Todays Blog is written in the form of a personal letter to Lord Buddha
Dear Buddha, Happy Birthday!
I believe it has been about 2580 years since you appeared in Lumbini, Nepal and a bit more than 20 years ago when you appeared in my life! It was you who inspired me to search for the truth beyond matter and it was you who awoke the desire in me to become a monk. Your appearance on this Full-moon day (Buddha Jayanti) might be a good day to reflect a bit about my relationship to you.
I remember how, many years back, I was on pilgrimage in Kathmandu, Nepal when I met a local Hindu who explained to me that you, the Buddha, is actually an Avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu. I was quite perplexed at that time, how is that possible? The Buddhist themselves do not believe in a creator, in an Supreme Personality of Godhead, but the followers of another religion worship the founder of Buddhism as their God? Why would a Hindu God appear and reject the Vedic scripture and start a new religion? From this we can see that you are a quite complex personality.
Interesting insight about your mission was given by the sanskrit poet Jayadeva Goswami from the 12th century. In his Sri Dasavatara-stotra, ahimsa - nonviolence is described as the main purpose of your appearance: „O Kesava! O Lord of the universe! O Lord Hari, who have assumed the form of Buddha! All glories to You! O Buddha of compassionate heart, you decry the slaughtering of poor animals performed according to the rules of Vedic sacrifice.“ 1. Srila Prabhupada mentions another mission that was accomplished by you: „He deluded the atheists because such atheists who followed his principles did not believe in God, but they kept their absolute faith in Lord Buddha, who Himself was the incarnation of God. Thus the faithless people were made to believe in God in the form of Lord Buddha. That was the mercy of Lord Buddha: He made the faithless faithful to Him.“ 2
You also gave faith, or let’s say a practical experience, to me. Being raised in a catholic family, I had faith, but it was Buddhism who gave me a spiritual practice that enabled me to make first-hand experience of a spiritual dimension. As you know when I was 22 years old I almost became a Buddhist monk. I already saw myself in red robes, meditating somewhere in Myanmar in front of a Buddha statue. I hope you don`t mind that I became a Hare Krishna! But somehow I realized that I am actually looking for a personal relationship with God. Since in the form of Buddha you were hiding, I prefer to worship you directly as the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna! But yes, I am still very much fascinated about the practice of Mindfulness.
Although everything around us is temporary we are always able to connect with eternity. How? Through presence. Presence is just like a door to eternity. As a spiritual soul we are eternal, but because of our misidentification with the body, with matter, we are not able to experience this eternity. To be present is a very powerful way to connect to reality. 3 Or as you, dear Buddha said:
„Reality can only be experienced in the present. Past is already gone and future has not yet come, only in the present can we touch life.“
Or as Thich Nhat Hanh 4 has expressed it in his own words:
„We have an appointment with life. That takes place in the present moment. If we miss this moment, we miss our appointment of life.“
As a Devotee of Krishna, I might take this point a step further and would say:
„We have an appointment with Krishna. That takes place in the present moment (and especially during our Japa Time) If we miss this moment, we miss our appointment with Krishna!“
This awareness of trying to be in the present moment is something I would like to always remember and cultivate in my heart. And this is also the beauty of Buddhism, although I may not agree with the philosophical conclusion of Buddhism (non existence of the atma and an impersonal understanding of the Absolut Truth), its practice of mindfulness is universal, non-sectarian and beneficial for everyone. At the same time I am eternally grateful that you have revealed your real Identity to me and that you have guided me to the path of devotion!
1 - from Gita-govinda, Sri Dasavatar-stotram Verse 9
2 - Srimad Bhagavatam 1.3.24 Purport
3 - Based on Armin Risis `Gott und die Götter` Chapter 4, page184
4 - Thich Nhat Hanh (91), Buddhist Monk and Teacher from Vietnam, based in France