By Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
“The mind, O monks, is luminous, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements. The uninstructed worldling does not understand this as it really is; therefore for him there is no mental development. (Pabhassaram idam, bhikkhave, cittam. Tañ ca kho agantukehi upakkilesehi upakkilittham.Tam assutava puthujjano yatha-bhutam nappajanati. Tasma assutavato puthujjanassa cittabhavana n’atthi ti vadami.) The mind, O monks, is luminous, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements. The instructed noble disciple understands this as it really is; therefore for him there is mental development. (Pabhassaram idam, bhikkhave, cittam. Tañ ca kho agantukehi upakkilesehi upakkilittham. Tam sutava ariyasavko yatha-bhutam pajanati. Tasma sutavato ariyasavkassa cittabhavana atthi ti vadami” (Anguttara Nikåya. I, vi, 1-2 – Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, An Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikåya, Translated and edited by Nyånaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi, p. 36). We find these two passages in the Anguttara Nikaya, which is one of the five sections or subdivisions of the Sutta Pitaka. The Buddha’s teaching is divided into three major parts, such as Sutta Pitaka, Vinaya Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka. Pitaka means part. Sutta Pitaka records the discourses, instructions, and advices that the Buddha gave with many parables, stories, and similes. The Vinaya Pitaka contains the code of discipline for monks and nuns. Abhidhamma Pitaka explains the teachings in analytical, philosophical, and psychological terms. Out of them, the Sutta and Vinaya are earlier parts of the Buddha’s teachings. Sutta Pitaka is subdivided into five sections called Nikayas. One Nikåya is called Digha Nikaya which contains 32 long discourses, the second Nikaya is called Majhima Nikaya which has 152 middle length discourses. The third Nikaya is called Samyutta Nikaya which is translated into English as Connected Discourses, where there are 2,904 discourses. The fourth Nikaya is called Anguttara Nikaya. Anguttara means Gradual, which means numerical discourses. These discourses are arranged according to numbers: Suttas dealing with one thing are in one category, Suttas dealing with two things are in another category, Suttas dealing with three things fall into the next category, and so forth. There are eleven categories in Anguttara Nikaya. ‘Anga’ means limb and ‘uttara’ means higher. So each limb has one number higher than the previous one: one, two, three, and so forth. It has approximately 2,363 discourses. The last Nikaya is called Khuddaka Nikaya, which contains short discourses with both proses and verses mixed together, and sometimes they are expressed in very pithy statements giving the gist of the Dhamma in very short paragraphs. This Nikaya also has several hundreds of discourses. These are the five Nikayas. In the first of these two passages the Buddha says: “This mind is luminous but it is defiled,” and in the second he says “This mind is luminous but it is cleansed.” In the first statement “luminous” followed by “defiled” seems to imply that the mind is naturally pure and in the second “luminous” followed by “cleansed” seems to imply that the mind is naturally defiled. The mind has to be pure in order to be defiled and by the same token it should be defiled in order to be purified. If it is totally pure it does not need to be purified and if it is totally defiled it does not need to be defiled again. The Buddha says that these taints that defile the luminous mind come from the outside. What this statement implicitly says is that the defilements are not in the mind at birth. However, according to the Dhamma taught by the Buddha elsewhere, the external taints do not invade the mind if it does not have the “trace of taints within itself.” In other words the mind pure in itself cannot be affected by the taints existing out there in the world. “As the rain does not get into a well thatched house so craving does not get into a well-trained mind.” Only the mind that has taints in it looks for matching taints outside and gets what it desires. The presupposition of the statement: “but it is defiled by taints that come from without,” is that the mind remains luminous or undefiled if the “taints that come from without” are prevented from coming in. If the mind is naturally pure all we have to do is maintain the purity preventing the taints that come from without. Also if the mind is totally pure then the educated disciple does not have to be on guard against outside defilements. In the above quoted passages the Buddha says that the educated disciple, who has learned the Dhamma in theory but has not attained full enlightenment, cultivates his mind through the practice at meditation. The fully enlightened disciple’s mind is already hundred percent pure. Therefore he does not have to be on guard all the time to protect his mind from being invaded by external defilements. Explaining both the luminous mind and the uneducated disciple the commentarial exegesis points out: He (the uneducated disciple) who, examining the meaning of this sutta from the beginning, does not know either by the knowledge of the scriptures or by attainment of enlightenment that although this life