by Swami Krishnananda
(Buddha Jayanti Message 1976)
Buddha Jayanti is celebrated today, and I have been requested to speak a few words on this subject of the adjustment of the mind with the conditions prevailing outside. This subject of meditation has been a great point made out by Buddha, a master who is said to have been born today, and his philosophy and teachings were nothing but this very, very particular theme.
He does not ask us to meditate on God or the Atman, but on a particular psychological state of the mind. The whole of Buddhist philosophy is psychology and ethics, and controversies of a religious nature or a philosophical character are futile where the interest is spiritual. Our interest in Buddha or his followers is spiritual. It is not philosophical in a dogmatic sense, or in the sense of any cult or school of thought.
He had a vision, and that vision was of the structure of the universe; that was all. And, when we are able to visualise the nature of things as they constitute this huge edifice called the universe, we will be taken aback, just as we will be taken aback if we see our own body through a powerful microscope. This is what Buddha saw through his intuitive eye. His mind itself was a microscope. It could see through things.
The complex nature of the universe and the ingredients that form these shapes that we call objects were before his mind. We cannot have any kind of aesthetic feeling towards things when their true nature is seen. A rose petal is beautiful, but when seen through a microscope there are only small globules of matter revolving and rotating in a hectic manner for purposes not known to us. The whole universe is of that nature, including my body, your body, and every blessed thing in this world.
“Sorrow is the nature of this life, and contemplate on this sorrow,” the Upanishad tells us. Contemplate on the very meaning behind sorrow: how sorrow comes. Then you will have no sorrow. Sorrow has come because you do not know why the sorrow has come. If you know the cause of sorrow, perhaps you will avert its coming.
Sorrow of every kind comes to us on account of our not knowing our relationship with things. Neither do we know why this body has come—what our mental attitude or our relationship should be with our body—nor do we know what our social relationship should be with other people. We do not know what is good for us and what is not good for us. We do not know why we are living in this world at all, why we are working so hard from morning to night, and what the ultimate aim behind things is. Why is it that certain things give us pleasure and certain things bring us sorrow? No one knows the answer to these queries.
Everything is dark in front of us, so we are in a state of utter ignorance. A peculiar sensation in our mind in respect of the body which it inhabits, and our social relationships, give us a kind of titillation of the nerves, and that brings us pleasure. It is not a pleasure born of understanding or of knowledge. It is born of subjection to instinct and being under the thumb of certain reactions produced by our own senses in respect of visible objects.
That was discovered by Buddha, to our horror. Things are not what they seem. The world is not a compact solid object, as it looks. The solid stone before us is not a solid stone, really. It is a family of small, insect-like atoms, molecules, etc. They are like flies running here and there in a brood, which looks like a mass or a solid object. If one thousand flies sit together, they would look like a hard black object, but they are only a bundle of flies, like atoms, electrons, running here and there for purposes only they know.
These are the building bricks which are at the back of all these beautiful things that we see in this world. Behind all the beauty of things, there is a hidden ugliness. Behind the rosy petals that nature presents before us, there are thorns. This is what Buddha saw before his intuitive eye. He was really horrified. But why should one be horrified when one sees truth? It is because we are disillusioned: “I have been mistaken.”
So, the illumination or the enlightenment of the Buddha was nothing but a disillusionment, ultimately. Anyone would be taken aback by this kind of discovery. “I have been hugging an object to my heart’s delight and satisfaction, and today I realise it is constituted of flies. It is not a solid object as I thought.” It can be dismantled, as when the flies depart. The object is like a beehive, as it were. When we pull out every brick of the building, the building itself is not there. What we call the building is only a name that we give to a heap of bricks. There is no such thing as a building; it does not exist. Why do we not call it a heap of bricks? Why do we call it a building? We have only created further bondage by adding a name to a non-existent object. Though the world does not exist, we call it a world.
Why does the world not exist? It does not exist in the same way as a building does not exist. But the world exists in the same way as a building exists. Do we not see the building? Yes, we see it. Do we not see the world? Yes, we see the world. But what is this building made of? It is made up of small pieces of earth called bricks, or heated masses of earth. If we remove the plaster, we can see the little pieces inside. Remove the plaster of the world, the illusion that covers your eyes, the infatuation with which you look at things. This is the plaster that we put over the building bricks of the cosmos. When we remove the plaster we will see the horrible sight of little pieces which constitute this solid so-called world which is before us.
Thus, there is a shaky foundation behind, or underneath, this so-called stable cosmos. We are insecure in life. There is insecurity behind the security of all the so-called pleasures of life. We seem to be seated on velvet cushions, but underneath it there is an earthquake taking place, and we can go down at any moment. Such is the beauty of the world, such is the stability of things, and such is the security that these can give us.
All this illusion has been created on account of the attachment of consciousness to the mental structure. This is a Vedantic touch given to the discovery of the Buddha. The mind is as much a name as a building is, or as any object is. There is no such thing as the mind, just as there is no such thing as the building or any object, or the world at all. They do not exist. They are only heaps of molecules. They are heaps of transitory passages or phenomena; they are processes. They are only passing stages which look like a solid object, just as a cinematographic projection is nothing but an illusion projected before the mind by the quick movement of pictures. Solid things are not there. What is solid is only the screen behind them. Likewise, there is a screen of ego which substantiates the passages of the various phenomena which constitute this cosmos.
Finally, there is no such thing as the existence of anything; it is only transience of everything. There is a momentariness of objects. Everything passes, even our body and our mind, which also is a complexity of structures, of various impressions, or vasanas. Various thoughts put together constitute the mind. If the thoughts are pulled out, like threads from a cloth, the mind does not exist. Likewise, if we pull out every brick of everything, we will find that no world exists.
So what is it that you are working for? What is it you are asking for? Now you understand why you are unhappy in this world. You have an illusion before you. You are caught up by a nightmare of the perception of the world. An incubus is before you, and this is the world perception. You are under a terrible misapprehension of things. This misapprehension is called avidya, which causes desire, or trishna as it is called in Sanskrit. In the language of Vedanta, it is avidya, kama, karma. Ignorance causes desire. Desire causes action towards the possession of the object of desire, which brings about a reaction, again, which is called karma—which brings rebirth. The wheel of life thus rotates; the samsara chakra moves endlessly, as it were, causing bondage after bondage.
What is the solution? It is the discovery of the cause of sorrow. The discovery of the cause of sorrow means finding out from where this misconception has arisen. It is in your own mind. You have got a wrong perception of things; therefore, you have to, first of all, practice a discipline capable enough to dissect the mind itself into its components so that it disintegrates and the personality vanishes, because the personality is nothing but the working of the mind. There is an extinction of personality.
This extinction of personality by the disintegration of the constituents of the mind is called Nirvana. You are extinguished like a lamp that is blown out by the wind, and you reach Nirvana, a blessed state. What it is, Buddha did not say, and no one can tell you.
This is the message of the Buddha today, on Buddha Purnima.