This article is dedicated to The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, whose Birth Anniversary is to be celebrated on the full moon of 6th May, 2012. This day commemorates three important events of Buddha’s life, his birth; his enlightenment, i.e., attainment of supreme wisdom and; his attainment of Nirvana, i.e., the complete extinction of his self.
Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, a spiritual teacher from ancient India lived and died in about the fifth century before the Christian era. Buddha means “enlightened one”, someone who is completely free from all faults and mental obstructions, the “Awakened One”, someone who has awakened and seen things as they really are. Because he has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and has removed all obstructions from his mind, he knows everything of the past, present, and future, directly and simultaneously. Buddha has great compassion which is completely impartial and embracing all living beings without discrimination.
The Mauryan emperor Ashoka espoused Buddhist religion in the 3rd century B.C. and helped in spreading it far and wide. Though, Buddhism originated in India and gained tremendous popularity throughout the Far East in Asia, there are very few practising Buddhists in India. According to Buddhism, sorrow and desire are the main cause of all the evil and suffering of this world. Buddha advocated the Eightfold Path consisting of precepts like right conduct, right motive, right speech, right effort, right resolve, right livelihood, right attention and right meditation to gain mastery over suffering. It is only after following this path one can reach the ultimate aim of Nirvana, the transcendental state of complete liberation.
Gautama Buddha was not a god and the philosophy of Buddhism does not entail any theistic world-view. Buddha travelled far and wide teaching hundreds of followers. Forty-nine days after Buddha attained enlightenment he rose from meditation and taught the first Wheel of Dharma. Those teachings of The Buddha such as The Four Noble Truths or the Eightfold Path are timeless and reflect personal and spiritual development.
Buddha himself declares that his teaching was a revelation of truths discovered by himself, not known to his contemporaries, not inherited from past tradition. Thus, in his very first sermon , he says : “ Monks , with the thought , “ this is the noble truth of suffering, this is its cause, this is its cessation , there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, insight, and light concerning things unheard of before “.
The teachings of Buddha are solely to liberate human beings from the misery and sufferings of life. Rich and poor alike were attracted by the simplicity of Buddha’s teaching and his emphasis on complete equality of all. Many quotes of Buddha which have been handed down until today are not only inspirational but also reflect deep truth of reality. His disciples continue to spread his teachings.
What can we learn, where can we be inspired from The Buddha for everyday life and our own development today? The following are some of his selected quotations which are, both, inspiring and helpful to all human beings regardless of where we are in personal development:
All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.
You become what you think or in other words, what you focus on grows in your life and from what you take your focus away from, diminishes. This means that the mind is directing our life in the way that we manifest the life around us by the thoughts and directions we take within our mind. Since everything we created around us is first created in the mind, it is the tool or the interface between our inner self and the material world. There is another quote of Buddha with a similar message, “He is able who thinks he is able”. This shows the creative power of mind and if we are able to consciously use it in that way, avoiding negative thoughts and utilizing empowering thoughts, we will use it in a supportive manner.
All wrong-doing arise because of mind. If mind is transformed can wrong-doing remain?
This is the core of personal development. It points towards the need to train and develop the mind and to free it from limits and negativity. Another quote, “mind is the source of happiness and unhappiness” makes the same point with the special emphasis on happiness. The mind if used correctly, i.e. constructively, empowering, solution- and action-oriented, positive, truth-seeking, can create happiness. But used poorly i.e., blaming, egocentric, negative, blinded by ambition or separation, will create unhappiness for us. Training the mind is paramount. The quote points out to the transformation by awakening, where mind becomes the servant of the self and not the creator of a self-image (the concept of the ego) as a replacement for the true self.
Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle – the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
This points to the abundant nature of reality. The abundance mentality believes there is enough for everyone; we only have to realize and live by it. It is the opposite of scarcity, where you have the belief that you always have to fight for your part in a world with limitations and scarcity.
Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
The essence of living in the present moment, the Now, is on focusing the mind to take attention away from thinking about past or future. The present moment is there to experience life directly. Past and future are only concepts of our mind and, therefore, are good for learning from the past or conceptual planning for the future when it is useful – not to dwell in the past or future and getting stuck in the mind by constant thinking loops. The present moment, the Now, is the entry point to the spiritual dimension and to life itself.
However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act upon them?
Action is what counts. To be action-oriented and to actually do what we think- to prove what we believe by applying it in reality. Only if we ‘walk our talk’ we are authentic and truthful to ourselves. To apply yourself and your ideas in reality is like a proof-test for what you think is right and will work. If there is no action and no testing in reality, the words or ideas themselves are of no real sustainable value. There is another quote on this , “a dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker, and a man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.”
Death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.
To seize the day fully means living every moment, every day, wisely. It means to live to the highest truth we know and to rise to our highest values and capabilities. Living wisely means not to believe every thought that comes, but to live more from the vacuum between thoughts, from our own essence.
Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.
The inside-out approach means to look within oneself to find the inspiration and power to act from this point. It means not to look to the outside world for liberation or happiness, but to take the responsibility for oneself and become that what one is seeking. His another quote, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path”, talks directly about this responsibility, the response-ability we have in our inside.
In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.
Any perspective we have on anything is only a relative truth. An objective perspective or an absolute truth is very hard or maybe impossible to see. But to be aware of this and to be interested to see another perspective from another person’s eyes can be mind-opening and valuable. The matter of perspective is a very powerful one and it is the core cause of most conflicts between people. One thinks one is right as long one stays in one’s own single perspective; needless to say, the other person also has the same reality. There is a similar quote on this: “In separateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength” which shows that if we become able to dissolve the separatist perspective to a perspective of oneness with another, we hold the key to end conflicts and to find solution and agreements suitable for everybody.
If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
This quote is perhaps the most difficult one to understand. In the first place, it is not about the beautiful nature of the flower or beauty itself. What Buddha is talking about is to see and relate one with the life in the flower directly, without any interference, by our mind, by mental concepts and thoughts of the flower. The energy which makes or withers the flower and the energy which infuses smell and aroma in it .
The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.
If we are not authentic and truthful to ourselves, we will build a wall around us that we have to tear down, eventually. It is then only a resistance to the reality and our own nature where we can hide some time, but life has a way to show us our own faults .To be true to the best one knows means to arrive from our own best knowledge and not buy anything outside ourselves blindly, always asking, is this really true?
In resonance with the concluding quote above, here is the final one by The Buddha, “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.”
Though, twenty five centuries have gone since the passing away of Buddha, his message of love and wisdom still exists in its purity, decisively influencing the destinies of humanity. Forests of flowers are daily offered at his shrines and countless millions of lips daily repeat the mantra: Buddham Sharnam Gacchaami , “ I take refuge in The Buddha”. His greatness yet glows today like a sun that blots out lesser lights, and his Dhamma yet beckons the weary pilgrim to Nirvana’s security and peace.
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