Buddha His Message – Part II

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Part II

Extracts from Other Lectures of Swami Vivekananda on Buddha

Whose conquest cannot be overthrown,

Whose conquest nobody equals in the world, Whose realm is infinite,

Whose place you cannot locate –

By what steps can you show the way of that Buddha?

Dhammapada, v. 179.



The gigantic will which Buddha and Jesus threw over the world, whence did it come? Whence came this accumulation of power? It must have been there through ages and ages, continually growing bigger and bigger, until it burst on society in a Buddha or a Jesus, even rolling down to the present day.

– The Complete Works, 1991, Vol. I, p. 30.

Have you not seen even a most bigoted Christian, when he reads Edwin Arnold’s Light of Asia, stand in reverence of Buddha, who preached no God, preached nothing but self-sacrifice?

– Ibid., p. 86.

Let me tell you in conclusion a few words about one man who actually carried this teaching of Karma-Yoga into practice. That man is Buddha. He is the one man who ever carried this into perfect practice. All the prophets of the world, except Buddha, had external motives to move them to unselfish action. The prophets of the world, with this single exception, may be divided into two sets, one set holding that they are incarnations of God come down on earth, and the other holding that they are only messengers from God; and both draw their impetus for work from outside, expect reward from outside, however highly spiritual may be the language they use. But Buddha is the only prophet who said, ‘I do not care to know your various theories about God. What is the use of discussing all the subtle doctrines about the soul? Do good and be good. And this will take you to freedom and to whatever truth there is.’ He was, in the conduct of his life, absolutely without personal motives; and what man worked more than he? Show me in history one character who has soared so high above all. The whole human race has produced but one such character, such high philosophy, such wide sympathy. This great philosopher, preaching the highest philosophy, yet had the deepest sympathy for the lowest of animals, and never put forth any claims for himself. He is the ideal Karma-Yogi, acting entirely without motive, and the history of humanity shows him to have been the greatest man ever born; beyond compare the greatest combination of heart and brain that ever existed, the greatest soul-power that has ever been manifested. He is the first great reformer the world has seen. He was the first who dared to say, ‘Believe not because some old manuscripts are produced, believe not because it is your national belief, because you have been made to believe it from your childhood; but reason it all out, and after you have analysed it, then, if you find that it will do good to one and all, believe it, live up to it, and help others to live up to it.’ He works best who works without any motive, neither for money nor for fame, nor for anything else; and when a man can do that, he will be a Buddha, and out of him will come the power to work in such a manner as will transform the world. This man represents the very highest ideal of Karma-Yoga.

– Ibid., pp. 116-18.

Buddha taught five hundred years before Christ, and his words were full of blessings: never a curse came from his lips, nor from his life;…

– Ibid., p. 328.

It was the great Buddha, who never cared for the dualist gods, and who has been called an atheist and materialist, who yet was ready to give up his body for a poor goat. That Man set in motion the highest moral ideas any nation can have. Whenever there is a moral code it is a ray of light from that Man.

– Ibid., 1991, Vol. II, p. 143.

It reminds me of a celebrated song in the Lalita Vistara, the biography of Buddha. Buddha was born, says the book, as the saviour of mankind, but he forgot himself in the luxuries of his palace. Some angels came and sang a song to rouse him. And the burden of the whole song is that we are floating down the river of life which is continually changing with no stop and no rest. So are our lives, going on and on without knowing any rest….

– Ibid., p. 92.

I am the servant of the servants of the servants of Buddha. Who was there ever like him? – the Lord – who never performed one action for himself – with a heart that embraced the whole world! So full of pity that he – prince and monk – would give his life to save a little goat! So loving that he sacrificed himself to the hunger of a tigress! – to the hospitality of a pariah and blessed him! And he came into my room when I was a boy, and I fell at his feet! For I knew it was the Lord Himself!

– Ibid., Vol. VIII, p. 278.

The Lord Buddha is my Ishta – my God. He preached no theory about Godhead – he was himself God, I fully believe it.

– Ibid., Vol. VI, p. 227.

I would like to see moral men like Gautama Buddha, who did not believe in a Personal God or a personal soul, never asked about them, but was a perfect agnostic, and yet was ready to lay down his life for anyone, and worked all his life for the good of all, and thought only of the good of all. Well has it been said by his biographer, in describing his birth, that he was born for the good of the many, as a blessing to the many. He did not go to the forest to meditate for his own salvation; he felt that the world was burning, and that he must find a way out. ‘Why is there so much misery in the world?’ – was the one question that dominated his whole life. Do you think we are so moral as the Buddha?

– Ibid., Vol. II, p. 352.

Listen to Buddha’s message – a tremendous message. It has a place in our heart. Says Buddha, ‘Root out selfishness, and everything that makes you selfish. Have neither wife, child, nor family. Be not of the world; become perfectly unselfish.’

– Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 131.

