháp Cú, Dandavagga).

Có rất nhiều giá trị như vậy mà xã hội chúng ta đã đánh mất trong quá trình theo đuổi không ngừng của cải vật chất. Điều này không có gì đáng ngạc nhiên trong một thế giới được thương mại hóa cao độ, nơi tiền bạc thường được coi là “tất cả”. Trên thực tế, lễ hội Vesak đã bị thương mại hóa đến mức nhiều người đã quên mất mục đích và nền tảng của nó. Chúng ta nhìn thấy sự lấp lánh và quyến rũ trong ánh sáng và những kẻ phá hoại nhưng không hướng ánh sáng vào bên trong nội tâm của mình nhằm thanh lọc suy nghĩ, lời nói và hành động của mình. Chúng ta nên nhìn xa hơn những đồ trang trí đầy màu sắc và cố gắng hiểu Phật pháp cũng như những giáo lý này liên quan như thế nào đến cuộc sống hàng ngày của chúng ta.

Đức Phật khuyến khích rằng sự bám víu vào vật chất sẽ dẫn đến đau khổ liên tục trong Luân hồi. Tứ Diệu Đế và Bát Chánh Đạo được Đức Phật tuyên thuyết chỉ ra con đường hướng tới sự chấm dứt vĩnh viễn nỗi đau khổ này – Niết Bàn, Trạng thái Cực Lạc. “Đừng theo đuổi cuộc sống bất thiện; đừng sống buông thả; không có tà kiến; không coi trọng những thứ trần tục. Bằng cách này người ta có thể thoát khỏi đau khổ.” (Lokavagga, Kinh Pháp Cú).

Thời điểm đoàn kết

Vesak đã và sẽ luôn là thời điểm cho sự đoàn kết. Không chỉ có Phật tử mới tham gia các hoạt động Vesak. Đây thực sự là một sự kiện quốc gia, nơi cả nước đoàn kết lại như một. Sự đoàn kết như vậy là rất quan trọng đối với sự phát triển của đất nước chúng ta và Đại lễ Vesak là dịp củng cố những mối liên kết này. Điều này phù hợp với lời dạy của Đấng Giác Ngộ, người đã khuyên các Phật tử của Ngài nên tôn trọng các tôn giáo khác và quan điểm của họ. Vesak, Ngày thiêng liêng nhất đối với các Phật tử, mang đến cho họ một cơ hội khác để bắt đầu lại cuộc sống bằng cách thực hành Giáo pháp. “Người thực hành Giáo Pháp sẽ sống trong hạnh phúc với tâm an lạc; người trí luôn thích thú với Pháp.” (Pandithavagga, Kinh Pháp Cú).

Giáo Pháp đã chỉ cho chúng ta cách sống một cuộc sống viên mãn, tín tâm mà không làm ô nhiễm tâm trí chúng ta bằng những tư tưởng xấu xa. Đất nước chúng ta đã có một khởi đầu mới sau nhiều thập kỷ đổ máu. Giờ đây, hơn bao giờ hết, cần phải chữa lành những vết thương đã hành hạ đất nước này bằng tình yêu và lòng trắc ẩn. Chắc chắn không có cách nào tốt hơn là làm theo lời dạy bất diệt của Đức Phật để đạt được mục tiêu cao cả này. “Trong tất cả các con đường, Bát Chánh Đạo là tốt nhất; trong tất cả các sự thật thì Tứ Diệu Đế là tốt nhất; trong mọi sự vô dục là tốt nhất: trong loài người, Đấng Thấy (Đức Phật) là tốt nhất.” (Maggavagga, Pháp Cú)

Vesak: Bliss through mindfulness

Pramod de Silva

Buddhists in Sri Lanka and all parts of the world will celebrate Vesak, the thrice-blessed festival, on May 5 and 6. Vesak marks the Birth, Enlightenment and the Passing Away (Parinibbana) of the Gautama Buddha. It is the most important day in the international Buddhist calendar and is a holiday recognised by the United Nations (UN) on an initiative by Sri Lanka. It is a holiday even in a couple of non-Buddhist countries, for the Buddha is an inspiration for the whole world.

Sri Lankans have gone through a very difficult three years – firstly as a result of the pandemic and then as a result of the economic crisis. The Buddha’s message is even more apt at challenging times such as these. Mental fortitude in the face of challenges is a cornerstone of Buddhism and we need such courage more than ever now. No problem is insurmountable if we follow Buddha’s timeless words, which still ring true even after 2,500 years. In fact, it was the Buddha who introduced the concept of mindfulness more than 2,500 years ago, although it is only now that the world is recognising its significance.  “Mind is the forerunner of all actions. All deeds are led by mind, created by mind. If one speaks or acts with a serene mind, happiness follows, as surely as one’s shadow.” (The Dhammapada)

Multiple crises

Our nation has been divided along ethnic, religious and political lines for many decades since Independence in 1948. These fractures had come to the fore in recent times, testing our will and very existence as a Nation. We have gone through wars and insurgencies as a result. These fissures now seem to have erupted in spectacular fashion in recent times, deepening the multiple crises we face.

