Vesak Message 2016

Posted by on May 18, 2016

aloka_stupa2016

VESAK MESSAGE 2016

– Venerable Mahinda –

On the occasion of Vesak, celebrating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away, we should recall that the Buddha’s appearance in this world, his activities, and dispensation of the Dhamma represent the culmination of countless lifetimes of practice, to perfect the virtues, knowledge and skills necessary to become a fully-enlightened being with the ability to enlighten others.

In particular, there are ten virtues, or perfections (dasa-parami), which the Buddha perfected from life to life:

 

  1. Generosity – DĀNA
  2. Morality – SĪLA
  3. Renunciation – NEKKHAMMA
  4. Wisdom – PAÑÑĀ
  5. Effort – VIRIYA
  6. Patience – KHANTI
  7. Truthfulness – SACCA
  8. Determination – ADHITTHĀNA
  9. Loving-kindness – METTĀ
  10. Equanimity – UPEKKHĀ

 

GENEROSITY, giving, or sharing, is the ability to give away what we have to those in need. It includes the giving of material gifts, such as possessions or wealth; the giving of confidence, such as helping others to overcome fear and danger, or saving lives; and the giving of Dhamma, the sharing of the knowledge which leads to the cessation of suffering.

MORALITY refers to upright, moral conduct, involving both the performance of wholesome actions as well as the avoidance of unwholesome actions. Observing the Five Precepts is the basic level of practising morality.

RENUNCIATION refers to the ability to let go. It is not solely referring to leading the renunciate life of a monk or nun, but rather to giving up the tendencies of attachment and craving.

WISDOM refers to the profound understanding of the true nature of life.

EFFORT is the energy that enabled the Buddha to persevere on the path from life to life. Without effort, we will not be able to accomplish any task, let alone the great feat of attaining enlightenment.

PATIENCE is the ability to endure or tolerate suffering, especially at the hands of others, without a trace of anger or aversion.

TRUTHFULNESS at the basic level is avoiding lying, or any type of misleading or deceitful speech. But in perfecting truthfulness, the Buddha practised at the level to never break his promise, even at the cost of his life.

DETERMINATION or resolution refers to the determination to achieve his goal, no matter what hardships or difficulties are faced.  On the night of his Enlightenment, the Buddha determined “Though my skin, my nerves and my bones shall waste away and my blood go dry, I will not leave this seat until I have attained the highest wisdom called the Supreme Enlightenment that leads to everlasting happiness”.

LOVING-KINDNESS, or METTA, is unconditional, compassionate love towards all beings.  The Buddha’s metta is pure and free from any idea of ‘I’, ‘my’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’.  This is the perfection of true love.

EQUANIMITY is the ability to always remain balanced in every situation, unmoved by the eight worldly conditions: gain & loss; praise & blame; fame & ill-fame; happiness & sorrow.

These ten qualities enabled the Buddha to confront and overcome whatever challenges he met on his journey through samsara, seeking enlightenment from life to life for the benefit of all sentient beings.  The practice of these virtues yielded the merits for him to be born in the ruling class as Prince Siddhartha with all the material comforts, yet at the same time having the wisdom to see the fleeting nature of worldly pleasures, as well as the courage to leave such luxury behind to seek and eventually realise the truth.

The Buddha practised and perfected these virtues over countless lifetimes.   There are many instances in the Jataka tales where, as the Bodhisatta, he willingly gave up his kingdom, his own wife, children, and even his own life or parts of his body to perfect these virtues.

There are different levels of practise of the Ten Perfections. At the first level, one is able to give up material possessions or comfort in order to uphold that virtue.  For example, to practise generosity, one is willing to give away possessions, wealth, or time and energy. To perfect morality, one would not engage in any immoral conduct, such as stealing or cheating, even though it may cause material loss, such as missing out on a promotion to a better job.  In order to attain Arahantship, one must be able to practise all Ten Perfections at this first level.

At the second level, one is able to give up even bodily possessions such as limbs or organs, in perfection of that particular virtue.  To become a Pacceka Buddha, one needs to be able to perfect these ten virtues to this level.

At the highest level, to become a Samma Sambuddha (or fully awakened one, possessing all the skills necessary to enlighten others), one is able to sacrifice one’s life, without hesitation, to uphold these virtues.

The giving up of bodily possessions or even sacrificing one’s own life to perfect one’s virtues should not be misunderstood.  As ordinary beings who have not yet developed their minds sufficiently, we need to practise at the first level, developing our virtues at the level of giving up material possessions or comforts.  It is very important that we don’t overestimate our capabilities. Only when we have cultivated our minds to a degree where we have a profound understanding of the true nature of all phenomena, will we be able to give up our bodily possessions or life with complete willingness and clarity. When the Bodhisatta perfected his virtues in this manner, he was fully conscious of what he was doing, and of his own readiness to give up his life and limbs in order to perfect that particular virtue.

Reflecting on the perfection of these ten virtues, we can appreciate the greatness of the Buddha. To develop even one of these great virtues is something admirable and worthy of respect. The Buddha perfected all ten to the highest level.  These are the qualities that make him the greatest teacher and leader the world has ever seen.