17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.

THE 17th GYALWA KARMAPA

Travel Log - In Nepal and India with lama Puntso

See the original in French

December 15, 2017

And the Buddha Is Dead!

It is the end of the day and we have arrived at Kushinagar, the site of the parinirvana and the cremation of the Buddha. We have just enough time to pay homage to the reclining Buddha on his right flank. He is covered with several layers of yellow fabric which numerous pilgrims, mainly from the Theravada traditions, come to offer in procession, their chants carried by portable loud speakers linked to a microphone held close, really close to the mouth…. We never really know what is going on inside of someone but on the outside, it gives one the feeling of an instable balance between sincere devotion and spiritual tourism. Moreover, cameras are authorized: it’s selfie mania. The temple is closing but we were told that it will open again in the morning at 6:30.


The Buddha reclined, covered with offering fabrics

Night comes to our governmental hotel (with its Felliniesque atmosphere and dubious sanitary conditions) no longer knowing if I’m sleeping or not, despite the strange dreams. At sunrise, we return to the mausoleum. We take advantage of 10 minutes of calm before the processions begin again, the series of chants and snapshots…. There is little space but several groups pile in, intoning different chants, different rhythms… May my faith live on! And I let the blessings unfold.

About the death of the Buddha

At one point in Buddha’s life, humans and non-humans of unpleasant nature, to the extent of being demonic, asked the Buddha to leave many times because he was promoting virtue too much. They thought that through generosity, the Buddha would respond to their request. One day, he said to Ananda: “A Buddha can live for eons and eons. If you and the others made the request that I remain, then I shall remain.” But Ananda did not understand this instruction.

In order for a Buddha to remain, merit from beings is necessary; that is how the request for him to remain would have counter-balanced the request for him to leave. Not having understood the instruction, Ananda did not diffuse the information; hence the request was never made. Later, Ananda reacted and the request was made. The Buddha replied that it would allow him to remain three additional months. It was too late because he had already set the date of his departure. The request arrived too late. He blessed the appearance known as Sakyamuni to respond to Ananda’s request for an extention of three months. Then he left his body.

(Khenpo Chödrak – DKL 2013)

Impermanence

If the Buddha left his body, it was to demonstrate the inevitable truth of impermanence. Never-the-less, hearing this over and over again, one can miss the direct meaning of this teaching. Some have undoubtedly heard this instruction from the Gyalwa Karmapa: “even if what you do is virtuous, if you do it forgetting the fact that you could die tomorrow, there is no point in doing it.” The purpose of this type of instruction is to bring us back to reality. It shakes us out of a comfortable lethargy that we are not even aware of sometimes.


The Theravada communities follow one after another to offer a covering to the Buddha

When discussing the meaning of teachings recently with Jigmé Rinpoché, he specifically repeated that reflecting on the combination of the four thoughts associated with meditation, brings together the essence of the instructions. Without this base, the rest of the practice can not really make sense. Training therefore consists of familiarising oneself with the four thoughts (suffering, causality, impermanence and precious human existence) without putting pressure on oneself.

Puntso

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