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Significance of Vesak

10 May 2017 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Vesak is a season for serious religious observances of the Buddhists, such as meditation retreats, and even religious dialogues reflecting on the profound teachings of the Buddha, but it is also a time for devotional merriment, when Buddhists become inspired, by reflecting on the Buddha, his wisdom called Dhamma, and his community of followers called the Sangha. 


Through out the month of May, and especially on the full moon day of May, they begin to express the glory of the Buddha, His wisdom and His infinite love for all beings. The profound teachings of the Buddha are expressed through vivid visual displays and solemn devotional ceremonies that mesmerise, captivate and fascinate everyone. His profound message to the world is conveyed through melodious songs, glamorous dances and fascinating plays. 


All those who come to witness the exquisite displays during Vesak begin to see the picturesque scenery created by the elegant Vesak decorations. They also begin to hear the melodious music and devotional songs, and rhythmic chants that constantly reach their ears from loud speakers, carols, pageants and pandals. They also begin to hear devotional sermons delivered by famous monastic preachers. 


Everyone absorbs and experiences the magnificent grandeur and majesty of the Buddha and his teachings through all their senses. Thus, Vesak is a magnificent ceremonial experience to all visitors, Buddhist or non-Buddhist. 


So far, we have only fed the primitive part of our brain called the reptilian brain. There is another part called the mammalian brain that is very animalistic and needs to be controlled. This is what the Buddha called ‘citta.’ It is the citta that is responsible for the lust (lobha), hate (dosa), and delusion (moha). The best part of the brain is the truly human brain that is able to think and reason out, which the Buddha called mano. This means the normal human being is partly animal and only partly human. 


It is interesting to know that the aim of the Buddha was to make the human being transcend the animal nature completely and become fully human. Yet, this fully human state is not normal (putujjana). It is Super Normal (ariya). It is this animal nature that is creating all the suffering in the world. The following Sanskrit verse points this out: 


Feeding, seeping, fear and sex 
 Common are these to man and beast 
 Especial to man is thought complex 
 Thought when low man is a beast 
Aharanidrabhayamaitunanca
Samanyametadpasubihsamanah
Dharmohitesamadikoviseso
Dharmenahinahpasubihsamanah


Man is an evolving animal. Modern man is highly evolved in this thinking human brain called mano. It is this thinking human brain that created the motor vehicle, the aircraft, the computer, and all the modern conveniences using electricity, magnetism and other energy sources. Ultimately, it also created the nuclear bomb that can destroy the world at the press of a button. 


Yet, with all this progress, has crime disappeared in the world? Has war vanished? Has terrorism ended? Today, the world is shivering in fear of a nuclear holocaust. Why? Although the thinking human brain has evolved, the emotional animal brain has only degenerated to a dangerous level. It has made the human being look like a child playing with dangerous toys. 


The Buddha has pointed out that, at birth, we have only the mammalian emotional brain citta. The human brain mano develops only later. Therefore, the animal brain (citta), which is responsible for our emotions, begins to dominate the rational human brain (mano). This is what has happened to us today. Every scientific invention made by the human brain was to gratify emotions. The nuclear bomb was made for this purpose too. Emotions are dominating the world. 


Emotions dominate the world 
 Emotions carry us around 
 Emotion is that one thing 
 To which all are spellbound, 
Cittenaniyatiloko
Cittenaparikassati
Cittassaekadhammassa
Sabbevavasamanvagu


It was to solve this problem of life that the Buddha pointed out the Supernormal Eightfold Way. Although the emotional brain (citta) is older than the thinking (mano), the emotions are exited only by the way the thinking mano interprets circumstances. The modern cognitive psychologists discovered this fact in the 1960s, though Sigmund Freud did not comprehend this in the 1900s, and so he thought that the emotions could not be eliminated. They could only be repressed or suppressed. Therefore to be civilised is to suffer discontentment. 


It was the Buddha who pointed out more than twenty-five centuries earlier that the emotional disturbances of the (citta) can be eliminated by the thinking (mano) because the emotional agitation depends on how the thinking (mano) interprets circumstances. 


Thinking (mano) precedes the emotional experience (Dhamma) 
 It dominates, and it creates it 
 If with bad thinking one speaks or acts (akusala dhamma) 
 Pain follows, as the wheel does the drawing beast, or engine 
Mano pubbangama dhamma
Mano settha mano maya
Manasace padutthena bhasativa karotiva
Tathonam dukkhamanveti cakkhancha vahato padam


 ___ Dhammapada 
The Buddha also pointed out that the mammalian brain (citta) when emotionally exited goes against reality. The mammalian brain is unaware of reality. It wants permanence of pleasure in an impermanent world. It wants freedom from pain in a pain filled world. It wants to possess things in a world free of possession. It wants to hold on to things that cannot be held on to. All suffering is the result of impossible dreams of the animal brain. This animal brain has to be held by a rope, just as people hold animals with ropes. It has to be controlled by the human, thinking, reasoning, brain that is aware of reality. It is the thinking human brain that can comprehend Reality. The human brain has the power to control the animal brain. Yet it is not aware of this power. Therefore the human brain needs education. The human brain is not fully awake. It is dreaming of existence where existence is impossible. Existence is a static concept in a dynamic reality. 


We know that the human being has gained control over animals like the elephant, horse, ox, Camel and many such others. They have even gained control over inanimate machines created by the human being. Yet the human being has not gain control over the animal within himself. This is why we are suffering all the time. This is the most important problem to be solved. Therefore the Buddha taught the way out of suffering. 


First, the Buddha controlled his own mind and became a Buddha, an awake being. Then he set out to awaken others. He did awaken some, but many others are still dreaming, and so continue to suffer. 
So, he set out to beat the drum of immortality (amatadundubin) to save mankind: 


Aparutatesanamatassadvara
Ye sotavantopamuccantusaddan
Open is the door to immortality 
 May those who have ears 
 Listen and be free 
FROM DEATH
You do not exist 
 So how can you die? 
 Open your thinking human eye 
 Be free of the blind emotional animal eye 
 That feels: “I exist and I die” 


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