continuum (bhavanga citta) is pure by itself, it is defiled by the defilements such as greed, etc. born at the moment of mental impulse state (javana). This unequivocal exegetical explanation demonstrates that the uneducated disciple is one who has no knowledge of the scriptures and has not attained enlightenment. Also consistent with this passage, the life continuum is pure by itself but defiled when it enters the mental impulse state (javana), by greed, hatred, and delusion. Nevertheless in keeping with the doctrine of Kamma and rebirth, this present life of ours is the direct result of what we have intentionally committed in the past. Therefore the relinking consciousness (patisandhicitta) which gives rise to the present stream of consciousness is the resultant consciousness of the previous Kamma. If the departing consciousness of the previous life (cuticitta) was free from defilements, then the present stream of consciousness also should be free from taints. On the other hand if the last thought moment of the previous life was totally free from all taints or latent tendencies, then this resultant life continuum would have not come into being at all because the mind totally free from defilements does not cause any more rebirth. In conformity with the law of cause and effect, if the cause was not purified of cankers its results cannot be pure either. It follows then that the mind that causes rebirth is a mind with defilements. Therefore the life continuum cannot be completely immune to potential corruption. By rule of implication it follows that this luminous mind is not totally clean or pure because if it is, then it is not in the realm of possibility of defiling. If it is already pure, then the Aryan disciple has nothing to purify in it through the cultivation of mind (cittabhavana). This means that even the luminous mind has latent tendencies (anusaya) which can arise at any time. The educated disciple who is mindful all the time applies the effort to prevent the latent tendencies from arising. In spite of his effort if the latent tendencies arise or reach the stage of manifestation (pariyutthana), then he makes effort to overcome them. As soon as he is successful in overcoming unwholesome tendencies he makes effort to arouse wholesome states of mind. Instead of worrying over or dwelling upon the past unwholesome thoughts the wise arouse more and more wholesome thoughts to overcome and replace the unwholesome thoughts. Once the wholesome thoughts are aroused he strives to cultivate them over and over again by guarding his senses through which external stimuli stimulate his latent tendencies. While preserving the luminosity of his mind he makes all effort to weaken and destroy the latent tendencies in his mind. Therefore the “cultivation of mind” (citta bhavana) here means not tranquility meditation (samatha bhavana) but insight meditation (vipassana bhavana) because it is only the insight meditation that trains the mind to watch itself and discipline itself, in order to purify it destroying all the defilements including latent tendencies. The luminosity of the mind also seems to have been alluded to the state of mind that the people at the beginning of the human race had. The Aggañña sutta in the Dighanikaya records how human beings who first appeared on this earth had luminous minds. There comes a time, Vasettha, when sooner or later, after the lapse of a long period, this world passes away. And when this happens, beings have mostly been reborn in the World of Radiance; and there they dwell, made of mind feeding on rapture, self-luminous, traversing the air, continuing in glory; and thus they remain for a long, long period of time. There comes also a time, Vasettha, when sooner or later this world begins to re-evolve. When this happens, beings who had deceased from the World of Radiance, usually come to life as humans. And they become made of mind, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, traversing the air, continuing in glory and remain thus for a long, long period of time. The self-luminosity of these human beings might have been generated from their luminous minds which were not free from latent tendencies. The Buddha pointed out in the same sutta how people gradually began to manifest their potential psychic irritants, how they transgressed the moral code and how they gradually increased their defilements. When the earth was gradually formed it appeared like “well-made ghee or pure butter…” and tasted “even as flawless honey of the bees.” Because of the sweet taste of the earth one of the beings who was of greedy disposition tasted earth with his finger. Thus craving was aroused in him and he expressed his feeling of taste to others. They too followed suit. In this way craving was aroused in these beings. It should be noted that the craving in these early inhabitants of this earth had been rendered ineffective through the association with the Self-luminous beings in the World of Radiance because their senses were not exposed to sensual objects. Nonetheless their latent tendencies of greed continued to exist in their stream of consciousness and as soon as the opportunity arose it found its way out. Also because of disuse atrophy of their senses for a long, long time, the natural luminosity of the mind developed and manifested and latent tendencies were forgotten. When