There were 3 things that stuck out in my readings this week: how Buddha treated those who tried to kill him, when he helped people, and his final sermon.
Devadatta was someone who grew up with Siddhartha. They had similar strengths, but Devadatta always lived in Siddhartha’s shadow. Eventually they both pursued a life dedicated towards achieving enlightenment. Siddhartha became Buddha and many people followed his teachings. Devadatta reluctantly did as well. However, over time he felt that Buddha needed to instill ascetic practices into the monks, but Buddha refused. They clashed for a long time, and Devadatta grew to resent Buddha. Devadatta felt as if he was entitled to a following, just like his childhood rival. Eventually their clashes came to a head, and Devadatta left Buddha and his followers.
Devadatta wasn’t satisfied, however. He became vengeful. He tried to kill Buddha several times, including hiring archers and dropping boulders on him. Buddha was never killed by him, but was severely injured once. His foot had been gashed open by a piece of a boulder. The land’s best doctor had to be called to help because of the injury’s severity.
Buddha’s followers were fed up with Devadatta and rallied to kill him to prevent further harm. However, when Buddha heard of their intentions, he rebuked them. He told them never to descend to violence. He told his followers that one day even his friend Devadatta would achieve enlightenment.
I feel this is one of the most important lessons that is echoed throughout all religions, including Buddhism, but put best by Jesus: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Buddha taught that even if people are LITERALLY trying to kill you, do not try to harm them.
When Buddha realized he was close to death, he wanted to give one final instruction to his disciples. He was determined to stay alive until he had done so. The person he was traveling with was relieved that he would not pas until he had talked with them, implying he believed Buddha had one last piece of wisdom to give.
Buddha replied “I have taught them everything. I have no pronouncements for the Buddhist commentiy. you must all be lamps unto yourselves. You must rely on yourselves and no one else. You must make the law your light and support, and rely on nothing else.”
This is a lesson I had talked about before, but it cannot be emphasized enough. You guide yourself, you find enlightenment for yourself.
On his way to say goodbye to his top monks, Buddha was deathly ill and old. However, he refused NOT to preach to people who needed to hear what he had to say. When he was mere hours away from death, he still refused not to help those in need. It shows that even in the face of death Buddha chose to help others.
This is inspiring because it makes me think about what I would do. I would like to think that I would stop and take time to serve others, even if I don’t have much time left to give.
Buddha’s last words were one that indicates an acceptance and brave attitude towards death. With his friends around him, he gave one final and short sermon, which in its entirety reads: “Monks! I will leave words to all of you. All phenomena are always changing. Endeavor to practice my teachings diligently”
The truth that everything is always changing is a beautifully simple one. For me in my life, it has helped me accept or let go of things that in the end won’t matter anyway.