Are you a person that thrive for perfection or are you just as happy being less than perfect? The truth is people of all lifestyles, perfectionists or not, chases some degree of perfection. Yet are we chasing the right kind of perfection?
2610 years ago a young prince named Siddhartha, destined to be a Universal Monarch renounced all luxuries and embarked on a quest for perfection donning the robes of an ascetic, for he was shocked by the imperfect nature of life; aging, sickness, death and the whole mass of suffering that came with it.
Every passing day we see and hear things that, spell the imperfections of life but unlike prince Siddhartha we seem oblivious to the apparent and keep seeking success, excellence and perfection whilst being deeply flawed within. Six years into his search, ascetic Siddhartha Gothama achieved perfection he so dearly sought and attained enlightenment by cleansing his mind of all imperfections.
What make us imperfect are the defilements that harbour in our mind. Defilements are things that pollute our mind. If our mind is polluted in any given moment, it is because of greed, anger, or delusion. All other secondary defilements such as envy, jealousy, hypocrisy, conceit, arrogance, vanity, etc. stem from these primary defilements greed, anger, and delusion. Once our mind is sullied with any one of these defilements then our bodily, verbal, and mental actions also become impure. Therefore if any person in this world does a wrongful deed, utters a foul word or contemplates unrighteous thoughts, it is an impure moment of his mind. If a person completely eradicates the defilements that pollute once mind, he is known as an ‘Arahant’: the paragon of perfection. Supreme Buddha attained enlightenment without the guidance of any other and became the first Arahant, the first person to achieve perfection.
Not only did Lord Buddha achieve perfection, his conduct of life throughout the 45 years after enlightenment mirrored the perfection he had achieved in life. Since he had permanently abandoned greed, anger and delusion there was not a moment his mind was overcome by defilements. Yet it did not stop the unwise from testing his perfection.
Lord Buddha encountered the first test of his perfection in the fifth week after enlightenment, from the daughters of Mara; the person He defeated to achieve perfection. The daughters Tanha, Arati and Raga seen the distraught state of their father set off to avenge his defeat by seducing Lord Buddha with their charms. Try as they may they could not tempt Supreme Buddha because He had eradicated lust and become an Arahant. After the failed attempt, Mara greeted their return with words of sarcasm.
“Fools, did you think to drag a mountain with a lily stalk?, to dig a rock with finger nails?, to chew iron with your teeth?, did you seek a foothold in deep water with a mountain on your head? Did you part from Gothama, disappointed as if struck by a spike to your breast?”
It was clear that by then, Mara was humbled by the perfection achieved by the Blessed One.
Nobleman Anathapindika spent fifty four thousand gold sovereigns to build the Jethavana monastery, which included a seven-roof sandalwood kuti for Lord Buddha. Out of compassion for the lord, Blessed One spent the vas season in the kuti, yet left it at the end of the season without the slightest attachment, just as a swan would leave a lake. Lord Buddha sheltered under trees, in caves and thick forests with equal contentment as he would in a kuti. He was indifferent to his surroundings, as He had embraced inner perfection by relinquishing greed.
Another attribute of the Blessed One’s perfection was He dwelled without even a hint of anger, ill will, hatred, or hostility. Once a Brahmin named Akkosaka Bharadvaja, insulted the Blessed One with rude, harsh words, unmoved by the outburst the Blessed One advised the Brahmin. However, the Brahmin mistook the advice for an angry reproach and remarked;
“King and the general public believe Master Gotama to be an Arahant, but it seems Master Gotama is prone to anger”
To which the Blessed One replied; “For a person who is tamed, living a righteous life, liberated from suffering through realization, calm and composed; how can there be anger?”
Thus having abandoned anger he urged his disciples to do likewise. Once Blessed One stressed, even in a moment when bandits were to cut your limbs with a two-handed saw, if you let your mind be tainted with anger then you are not one who practices my teachings.
Moreover, no person could deceive the Blessed One for He had eliminated delusion as well. Mara tried to deceive Supreme Buddha on numerous occasions. Once he approached the Blessed one and addressed him in verse:
“I shall trap you with the snare that originates from the mind and moves about the sky. Thus ascetic you shall not escape from me”
With this verse, Mara intended to deceive Lord Buddha but his efforts were in vain, as Lord Buddha replied with the clarity of a mind devoid of delusion.
“I have relinquished the desire for sensual pleasures of forms, sounds, odours, tastes and tangibles that overwhelm the mind. Mara, in this respect I have defeated you”
Unlike the Blessed One, a lesser person would have easily fallen victim to Mara by thinking along the deceptive lines narrated by him. However, with the Buddha it was not to be.
Lord Buddha’s mind is a mirror of tranquillity whilst ours is a madhouse of activity. In a rare instance, the Blessed One revealed the inner workings of His mind to his disciples.
“Bhikkus, there are two thoughts that frequent my mind, the thought of being unassailable and the thought of being in a state of deep relaxation and isolation. Hence, Bhikkus I dwell with a mind imbued in loving kindness and compassion and when I dwell in this way it frequent my mind the thought “May I not harm anyone fearful or fearless with my movements”. Further, Bhikkus I dwell engrossed in a state of deep relaxation and isolation and, when I dwell in this way it frequent my mind the thought “If there were any defilements in me, now they are all eradicated”.
This statement alone speaks volumes of the perfection achieved by Lord Buddha and gives credence to the fact Blessed One was the only spiritual leader with a mind devoid of greed, anger, and delusion.
In the ‘Nibbana Sutta’ Lord Buddha makes a revealing statement of Nibbana, the solution that nullifies all our imperfections.
“Bhikkus, there is such a state called nibbana, where there is neither the elements of earth, water, fire nor wind; neither base of the infinitude of space, nor base of the infinitude of consciousness, nor base of nothingness, nor base of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor staying, neither passing away nor arising: a place un-established, a place un-conditioned, a place beyond mental grasping. This Bhikkus is the end of suffering.”
It is this perfection we should all chase; to attain nibbana by walking in the footsteps of our great teacher Supreme Buddha for he is perfection personified.