they returned to this world as human beings they continued to possess the same luminosity “continuing in glory.” Be that as it may, as the dirt of craving covered the minds of these beings the luminosity of their minds and bodies disappeared. “And from the doing thereof the self-luminance of those beings faded away.” Because of the fact that these beings had continuously sustained and nourished greed from time immemorial in samsara they have formed the habit of clinging. Therefore, of all the defilements, this habitual clinging to sensory experience arose first in them. Elsewhere the Buddha speaks about luminous mind in a different context. There he says: “Thus purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilements and has become malleable, wieldly, steady and attained to imperturbability.” Here although the word “luminous” (pabhassara) is not used, other words such as “purified” (parisuddha), “bright” (pariyodata), “unblemished” (anangana), and “rid of defilement” (vigatupakkilesa) suggest that the mind is luminous and temporarily free from defilements. This luminosity of purity is referred to the state of mind at the attainment of the fourth immaterial jhana. However even at this stage the mind is not totally free from the potential of getting polluted although he who attained the fourth immaterial jhana gained adequate purity and clarity of mind for him to cultivate supernatural powers. In spite of all the achievements—eight jhanas and supernatural powers—they are still subject to rebirth and death if they do not attain Arahhantship because their life continuums are not totally free from latent tendencies. They may have luminous minds, however that may be they are still susceptible to corruptions by external stimuli. In order to avoid this vicious cycle of rebirth the luminous mind should be purified. Only those who do citta bhavana can free their luminous minds from craving, hatred and ignorance resulting in the attainment of Arahantship. The educated disciple who can make the distinction between mundane right concentration and supra mundane right concentration can see that the luminous mind can be permanently purified from external defilements. He knows each of the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path has two forms—a mundane form, which is “subject to the cankers, pertaining to the side of merit, maturing in the foundation of existence,” and another form, which is, “noble, free from cankers, supra mundane, a factor of the path.” The latter is found in “the noble state of consciousness, the cankerless state of consciousness in one equipped with the noble path, in the developing of the noble path.” Since these factors accompanying right concentration of the noble path are defined as supra mundane, it follows that the four Jhanas making up right concentration in the Noble Eightfold Path are also supra mundane. It is “through the cultivation of supra mundane Jhanas that the luminous mind can be purified from latent tendencies.” The Dhammasangani opens its analysis of the first supra mundane consciousness with the words: « On the occasion when one develops supra mundane Jhana which is emancipating, leading to the demolition (of existence), for the abandonment of views, for reaching the first plane, secluded from sense pleasures…one enters and dwells in the first Jhana.” When the Buddha says “wherefore for the uneducated many folk there is no cultivation of the mind,” he does not mean that the uneducated disciples shall never be able to meditate. The Buddha, an embodiment of infinite compassion and wisdom, has taught us how the uneducated disciple should be educated enough to understand the significance of meditation. Whenever the uneducated disciple is educated he is ready for cultivation of mind (citta bhavana). Therefore uneducatedness in Dhamma is not a permanent or unchanging condition preventing one from purifying his mind through meditation. Who is an uninstructed person? All human beings are put into three terms: uninstructed worldling (assutava puthujjano), instructed worldling (sutava puthujjano) and, instructed noble disciple (sutava ariyasavako). Assutava puthujjano means “one who has not heard.” Suta (sruti in Sanskrit) is that which is heard. The hearing faculty is called sota in Pali. Using the hearing faculty mindfully listen to the right message. Then you will be sutava puthujjano. If you examine the meaning and realize the truth, then you will be an instructed noble disciple (sutava ariyasavako).
One who has heard a lot is called bahussuta, which is a blessing. If that is so, then all human beings these days must be blessed people because they have heard many things. Their ears are exposed to many sounds, with which their minds are filled with sounds and ideas. Does that mean that they are learned people? No, not at all. Until they hear the right Dhamma, they are uninstructed persons. The mass of people, who have heard many wrong things, are uninstructed. Putthujjana means people who belong to the mass, who go through the process of birth and death. “Few among people are those who cross to the farther shore. The rest, the mass of people, only run up and down the hither bank.” Appaka te manussesu ye jana paragamino, athayam itara paja tiram ev’anudhavati (Dhp. 85) A great mass of people will roam back and forth, wandering in samsara, going through birth and death, but only very few will cross the ocean of samsara and be liberated. Those who have heard the Dhamma are called noble disciples, who have heard the Dhamma (sutava ariyasavako). They are not fully enlightened. They know that the mind is luminous. It needs to be cultivated to reach purity. The one who has learned the method of cultivating the luminous mind to reach purity is a learned noble person. An uninstructed person becomes an instructed person. Then the instructed person becomes a noble disciple, who is liberated from impurities of the mind. The path makes its followers noble. Therefore it is called noble path. Since it has eight steps it is called Noble Eightfold Path. One who follows the Noble Eightfold Path is called a noble disciple.
