Buddha, The Gospel
BUDDHA, THE GOSPEL
(HIS LIFE AND TEACHINGS)
THE DISCIPLE SPEAKS
REJOICE at the glad tidings! The Buddha our Lord has found the
root of all evil; he has shown us the way of salvation. The Buddha
dispels the illusions of our mind and redeems us from the terror of
The Buddha, our Lord, brings comfort to the weary and
sorrow-laden; he restores peace to those who are broken down under
the burden of life. He gives courage to the weak when they would fain
give up self-reliance and hope. You who suffer from the tribulations
of life, you who have to struggle and endure, you who yearn for a
life of truth, rejoice at the glad tidings!
There is balm for the wounded, and there is bread for the hungry.
There is water for the thirsty, and there is hope for the despairing.
There is light for those in darkness, and there is inexhaustible
blessing for the upright.
Heal your wounds, you wounded, and eat your fill, you hungry.
Rest, you weary, and you who are thirsty quench your thirst. Look up
to the light, you who sit in darkness; be full of good cheer, you
who are forlorn.
Trust in truth, you who love the truth, for the kingdom of
righteousness is founded upon earth. The darkness of error is
dispelled by the light of truth. We can see our way and take firm
and certain steps. The Buddha, our Lord, has revealed the truth. The
truth cures our diseases and redeems us from perdition; the truth
strengthens us in life and in death; the truth alone can conquer the
evils of error. Rejoice at the glad tidings!
SAMSARA AND NIRVANA
LOOK about and contemplate life! Everything is transient and
nothing endures. There is birth and death, growth and decay; there is
combination and separation. The glory of the world is like a flower:
it stands in full bloom in the morning and fades in the heat of the
Wherever you look, there is a rushing and a struggling, and an
eager pursuit of pleasure. There is a panic flight from pain and
death, and hot are the flames of burning desires. The world is Vanity
Fair, full of changes and transformations. All is Samsara, the
turning Wheel of Existence.
Is there nothing permanent in the world? Is there in the universal
turmoil no resting-place where our troubled heart can find peace? Is
there nothing everlasting? Oh, that we could have cessation of
anxiety, that our burning desires would be extinguished! When shall
the mind become tranquil and composed?
The Buddha, our Lord, was grieved at the ills of life. He saw the
vanity of worldly happiness and sought salvation in the one thing
that will not fade or perish, but will abide for ever and ever.
You who long for life, learn that immortality is hidden in
transiency. You who wish for happiness without the sting of regret,
lead a life of righteousness. You who yearn for riches, receive
treasures that are eternal. Truth is wealth, and a life of truth is
All compounds will be dissolved again, but the verities which
determine all combinations and separations as laws of nature endure
for ever and aye. Bodies fall to dust, but the truths of the mind
will not be destroyed.
Truth knows neither birth nor death; it has no beginning and no
end. Welcome the truth. The truth is the immortal part of mind.
Establish the truth in your mind, for the truth is the image of the
eternal; it portrays the immutable; it reveals the everlasting; the
truth gives unto mortals the boon of immortality.
The Buddha has proclaimed the truth; let the truth of the Buddha
dwell in your hearts. Extinguish in yourselves every desire that
antagonizes the Buddha, and in the perfection of your spiritual
growth you will become like unto him. That of your heart which cannot
or will not develop into Buddha must perish, for it is mere illusion
and unreal; it is the source of your error; it is the cause of your
You attain to immortality by filling your minds with truth.
Therefore, become like unto vessels fit to receive the Master's
words. Cleanse yourselves of evil and sanctify your lives. There is
no other way of reaching truth.
Learn to distinguish between Self and Truth. Self is the cause of
selfishness and the source of evil; truth cleaves to no self; it is
universal and leads to justice and righteousness. Self, that which
seems to those who love their self as their being, is not the
eternal, the everlasting, the imperishable. Seek not self, but seek
If we liberate our souls from our petty selves, wish no ill to
others, and become clear as a crystal diamond reflecting the light
of truth, what a radiant picture will appear in us mirroring things
as they are, without the admixture of burning desires, without the
distortion of erroneous illusion, without the agitation of clinging
Yet you love self and will not abandon self-love. So be it, but
then, verily, you should learn to distinguish between the false self
and the true self. The ego with all its egotism is the false self.
