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The Path of a Diligent Disciple

The stream of water of the River Nēranjarā flows cooling its surroundings. A mild breeze of wind moves through the leaves of trees making a hasten sound like it is trying to let the nature knows about its existence. Clouds in the midnight sky is gathering to witness the greatness that is about to happen on the ground. The full moon is already there on that Wesak Pōya day, and there is a sage with an astounding figure sitting under a Bo Tree. His eyes are closed. He sits with his legs crossed in a meditation posture. His focus on the meditation subject is stern. Time flew, but he is still focused. He is attaining concentration. He is stepping on to different states of contemplation one by one. Many wisdoms are in his grasp now. He is shining and his body is emanating rays of a great beautiful light defeating the darkness surrounding him. He has now attained His Supreme Buddhahood. He is the Gautama Supreme Buddha. He attained His enlightenment as a result of His merits, His determination, and His unfolded great effort. Since the day He started a life of a recluse, His exerted effort was remarkable. Even when His life was hanged only by a thin thread of energy, He would still not give up His endeavor in His goal of becoming the Supreme Buddha. In fact He has practiced His effort in an infinite number of His past lives without any thought of giving it up. The product of that great effort is none other but the birth of this great human being, the Supreme Buddha, who brought light to the lives of everyone in this world.

If a disciple does not care about this moment as a human being and the great fortune of the presence of the Dhamma and just spends his/her life delaying without stepping to that light, then that person will have to face the danger of the Samsāra. If we consider even the lay life, a person needs to have some form of punctuality to thrive in it. Otherwise, tardiness can bring a person the misfortune that he will regret in the rest of his life. For example, some young children miss their chance in studying at the right time and passing their exams that are crucial for the wellbeing of their future. Then when they are facing their lives without others’ help, that’s the time that they realize what has happened. That tardy life pattern brought them a hardship to their life. Still they might be able stand up if they have enough effort and fortune to grow and face their lives with minimum difficulty. But if a person who has been tardy when they had the chance in cultivating merits to their lives, that person may not at all get another chance to be that fortunate again before leaving this human life. It is because this life has been formed due to our old actions (Karma), and it will end at an unknown time showing its uncertainty and transience. The Supreme Buddha always pronounced the importance of being diligent in cultivating once merits and realizing the Four Noble Truths. For that He taught us an insightful meditation, which is known as the ‘contemplation of death (Maranhānussati)’, so the disciple would become more vigilant about the uncertain nature of life and be prompt in cultivating the Dhamma. He even urged His disciples to be prompt at His passing moment. This is mentioned in the Mahāparinibbhāna Sutta (Dīgha Nikāya).

“Handa dāni, Bhikkhavē, āmantayāmi vō, vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādēna sampādētha” “Bhikkhus, I address you one last time―everything that is formed due to a cause has its end, so don’t be late (in cultivating the Dhamma).”

We all respect and take the words of the Supreme Buddha seriously. If these are the last words of our Great Teacher, then we can imagine how important it is to be diligent in following the path of the Noble Dhamma. One who ignores the compassionate words of the Supreme Buddha and follows a tardy life style engaging sensual pleasures will have to face the danger of getting births in bad destinations such as ghost world and hell worlds as he dies. In the Dhammapada, there is a complete chapter in this regard. The first verse in the Appamāda Vagga of the Dhammapada says,

“Appamādō amatapadan – pamādō machchunō padan
Appamattā na mīyanti – yē pamattā yathā matā

One who observes and protects the precepts, practices the concentration, and cultivates the wisdom promptly reaches the Nibbāna. But one who is charmed by sensual pleasures and delayed in following the path of the Dhamma only gets death over and over. Ones who cultivate the Dhamma diligently become deathless. Even if the tardy people still live, they would be like dead corpse.”

So if we get to know the danger of this Samsara from the teachings of the Gautama Supreme Buddha, what shall we do to protect ourselves from that danger and how do we correctly follow the path disclosed in the Dhamma to completely put an end to the suffering? For this, one shall learn the teachings of the Supreme Buddha and form a solemn faith towards Him. Such a faith will bring that disciple to have a commenced effort of learning more and more what He taught. Once the knowledge acquired by learning the Dhamma ripe within oneself, he will then develop a stern faith towards the Dhamma too. Studying the Dhamma and learning the lives of great Disciples of the Supreme Buddha will further verify the fruits of the Noble Path described in the teachings. The noble life styles of the Disciple Bhikkhus and their attainments of the Nibbāna will help the person to come to an unshakable faith towards the Bhikkhu Sangha as well. Having faith towards to a Great Teacher, His teachings, and the Disciple Sangha will definitely open our eyes about the importance of following the path without delaying it to a future task. In that diligent effort, one must have a Buddhist disciple’s virtue by observing and practicing at least the five precepts and the eight precepts at least on Pōya days. These are the four factors of a stream entrant (Sōtāpatti Angāni) who has achieved the first stage of enlightenment. As we all know, following this Noble Dhamma is not an easy task in a world that swallows our minds each moment with the help of five sensual pleasures. But if we are to cultivate virtue, concentration, and wisdom in this life by having mindfulness to be diligent, it would be actually a great attainment at least for our future lives in fulfilling the noble aim of realizing the Four Noble Truths. For that let us be prompt in practicing the Dhamma and cultivating the tranquil mind by Samatha meditation and cultivating wisdom by Vidharshanā meditation without giving into laziness (Thīna middha), without letting our minds to scatter (Uddachcha), without getting trapped into regret (Kukkuchcha), and without being suspicious about the path (Vichikichchā). Let us start our effort in becoming a Noble Disciple of the Gautama Supreme Buddha.

Chinthaka Silva, PhD (USA)

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