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Life of Gautama Buddha
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Life of Gautama Buddha in Devasthanakala Paper cutting art
by Ustad Kalakar Prabal Pramanik



The Stages of Spiritual Evolution and the way shown by Buddha

Human beings, even in the paleolithic times, were aware of spiritual evolution. His queries about the basic force of creation are evident in his art and burial rites.
The burial rites prove his faith in life beyond apparent death.
All the shamanistic rites of primitive societies aimed at penetrating the world of the unseen, the world from the metaphysical viewpoint, and to find a way to elevate the cousciousness to gain greater power in the world of the unseen.
The less understood laws of nature were unravelled at least by some enlightened ones and propagated through ancient scriptures, though often in a cryptic manner, in many different places of the world.
The rites of the scriptures in India, whether shamanistic or Vedic, definitely show the path to spiritual elevation and even to salvation.
Yet, these paths are often difficult to understand by an ordinary person who may not go deep into the inner meaning of the cryptic presentations and the overloading of rites and rituals often overshadowed the real inner implications.
In the process of following the rites, and rituals, the true aim of spiritual exercises was often lost and the people following spiritual discipline were apt to be lured into the way to attain certain "super natural" powers, rather than liberation.
Just the attainment of certain supernatural powers do not necessarily lead to spiritual liberation and salvation, so "proper" spiritual guidance is necessary to reach a greater level of spiritual evolution.
Buddha understood this and sought out a way that would enable even an ordinary person to follow a day to day routine that would help that person to lead a purer life and to elevate the level of consciousness leading to spiritual evolution in a positive way.
The way of "Dhamma", the way that elivates the conscious being through his deeds and the effects of his deeds.
Buddha clearly stated "positive deeds bring positive results, and negative deeds cause negative results".
Buddha was not the first person to understand this basic truth, as this basic truth has been understood and revealed in other scriptures by other enlightened people too.
The enlightened ones are Buddhas who come to the world to cast light in the darkness of ignorance causing sorrow and distress in the world.
Gautama Samyaka Sambodhi was a very powerful teacher who illuminated the world with his knowledge for those who would pay heed to his words.
Unlike cryptic scriptures that use analogies and symbolic ways to disperse truth, limiting the spread of the truth only to those who understand those symbols and can analyze the analogies, the words of Buddha were clear, easily understandable and very practical.
Buddha’s message was ment to be universal, and with this view in mind, he used Pali, instead of Sanskrit, to spread his words, as Pali was likely to be much more easily understood by the common people.
Buddha’s gospel is not overloaded with rituals and rites, but are straightforward instructions to a better life by being a better human being.
The basic philosophy, that you can liberate your own soul through your own deeds (Karma) as you are responsible for your own actions is easy to comprehend.
Those who think that just religious beliefs and the rites and rituals that go with the religious faiths, would necessarily be enough to give them spiritual enlightenment are absolutely wrong.
If you are not a considerate, understanding and honest person, no religious belief or ceremony is going to help you in your spiritual evolution.
A kind, considerate and honest person does not need the props of religions beliefs and ceremonies.
Religious beliefs, I have observed very often make people narrow minded and constricted communal attitudes are created. These communal attitudes divide the society and create severe problems.
For me, the way shown by Gautama Samyaka Sambodhi is a path to spiritual liberation, and not an "ism" or religious constriction.
It is a universal way, suitable for every age. Even if any one never hears of Buddha and his teachings, but is a really kind and considerate person and tries in sincere way to reduce his or her negative feelings and to develop his or her positive attitude with honesty and a sense of responsibility, that person is advancing spiritually in a true manner.
In a society, where the atmosphere has been vitiated by wide spread corruption and demoralization, people are pressurized by negative values.
Yet, the individuals who can maintain their honesty and control their negative feelings effectively, with thoughtful positive actions, are able to develop spiritually.
Why is spiritual development important? Why do should we give importance to spiritual evolution?
Material life, with short lived phases of pleasures and sorrows is transitory. The soul, the consciousness in you is not transitory like the physical body. The soul moves on from one phase of birth to death to another, influenced by the results of the actions inacted with the physical body.
In the world in modern times of 21st century, those who are stepped in crude materialistic values that evaluate life in the terms of physical gain or loss often say "we don’t believe in soul or its eternal journey. We don’t believe in the different phases of the journey through incarnations."
When Buddha lived in India two and half millenniums ago, he preached in a society that firmly believed in soul and reincarnation. So it was much easier for him to teach the way to liberation through spiritual development.
In societies with modern materialistic values, where ignorance about the laws of Karma has caused wide spread unscrupulous and selfish values, the teachings of Gautama Samyaka Sambodhi, that are based on the laws of Karma, and reincarnation, may be difficult for many to accept.
