A Talk by Alok Pandey from “Tuesday Talks” series (AUDIO)
The 10th May is Buddha Purnima, the birthday of Gautama the Buddha or rather of Siddhartha, the prince who would walk out of a kingly life and royal palace in search of a solution to misery and suffering. His is a life of seeking and enlightenment, his master word is compassion, his goal nirvana. On the eve of Buddha Poornima, we share some of the thoughts of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on Buddha, Compassion and the Eightfold Path he gave for humanity.
Words of Sri Aurobindo
There are many who, perplexed by world-problems, the problem of suffering and pleasure, the problem of sin and virtue, declare an escape or flight as the only pathway to the good, and proclaim the virtues of an ascetic withdrawal from life, vairagya and the renunciation of works. Lord Buddha has taught that the world is impermanent and full of suffering, and has shown the way to attaining Nirvana. Others like Jesus and Tolstoy have been staunchly opposed to war which has been the ancient law of the world and to the system of marriage which maintains the continuity of humankind. The ascetics say, work itself is the product of ignorance, reject ignorance, reject all work, be quiet and actionless. The Advaitin says, the world is false, utterly false, merge yourself in Brahman. Then why this world? Why this life? If God exists, then why does He undertake this useless meaningless labour like that of an immature boy? Why did He start this arid joke? If the Self alone exists, if the world is nothing but an illusion, why again does this Self impose this ugly dream on its pure existence? The atheist says, there is neither God nor Self, there is only the blind action of a blind force. But what kind of view is that? Whose is this force, from where is it born, and why again is it blind and insane? No one has been able to give a satisfactory answer to these questions, neither the Christian nor the Buddhist, nor the Advaitin, the atheist or scientist. All are silent on these points and are at the same time eager to shirk the issue by evading the question. Only the Upanishads and the Gita following their line have been unwilling to shirk the issue in this way.
The strong impulse to remove the sufferings of men out of sorrow for their sufferings is called compassion. To feel a sense of helpless weakness at the sight or thought of others’ sufferings is known as pity. Weak helplessness is not compassion, it is pity. Compassion is the way of the strong, pity the manner of the weak. Moved by compassion the Lord Buddha left his wife and child, parents and friends and relatives to pine for him in sorrow with everything taken away, and set out to remove the sufferings of the world. Maddened by intense compassion, Kali went about the worlds killing the titans and flooded the earth with their blood in order to free all from sorrow. Arjuna had renounced arms under the influence of pity.
Compassion is an Aryan attitude, pity an un-Aryan sentiment. Moved by compassion, man engages heroically in battle with evil in order to destroy the evils and sufferings of others. Moved by compassion, woman pours all her heart and energies into the service of loving care and in the attempt to do good to others and lighten their sorrows. One, who under the influence of pity gives up his arms, turns away from the right path, starts weeping and thinks he is doing his duty and is virtuous, such a one is an impotent coward. This is a mean sentiment, it is an attitude of weakness. Despondency can never be the right law. He who gives umbrage to despair gives umbrage to sin. To reject this clouding of the mind, this impure and weak attitude, to join in the fray and carry out one’s duty, to save thereby the world, to protect the Law, to lighten the burden of earth, this is the better way.
Words of the Mother
The Noble Eightfold Path
The Noble Path consists in a training in the following eight stages:
(1) Correct seeing. To see things as they are, that is to say, a pure, accurate vision, the best vision….
The first point then is to see correctly, and to see correctly is to see that pain is associated with ordinary life, that all things are impermanent and that there is no continuity in the personal consciousness.
(2) Correct intention or desire. But the same word “desire” should not have been used, because we have just been told that we should not have desire. It is rather “correct aspiration”. The word “desire” should be replaced by “aspiration”. “To be freed from attachments and to have kind thoughts for everything that exists.” To be constantly in a state of kindness. To wish the best for all, always.
(3) Correct speech that hurts none. Never speak uselessly and scrupulously avoid all malevolent speech.
(4) Correct behaviour—peaceful, honest. From all points of view, not only materially, but morally, mentally. Mental honesty is one of the most difficult things to achieve.
(5)Correct way of living. Not to cause harm or danger to any creature. This is relatively easy to understand. There are people who carry this principle to the extreme, against all commonsense.
Those who put a handkerchief to their mouths, for example, so as not to swallow germs, who have the path in front of them swept so as not to step on an insect. This seems to me a little excessive, because the whole of life as it is at present is made up of destruction. But if you understand the text correctly, it means that one must avoid all possibility of doing harm, one must not deliberately endanger any creature. You can include here all living creatures and if you extend this care and this kindness to everything that lives in the universe, it will be very favourable to your inner growth.
(6) Correct effort. Do not make useless efforts for useless things, rather keep all the energy of your effort to conquer ignorance and free yourself from falsehood. That you can never do too much.
(7) The seventh principle comes to confirm the sixth: correct vigilance. You must have an active and vigilant mind. Do not live in a half-somnolence, half-unconsciousness—usually in life you let yourself go, come what may! This is what everyone does. Now and then you wake up and you realise that you have wasted your time; then you make a big effort only to fall back again, a minute later, into indolence. It would be better to have something less vehement but more constant.