Now, what are the psychic irritants? The primary psychic irritants are the roots of greed, hatred, and ignorance. We feed them and make them grow. We do not know the origin of this repetition of ignorance, greed and hatred. They go on in a cycle. We can put this ongoing repetition of birth and death in one cycle and the ending of it in another cycle. Birth and death cycle is called Samsara cycle or Samsara wheel (samsaracakkkra) and ending of it is called Dhamma cycle or Dhamma wheel (dhammacakra). The wheel is a symbol of infinity because a wheel doesn’t have a beginning or an end. We learn in mathematics the radius, diameter, circumference, area, etc., of a circle, but we never learn the beginning and the end of a circle. There is no formula to find the beginning and the end of a circle. Samsåra cycle of psychic irritants does not have a beginning. We can create a beginning and end of a circle by drawing a cross line on the line that makes a circle. There we see the beginning and the end of that circle. We created the beginning. Similarly we can see here and now in the present moment the beginning of Samsåra and its end. We should see how psychic irritants arise now in this moment. Then we work forward and bring them to an end. All the psychic irritants end in Nibbana. All the dhammas end in Nibbana. All the existence ends in Nibbana. Although the beginning is indiscernible, the future is optimistic. If we try to go back to the origin we will get lost. Greed, hatred and delusion, as we have mentioned, are the main psychic irritants. They multiply into fear, tension, anxiety, worry, jealousy, competition, schizophrenia, conceit and doubts. Also all modern terms adopted in psychology to describe numerous negative mental states can be called psychic irritants. All of them are the multiplications of the three roots of greed, hatred, and delusion. Now, the second part of the question that I posed at the beginning is how to cultivate the mind to reach its purity. There are three types of cultivation: cultivation of body (kayabhavana), words (vacibhåvanå), and mind (cittabhavana). Bhavana means cultivation. The entire thing in the Noble Eightfold Path—understanding, thinking, speaking, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration—is the path of cultivation. The entire Noble Eightfold Path is to be cultivated (bhavetabba). After the attainment of enlightenment the Buddha was going to Benares to deliver his first sermon. On the way he met a man called Upaka. The man asked him, “Who are you?” The Buddha said: “I have comprehended what is to be comprehended. I have abandoned what is to be abandoned. I have realized what is to be realized. I have cultivated what is to be cultivated. Therefore I am Buddha.” The first truth is the truth of comprehension of suffering. The second truth is the truth of abandoning the suffering by abandoning the cause of suffering. The third truth is the truth of realization of Nibbana. The fourth truth is the truth of cultivation of the Noble Eightfold Path. “So long, Bhikkhus, as my knowledge and vision of these Four Noble Truths as they really are in their three phases and twelve aspects were not thoroughly purified in this way, I did not claim to have awakened to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment in this world with its devas, Mara, and Brahma, in this generation with its ascetics and Brahmins, its devas and humans. But when my knowledge and vision of these Four Noble Truths as they really are in their three phases and twelve aspects was thoroughly purified in this way, then I claimed to have awakened to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment in this world with its devas, Mara, and Brahma, in this generation with its ascetics and Brahmins, its devas and humans. The knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘Unshakable is the liberation of my mind. This is my last birth. Now there is no more renewed existence.” (SN. V. 243; Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, p. 1845-1846). When he realized the Four Noble Truths in this way, he attained liberation from all psychic irritants. Only then his mind was totally purified and achieved perfection of mental purity. Only when the psychic irritants had totally been eliminated from his mind and attained supreme enlightenment he attained the mental perfections, purity of perfections. Even Siddhartha Gotama Bodhisatta, who was destined to be the Buddha, had psychic irritants. Even his mind was not totally pure until he attained full enlightenment. When one understands the Dhamma, to