It is an unreal illusion and a perishable combination. He only who
identifies his self with the truth will attain Nirvana; and he who
has entered Nirvana has attained Buddhahood; he has acquired the
highest good; he has become eternal and immortal.
All compound things shall be dissolved again, worlds will break to
pieces and our individualities will be scattered; but the words of
Buddha will remain for ever.
The extinction of self is salvation; the annihilation of self is
the condition of enlightenment; the blotting out of self is Nirvana.
Happy is he who has ceased to live for pleasure and rests in the
truth. Verily his composure and tranquility of mind are the highest
Let us take our refuge in the Buddha, for he has found the
everlasting in the transient. Let us take our refuge in that which
is the immutable in the changes of existence. Let us take our refuge
in the truth that is established through the enlightenment of the
Buddha. Let us take our refuge in the community of those who seek
the truth and endeavor to live in the truth.
TRUTH, THE SAVIOR
THE things of the world and its inhabitants are subject to change.
They are combinations of elements that existed before, and all
living creatures are what their past actions made them; for the law
of cause and effect is uniform and without exception.
But in the changing things there is a constancy of law, and when
the law is seen there is truth. The truth lies hidden in Samsara as
the permanent in its changes.
Truth desires to appear; truth longs to become conscious; truth
strives to know itself.
There is truth in the stone, for the stone is here; and no power
in the world, no god, no man, no demon, can destroy its existence.
But the stone has no consciousness. There is truth in the plant and
its life can expand; the plant grows and blossoms and bears fruit.
Its beauty is marvelous, but it has no consciousness. There is truth
in the animal; it moves about and perceives its surroundings; it
distinguishes and learns to choose. There is consciousness, but it
is not yet the consciousness of Truth. It is a consciousness of self
The consciousness of self dims the eyes of the mind and hides the
truth. It is the origin of error, it is the source of illusion, it
is the germ of evil. Self begets selfishness. There is no evil but
what flows from self. There is no wrong but what is done by the
assertion of self. Self is the beginning of all hatred, of iniquity
and slander, of impudence and indecency, of theft and robbery, of
oppression and bloodshed. Self is Mara, the tempter, the evil-doer,
the creator of mischief. Self entices with pleasures. Self promises
a fairy's paradise. Self is the veil of Maya, the enchanter. But the
pleasures of self are unreal, its paradisian labyrinth is the road
to misery, and its fading beauty kindles the flames of desires that
never can be satisfied.
Who shall deliver us from the power of self? Who shall save us
from misery? Who shall restore us to a life of blessedness?
There is misery in the world of Samsara; there is much misery and
pain. But greater than all the misery is the bliss of truth. Truth
gives peace to the yearning mind; it conquers error; it quenches the
flames of desires; it leads to Nirvana. Blessed is he who has found
the peace of Nirvana. He is at rest in the struggles and
tribulations of life; he is above all changes; he is above birth and
death; he remains unaffected by the evils of life.
Blessed is he who has found enlightenment. He conquers, although
he may be wounded; he is glorious and happy, although he may suffer;
he is strong, although he may break down under the burden of his
work; he is immortal, although he will die. The essence of his being
is purity and goodness.
Blessed is he who has attained the sacred state of Buddhahood, for
he is fit to work out the salvation of his fellow-beings. The truth
has taken its abode in him. Perfect wisdom illumines his
understanding, and righteousness ensouls the purpose of all his
actions. The truth is a living power for good, indestructible and
invincible! Work the truth out in your mind, and spread it among
mankind, for truth alone is the savior from evil and misery. The
Buddha has found the truth and the truth has been proclaimed by the
Buddha! Blessed be the Buddha!
THERE was in Kapilavatthu a Sakya king, strong of purpose and
reverenced by all men, a descendant of the Okkakas, who call
themselves Gotama, and his name was Suddhodana or Pure-Rice. His
wife Maya-devi was beautiful as the water-lily and pure in mind as
the lotus. As the Queen of Heaven, she lived on earth, untainted by
desire, and immaculate.