Scepticism born out of materialistic values make many people demand short term or immediate proofs in their limited and biased level of understanding.
So, whatever such people fail to understand in their level of understanding they discard.
The apparent level of understanding of a person who is not spiritually developed may not be very high, so the greatest truths of eternity, may not ne comprehensible easily to such a person.
One has to accept the hypothesis about the laws of Karma and results in context to the continuity of the journey of the soul, to understand the importance of the teachings of Tathagata Gautama Buddha.
People with materialistic and narrow selfish values are apt to think of the teachings of Gautama Buddha as "unscientific" and unnecessary.
They would rather lead lives in search of physical pleasure and financial "security".
Physical pleasure is transitory and continuous efforts to boost up financial security can never avoid old age, disease and death.
Other sorrows too are inevitable. The rush for success in terms of gain and loss is an illusion and success that is limited to material plane generally leads to negative emotions like money minded arrogance and egocentric attitude.
Controlling oneself means curbing the desires and to keep a tight rein on the emotions. This seems hard indeed for people used to materialistic and consumerist values. A basic change of values seems too great a sacrifice for them, moreover these people are so immersed in illusions, that they think it absolutely unnecessary to open their eyes to greater truths of life by removing their biased ignorance.
Such people not only suffer themselves, but they make the world suffer too.
To make Buddha’s way comprehensible to modern people I have started writing these articles.
I have avoided pedantic discussions and the elaboration of the sutras. Yet, without mentioning the sutras I have tried to simplify the ancient wisdom to the level of understanding of common modern human beings with materialistic values.
One does not have to be a Buddhist, or accept Buddhism to understand the value of the relevance of the ancient words of wisdom in our lives today.
I am not a "Buddhist" myself, and I consider spiritualist attitude better than any religion bound in communal constraints.
Even if you don’t want to believe in reincarnation and the theory of "Karma" based on the principle that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, you can still try to follow the teachings about selfcontrol in a wise manner that allows one to live properly without the wasteful illusions (the practice middle path) and try to go out of your way to be kind to other beings in a thoughtful manner (the practice of "metta" and "Karuna", fraternity and compassion.)
In this article I have written practical methods which would allow you great benefits if you adopt them in your life.
Spiritual development through the cultivation of the feeling of satisfaction and a sense of peace within, is important.
When you want to reach a certain mental state, you have to make the attempt consciously and in a regular manner.
Otherwise it would be difficult if not impossible to bring about psychic development that leads to spiritual evolution.
In this world people want to be happy, yet with money and wealth even, happiness can not be found. Moments of pleasure come and go, but the moments of physical or mental pleasure are neither a continuous flow nor a sense of true peace.
People cry, "how can we be happy, there are so many problems."
So much tension about such difficult situations?
In life we cannot avoid many difficult and problematic situations. Some problems can be solved, others remain causing difficulties. So many problems and obstacles crop up in unexpected way, that, it is easy to feel disturbed every day, - if we allow ourselves to be disturbed.
If you cultivate a feeling of satisfaction you will not go on hankering after things and situations that can not be obtained or gained.
By giving less importance to your ego, you can try to adopt a new view point of life. When you give less importance to your ego, you start expanding your psychic world as you start thinking of other people’s needs too.
Narrow ego is one of the causes of spite and when you try to dispel selfishness and spite from you heart by sharing what you can share, with other beings, without being puffed up with "a special pride", you would feel a sense of peace.
Regular and conscious practice of being kind to others would expand your world and impart a sense of inner peace even if you have personal problems.
Learn to be at peace with yourself. If you learn to be at peace with yourself, you will attain a sene of calmness within yourself that would be much greater that just satisfaction or happiness.
Remember, you are feeling, enjoying or suffering with your senses and body, but there is a "greater you" that go beyond the body and the crude senses.
You can sincerely try to solve the problems, but some of them may be impossible to solve.
Some troubles remain though we may try to remove them. Make your best efforts to solve the problems, and to remove the troubles, but try not to feel frustrated even if you fail to remove the problems after your best efforts.
Don’t compare yourself to others, as others have different perameters and situations.
Try to understand the importance of your own efforts. Understand that you work within your own personal limitations, and comparing yourself with others will only lead to undue stress.
If others do not accept you as you are, don’t worry. Be yourself without putting on false airs.
Be brave enough to accept life on your own terms, firmly and with calm strength in spite of the odds against you.
Now, how to achieve this state of the mind.
There are exercises -