some extent, not perfectly, then one will take the initiative to cultivate the mind in order to remove the psychic irritants and reach its purity, its perfection. And the method he gave for removing the psychic irritants, making it pure, is the Noble Eightfold Path. To attain the total purity of mind there is a method. We begin the practice, with a bird’s eye view or superficial understanding of the Noble Eightfold Path. Each time we practice the Noble Eightfold Path our mind becomes a little bit clearer. Until the practice is perfect our mind will not become totally pure. As we practice, our understanding deepens. As the understanding deepens, we keep on practicing. Then one day the Noble Eightfold Path becomes so clear in our mind, that doubt about the Path and fruits will disappear. The disappearance of doubt will take place only when we see the result, not otherwise. The three unwholesome roots are divided into ten subdivisions and are called fetters. Then we see how we can eliminate each of them one by one following the Noble Eightfold Path. When we see this total picture, the ground plan, then we see how perfectly this system works in order to get rid of all psychic irritants. The Buddha drew us a plan. Suppose an architect draws a plan in such a way that when the builder looks at the plan, he should be able to build the house. The architect must have the entire house in his mind in such a minute detail. He knows how many doors and how many windows should there be. He knows where they should go. He knows so many hinges, so many screws, so many nuts, so many bolts, so many rafters, so many drywalls, so many such and such, are required to build a house. Everything he must put on the plan. Every builder is not an architect. But the architect should be able to draw the plan in such a way that the builder should be able to build the house exactly according to the architect’s plan. So, as a perfect architect, the Buddha gave us a plan and a guarantee that if somebody follows his plan, he/she will attain full enlightenment in seven years. If someone happens to be a slow person he/she will attain three quarters of the attainment (Never Returner). This attainment is guaranteed not just by having faith in the Buddha but by putting his plan into practice. Here we have responsibility and homework to do. Here is a plan, if you follow that plan, you are on your own, you are independent, you use your time, use your intelligence, your wisdom, your education, your effort, your practice, then you will attain full enlightenment or one third of it in seven years. You can make your own schedule to attain it in seven years, or in six years, five years, four years, three years, two years, one year, six months, three months, one month, two weeks or seven days. Some people are so bright and skillful that they don’t have to go through all the details. The very first time they see the plan, they know exactly what to do with it. Suppose you get a kit in a package with instructions how to make a chair. The chair comes in a package with a picture showing where to put the leg, where to put the nut, and where to put the bolt, and this and that. But some people just look at the plan and the pieces only once. Then they assemble all the parts and make a chair very quickly. Just as this person, somebody seeing the Noble Eightfold Path, learns quickly how to put them into practice and attain full enlightenment in seven days. If he is little negligent he may attain the third level of enlightenment in seven days. Others follow the Buddha’s plan slowly, according to their own skill and development of spiritual faculties, and attain either full enlightenment or third level between two weeks and seven years. Don’t try to eliminate all the psychic irritants at once. Try to eliminate one at a time. You may try to build up full confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, morality, and spiritual friendship. One following the plan gains confidence. His doubt disappears. Doubt is one of the psychic irritants. It appears as a hindrance or obstruction (nivarana) or as a fetter or bondage (samyojana). The difference between these two is that hindrance obstructs our progress in the attainment of concentration, which also is an absolutely necessary part of the Noble Eightfold Path. Deepening in concentration meditation is called citta bhavana or mental purification through concentration meditation. And since doubt obstructs concentration meditation it is called a hindrance. The other is called a bondage because it is one of the factors that bind us to samsara. A hindrance appears temporarily. We take care of it as it arises. Fetters are rooted deep down in our psyche as psychic irritants. They are very deep. So the psychic irritants have several levels. The deepest level is called fetters (samyojana). Some of them are gross, some are subtle. They are subdivisions of the three main roots. They nourish hindrances. When the hindrances are nourished they grow again and again. Hindrances temporarily hinder the meditation path. The fetters are more durable and deeply rooted. Hindrances are like a bamboo bush. One of our Bhavana residents wanted to plant a small bamboo plant right near my window. I said, “Don’t plant the bamboo here because it will grow into a huge bush. Then it will be very difficult to remove. Moreover