The Blessed One’s Radiance

Bhikkhu Nānamoli’s The Life of the Buddha begins with the birth of the Buddha.  Since it is drawing from the Pāli Canon, it relates the wonderful and marvelous qualities of the Bodhisatta.  This gave me a chance to read once again the description of the Blessed One’s radiance.  I find this passage particularly moving as a description of the Dharma and the Buddha’s role as a teacher.

In Bhikkhu Nānamoli’s translation, the passage reads as follows:

When the Bodhisatta had passed away from the Heaven of the Contented and entered his mother’s womb, a great measureless light surpassing the splendour of the gods appeared in the world with its deities, its Māras and its Brahmā divinities, in this generation with its monks and brahmans, with its princes and men. And even in those abysmal world interspaces of vacancy, gloom and utter darkness, where the moon and sun, powerful and mighty as they are, cannot make their light prevail – there too a great measureless light surpassing the splendour of the gods appeared; and the creatures born there perceived each other by that light: “So it seems that other creatures have appeared here!”

The Bodhisatta’s light is measureless.  It penetrates all lands, even those that exist in utter darkness.  And when it reaches these spaces of darkness, it allows the beings there to perceive one another, to say to themselves: There are others in this dark land.

At retreat, either with Ven. Samu Sunim in Toronto or Haju Sunim in Ann Arbor, we are encouraged to keep our meditation light bright and strong.  The light of meditation does not give any answers.  It does not solve any problems.  It makes bright what was once dark.  And in that bright space it is possible to see things clearly as they arise, as they are present, and as they disappear.

May the light of mindfulness shine in your corner of this world and allow you to see forms, feelings, thoughts, impulses, and consciousness as it arises, as it is present, and as it passes away!

(Note: the quote is from Bhikkhu Nānamoli’s The Life of the Buddha, p. 3.  Ven. Samu Sunim is the founder of the Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom.  Haju Sunim is his Dharma heir and is the resident priest at the Ann Arbor temple.)

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