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Is Buddha relevant for us?   Part 5



The world is like the curly tail of a dog” (Swami Vivekananda).External circumstances may change. But the nature of man and the world remains the same through eternity. Hence Buddha remains as relevant for us today as he was in the past and will remain so for ever. So long as man remains ignorant, so long suffering is inevitable; so long Buddha remains relevant.


Buddha divided his scheme of spiritual disciplines into three stages. He calls the first stage as prajna or wisdom. It consists of Right View and Right Determination. Here wisdom is more faith than realisation. Right View is not the wisdom of enlightenment. This is the wisdom or indirect knowledge born of faith in a purified mind. As a result of living a dharmic or righteous life, faith dawns and makes us believe in the reality of the transcendental reality. Right View enables us to understand the truth of both the visible and the invisible worlds. This was discussed in our last editorial. Having obtained Right View one should make the Right Determination to avoid all evil and to lead a righteous life. This requires tremendous power of will. Perhaps we belong to the category of: “I can resist anything but temptation”. (Oscar Wilde) Most of us know intellectually what is good and right. But the difficulty arises when we try to put it into practise. The degree of a person's success in any field of life is commensurate with the degree of will-power he has attained. A strong will is needed to obtain success in anything.


Lord Buddha himself was a great exemplar of strong determination. Once he understood samsara, the transmigratory truth of life, correctly, he determined to follow a way of life that would put an end to it. For six years he tried hard to attain to illumination but could not succeed. At last he made a strong determination and sat down under the Bodhi tree making the mighty resolution, “Let my skin, and sinews, and bones become dry, and let all the flesh and blood in my body dry up, but never from this seat will this body stir, until I have attained the supreme and absolute wisdom!” That very night, it is said, he attained Bodhi, illumination.


Sri Ramakrishna practised super-human austerities for the realisation of the Divine Mother. He thought he may never be able to see the Divine Mother, and in his desperation decided to put an end to his life. That very moment he had the vision of the Divine Mother. In his view persons of weak will can never succeed in anything. He often used to say:

“There are so many (people) who are soft like popped rice soaked in milk no strength within, no grit, soft and slippery.” The Upanishads also declare emphatically: “This Atman cannot be attained by the weak.” Come New Year, most of us make many resolutions. But few of us, alas, have the grit to carry them out into practice. We sincerely wish to, but we are unable to. Why is this so? Because of our past impressions, habits.


Swami Vivekananda used to say that the history of the world is nothing but the story of a few persons, of great character and tremendous will power. The essence of true education is the development of will-power. Swami Vivekananda says: “What is education? Is it book-learning? No. Is it diverse knowledge? Not even that. The training by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful is called education.” We all need this kind of education. According to Buddha after obtaining Right View one should make a strong determination to put his teachings into practice.


Through practice faith must be transformed into fact, into realisation. It means many drastic changes must be made in life. Spiritual life is nothing but bringing about complete change in one’s life and outlook. This transformation of the worldly old man into the spiritual new man requires tremendous courage, grit, determination, and power of the will. Many of us start our spiritual life with noble intentions. But gradually our life turns into boring routine. No joy or enthusiasm is found in it. We lose hope of advancing in spiritual life. Worse, some of us turn into embodiments of negativity. Often, our very inner dissatisfaction leads into scepticism, fault-finding, slander-mongering, and constant back-biting of others. We will be the first to raise vehement objections for any thing noble. We lose the faculty of seeing good in anything. Without a strong will there will be no joy, hope or progress in life. How do we know our will is getting stronger? Below are a few hints.


a. Only a man of good character can develop a strong will. Let us not forget that ‘will’ is a power of God, and the better our character the nearer we are to God. There is a misnomer that many wicked dictators we come across in history are men of strong will. Quite the contrary. The more wicked a person the weaker is his will. What appears to be a strong will is nothing but their ‘egos’ blown out of all proportion. That is the reason why such people always leave a trail of blood and destruction in their wake. True will power stems from God, and makes one truly great. The test of real will power lies in its ability to bring greater good to many for a long time.


b. Only a person of strong will can look upon all events of life in a positive light; such a person alone could rise above even most daunting experiences of life. In fact the greater the opposition the stronger grows his determination and will.


c. Hope and joy would be the constant companions of a strong will.


d. Only a man of iron will can have the magnanimity to forgive and forget those who oppose and even try to destroy him (and God, in His grace, provides more than enough opposition for each sincere striving soul!)


e. Only a man of strong will can persist till the end, till the realization of God. Hence the need for the development of a strong will cannot be emphasised enough. We must do our best to make ourselves strong.

So what is the way to develop a strong will? One wishing to strengthen his will must have definite goals. No goals, nothing to strive, hence no will power; these goals must, however, be realistic and achievable. One way to increase the will power is to watch out for activities that eat away one’s time and energy. Any wasteful activity is a dangerous enemy. The will is like a muscle. And like a muscle it grows strong with systematic exercise. Let those who wish to develop a strong will start with smaller goals for shorter periods of time (Let no one rush into impossible and unrealistic goals) and gradually progress toward the goal. The best way to develop a strong will, of course, is to surrender to God; for to merge one’s will in God’s will is to strengthen it. This surrender is achieved by following the instructions of one’s teacher unwaveringly, with full faith in him. And let patience, perseverance, prayer and vigilance be one’s companions and helpers in this spiritual journey. Such a way of life slowly but surely brings many a required change in one’s life hastening our progress to the Ultimate Reality, Nirvana.



(to be continued)  Swami Dayatmananda