(a) Practice self control through speech. Cutout unnecessary idle talk. Avoid emotionally charged talk. Practice control of emotions through speech.
Regular and conscious practice will make it a habit. If it is necessary, to do so, observe one days silence every ten days.

(b) Control your thoughts. Try to analyze your thinking pattern in a conscious way.
Everyday concentrate on one single subject for at least five minutes, preferably at bed time.
Choose your subjects of thought and dispel harmful thoughts by changing the subject of harmful thought.
Even when emotionally charged, don’t let your emotions flood over your thought process. Try to think about the effects of your thoughts on your daily life.
It may help you to give up bad habits.

(c) When eating, know how much is enough. Don’t take unnecessary junk food. Don’t use unnecessary cosmetics just because some advertisement seems attractive. Learn to understand what is really good for you.

(d) Practice compassion on a regular basis. You will find plenty of occasions when you can be kind and considerate to others.
If you go out of your way to do a kind deed without feeling proud of doing that deed, you will feel better.
Never let your ego puff up when doing a kind deed. Remember that being kind to humans and animals is your duty.
Try to make considerate attitude a habit.

(e) Understand that this world is impermanent. Old age, disease and death are natural. Losses are normal. Don’t panic at times when you feel that the situation is slipping out of your control.
Try to do your best but be prepared for the any result. Hope is important, yet calm acceptance of the reality is also important.

(f) Be honest, with the world and with yourself. Never accept this logic "that many other people are dishonest and are "doing well", so why should I not be dishonest too."
You do not perceive everything in every one’s life.
Every single person has to suffer the consequences of his or her evil deeds, sometime or other, either now or in next incarnations.
Develop a responsible attitude for your actions.
You can not avoid the results of your own actions, that are bound to come in an absolutely sure way.

(g) Dispel greed and your unnecessary desires will decrease considerably.
Dispel greed and hankering for things that you should not hanker for, and you will find a subtle feeling of mental strength.
If you are able to control desires, in a regular basis, a feeling of detachment would come and this feeling will help you to advance spiritually.

(h) Learn to see the positive aspects of life. Ofcourse you have problems but you have some good things too in life.
There are people who have more problems than you. Try to make the best of your situation.
Even if some doors are closed for you, you may open some new doors in life.

(i) Remember unless you are honest and sincere you can not reach a better stage in spiritual development.
Trying to "succeed" by hook or by crook may give you some temporary material gains but the results of your negative actions will absolutely overcome you at some time.
Like many people you may see around you, you may think "I don’t care as long as I get wealth and fame, so why should not be dishonest?"
That is a wrong argument and as you can not avoid the negative results of your negative actions, you will suffer surely.
The wrong argument many people put up to squash down their own conscience and to support their mental degradation, is "This is an unscrupulous world, and if one can cover up dishonesty with hypocrisy why not do so?"
Slippery indeed is the way of avarice and corruption, and once a person sets his or her foot on that path, the chain of mental degradation starts in a rapid manner.
"So what", the person careless about the action and its effect factor would think, as he or she can not link up his or her problems with his or her actions.
This universe has several laws, some known to common people, some not known to the ordinary people.
These laws operate whether you believe in them or not.
These laws of nature are eternal and are much more subtle than generally perceived.
Each action has implication not only in the material world but also in the metaphysical sphere.
The results of you actions determine the level of your spiritual evolution.
Advancement in spiritual evolution leads to liberation of the soul from the bondage of crude desires and the circle of rebirth. The liberated soul enters a state of salvation through full and conscious realization.
It is difficult to explain this stage to people who have not started the serious and methodical spiritual exercise in a regular way. Still, ultimately we find that the search for happiness is not for physical delights, but for a calm and conscious joy within, and this joy comes when you are at peace with yourself.
Buddha lived and preached about two and half millennium ago in the ancient world.
Since the time of Buddha, the human civilization has gone through many different phases and changes.
Attitudes and values have changed a lot ever since the days when the great teacher set the wheel of Dhamma rotating.
In fact, the wheel of Dhamma has been rotating in Eternity, and the Buddhas again and again, for the benefit of humanity and for the world have explained the eternal laws and have shown the path to better life and liberation.
In "modern" mechanized and materialistic world, the words of Buddha are as important as in the ancient times.
The calamities created by man have reached a disastrous magnitude and pains, oppressions and the pressures of illusions are greater than even before.
I tried to present the basic teachings of Buddhist scriptures in a way that the common person may understand and accept them.
The pedantic explanations of the scriptures often deter a common person to go deeply into Buddhist scriptures, so the common person finds it difficult to apply the eternal teachings in his life in modern times.
What I have written here is based on the philosophy of Shakyamuni Gautama Samyaka Sambodhi, and I have tried to present his teaching in an acceptable form for the modern man.
It is basic wisdom, plain and simple, and preached by all the sages of the ancient world. It is not confined to any religion or "ism".
Read the essay carefully and you will find that you may associate many points in the essay with your own life.
Even if you don’t believe in reincarnation, just accept it in a hypothitic way.
Just accepting this hypothesis may help you to understand some truths in life.
Who knows, this essay may help to change your life if you take it seriously.
May the blessings of Tathagata guide the humanity to better sense and promote better understanding.
Om Namo Buddhaya

by Prabal Pramanik
from the book "Light through the leaves" by Prabal Pramanik


 



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