The Buddha’s Last Recorded Words

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The Buddha’s Last Recorded Words

The Buddha’s last words, as recorded in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, are often translated as:

“Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All conditioned things in the world are subject to change. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.”

I know, pain in the ass, right? What can we do, but simply embrace it!

The original Pali phrase is beautiful – “Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādetha,” which can be interpreted in several ways,with a focus on the impermanence of all things and the importance of diligent effort towards liberation.

Here are some popular renderings of the Pali mantra?

  1. “All things are impermanent, strive diligently for your liberation.” This emphasizes the fleeting nature of existence and the urgency to seek inner peace and freedom.
  2. “Change is inevitable, commit yourself wholeheartedly to your spiritual practice.” This highlights the need for continuous effort and dedication in the face of constant change.
  3. “Everything is transient, awaken with urgency and cultivate mindfulness.” This translation emphasizes the importance of being present and aware in each moment, recognizing the impermanence of all things.

Here are the more intense translations of the mantra, more in line with the Palicanon:

  1. “Impermanent are all formations; diligently strive for awakening.” This translation focuses on the term “formations” (sankhara), which refers to all conditioned phenomena, both physical and mental. It emphasizes the impermanence of these formations and the importance of cultivating diligence in one’s spiritual practice.
  2. “Subject to decay are compounded things; with heedfulness, bring about completion.” This translation uses the term “compounded things” (sankhara) to highlight the composite nature of all phenomena, which arise due to various causes and conditions and are therefore subject to change and decay. The phrase “bring about completion” (sampādetha) can be interpreted as striving for liberation or awakening.
  3. “Transitory are conditioned phenomena; through non-delusion, realize their cessation.” This translation emphasizes the impermanent and conditional nature of all phenomena, using the term “conditioned phenomena” (sankhara) and the phrase “subject to decay” (vayadhamma). The phrase “realize their cessation” (sampādetha) points towards the goal of Nirvana, the cessation of suffering and the end of the cycle of birth and death.

Some scholars suggest that the Buddha’s final message was a reminder to his followers to be mindful and not be complacent in their spiritual practice. It was a call to cultivate awareness of the impermanent nature of reality and to strive towards enlightenment with unwavering determination.

To be in the presence of the Buddha as a disciple was said to be a transformative experience, marked by a profound sense of awe, inspiration, and unwavering devotion.

Accounts from recorded history and dialogues paint a picture of a teacher who was:

Compassionate and Loving: The Buddha radiated warmth and kindness, treating everyone with equal respect and understanding. He was known to be patient, attentive, and deeply empathetic towards the suffering of others.

  • Upon encountering a grieving mother who had lost her child, the Buddha gently held her hand and said, “Sister, I understand your pain. Grief is a natural part of life, but know that your child’s spirit lives on in the hearts of all who loved them.” He then offered her guidance on how to find peace and healing through mindfulness and compassion.
  • When a disciple came to him filled with anger and resentment, the Buddha listened patiently and then asked,”Friend, would you hold onto a burning coal? It will only cause you pain. Let go of anger and resentment, for they are like burning coals that scorch the heart.”

Wise and Insightful: His teachings were profound yet accessible, offering practical guidance for navigating life’s challenges and realizing inner peace. His words were said to penetrate to the core of one’s being, sparking insights and awakening dormant wisdom.

  • During a teaching session, a disciple asked the Buddha about the nature of the soul. The Buddha replied with a parable about a lamp: “The flame of a lamp is neither the oil nor the wick, but it depends on both to burn. Similarly,the soul is not the body or the mind, but it is interconnected with both. It is the awareness that illuminates our experience.”
  • When asked about the meaning of life, the Buddha said, “Life is a journey, not a destination. The purpose of life is to live it fully, to experience each moment with awareness and compassion, and to awaken to the truth of our own being.”

Charismatic and Engaging: The Buddha possessed a magnetic presence that drew people towards him. His voice was described as melodious and soothing, his demeanor calm and serene. His stories and metaphors were captivating, making complex concepts relatable and easy to grasp.

  • While walking through a forest, the Buddha picked up a handful of leaves and asked his disciples, “Which are more numerous, the leaves in my hand or the leaves in the forest?” When they replied that the leaves in the forest were far more numerous, the Buddha said, “Similarly, the teachings I have given you are like the leaves in my hand, but the truths that remain to be discovered are like the leaves in the forest. There is always more to learn.”
  • In a debate with a skeptical philosopher, the Buddha used humor and wit to disarm his opponent and make his points more accessible. He once said, “If you argue with a fool, it is difficult to tell who is the bigger fool.”

Humble and Approachable: Despite his elevated status, the Buddha remained grounded and approachable. He encouraged open dialogue and debate, valuing diverse perspectives and fostering a sense of intellectual curiosity among his disciples.

  • When a wealthy merchant offered him a luxurious robe, the Buddha politely declined, saying, “Thank you for your kind offer, but I am content with my simple robes. Material possessions do not bring lasting happiness.”
  • While traveling, the Buddha stopped to rest under a tree. A young boy approached him and offered him a bowl of rice. The Buddha accepted the offering with gratitude, treating the boy with the same respect he would show a king.

