Relevance of the Ashadhi (Guru) Purnima (Full Moon Day) for the Buddhists


After the Buddha penetrated the nature of reality fully (attained to Bodhi), he surveyed the world and realised that two of his former teachers were already dead who could have perhaps understood the nature of his enlightened experience. Then he remembered his five friends with whom he practiced severe austerities and they left Siddhartha when they found that he partook food. The fame of Siddhartha has already reached far and wide as people learnt about his commitment to the life of truth before his enlightenment, and he was famous for his disciple and severity of his practice.

The Buddhist scriptures record as to how the Buddha-to-be realised after eating the Milk-Rice fed by Sujata that the path to the true realisation did not involve self-torture and self-abnegation, but it meant inquiry into one’s own experiences and one’s own mind and leaving according to the nature of the human reality. After the Buddha realised the truth, he set off for Isipatana (the dwelling place of practitioners who lived in that place).

It must an interesting journey and the Buddha met a vegabond (Upak) on the way and looking at the Buddha he could not stop admiring the brilliance of his face. He asked the Buddha who he was, and the Buddha told him that he the Buddha, the knower of the truth. Upaka Shrug his head and left saying that “Maybe, sir”! The Buddha could not communicate his experience. The greatest teacher of the humanity fresh from his attainment of the truth could not teach anything to Upaka.

The Buddha, therefore, had to find ways to communicate his experiences so that the listeners would understand what he meant by his attainment, by his Dhamma, and by his Vinaya. The Buddhist scriptures record this fascinating journey. He reached where his five former friends were staying and they did not want to welcome Siddhartha (who had fallen in their esteem), but as the Buddha approached them, they could not resist.

They were awestruck and they extended natural respect to the Buddha. Then the Buddha gradually taught them the famous “Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta”: The Discourse on turning of the wheel of the Dhamma. We do not know if the Buddha taught in the same format that is available with us today, but certainly, it must have been a comprehensive discourse on his attainment and the path to that attainment. It is a great discourse on the “four Noble Truth” with three aspects of every truth, making it into 12 ways in which the Four Noble Truths can be fully understood, practiced, and realised. The sutta is inspiring from many points of view and it seems that the latter writers might have put it in the formulaic format that has come down to us.

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Whatever was the chief content of the Sutta, something happened at the end of this discourse. It is like the pinnacle of the communication between the enlightened mind and the mind that was ready for the enlightenment. Kondinya, one of the five former friends of the Buddha, understood. Yes, Kondinya understood and penetrated the same truth that the Buddha had attained. This is like the magic that showed that the highest and noblest of the experiences was communicated to the another human being. That was an act of enlightened communication which also showed that the enlightenment and the experiences of it are communicable.

This communicability of the truth is important, because then the truth is not privy to one “special” human being, but that it can be held communally, it can be held socially, and it can be attested by anybody, anywhere, and anytime. This is what happened on that day. The wheel of the truth was turned and turned forever. No one could unturn it then, now, and in the future. When more and more people realise the same truth the Buddha did, the wheel is turned.

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Babasaheb Ambedkar turned the wheel of the Dhamma on 14th October 1956 and with him, many of his followers became receptive to the Buddha’s Dhamma with the possibility that they can also realise the highest and noblest. This turning of the wheel is speeding up as more and more people are beginning to see Dhamma as the way to true liberation and when more and more people communicate that experience to others the wheel will rotate faster and faster.

On this day, Guru Purnima, we should aspire to realise the highest truth or different levels of understanding which arises through the practice of the Dhamma, but this is not enough in itself though very important, let us also try to communicate what we have realised to others so that the wheel of the Dhamma speeds up. Realisation and communication make the Buddha Dhamma a complete path for the self and others to forge the community based on the higher truth. On this day, Buddha really created an Enlightened Society of two, which grew into millions through the passage of history.

Author – Mangesh Dahiwale, Human Rights Activist

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