BUDDHA AS A "GOD"
AND A "MYSTIC"
34.1 Buddha and his godly nature
34.1.1 Godly "Godless" Buddha
Shakyamuni Buddha did not encourage wishful-thinking in terms of establishing
a worldly Utopia. Rather, He told each one the Way by which one
could later conquer one's own world - the inner subjective world
that is everyone's own domain. In simple language, he told us that
the whole world is within us and the world is led by the mind and
that mind must be trained and cleansed properly.
His teaching was basically simple and meaningful: 'To put an end to evil; to fulfill all good; to purify the mind. This is the advice of all the Buddhas.'
So 'godly' and inspiring was he that even during his time, there were numerous attempts of others to turn him into a god or a reincarnation of god. Never did he agree to be regarded as such.
It was said that there was no religious teacher who was so "godless" as the Buddha, yet none was so god-like. In his own time, the Buddha was no doubt highly venerated by his followers, but he never arrogated to himself any divinity.
34.1.2 Reincarnation of god?
Buddhas appear in this world from time to time. But some people
have the mistaken idea that it is the same Buddha who is reincarnated
or appears in the world over and over again. Actually, they are
not the same person, otherwise there is no scope for others to attain
to Buddhahood. Buddhists believe that anyone can become a Buddha
if he develops his qualities to perfection and is able to remove
his ignorance completely through his own efforts. After Enlightenment,
all Buddhas are similar in their attainment and experience of Nirvana.
In India, the followers of many orthodox religious groups tried to condemn the Buddha because of his liberal teachings which revolutionised the Indian society. Many regarded him as an enemy when increasing numbers of intellectuals as well as people from all ranks of society took up the religion. When they failed in their attempt to destroy him, they adopted the reverse strategy of introducing him as a reincarnation of one of their gods. This way they could absorb Buddhism into their religion.
34.1.3 New Buddha coming?
Even today there are certain religionists who try to absorb the Buddha into their beliefs as a way of gaining converts among Buddhists. Their basis for doing so is by claiming that the Buddha himself had predicted that another Buddha would appear in this world, and that the latest Buddha will become even more popular. These groups of people advised Buddhists to give up their old Buddha and follow the so-called new Buddha. While it is good to see them giving the Buddha the same status as their own religious teachers, we feel that these attempts to absorb Buddhists into another faith by misrepresenting the truth are in extreme bad taste.
Those who claim that the new Buddha had already arrived are obviously misrepresenting what the Buddha had said. Although the Buddha predicted the coming of the next Buddha, he mentioned some conditions which had to be met before this can be possible. It is the nature of Buddhahood that the next Buddha will not appear as long as the dispensation of the current Buddha still exists.
34.2 Buddha and his "miraculous"
34.2.1 Six Psychic Powers
Attainment of the fourth Dhyana and Buddhahood leads to the Six Psychic Powers (Abhijna), namely,
- Divyacaksus - divine eye, instantaneous view of anything
in the Form Realm.
- Divyasrotra - divine ear, ability to hear any sound anywhere.
- Paracitta-jnana - ability to know the thoughts of all other minds.
- Purvanivasanusmrti-jnana - knowledge of all former existences of self and others.
- Raddi-saksatkriya - magic power to be anywhere or do anything at will, such as walking on water, levitation
- Asravaksaya-jnana - supernatural consciousness of eliminating all vicious/minds, also known as the extinction of asrava (i.e. outflow).
The first five are mundane, while the sixth is realized only by the Arhats,
who attain the fourth stage of Dhyana. The attainment of the Sixth
Psyclic Power distinguishes the liberated sages from the mere wizard.
34.2.2 The greatest "miracle"
Many psychic powers were attributed to Shakyamuni Buddha, but he did not consider these important. To him,
the greatest miracle was to explain the Truth and make a man realise it. As a teacher with deep compassion,
he was moved by human suffering and determined to free men from its fetters by a rational system of thought
and way of life.