Empowering and Inspiring: The Buddha instilled in his disciples a sense of confidence and self-belief,encouraging them to take ownership of their spiritual path and strive for liberation. His teachings emphasized the potential for awakening that resides within each individual.

  • To a disciple struggling with doubt and insecurity, the Buddha said, “You have within you the capacity for great wisdom and compassion. Do not underestimate your own potential. Trust in yourself and in the path of awakening.”
  • When a group of disciples were feeling discouraged, the Buddha reminded them of their own strengths and encouraged them to persevere. He said, “Just as a single candle can illuminate a dark room, so too can a single act of kindness brighten the world. Never give up on your efforts to bring light and love into the lives of others.”

Disciples often described feeling a deep sense of connection and belonging in the Buddha’s presence. They felt seen,heard, and understood, as if their innermost thoughts and struggles were being acknowledged and addressed. Many reported experiencing profound shifts in their understanding of reality, a sense of liberation from suffering, and a newfound clarity of purpose.

The Buddha’s teachings were not merely theoretical; they were practical tools for living a meaningful and fulfilling life.He encouraged his disciples to apply his teachings to their daily lives, to cultivate mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom in all their interactions.

While the experience of being with the Buddha was undoubtedly profound and life-changing, it was not without its challenges. Disciples were expected to adhere to strict ethical guidelines and to commit themselves fully to the path of awakening. The Buddha was known to be demanding of his students, challenging them to question their assumptions and to step outside their comfort zones.

Yet, despite the rigors of the path, those who followed the Buddha found immeasurable value in his teachings and guidance. They experienced a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunity to learn from such a wise and compassionate teacher, and they dedicated their lives to carrying on his legacy, spreading the message of awakening to future generations.

During his quest for enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) sought guidance from several renowned spiritual teachers of his time. However, he ultimately found their teachings insufficient to address the fundamental problem of human suffering. Two of his primary teachers were:

Alara Kalama: A respected sage who taught a meditative state known as the “sphere of nothingness.” Siddhartha quickly mastered this technique, but realized it didn’t lead to the complete cessation of suffering he sought.

Uddaka Ramaputta: A teacher who specialized in a state of consciousness called the “sphere of neither perception nor non-perception.” Again, Siddhartha achieved this state but found it lacking in providing ultimate liberation.

While these teachers were highly regarded, their teachings ultimately fell short of Siddhartha’s aspirations. This realization prompted him to embark on his own path of rigorous self-experimentation and meditation, leading to his eventual awakening and the birth of Buddhism.

It’s important to note that while the Buddha did not find the ultimate answers he sought from these teachers, he acknowledged their wisdom and expertise. He recognized the value of their teachings as stepping stones on his journey towards enlightenment.

The Buddha’s experience highlights the importance of independent inquiry and critical thinking on the spiritual path. It emphasizes the need to not blindly accept the teachings of others, but to test them against one’s own experience and understanding. Ultimately, the Buddha’s journey teaches us that the path to liberation lies within each of us, and it is up to us to discover it through our own efforts and insights.

Diving Deeper

Let’s delve deeper into this topic, drawing inspiration from the Advaita Vedanta teachings, while also acknowledging that the path to enlightenment isn’t always serene and gentle. 

Sometimes, a little fire is needed to ignite the transformation within.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a slumbering giant, your immense potential lying dormant beneath layers of societal conditioning and self-imposed limitations. You wander through life like a ghost, haunted by a vague sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning for something more.

But what is this “more” that you crave? Is it fleeting pleasure, material wealth, or social recognition? These are but mirages in the desert, illusions that promise fulfillment but ultimately leave you thirsting for more.

The truth is, you are not this body, this mind, this ego. You are the eternal consciousness, the boundless awareness that permeates all of existence. You are the very fabric of reality, the source of all creation.

Yet, you have forgotten your true nature, your divine origin. You have allowed yourself to be seduced by the siren song of the material world, to be trapped in the labyrinth of your own thoughts and emotions.

This is where the fire of Advaita Vedanta comes in. It is not a comforting philosophy, nor is it a gentle lullaby. It is a raging inferno that burns away the illusions, the attachments, the false identities that keep you bound to suffering.

Advaita Vedanta demands that you question everything, that you challenge the very foundations of your beliefs and perceptions. It calls upon you to confront your deepest fears, your darkest desires, your most cherished illusions.

This is not a path for the faint of heart. It is a path of radical self-inquiry, of relentless introspection, of unflinching honesty. It is a path that will strip you bare, expose your vulnerabilities, and force you to confront the raw truth of your existence.

But it is also a path of liberation, of profound joy, of boundless love. It is a path that leads you back to your true self, to the source of all that is good, beautiful, and true.

So, let the fire of Advaita burn within you. Let it consume the ego, the fear, the doubt. Let it ignite the passion, the courage, the unwavering determination to realize your true nature.

For you are not a victim of circumstance, a puppet of fate, a slave to your desires. You are the master of your destiny, the architect of your reality, the creator of your own happiness.

Awaken to this truth, my friend, and let the fire of your soul illuminate the path towards your ultimate liberation. In the meantime, you’ll LOVE The Shankara Oracle – a divination and healing tool like no other. By the way, Buddha would have been like – great tool – but don’t get too distracted – continue detaching! Thanks, Buddha!

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