The king, her husband, honored her in her holiness, and the spirit
of truth, glorious and strong in his wisdom like unto a white
elephant, descended upon her. When she knew that the hour of
motherhood was near, she asked the king to send her home to her
parents; and Suddhodana, anxious about his wife and the child she
would bear him, willingly granted her request.
At Lumbini there is a beautiful grove, and when Maya-devi passed
through it the trees were one mass of fragrant flowers and many
birds were warbling in their branches. The Queen, wishing to stroll
through the shady walks, left her golden palanquin, and, when she
reached the giant sala tree in the midst of the grove, felt that her
hour had come. She took hold of a branch. Her attendants hung a
curtain about her and retired. When the pain of travail came upon
her, four pure-minded angels of the great Brahma held out a golden
net to receive the babe, who came forth from her right side like the
rising sun bright and perfect.
The Brahma-angels took the child and placing him before the mother
said: "Rejoice, O queen, a mighty son has been born unto thee."
At her couch stood an aged woman imploring the heavens to bless
the child. All the worlds were flooded with light. The blind
received their sight by longing to see the coming glory of the Lord;
the deaf and dumb spoke with one another of the good omens
indicating the birth of the Buddha to be. The crooked became
straight; the lame walked. All prisoners were freed from their chains
and the fires of all the hells were extinguished.
No clouds gathered in the skies and the polluted streams became
clear, whilst celestial music rang through the air and the angels
rejoiced with gladness. With no selfish or partial joy but for the
sake of the law they rejoiced, for creation engulfed in the ocean of
pain was now to obtain release. The cries of beasts were hushed; all
malevolent beings received a loving heart, and peace reigned on
earth. Mara, the evil one, alone was grieved and rejoiced not.
The Naga kings, earnestly desiring to show their reverence for
most excellent law, as they had paid honor to former Buddhas, now
went to greet the Bodhisattva. They scattered before him mandara
flowers, rejoicing with heartfelt joy to pay their religious homage.
The royal father, pondering the meaning of these signs, was now
full of joy and now sore distressed. The queen mother, beholding her
child and the commotion which his birth created, felt in her
timorous heart the pangs of doubt.
Now there was at that time in a grove near Lumbini Asita, a rishi,
leading the life of a hermit. He was a Brahman of dignified mien,
famed not only for wisdom and scholarship, but also for his skill in
the interpretation of signs. And the king invited him to see the
The seer, beholding the prince, wept and sighed deeply. And when
the king saw the tears of Asita he became alarmed and asked: "Why has
the sight of my son caused thee grief and pain?"
But Asita's heart rejoiced, and, knowing the king's mind to be
perplexed, he addressed him, saying: "The king, like the moon when
full, should feel great joy, for he has begotten a wondrously noble
son. I do not worship Brahma, but I worship this child; and the gods
in the temples will descend from their places of honor to adore him.
Banish all anxiety and doubt. The spiritual omens manifested
indicate that the child now born will bring deliverance to the whole
"Recollecting that I myself am old, on that account I could not
hold my tears; for now my end is coming on and I shall not see the
glory of this babe. For this son of thine will rule the world. The
wheel of empire will come to him. He will either be a king of kings
to govern all the lands of the earth, or verily will become a Buddha.
He is born for the sake of everything that lives. His pure teaching
will be like the shore that receives the shipwrecked. His power of
meditation will be like a cool lake; and all creatures parched with
the drought of lust may freely drink thereof. On the fire of
covetousness he will cause the cloud of his mercy to rise, so that
the rain of the law may extinguish it. The heavy gates of despondency
will he open, and give deliverance to all creatures ensnared in the
self-entwined meshes of folly and ignorance. The king of the law has
come forth to rescue from bondage all the poor, the miserable, the
When the royal parents heard Asita's words they rejoiced in their
hearts and named their new-born infant Siddhattha, that is, "he who
has accomplished his purpose."
And the queen said to her sister, Pajapati: "A mother who has
borne a future Buddha will never give birth to another child. I
shall soon leave this world, my husband, the king, and Siddhattha,
my child. When I am gone, be thou a mother to him." And Pajapati
wept and promised.