it will block my view through my little window.” He said, “No, no Bhante, it will not grow like that in this country.”I said, “You know, bamboo does not recognize a country or politics. It doesn’t need a passport. It just grows. No matter where you cultivate it, it grows.” But he didn’t listen and planted it. Within a year this one little bamboo shoot multiplied into ten or fifteen and grew into a huge bamboo bush. Next year I could not see very much through my window. My view was blocked. I called him and said, “This is what I told you. I am telling you from my experience. I saw bamboo growing in tropical and hot countries. Now please remove it.” He brought digging bars and pick axes and removed it. Somehow, it didn’t disappear. Then he called somebody who has a bulldozer. He came and removed it. Two months later three shoots came up. I said, “This is what I told you.” Then he called somebody else. He came and dug and dug and removed it. Three months later, three more shoots came up. Then he called somebody else. He came and poured herbicide. The next day there was rain and the herbicide was washed away. Then somebody came and went to the very root and removed a three feet long fat root. We thought it was gone. Three or four months later five shoots appeared here and there. Then somebody had to dig up the whole area and found a big root underneath and he removed it. The bamboo roots grow underground into very large roots and establish itself. “Just as a tree, though cut down, sprouts up again if its roots remain uncut and firm, even so, until the craving that lie dormant is rooted out, suffering springs up again and again.” (Translated by Acariya Bhikkhu Buddharakkhita)
Yathapi mule anupaddave dalhe; Chinno pi rukkho punar eva ruhati, evampi tanhanusaye anuhate; nibbattati dukkhamidam punappunam. (Dhp. 338) “Everywhere these currents flow, and the creeper (of craving) sprouts and grows. Seeing that the creeper has sprung up, cut off its root with wisdom.” (Translated by Acariya Bhikkhu Buddharakkhita) Savanti sabbadhi sotaLata ubbhijja titthati, Tañ ca disva latam jåtam Mulam paññaya chindatha. (Dhp. 340) So long as the root remains underground no matter how much shoots you cut, the root will continue to grow. We may treat the symptoms but the root, the cause, will remain intact. Now, the shoots or sprouts are like hindrances. You can cut and remove them temporarily leaving the roots underneath. The roots are like fetters or bondage. They bind us to samsara. That which binds us to samsara is called fetters. That which can be removed temporarily is called hindrances. You remove them and experience the power of purity of concentration. Then use this powerful concentration to dig into the root. When you dig into the root and uproot or remove every tiny little piece of the root. Then all the psychic irritants are gone. The roots are gone and they will never arise again. When you keep practicing the Noble Eightfold Path again and again, doubt disappears and in that instant you enter the supra mundane Noble Eightfold Path. The moment you enter the supra mundane Noble Eightfold Path you are called sotapanna in Pali, which means Stream enterer. Sota is the hearing faculty. So sota is the supra mundane Noble Eightfold Path. The word sota also is used for a stream, flowing like a river. Ópanna means entered. So the word sota is either hearing faculty or for flowing. Entering into the first level of enlightenment is called stream entry. When you drop something into a stream, it goes down the stream until it reaches the ocean. The word stream entry is symbolically used to convey the idea that once you have entered into the first level of enlightenment you are bound to attain full enlightenment. Entering the stream means entering this very same Noble Eightfold Path by removing doubt about it. The path from that point onwards is not a different path. The same Noble Eightfold Path from that moment is called supra mundane Noble Eightfold Path or sotapanna magga, or the Stream Enterer’s Path. Until you get rid of your doubt the Noble Eightfold Path is a mundane. The moment your doubt disappears the Noble Eightfold Path becomes supra mundane Noble Eightfold Path. When you enter the path, you cultivate that path, develop that path, before you attain the fruition stage. Path is the preparatory stage. You are preparing, until preparation achieves perfection. Then you are in the fruition of the Stream Entry.
You must think of Siddhartha. Who is Siddhartha? As soon as Siddhartha was born to a royal family the whole country came to know about his birth. Astrologers came, and they predicted this child’s future. Two astrologers said, either he would stay home or he would renounce the world. One astrologer said, he will renounce the world. Everybody in the country knew that. When he came to marry, the girl whom he married, Yasodharå, also knew that. Yasodharå was not just an outsider they just picked up from somewhere. She was from that country, from that area, and knew quite well that Siddhartha was going to leave home and become an ascetic. Knowing that, she agreed to marry him. She was a very intelligent woman. According to Buddhist traditions she also had performed perfections, påramis, to become his wife. So they married. From the day they married, they must have had opportunities to sit down and talk. Going