We are fast approaching this year’s most significant Vesak celebrations. While we prepare for this event, it would be very useful to deliberate on The Buddha’s contribution to mankind for the last two thousand six hundred years which still continues to impress all people the
The term ‘Buddha’ is a title, given to imply ‘The Enlightened One’. The more new discoveries are made in science today, the more we can marvel at the extent of The Buddha’s knowledge which He generously and with great compassion, imparted on all those who attended His discourses and those who deserved upliftment, during His life of forty five years as The Buddha. He acquired this knowledge by His own endeavour to develop His brain power through meditation, hence the term ‘Enlightened One’. None of what science has found so far, is beyond The Buddha’s Teaching. They have only confirmed what The Buddha had already recognised centuries previously. That denotes the depth and comprehensiveness of the knowledge of a Buddha. We are yet to see more correlation between science and Buddhism as further revelations from science uncover facts in years to come. The Buddhist Doctrine we hear today is that of Gautama The Buddha but worry not, as all Buddhas preach the same Truths. The three cardinal Truths. They declare are :1. Anichchā [Impermanence] 2. Dukkha [ Suffering – (for lack of a better word)] and 3. Anaththā [No soul].
If we are not already aware, we should try to be aware - that we are living in a ‘special era’ as far as the evolution of this Earth is concerned. In the recent past the Earth has faced four ‘ice ages’ during which time human activity reduced to the minimum, if not ceased completely. Another ice age is said to be on the cards. Similarly, we have had four Buddha-eras in the ‘recen tpast’ of the Earth’s existence. By ‘recent past’ we mean that there have been four Buddhas in succession, somewhat in a cluster, at regular but ‘short’ intervals, starting with Buddha Kakusanda, followed by three other Buddhas, namely Konāgamana, Kāshyapa and Gautama.
A Buddha arises at a time when human beings are spiritually in their lowest ebb. Another Bodhisatva (someone aspiring to be a Buddha), is said to be in the final process of preparation to be the next Buddha who, when he realises his goal, will become the fifth Buddha in succession. This is a very unusual situation to have five Buddhas consecutively at short intervals; usually there is a long time gap between two Buddhas. During this ‘special auspicious era’ five Buddhas will have imparted their knowledge on mankind. This era is therefore called ‘The Maha Bhadrakalpa’ and one might say, all humankind is in a very favourable position to benefit from the Teachings of the Buddha even for the fifth time! So, for those who have ‘missed out’ on previous occasions to meet a Buddha, there would now ‘appear’ to have a new opportunity to correct any previous disadvantages. (This needs further discussion for better understanding).
However, one should take serious note of one important issue here – the ‘time factor’. According to certain calculations the fifth Buddha is not due for another twenty five million years, (if all goes well and the Earth remains intact!) Ordinarily a Buddha appears once in an aeon - a ‘phenomenal’ period of time from a human perspective. Therefore it may be assumed that it is particularly auspicious for mankind to have the prospect of a fifth Buddha in such a short time as twenty five million years,after Gautama Buddha. So, one might come to the erroneous conclusion that all will be well for oneself once the fifth Buddha appears! Not so, my friends, for several reasons, if we understand the cycles of existence in saņsāra:
Firstly, if by this time, we have not entered the Noble Eight-fold Path and already have joined ‘the stream’, then we will not know where we would be born, to benefit from The Buddha’s Teaching.
Secondly, even if one were born in the vicinity of The Buddha, there is no assurance that one would be a human being in the first instance and even then whether one possesses the necessary cognitive powers for understanding The Doctrine (The Dharma).
"The term ‘Buddha’ is a title, given to imply ‘The Enlightened One’. The more new discoveries are made in science today, the more we can marvel at the extent of The Buddha’s knowledge which He generously and with great compassion, imparted on all those who attended His discourses and those who deserved upliftment, during His life of forty five years as The Buddha. He acquired this knowledge by His own endeavour to develop His brain power through meditation, hence the term ‘Enlightened One’. "
Thirdly, even if we had all the requisites for understanding The Dharma, one could not be certain of being even aware of the existence of such a person as The Buddha.
Then, to be born to have a belief or conviction that will not permit the acceptance of The Buddha Dharma, is another impediment to consider. The Buddha dharma is based on exploration of ‘Cause and Effect’ – The doctrine of PatichchaSamuppāda and not on an almighty force.
Thus you see the predicament one is in, if one were to wait for the next Buddha to arrive, for one’s salvation! Therefore we are advised to be wise and astute, to be ‘diligent, as all conditioned things are impermanent and come to nothing’, as Gauthama Buddha declared on His parinirvāna (on His passing into Nirvāna) to all His followers:
It is up to us to take the cue and break away from all bondage in this very birth! Will we have the determination to be a stream winner and be at least a ‘sotapanna’ if not a fully-fledged ‘saint’?The time is now !