However, there have been many indications in recent times that the younger generation has no regard for these man-made divisions and even politics. Politicians can no longer divide them. They also respect all religions equally. This is a healthy sign that our future will be much brighter with them at the helm.

Thus, Vesak this year is most appropriate for spreading the message of unity, peace and reconciliation, the need of the hour. Today, the Nation is at a crossroads, facing a long, hard road ahead in order to rise Phoenix-like from the challenges. But this can be achieved in due course with unity and conviction of purpose, for which we can derive inspiration from the Buddha’s words. We should achieve a collective mindfulness to achieve these aims.

We have to opt for unity and peace at this time instead of discord and rancour. We have the Herculean task of rebuilding the Nation ahead of us. And the Buddha Dhamma offers ample guidance for such a process of healing and rebuilding that benefits all our peoples irrespective of communal, religious or political differences or beliefs.

Immortal and timeless

The Buddha during one of His visits to our island settled a dispute between two factions in Nagadeepa, stressing the importance of peace. His message of peace and unity for all Mankind resonates to this day, for His words are immortal and timeless. The Buddha advocated compassion for all beings, human and animal and enunciated that hatred does not cease by hatred, but by love. “Arise! Do not be heedless! Lead a righteous life. The righteous live happily both in this world and the next.” (Lokavagga, The Dhammapada)

Indeed, our political parties and the people must derive inspiration from the Buddha’s advice, settle their differences and come to an arrangement to save the country at his juncture. Enmity and hatred will not take us anywhere. On the other hand, restraint, patience and non-violence can solve a lot of problems in the long run. “One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.” (The Dhammapada, Dandavagga).

There are many such values that our society has lost sight of in the relentless pursuit of material wealth. This is not surprising in a highly commercialised world, where money is generally regarded as ‘everything’. In fact, the Vesak festival itself is commercialised to such an extent that many have forgotten its very purpose and foundation. We see the glitter and glamour in the illuminations and the pandals but fail to turn the light inwards to our inner selves with a view to purifying our thoughts, words and deeds. We should see beyond the colourful decorations and strive to understand the Buddha Dhamma and how it relates to our day-to-day lives.

The Buddha exhorted that affinity towards material things leads to constant suffering through Samsara. The Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path espoused by the Buddha point the way towards a permanent end to this suffering – Nirvana, the State of Supreme Bliss. “Do not follow a life of evil; do not live heedlessly; do not have false views; do not value worldly things. In this way one can get rid of suffering.” (Lokavagga, The Dhammapada).

While this is the ultimate goal of every Buddhist, it would be wrong to assume that Buddhism is a very complicated philosophy that offers nothing for our lay lives. The Buddha had plenty of advice to offer for lay persons who want to lead to pious lives in their Samsaric journey. The Singalovada Sutta is entirely dedicated to advice for lay persons.

He made it clear that inner peace or cleansing the mind was the first step in this endeavour of finding an end to suffering. “The mind is hard to check. It is swift and wanders at will. To control it is good. A controlled mind is conducive to happiness.” (Chitta Vagga, The Dhammapada). This is also the aim of mindfulness. We should always have positive thoughts in our minds and focus on the task at hand. Thus, thoughts of peace and compassion should emanate from our minds at all times and a Nation that collectively engages in this exercise will see peace, unity and progress in every sphere.

A time for unity

Vesak has always been, and always will be, a time for unity. It is not only Buddhists who take part in Vesak activities. It is truly a national event where the whole country comes together as one. Many Vesak dansalas, pandals and decorations are put up by organisations headed by non-Buddhists. Singers from all communities join hands to sing devotional songs for Vesak. In fact, some of the most well-known Buddhist songs, played repeatedly on radio stations during Vesak, have been performed by non-Buddhists. Non-Buddhists help their Buddhist neighbours with their Vesak decorations.

Such religious and communal unity is vital to the development of our country and Vesak is an occasion which reinforces these bonds. This is in accordance with the teachings of the Enlightened One, who advised His followers to respect other religions and their views. Vesak, the Holiest Day for Buddhists, gives them another opportunity to begin life anew by adhering firmly to the Dhamma. “He who practises the Dhamma abides in happiness with mind pacified; the wise man ever delights in the Dhamma.” (Pandithavagga, The Dhammapada).

The Dhamma has shown us how to lead fulfilled, pious lives without contaminating our minds with evil thoughts. Our nation has made a new start after many decades of bloodshed. Now, more than ever, there is a need to heal the wounds that have bedeviled this nation through love and compassion. There certainly is no better way than following the eternal words of the Buddha to achieve this noble objective. “Of all the paths the Eightfold Path is the best; of all the truths the Four Noble Truths are the best; of all things passionlessness is the best: of men the Seeing One (the Buddha) is the best.” (Maggavagga, Dhammapada)

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