to parks, sitting alone, a very young couple definitely had plenty of time to sit and talk. She certainly noticed that this man is a contemplative man, very quiet, very peaceful. Even in his childhood, when other children were playing, he would go and sit under a tree meditating. When other children were hurting animals, he would rescue animals. His life was given perfectly clearly. The description of his childhood very clearly gives the impression that he was a contemplative boy, as a youth a contemplative youth, as a young man, a contemplative young man. This girl knew all this. And every time she saw him sitting somewhere, quietly contemplating, meditating, she would tell him, « Darling, don’t worry. I know you are going to leave the palace. I know that. All the astrologers have told that. Everybody in the country knows that. We all notice that that is what you are. That is what you want. Darling, I love you no matter what decision you make. I love you so much I will do anything for you without any hesitation. You make a decision. I will be with you. I accept your decision. » This is what a loving woman would tell her husband. And she gave her word to him, « You make any decision, I will support you. Not only that. I know you are going to leave, but don’t leave without giving me a child. Then when you leave, I will have somebody to remind me of you. I can see your child when you are away. » Actually when a woman sees the child she remembers her husband. It’s a natural psychological truth. So she told him, « You give me a baby. But don’t stay at home, because even though we have a child, you would be miserable. You always would be thinking of leaving home. That is your destiny, written in your horoscope. Everybody knows that is what you are going to do. » « Therefore, the very same day the child is born, you come and have a peep, have a look at the child, and then leave. I will make all arrangements for you to leave the palace. Don’t worry about the child, and don’t worry about me. I’m in your father’s palace. Your father has provided me with plenty of servants. Your mother is just like my mother. She loves me. And therefore I am in a secure place. I am protected. You don’t worry about me. » In modern society in any country everyone worries about the economy, their jobs, their money, social security, health insurance, this and that. Because of that, people think in these terms. To understand Siddhartha, we have to understand that this happened two thousand six hundred years ago, in India, in Indian society. Indian society is a joint family system. When you are married, you marry not only the woman, you marry the whole family. In this situation in the King’s palace, everything was perfectly arranged for her to live comfortably. So, with this comfort, with this security, with this understanding, with this perfection, with this utmost love, she agreed to let him go. Siddhartha promised, « Darling, whenever I find what I am looking for, I will come back and see you. » So with this assurance, with this security, he left. As soon as he left, her father-in-law and mother-in-law took her as their own child. You never see one single report of quarrel, disagreement or resentment in the family. They all supported her and she was very comfortable. As soon as Siddhartha attained enlightenment he came home. When he came home the child was seven years old. While everybody else gathered in the family reunion, the Buddha went to Yasodhara’s bedroom and sat down. She came and catching his ankles, she cried with joy of seeing him after seven years. She did not say, « Go away, you abandoned my child and you abandoned me and you are disloyal, ungrateful, and unfaithful. Go away, get out! » She did not say that. She was so glad, so full of joy. Without uttering a word, catching his ankles she cried until his feet were soaked by her tears. Not only that. Then she addressed her child and said, « Darling, this is your father. See, this majestic looking person is your father. He has a hidden wealth. Go and ask him for it. » So she sent her own child. This child went and holding his finger said, « Father, daddy, even your shadow makes me happy, makes me calm, makes me peaceful. I love you. I heard that you have a wealth. Give me that wealth. » Buddha said, « Darling, I give you wealth which is imperishable. Any wealth that you get from the world will be perishable. I give you imperishable wealth. » So he took him to the monastery and ordained him. Eventually what happened? His stepmother became a nun, wife became a nun, cousin Ananda became a monk and his son became a monk. His father attained anagami state. [He visited his mother in Tusita heaven.] Everybody reunited. Whenever we tell the life of the Buddha, we have to show the whole picture, and the difference in cultures, for people to understand. If not, if we tell only one little part of the story, the impression people get is very negative. Sometimes in our books people do not record the history, the purpose and circumstances. All of a sudden they throw something into the book and when you read it, you get confused. We have to have the real sociological, cultural, geographical, religious background to present the picture properly. If these things are lacking, then we have a problem. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana Nayaka Thero