In every religion we hear of miracles being performed by either the founders of these religions or by some of their disciples. In the case of the Buddha, miracles occurred from the day of his birth until his passing away into Nirvana. Many of the psychic powers (so-called miraculous powers in other religions) of the Buddha were attained through his long and intense training in meditation. The Buddha meditated and passed through all the highest stages of contemplation that culminated in pure self-possession and wisdom. Such attainments through meditation are considered nothing miraculous but fall within the power of trained ascetic or upholding precepts.
34.2.3 The "miracle" of Enlightenment
Using meditation on the night of his Enlightenment, there arose
within the Buddha a vision of his previous births, the many existences
with all their details, he remembered his previous births and how
he had made use of these births to gain his Enlightenment. Then
the Buddha had a second and wider vision in which He saw the whole
universe as a system of Karma and Rebirth. He saw the universe made
up of beings that were noble and wicked, happy and unhappy. He saw
them all continually 'passing away according to their deed', leaving
one form of existence and taking shape in another. Finally, he understood
the nature of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering and the Path
that leads to the Cessation of Suffering. Then a third vision arose
within the Buddha. He realised that he was completely free from
all bondages, human or divine. He realised that he had done what
had to be done. He realised he had no more re-birth to go through
because he was living with his final body. This knowledge destroyed
all ignorance, all darkness, and light arose within him. Such is
the psychic power and the wisdom that arose within the Buddha as
he sat meditating under the Bodhi tree.
The Buddha had a natural birth; he lived in a normal way. But he was an extraordinary man, as far as his Enlightenment was concerned. Those who have not learnt to appreciate his Supreme Wisdom try to explain his greatness by peeping into his life and looking for miracles. However, the Buddha's Supreme Enlightenment is more than enough for us to understand his greatness. There is no need to show his greatness by introducing any miraculous power.
34.2.4 "Miraculous" power as a hindrance
The Buddha knew of the power that could be developed by training the human
mind. He also knew that his disciples could acquire such powers
through mental development. Thus the Buddha advised them not to
exercise such psychic power in order to convert less intelligent
people. He was referring to the 'miraculous' power to walk on water,
to exorcise spirits, raise the dead and perform the so-called supernormal
practices. He was also referring to the 'miracles of prophesy' such
as thought-reading, soothe-saying, fortune-telling, and so on. When
the uneducated believers see the performance of such powers, their
faith deepens. But the nominal converts who are attracted to a religion
because of these powers embrace a faith, not because they realise
the truth, but because they harbour hallucinations. Besides, some
people may pass remarks that these miracles are due to certain charms.
In drawing people to listen to the Dharma, the Buddha appealed to
their reasoning power.
In certain religions, a man's miraculous performance can help him to become a saint. But in Buddhism, miracles can be a hindrance for a person to attain sainthood, which is a gradual personal attainment and individual concern. Each person himself must work for his sainthood through self-purification and no one else can make another person a saint.
The Buddha says that a person can gain miraculous power without
gaining spiritual power. He teaches us that if we first gain spiritual
power, then we automatically receive the miraculous or psychic powers
too. But if we develop miraculous powers without spiritual development,
then we are in danger. We can misuse this power for worldly gain.
There are many who have deviated from the right path by using their
miraculous powers without having any spiritual development. Many
people who are supposed to have obtained some miraculous powers
succumbed to the vain glory of obtaining some worldly gain.
Many so-called miracles talked about by people are merely imaginations and hallucinations created by their own minds due to a lack of understanding of things as they truly are. All these miracles remain as miracles as long as people fail to know what these powers really are.
34.2.5 Forbiddance to use "miraculous" power
The Buddha also expressly forbade His disciples to use miracles to prove the superiority of his teachings. On one occasion he said that the use of miracles to gain converts was like using dancing girls to tempt people to do something. Anyone with the proper mental training can perform miracles because they are simply an expression of the superiority of mind over matter.
According to the Buddha, the miracle of realisation is a real miracle. When a murderer, thief, terrorist, drunkard, or adulterer is made to realise that what he had been doing is wrong and gives up his bad, immoral and harmful way of life, this change can be regarded as a miracle. The change for the better arising from an understanding of Dharma is the highest miracle that any man can perform.