(8) And finally, correct contemplation. Egoless thought concentrated on the essence of things, on the inmost truth and on the goal to be attained. How often there is a kind of emptiness in the course of life, an unoccupied moment, a few minutes, sometimes more. And what do you do? Immediately you try to distract yourself, and you invent some foolishness or other to pass your time. That is a common fact. All men, from the youngest to the oldest, spend most of their time in trying not to be bored. Their pet aversion is boredom and the way to escape from boredom is to act foolishly. Well, there is a better way than that—to remember. When you have a little time, whether it is one hour or a few minutes, tell yourself, “At last, I have some time to concentrate, to collect myself, to relive the purpose of my life, to offer myself to the True and the Eternal.” If you took care to do this each time you are not harassed by outer circumstances, you would find out that you were advancing very quickly on the path. Instead of wasting your time in chattering, in doing useless things, reading things that lower the consciousness—to choose only the best cases, I am not speaking of other imbecilities which are much more serious —instead of trying to make yourself giddy, to make time, that is already so short, still shorter only to realise at the end of your life that you have lost three-quarters of your chance—then you want to put in double time, but that does not work—it is better to be moderate, balanced, patient, quiet, but never to lose an opportunity that is given to you, that is to say, to utilise for the true purpose the unoccupied moment before you. When you have nothing to do, you become restless, you run about, you meet friends, you take a walk, to speak only of the best; I am not referring to things that are obviously not to be done. Instead of that, sit down quietly before the sky, before the sea or under trees, whatever is possible (here you have all of them) and try to realise one of these things—to understand why you live, to learn how you must live, to ponder over what you want to do and what should be done, what is the best way of escaping from the ignorance and falsehood and pain in which you live.
A Poem by Nolini Kanta Gupta
FRIEND! you received the mystic touch of love and your
gentle heart fell into error!
A high desire caught you in the meshes of Sannyasa!
A mighty effort is Krishna, the eternal Emanation:
Dharma is fallen in the whirl of adharma in this age of Kali!
Vainly you find fault with the Path and blame it.
You cannot understand my violent purpose:
A slave of ignorance, of sattva (Light) mixed with tamas
Or else even in this violent act you could recognise your dearest friend,
Recognise Krishna. You .understand Radha,
Him you did not understand. Whenever he sees the Earth
besieged by the Asura,
He always comes down shaking the unshakeable;
He turns round his spear and hurls it head foremost into the
hidden bottom of the ocean.
You understand the Flute, you understand Vrindavan,
You have not understood the killing of Kamsa, you have not
understood the war of Kurukshetra.
You are a perfect Vaishnava, you chant hymns to Buddha.
But Vishnu and Rudra are one body, they are only different limbs ―
Have you forgotten it? Have you forgotten that the very fount of kindness
And the cruel slayer Kalki are one and the same Incarnation?
Kanu withdraws the violent Kalki-mood within his bosom
And kneels down at the feet of Radha.
The plenitude of kindness is kept imprisoned within the Mother’s heart,―
Demoness, Titaness, Ogress – all their brood run riot in wild strife.
This Buddhist cult was created in illusion and delusion
Forbearance has made the spirit sluggish, compassion filled it with affliction —
It has no ardent yearning for the good of the world,
It wields no sword of knowledge to cut down ignorance,
Its humbleness makes it void of energy and its laziness empty of substance,
Proud of its shaven pate and an inflated belly
This is not Buddha’s spirit. He is free from illusion,
He is calm and tranquil, he is a supreme ascetic of iron will, he is a mighty hero;
Trampling friendship and riches on his path, he is wholly given to his mission,
He never turns aside,-he goes on, his eyes fixed on his journey.
This Vaishnava path, its heart melting in pity,
Full of slothful compassion, feeble and withdrawn from life,
The body always lolling lazily, the mind stricken with kindness, —
Drunk with the wine of spiritual lust, this unheroic Dharma
Declares that it worships the world-hero Krishna
and in act and word tramples upon his Word
and his Dharma,
Speaks always of kindness and love,
Has emptied real Kindness and Love of its burning truth―
Nor is it Chaitanya’s path. He is mighty and steadfast:
Intense love, intense forbearance, free from tamas, heroic,
He is the Fair-Body (Gauranga), child of the Effulgence (Sachi).
Have you not seen the ocean?
The Supreme God himself in hiding as though:
Layer after layer a mass
Immobile, bottomless, still, stretching beyond sight,
The blue immeasurable dancing upon it.
The ripples laugh and weep, – the huge waves
Fall at the feet of the Earth and kiss in playful moods.
But that delightful play of the ocean
Could never be if a deep foundation
Unmoved, unplumbed, secreted, is not held firm
By the great Ocean, conscious within, the expanse incommensurable,
In its self-luminous darkness, silent and alone.
In this mighty stillness the dance-drama goes on.
And again, hast thou not seen when lashed by the gale
Fierce unbridled it springs up miles after miles?
Roars the wild ocean, relentless, bourneless.
Endless cruelty embodied, expanse of wrath
Laughs covering the sky. Deafened with roars,
Scattering raucous cry and lion-growls lie the heartless Ocean ―
Boats sink, men sink. Does it hear the weepings,
Maddened with the relentless play in the embrace of the wind?
This is another game, another dance, another note,
This kiss is other – still is the same ocean.
WouId you say then, some demon
Laughs this terrible laughter, hurls this cry and call?
Who is this titan? Whose this imperious tyranny
In the guise of a play? Whose this ruthless embrace?
You know well this Rakshasa. Look well again,
The maids of Vraja recognise in Vraja His flute.
In vain you say the evil is man’s creation;
In vain you say cruelty is titan’s fancy.
This violent cruel play is His
Whom you call the God of Kindness, the God of Love.
Why does he do so, why does he revel in this violent battle, ―
Freedom from maya is the price you have to pay to know Keshava.
When we see good in evil in the creation,
In cruelty kindness, then there is liberation.
All feelings break down, all sins die,
Free dweller in infinity moves the soul.
None belongs to none, everyone is His,
In the flow of life and death the world play moves on ceaseless.
The master of the play, the master of Energy,
the Supreme God in the Universe
He is one with the infinite Consciousness,
vibrating with Delight.
[Nolini Kanta Gupta, Collected Works, Vol 8, p 188]