Venue: Hokkien Cemetery Pavilion
First, a warm welcome to all present. Before starting today’s talk, we would like to invite all of you to join us for tonight’s Wesak Day Celebration up in SBS. We have arranged three simultaneous programmes for you – a conducted meditation session at the multi-purpose hall, a screening of the show “The Life of Buddha” near the open shrine and a free and easy light dinner. You are welcome to participate in any of these.
According to the Theravada tradition, Wesak Day commemorates three auspicious events:
- the birth of Siddhattha Gotama
- the day he attained Enlightenment
- his final passing away (parinibbana).
Siddhattha Gotama was the son of a chieftain of the Sakyan clan. When he was born on the full moon day of Wesak, a few unusual events occurred. Unlike normal births, he was born in a reversed position, legs appearing first. The moment his feet touched the ground he took seven steps, stood still and uttered the following words:
‘Aggohamasmi lokassa ‘I am the foremost of the world.
jeţţhohamasmi lokassa, I am the world’s supreme..
seţţhohamasmi lokassa. I am the best in the world.
ayamantimā jāti, This is my last life;
natthi dāni punabbhavo’ ti. Never will there be another existence’.
Sceptics may question the ability of a newborn baby to perform such miracles. However, Ven Ajahn Brahm once told us about a real-life case published in the mass media where a newborn baby was reported to have uttered the words “Oh no! Not again!” at birth. Even though Siddhattha was not yet enlightened, there existed this instinct accumulated from countless previous lives that gave him this knowledge that this was going to be his very last birth.
In the final chain of events leading to his Enlightenment, on the full moon day of Wesak, Siddhattha sat under a shady Bodhi tree and during the first watch of the night (approximately 6pm-10pm), recollected his previous lifetimes that seemed endless. During the middle watch (10pm-2am), he switched his attention to watching the countless deaths and rebirths of myriad other beings. He observed the effects of kamma and its resultant vipaka. At the third and final watch (2am-6am), he directed his mind to the destruction of the taints (asavas) by observing the arising and passing away of the five aggregates and, just before the lift of dawn, he achieved Enlightenment. It was then that his mind was freed from all the taints. The Buddha sat there enjoying the bliss of Enlightenment, knowing that all his work had been done. He mentally reflected:
‘Anekajātisamsāram, ‘Through many a life in samsara
sandhāvissam anibbism; have I wandered unenlightened
gahakāram gavesanto, looking for the House Builder.
Dukkhā jāti punappunam. Suffering is life again and again.
Gahakāraka diţţhosi House Builder, you’re found!
Puna geham na kāhasi; Never shall you build another house.
sabbā te phāsukā bhaggā, All your rafters are broken;
gahakuţam visańkhatam; Your rooftop destroyed.
visańkhāragatam cittam, My mind has entered the Unconditioned.
taņhānam khayamajjhagā’ti I have attained the destruction of craving.’
It is our Craving (House Builder) that causes our countless rebirths. The ‘House’ refers to our physical body. In the Buddhist context these are the five aggregates. With the dissolution of the five aggregates, the ‘House’ cannot be rebuilt. There is no more rebirth when the Rafters (Defilements) are broken and the Rooftop (Ignorance/Delusion) destroyed. The majority of us have no memories of our past countless rebirths and subsequent suffering in Samsara. As a result, we always enjoy and celebrate each and every birthday, with a “Happy Birthday”, unlike the aforementioned child who could remember and cried, “Oh no! Not again!!”
For the next seven days, the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree. On the seventh day, he uttered,
‘Yadā have pātubhavanti dhammā, ‘Indeed when things become apparent
ātāpino jhāyato brāhmaņassa; to the ardent, meditating arahant;
athassa kańkhā vapayanti sabbā, then all his doubts dissipate
yato pajānāti sahetudhamman’ti. because he comprehends the nature of conditionality.’
All cravings disappear, as the arahant understands that all phenomena are conditioned.
Final passing away
After 45 years of teaching the Dhamma, the Buddha attained Parinibbana at the ripe old age of 80. On the full moon day of Wesak as countless beings gathered to bid farewell to him, the Noble One uttered his final words:
‘Handa dāni bhikkhave, ‘Well then monks
āmantayāmi vo, let me tell you –
vayadhammā sańkhārā; decay is inherent in (conditioned) phenomena;
appamādena sampādethā’ti. fulfil (your training) with heedfulness.’
This is the final parting advice of the Buddha to us. Subsequently the Buddha attained the jhanas and the Formless spheres progressively and then in reverse order until the final cessation of his five aggregates. It is difficult for those who have not attained to understand the above just as it is impossible for a person born colour-blind to understand the world of colours.
Honouring the Buddha
When we chant “Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma-sambuddhassa”, we should reflect that we are paying homage to the Blessed One (Bhagava) who is Rightly (Samma) self (sam) Enlightened (buddha). In other words, Siddhattha did not learn from a teacher, but attained enlightenment all by himself—and in the right way as well. The word ‘Arahan’ can be understood from the following three meanings:
1. Ara/ han
Ara (enemy), han (killer). The Buddha is one who has eliminated his enemies of greed, hatred and delusion.
2. A/ rahan
A (no), rahan (secrets). The Buddha is totally pure and blameless. He has nothing to hide.
One who is worthy (of respect, offerings, hospitality, etc.)
Now let us recite together “Arahan Samma-sambuddho” and recall the wonderful virtues of the Buddha as I just explained. Mind you, these are just two of his nine qualities mentioned in the scriptures. But these will suffice for you to practise Buddhanussati (meditation on recollecting the virtues of the Buddha). In this way we can honour the Buddha on this auspicious occasion with the high-end honour of practising according to his teachings. Also, don’t forget the Buddha’s final exhortation to fulfil our practice of sila, samadhi and pañña too.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!