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May 13, 2011 / sujato

That Shining Prince: reflections on Vesak 2011

In days of old, before the telescope shrunk the sky, people used to think the stars, sun, and moon were gods. They hung in the sky, radiant, contemptuous of worldly concerns like gravity. While they might be hidden for a time by the clouds, or the cycles of day and night, they remained true, permanent.

Now we’ve been to the moon, trodden her under our big boots, declared the superiority of our human technology. The celestial bodies still shine, but they just aren’t so special any more. As our world has grown it has become more barren, more empty.

The Buddhist tradition says that at certain times, such as the birth and Awakening of the Buddha, a tremendous light appears in the sky, outshining even the sun and moon. Even the abysmal void of intergalactic space is filled with radiance. Long before technology reduced the sun and the moon to big rocks in the sky, the Buddha knew that there was a light that outshone them.

Western science has not stopped with dethroning the sun and the moon. Our entire world, from the cosmic evolution to the mysteries of DNA, is being relentlessly poked and prodded, analyzed and classified. There are few, if any, things left that are truly mysterious. Perhaps this is why we, more than any generation previous, search for mystery in the irrational: in conspiracies, UFOs, or the Bermuda Triangle.

There is, however, a mystery that still remains, one whose implications far outweigh any other. That is the mystery of Awakening. The idea, so incredibly powerful, that any ordinary human being can actually perfect themselves. That all of us have the seed within ourselves to realize the perfect, liberating Truth.

In the 2500 years since the Buddha first realized and proclaimed this, not a single person has come up with a more radical or important idea. Freedom: it is possible. We are not trapped in this suffering. There is a way out. And that way out is nothing more than self-realization through the eightfold path.

While our world grows ever more weary and cynical, this is one light that never dims. That shining prince, Siddhattha, whose story and example still exerts such a fascination on us, he realized this for himself. Though he has long been dim and uncertain as a historical figure, behind the clouds of time there is an unmistakable glory. His words, preserved for us due to the unstinting efforts of generations of Buddhists, convey the ring of truth. And his path, though overgrown with weeds, is still clearly visible.

The Buddha would not have wanted us to celebrate Vesak with big ceremonies. He would have looked for those who practice his Way. Each person who takes the path to heart and truly embodies it becomes a light for the world.

May that person be you!

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9 Comments

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  1. daisy / May 13 2011 6:43 pm

    May that person be you!

    Dear Venerable Sujato,

    More likely it would be you and Ajahn Brahmali and Ajahn Brahm.

    It is truely awesome how you and the other monks and nuns on here answer so succintly and rationally all the questions and queries …well most of them … and are so patient and tolerant.

    Thank you and happy Vesek week :)

  2. linda / May 14 2011 3:33 am

    Beautiful post, Bhante. Thank you for pointing to what is truly essential and of immeasurable value.

  3. Lisa Karuna / May 14 2011 11:59 am

    Thank you, Dear Bhante.

    Tender feet will venture at sunrise into the tender spring forest – a first forest venture since their last forest adventure in Australia 9 months ago; with a field naturalist friend who isn’t a nun in form but in spirit. I won’t be barefoot the whole way but I will try at least a few steps.
    I cannot imagine a better way to celebrate the tender birth of a great Lion.

    Dear Bhante, may your Vesakh week be filled with great friendship, ease and joy.

    _/\_

  4. Dean 'Jagaro' Crabb / May 15 2011 7:35 am

    Really lovely post. It shines so brightly.

    I went to the Buddhism Expo yesterday. It was so lovely to see people from different faiths of Buddhism talking, sharing and being open to learning and listening to each other. Equally embracing each other. It was really wonderful to see this beacon shining through in people’s heart and the profound effect Buddhism has on their lives. Its powerful and subtleness cannot be measured, yet standing in the presence of each other its effect is obvious and profound. I talked to so many people and walked away with an uplifted strength and lightness in my heart.

    What a wonderful world we live in and gift we share in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Thank you all!

    In Kindness,
    Dean ‘Jagaro’ Crabb

    The Moment of Peace
    One Hour, One Million People, United in Silence
    http://www.themomentofpeace.com

  5. dg / May 15 2011 10:42 am

    Beautiful Wesak reflection – thanks – May all beings Awaken

  6. Emmy / May 18 2011 3:03 am

    This is so beautifully written. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Happy Vesak to you and everybody!

  7. roni / May 19 2011 4:16 pm

    Thank you for the beautiful reflection, Bhante.

    Crosspost in Hungarian: http://www.buddhapest.hu/2011/05/acsan-szudzsato-az-ragyogo-herceg.html (translated by Rob).

    Metta,

    Roni

  8. Daisy / May 22 2011 3:11 pm

    Hi

    Just wondering why Ajahn Brahm gives his latest talk in whatever language he was talking in, shouldn’t anyone who lives in an English speaking country use the language of that country?

  9. Lisa Karuna / May 24 2011 3:40 am

    Some interesting photos from Vesakh celebrations in the Boston Globe.

    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/05/vesak_day_2011.html

    _/\_

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