When the queen had departed from the living, Pajapati took the boy
Siddhattha and reared him. And as the light of the moon increases
little by little, so the royal child grew from day to day in mind
and in body; and truthfulness and love resided in his heart. When a
year had passed Suddhodana the king made Pajapati his queen and
there was never a better stepmother than she.
THE TIES OF LIFE
WHEN Siddhattha had grown to youth, his father desired to see him
married, and he sent to all his kinsfolk, commanding them to bring
their princesses that the prince might select one of them as his
But the kinsfolk replied and said: "The prince is young and
delicate; nor has he learned any of the sciences. He would not be
able to maintain our daughter, and should there be war he would be
unable to cope with the enemy."
The prince was not boisterous, but pensive in his nature. He loved
to stay under the great jambu-tree in the garden of his father, and,
observing the ways of the world, gave himself up to meditation. And
the prince said to his father: "Invite our kinsfolk that they may
see me and put my strength to the test." And his father did as his
son bade him.
When the kinsfolk came, and the people of the city Kapilavatthu
had assembled to test the prowess and scholarship of the prince, he
proved himself manly in all the exercises both of the body and of
the mind, and there was no rival among the youths and men of India
who could surpass him in any test, bodily or mental. He replied to
all the questions of the sages; but when he questioned them, even the
wisest among them were silenced.
Then Siddhattha chose himself a wife. He selected his cousin
Yasodhara, the gentle daughter of the king of Koli. In their wedlock
was born a son whom they named Rahula which means "fetter" or "tie,"
and King Suddhodana, glad that an heir was born to his son, said:
"The prince having begotten a son, will love him as I love the
prince. This will be a strong tie to bind Siddhattha's heart to the
interests of the world, and the kingdom of the Sakyas will remain
under the scepter of my descendants."
With no selfish aim, but regarding his child and the people at
large, Siddhattha, the prince, attended to his religious duties,
bathing his body in the holy Ganges and cleansing his heart in the
waters of the law. Even as men desire to give happiness to their
children, so did he long to give peace to the world.
THE THREE WOES
THE palace which the king had given to the prince was resplendent
with all the luxuries of India; for the king was anxious to see his
son happy. All sorrowful sights, all misery, and all knowledge of
misery were kept away from Siddhattha, for the king desired that no
troubles should come nigh him; he should not know that there was
evil in the world.
But as the chained elephant longs for the wilds of the jungles, so
the prince was eager to see the world, and he asked his father, the
king, for permission to do so. And Suddhodana ordered a
jewel-fronted chariot with four stately horses to be held ready, and
commanded the roads to be adorned where his son would pass.
The houses of the city were decorated with curtains and banners,
and spectators arranged themselves on either side, eagerly gazing at
the heir to the throne. Thus Siddhattha rode with Channa, his
charioteer, through the streets of the city, and into a country
watered by rivulets and covered with pleasant trees.
There by the wayside they met an old man with bent frame, wrinkled
face and sorrowful brow, and the prince asked the charioteer: "Who
is this? His head is white, his eyes are bleared, and his body is
withered. He can barely support himself on his staff."
The charioteer, much embarrassed, hardly dared speak the truth. He
said: "These are the symptoms of old age. This same man was once a
suckling child, and as a youth full of sportive life; but now, as
years have passed away, his beauty is gone and the strength of his
life is wasted."
Siddhattha was greatly affected by the words of the charioteer,
and he sighed because of the pain of old age. "What joy or pleasure
can men take," he thought to himself, "when they know they must soon
wither and pine away!"
And lo! while they were passing on, a sick man appeared on the
way-side, gasping for breath, his body disfigured, convulsed and
groaning with pain. The prince asked his charioteer: "What kind of
man is this?" And the charioteer replied and said: "This man is sick.
The four elements of his body are confused and out of order. We are
all subject to such conditions: the poor and the rich, the ignorant
and the wise, all creatures that have bodies are liable to the same
And Siddhattha was still more moved. All pleasures appeared stale
to him, and he loathed the joys of life.
The charioteer sped the horses on to escape the dreary sight, when
suddenly they were stopped in their fiery course. Four persons
passed by, carrying a corpse; and the prince, shuddering at the
sight of a lifeless body, asked the charioteer: "What is this they
carry? There are streamers and flower garlands; but the men that
follow are overwhelmed with grief!"
