Apr 24, 2010

The Qualities of the Buddha

As a child, Prince Siddhartha was extraordinarily thoughtful and was able to meditate even at the age of seven. The saving of the wounded swan was evidence of another quality, compassion. Now that He had attained Enlightenment, perfect wisdom and great compassion could be seen in all His words and actions. Many unhappy and unfortunate people came to the Buddha in order to find solutions to the problems of life and recover their confidence. The Buddha helped them to distinguish between what was useful and what was not, and encouraged them to think for themselves. He also showed them how to comfort their fellowmen who were distressed by suffering.

The Buddha's Practical Approach

Although the Buddha lived about two thousand and five hundred years ago, his approach to the problems of life was like that of the scientist of today. He was not interested in theories which had no real importance for living. He looked for practical answers. He saw a problem in the shape of the suffering of life and offered a solution to it based on His experiences. He used the following parable to illustrate the attitude of those who cannot distinguish between what is useful and what is not:

"Suppose someone was hit by a poisoned arrow and his friends and relatives found a doctor able to remove the arrow. If this man were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out until I know whether the person who had shot it was a priest, a prince or a merchant, his name and his family. I will not have it taken out until I know what kind of bow was used and whether the arrowhead was an ordinary one or an iron one.' That person would die before all these things are ever known to him."

In the same way, those who say they will not practise the Dharma until they know whether the world is eternal or not, infinite or not, will die before these questions are ever answered.

The Buddha did not answer these questions because they are not relevant to the problems of suffering, nor do they lead to happiness, peace and Enlightenment. Whether one believes that the world is eternal or not, or that it is infinite or not, one has to face the reality of birth, old age, sickness, death and suffering. The Buddha explained suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering and the path leading to the end of suffering here and now. The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths because He knew that they lead to happiness, peace and Enlightenment.