Dear fellow disciple,
Your words brought a pang of sadness in my heart. Of grief. For the loss of our master. At times, after deep and profound moments of reflection on the beauty of the Buddha, tears come to my eyes. He has ended his cycle of rebirth. And I feel alone without his presence.
Over 25 centuries ago, a man walked this Earth. He wasn't too tall nor too short. He has quaint and very square proportions. Standing straight, he could reach down with his hands without bending and touch his knees. When he spreads his arms apart, the length from the right fingertips to the left fingertips is exactly the same as his height. It didn't make him queer; just different. Such that when he stands in a crowd, he was easily seen.
He had dark blue hair and eyebrows. His pupils were also dark blue. There was a soft tuft of silvery hair between his perfectly arched eyebrows.
When he spoke, his voice was deep, rich, full of life and warm love. And everyone in any congregation heard him as if he was speaking right next to each one.
He was Gotama Buddha. He renounced at the age of 29. Attained Supreme Enlightenment at the age of 35. He preached and propounded and taught and guided for 45 solid years. During that time, he slept only an hour a day in the Rainy Seasons. During the dry seasons, he permitted himself an extra hour of sleep after his noon meal. He was there for every disciple. When he lived, his monks and nuns had a very interesting and touching practice. Wherever they sat, they always made sure there was another seat within arms reach that was higher than their seats. It may be a stool, a chair, a log, a rock, or a pile of straw and leaves. This was because the Buddha had reputation for popping up from nowhere apparently to disciples whom he saw with his Third Eye as ready for Enlightenment. And he would then appear to preach to the particular disciple. Not knowing when the Buddha might appear, his disciples always had a ready seat for him.
This wondrous, glorious, godly, blessed individual had indeed walked on this Earth before. And he died at the age of 80.
He was the hero that Sir Edwin Arnold wrote of so beautifully in the poem "Light of Asia". In Book Three, Sir Arnold wrote of how Siddattha felt after seeing the old man, the sick man and the dead man. So sad was Siddattha's heart.
Then cried he, while his lifted countenance
Glowed with the burning passion of a love
Unspeakable, the ardor of a hope
"Oh! suffering world,
Oh! known and unknown of my common flesh,
Caught in this common net of death and woe,
And life which binds to both!
I see, I feel
The vastness of the agony of earth,
The vainness of its joys,
The mockery of all its best,
The anguish of its worst;
Since pleasures end in pain,
And youth in age,
And love in loss,
And life in hateful death,
And death in unknown lives,
Which will but yoke
Men to their wheel again
To whirl the round of false delights
And woes that are not false.
Me too this lure hath cheated,
So it seemed
Lovely to live, and life a sunlit stream
Forever flowing in a changeless peace;
Whereas the foolish ripple of the flood
Dances so lightly down by bloom and lawn
Only to pour its crystal quicklier
Into the foul salt sea!
The veil is rent which blinded me!
I am as all these men
Who cry upon their gods and are not heard
Or are not heeded -- yet there must be aid!
For them and me and all there must be help!
Perchance the gods have need of help themselves
Being so feeble that when sad lips cry
They cannot save!
I would not let one cry whom I could save!
How can it be that Brahma
Would make a world and keep it miserable?
Since, if all-powerful, he leaves it so,
He is not good, and if not powerful,
He is not God?
Channa! Lead home again!
It is enough!
Mine eyes have seen enough!"
(Channa was his charioteeer, by the way. Do note that the Buddha did NOT say the above. It was Sir Arnold trying to describe the heart of the Buddha. In any case, I think Sir Arnold truly gave life and feeling to the Blessed One.)
He renounced shortly after seeing the pains of life.
Where is he now? How could such a one with so brave a heart and so deep a compassion leave us? We ask.
When his death drew near, his pesonal attendant and dear friend, Ananda, tearfully begged him to remain.
The Buddha told him no. He said he had taught enough. And though he could still teach if he remained, he has chosen to end his last birth. And truly, the Buddha's words ring strongly still in our hearts today -- thousands of years after.
The Buddha struggled as a Bodhisatta for four incalculable aeons and 100,000 cycles of time. Or so the Suttas say.
He had done more than any of us can fathom. He attained something he had been yearning for so very long. Then he taught us what he knew and it was time for him to go.
Yet. Until now, there are those who would not let his memories rest. They wake his legend. Make him real by either replacing him or something.
The Hindus made him a reincarnation of Rama (I think). Other Eastern religions similarly deify him.
The Buddha has attained Mahaparinibbana, dear friend. He is gone.
Light a match and blow out the flame. Whither went the flame? East? West? North? Back into the match stick? Hiding behind air molecules?
No. When the conditions that permit the flame's existence is removed (in this example, by introducing an excessive amount of wind), the flame ceases. Should you re-light the match, another flame appears, but by no means is it the same flame that you had blew out.
Samma Sambuddhas of all ages struggled painfully for the love of mankind. Gotama, Dipankara, Visubbhi, and all the rest dating back to eternity gave all they got for an ideal a common man can never understand.
But Nibbana, the end of suffering, was their ultimate aim. Like us, they seek an end to pain. And they found it. Their pain is over.
We here in the Samsara will never hear from the Buddhas gone by. Sad as it is true. Nor will we hear from Arahants and the Pacceka Buddhas who have passed away.
Study the Dhamma well. Lead the noble life even in the face of death. Keep the Buddhas as precious memories that guard us from despair. But don't yearn for that which cannot be.
Nibbana is in no way the same as Samsara. Those who attain Nibbana and pass away into it are not as we are. I cannot explain this in words. But I am glad for the Internet; it lets me commune with fellow disciples without further revelations of my person.
Lastly, I placed html tags in this message to achieve a certain degree of neatness. Let's hope I didn't make it messier.