The charioteer replied: "This is a dead man: his body is stark;
his life is gone; his thoughts are still; his family and the friends
who loved him now carry the corpse to the grave." And the prince was
full of awe and terror: "Is this the only dead man," he asked, "or
does the world contain other instances?"
With a heavy heart the charioteer replied: "All over the world it
is the same. He who begins life must end it. There is no escape from
With bated breath and stammering accents the prince exclaimed: "O
worldly men! How fatal is your delusion! Inevitably your body will
crumble to dust, yet carelessly, unheedingly, ye live on." The
charioteer observing the deep impression these sad sights had made
on the prince, turned his horses and drove back to the city.
When they passed by the palace of the nobility, Kisa Gotami, a
young princess and niece of the king, saw Siddhattha in his manliness
and beauty, and, observing the thoughtfulness of his countenance,
said: "Happy the father that begot thee, happy the mother that nursed
thee, happy the wife that calls husband this lord so glorious."
The prince hearing this greeting, said: "Happy are they that have
found deliverance. Longing for peace of mind, I shall seek the bliss
Then asked Kisa Gotami: "How is Nirvana attained?" The prince
paused, and to him whose mind was estranged from wrong the answer
came: "When the fire of lust is gone out, then Nirvana is gained;
when the fires of hatred and delusion are gone out, then Nirvana is
gained; when the troubles of mind, arising from blind credulity, and
all other evils have ceased, then Nirvana is gained!"
Siddhattha handed her his precious pearl necklace as a reward for
the wisdom she had inspired in him, and having returned home looked
with disdain upon the treasures of his palace.
His wife welcomed him and entreated him to tell her the cause of
his grief. He said: "I see everywhere the impression of change;
therefore, my heart is heavy. Men grow old, sicken, and die. That is
enough to take away the zest of life."
The king, his father, hearing that the prince had become estranged
from pleasure, was greatly overcome with sorrow and like a sword it
pierced his heart.
THE BODHISATTVA'S RENUNCIATION
IT was night. The prince found no rest on his soft pillow; he
arose and went out into the garden. "Alas!" he cried "all the world
is full of darkness and ignorance; there is no one who knows how to
cure the ills of existence." And he groaned with pain.
Siddhattha sat down beneath the great jambu-tree and gave himself
to thought, pondering on life and death and the evils of decay.
Concentrating his mind he became free from confusion. All low
desires vanished from his heart and perfect tranquility came over
In this state of ecstasy he saw with his mental eye all the misery
and sorrow of the world; he saw the pains of pleasure and the
inevitable certainty of death that hovers over every being; yet men
are not awakened to the truth. And a deep compassion seized his
While the prince was pondering on the problem of evil, he beheld
with his mind's eye under the jambu tree a lofty figure endowed with
majesty, calm and dignified. "Whence comest thou, and who mayst thou
be?" asked the prince.
In reply the vision said: "I am a samana. Troubled at the thought
of old age, disease, and death I have left my home to seek the path
of salvation. All things hasten to decay; only the truth abideth
forever. Everything changes, and there is no permanency; yet the
words of the Buddhas are immutable. I long for the happiness that
does not decay; the treasure that will never perish; the life that
knows of no beginning and no end. Therefore, I have destroyed all
worldly thought. I have retired into an unfrequented dell to live in
solitude; and, begging for food, I devote myself to the one thing
Siddhattha asked: "Can peace be gained in this world of unrest? I
am struck with the emptiness of pleasure and have become disgusted
with lust. All oppresses me, and existence itself seems intolerable."
The samana replied: "Where heat is, there is also a possibility of
cold; creatures subject to pain possess the faculty of pleasure; the
origin of evil indicates that good can be developed. For these
things are correlatives. Thus where there is much suffering, there
will be much bliss, if thou but open thine eyes to behold it. Just
as a man who has fallen into a heap of filth ought to seek the great
pond of water covered with lotuses, which is near by: even so seek
thou for the great deathless lake of Nirvana to wash off the
defilement of wrong. If the lake is not sought, it is not the fault
of the lake. Even so when there is a blessed road leading the man
held fast by wrong to the salvation of Nirvana, if the road is not
walked upon, it is not the fault of the road, but of the person. And
when a man who is oppressed with sickness, there being a physician
who can heal him, does not avail himself of the physician's help,
that is not the fault of the physician. Even so when a man oppressed
by the malady of wrong-doing does not seek the spiritual guide of
enlightenment, that is no fault of the evil-destroying guide."