The Lord once more came to you as Buddha and taught you how to feel, how to sympathize with the poor, the miserable, the sinner, but you heard Him not. Your priests invented the horrible story that the

Lord was here for deluding demons with false doctrines!…

– Ibid., 1989, Vol. V, p. 14.

Buddha came to whip us into practice. Be good, destroy the passions. Then you will know for yourself whether Dvaita or Advaita philosophy is true – whether there is one or there are more than one.

– Ibid., 1991, Vol. VI, p. 116.

.The phase of Buddhism which declares ‘Everything for others’, and which you find spread throughout Tibet, has greatly struck modern Europe. .What Buddha did was to break wide open the gates of that very religion which was confined in the Upa-nishads to a particular caste. What special greatness does his theory of Nirvana confer on him? His greatness lies in his unrivalled sympathy. The high orders of Samadhi etc., that lend gravity to his religion, are almost all there in the Vedas; what are absent there are his intellect and heart, which have never since been paralleled throughout the history of the world.

– Ibid., p. 225.

.There is nothing to know about in this world therefore, if there be anything beyond this relative existence – what the Lord Buddha has designated as

Prajnapara – the transcendental – if such there be, I want that alone. Whether happiness attends it or grief, I do not care. What a lofty idea! How grand!…

– Ibid., p. 227.

.Only one kind of work I understand, and that is doing good to others; all else is doing evil. I therefore prostrate myself before the Lord Buddha….

– Ibid., p. 310.

In the Buddha Incarnation the Lord says that the root of the Adhibhautika misery or, misery arising from other terrestrial beings, is the formation of classes (Jati); in other words, every form of class-distinction, whether based on birth, or acquirements, or wealth is at the bottom of this misery.

– Ibid., p. 327.

My belief, however, is that it was since the time of Buddha that the monastic vow was preached more thoroughly all over India, and renunciation, the giving up of sense-enjoyment, was recognized as the highest aim of religious life…. Never was a great man of such renunciation born in this world as Buddha.

– Ibid., p. 507.

…The monastic institution was there, but the generality of people did not recognize it as the goal of life; there was no such staunch spirit for it, there was no such firmness in spiritual discrimination. So even when Buddha betook himself to so many Yogis and Sadhus, nowhere did he acquire the peace he wanted. And then to realize the Highest he fell back on his own exertions, and seated on a spot with the famous words, – ‘Let my body wither away on this seat’
etc. rose from it only after becoming the Buddha, the Illumined One.. Really speaking, the institution of Sannyasa originated with Buddha; it was he who breathed life into the dead bones of this institution.

– Ibid., pp. 507-08.

.If we accept history only as authority, we have to admit that in the midst of the profound darkness of the ancient times, Buddha only shines forth as a figure radiant with the light of knowledge.

– Ibid., p. 509.

.Buddha was more brave and sincere than any teacher. He said: ‘Believe no book; the Vedas are all humbug. If they agree with me, so much the better for the books. I am the greatest book; sacrifice and prayer are useless.’ Buddha was the first human being

to give to the world a complete system of morality. He was good for good’s sake, he loved for love’s sake.

– Ibid., 1992, Vol. VII, pp. 40-41.

Buddha never bowed down to anything – neither Veda, nor caste, nor priest, nor custom. He fearlessly reasoned so far as reason could take him. Such a fearless search for truth and such love for every living thing the world has never seen. Buddha was the Washington of the religious world; he conquered a throne only to give it to the world, as Washington did to the American people. He sought nothing for himself.

– Ibid., p. 59.

But look at Buddha’s heart! – Ever ready to give his own life to save the life of even a kid – what to speak of – ‘For the welfare of the
many, for the happiness of the many’! See, what a large heartedness – what a compassion!

– Ibid., p. 118.

Buddha preached renunciation. India heard, and yet in six centuries she reached her greatest height.

– Ibid., 1989, Vol. V, p. 228.

…But consider how much good to the world and its beings…how many monasteries and schools and colleges, how many public hospitals and veterinary refuges were established, how developed architecture became. [in the name of Buddha!] What was there in this country before Buddha’s advent? Only a number of religious principles recorded on bundles of palm leaves – and those too known only to a few. It was Lord Buddha who brought them down to the practical field and showed how to apply them in the everyday life of the people. In a sense, he was the living embodiment of true Vedanta.

– Ibid., 1992, Vol. VII, pp. 118-19.

.Buddha brought the Vedanta to light, gave it to the people and saved India.

– Ibid., 1991, Vol. II, p. 139.

When Buddha, who is with us a saint, was asked by one of his followers: ‘Does God exist?’ He replied: ‘God, when have I spoken to you about God? This I tell you, be good and do good.’

– Ibid., p. 287.

.But Buddha would have been worshipped as God in his own lifetime, all over Asia, for a moment’s compromise. And his reply was only: ‘Buddhahood is an achievement, not a person!’ Verily was He the only man in the world who was ever quite sane, the only sane man ever born!

– Ibid., Vol. VIII, pp. 271-72.

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