Saturday, 26 March 2011

Views of the Disciples of the Buddha


Views expressed by the disciples of the Buddha about their teacher are very important in recognizing the personality of the Buddha. The four categories of disciples (cattaroparisa) were the people who stayed very close to the Buddha from morning to evening always a big number of disciples used to be with Him while walking, teaching and living in the monastery.

 The first response the Buddha received from His disciples was a rejective attitude, it happened when the Buddha approached Benarese to meet and teach the five disciples. They thought that the Gautama is returning having failed to achieve His goal of enlightenment. So they discussed not to respect, welcome or treat Him respectfully. Nevertheless it is said that they changed their attitude when the Buddha moved closer, any way they called Him “O! friend,” having tried to convince the five disciples that He is the Enlightened One next the Buddha preached His first discourse on Rolling the Wheel of Doctrine (∂hammacakkapvattanasutta), at the conclusion of the sermon the eldest KoNDañña realized the truth. He praised the Buddha with following words.

åbhikkhantaM bhante, abhikkhantaM bhante, seyyathApi bhante nikkujjitaM vA ukkujjeyya, paticcannaM vA vivareyya. mUlhassa vA maggaM Acikkheyya, andhakAre vA telapajjotaM dhAreyya, cakkumantu rUpaM dakkhintIti. Evameva bhagavatA anekapariyAyena dhammo pakAsito.”

=Excellent, Venerable Sir! Excellent, Venerable Sir! Venerable Sir! Such as what is turned up side down would turn into proper side, what is closed would open, would say path to whom that lost way and would hold an oil lamp as those who have eyes see forms. The doctrine was preached in various ways.”

In the Nikāya literature the above passage has been given many times after its first occurrence many others repeated the same in praise of the Buddha’s teaching. The KoNDaJJattheragAthA of TheragathApAli represents the words of KoNDañña in more poetic form. The main ideas expressed by elder KoNDañña can be summarize as follows.

“I am very pleasant having heard the teaching of the Buddha, the Dhamma completely free from grasping was preached. There are many beautiful things in the world; these wrong concepts with lust keep the human bound to saMsāra. As the rain stops the dust aroused by wind in the same way when one sees the world truth insight the wrong concepts goes scattered.”

 The words of KoNDañña clearly represent the views of a person before Buddha’s preaching and after that it clarifies the inner transformation made by the teaching of the Buddha.

The biography of the Buddha shows that His teachings could be even understood by seven years old children. Sopaka was one such innocent boy who was isolated and then had the refuge of the Buddha to become a monk. Having attained Arahanthood at a later time explains his experience with the Buddha in following words.

“I worship that great person who was wandering in the shade of fragrant chamber (gandhakuti). I followed His foot steps with clasped hands then He asked me question of the child (kumArapaJhA). When I answered them the Buddha said to the sangha pointing me this Sopaka is an assess for the inhabitants of AGga and Magadha, he is to be respected by others. O Sopaka! Come to me answering those questions itself is the higher ordination for you that I who come having obtained higher ordination at the age of seven years now bear the last body. The beauty of the Dhamma is wonderful.”

 These words that are recorded in ßopakattheragAthA depict show how the Buddha was not only the teacher but also the father like guardian to His disciples.

The üruvelakassapattheregAthA records how a disciple of the Buddha who came from another religious tradition reveals his pleasantness and the respect towards the Buddha.

“I did not surrender to the Buddha with jealous and pride. When I saw the psychic performances of famous Gautama the Buddha then the Buddha having observed my feelings accused me, it generated sorrow in me, I was a Jatila before and gave it up to enter the order, all higher knowledges are obtained, I have won all for what I have entered the order, the Buddha was my great teacher.”

This expression of Uruvelakassapa shows how he changed his attitudes by inner transformation being encouraged by the instruction of the Buddha. He was pleasant to his teacher for he very tactfully awakened inherent positive tendencies within him.

Among the many disciples of Bhikkhuni order, Mahāpajapati Gotami was a personality that praised the Buddha in many ways referring to His human and super natural qualities, her views are recorded in Mahāpajapati Gotami TherigAthA as follows:

“May my worship be to the great Hero, the Supreme One of all beings who set me and others free from suffering . . . I was mother to Him, He was a father to me when I did not know reality. . . . Queen Maya gave birth to Gautama. Gautama freed many beings from suffering.”

This frank expression of Pajapati Gotami explains a rare experience of a human being the son brought by her became the spiritual teacher at a later time, her feelings say that He has become her father for guiding her to develop spirituality. Similar expressions are found in many Thera-therigAthAs that praised the Buddha as a teacher great human being and an unparallel spiritual teacher.  

What is expressed by Their Sisūpacālā is given in the ßisUpacAlAsutta of SN.

åtthi sakyakule jAto - Buddho appati puggalo,
sabbA bhibhU mAranudo - sabbatthamaparAjito.

=There is the One, who is born in Sakyan family,
The Enlightened One, the Incomparable One,
The Winner of everything, Conqueror of Māras,
One who is not defeated in every sense?

ßabbattha mutto Asito - sabbaM passati cakkhumA,
sabbakammakkhayappatto - vimutti upadhi saGkhaye,
so mayhaM bhagavA satthA -tassa rocemi sAsanaM.

=One who is freed everywhere, the ascetic,
The Possessor of eyes sees everything,
He attained the destruction of kammas,
Freed from aggregates;
He is my teacher the Blessed One,
I like His order.

These words of disciples of the Buddha show how He was understood by the disciples who attained spiritual advancement and entered the path of spiritual development under His advices.

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