The prince listened to the noble words of his visitor and said:
"Thou bringest good tidings, for now I know that my purpose will be
accomplished. My father advises me to enjoy life and to undertake
worldly duties, such as will bring honor to me and to our house. He
tells me that I am too young still, that my pulse beats too full to
lead a religious life."
The venerable figure shook his head and replied: "Thou shouldst
know that for seeking a religious life no time can be inopportune."
A thrill of joy passed through Siddhattha's heart. "Now is the
time to seek religion," he said; "now is the time to sever all ties
that would prevent me from attaining perfect enlightenment; now is
the time to wander into homelessness and, leading a mendicant's life,
to find the path of deliverance."
The celestial messenger heard the resolution of Siddhattha with
approval. "Now, indeed," he added, "is the time to seek religion. Go,
Siddhattha, and accomplish thy purpose. For thou art Bodhisatta, the
Buddha-elect; thou art destined to enlighten the world. Thou art the
Tathagata, the great master, for thou wilt fulfill all righteousness
and be Dharmaraja, the king of truth. Thou art Bhagavat, the Blessed
One, for thou art called upon to become the savior and redeemer of
the world. Fulfill thou the perfection of truth. Though the
thunderbolt descend upon thy head, yield thou never to the
allurements that beguile men from the path of truth. As the sun at
all seasons pursues his own course, nor ever goes on another, even so
if thou forsake not the straight path of righteousness, thou shalt
become a Buddha. Persevere in thy quest and thou shalt find what thou
seekest. Pursue thy aim unswervingly and thou shalt gain the prize.
Struggle earnestly and thou shalt conquer. The benediction of all
deities, of all saints of all that seek light is upon thee, and
heavenly wisdom guides thy steps. Thou shalt be the Buddha, our
Master, and our Lord; thou shalt enlighten the world and save
mankind from perdition."
Having thus spoken, the vision vanished, and Siddhattha's heart
was filled with peace. He said to himself: "I have awakened to the
truth and I am resolved to accomplish my purpose. I will sever all
the ties that bind me to the world, and I will go out from my home to
seek the way of salvation. The Buddhas are beings whose words cannot
fail: there is no departure from truth in their speech. For as the
fall of a stone thrown into the air, as the death of a mortal, as
the sunrise at dawn, as the lion's roar when he leaves his lair, as
the delivery of a woman with child, as all these things are sure and
certain- even so the word of the Buddhas is sure and cannot fail.
Verily I shall become a Buddha."
The prince returned to the bedroom of his wife to take a last
farewell glance at those whom he dearly loved above all the
treasures of the earth. He longed to take the infant once more into
his arms and kiss him with a parting kiss. But the child lay in the
arms of his mother, and the prince could not lift him without
awakening both. There Siddhattha stood gazing at his beautiful wife
and his beloved son, and his heart grieved. The pain of parting
overcame him powerfully. Although his mind was determined, so that
nothing, be it good or evil, could shake his resolution, the tears
flowed freely from his eyes, and it was beyond his power to check
their stream. But the prince tore himself away with a manly heart,
suppressing his feelings but not extinguishing his memory.
The Bodhisattva mounted his noble steed Kanthaka, and when he left
the palace, Mara stood in the gate and stopped him: "Depart not, O
my Lord," exclaimed Mara. "In seven days from now the wheel of
empire will appear, and will make thee sovereign over the four
continents and the two thousand adjacent islands. Therefore, stay,
The Bodhisattva replied: "Well do I know that the wheel of empire
will appear to me; but it is not sovereignty that I desire. I will
become a Buddha and make all the world shout for joy."
Thus Siddhattha, the prince, renounced power and worldly
pleasures, gave up his kingdom, severed all ties, and went into
homelessness. He rode out into the silent night, accompanied only by
his faithful charioteer Channa. Darkness lay upon the earth, but the
stars shone brightly in the heavens.