In honor of Vesak, coming up this year on May 19, a series of talks on the Buddha themself, interwoven with some discussion of the traditional verses of praise we chant in our Refuge & Precepts Pūja.
We’ll use as a framework this month a strange and beautiful sutta known as “Wonderful and Marvelous,” (Acchariya-abbhūta Sutta, MN 123, here in Ven. Sujato’s translation, though I’m reading from Bhikkhu Bodhi’s in class). This text describes the Buddha interrupting a bunch of monks sitting around praising them, and then asking Ānanda to say more, to which Ānanda unfurls a long invocation of all the miraculous phenomena that occurred around the Buddha’s conception and birth.
It ends with the famous ‘newborn baby takes seven strides to the north’ passage:
‘As soon as he’s born, the being intent on awakening stands firm with his own feet on the ground. Facing north, he takes seven strides with a white parasol held above him, surveys all quarters, and makes this dramatic statement: “I am the foremost in the world! I am the eldest in the world! I am the best in the world! This is my last rebirth. Now there are no more future lives.”’MN 123
One of the beautiful Vesak rituals is to “bathe the baby Buddha”: pouring water over a statue of this tiny perfect person standing there with a finger in the air, declaring this transcendent status. So here’s some reflection on this being we call the Buddha, and ancient rituals and meditations honoring what they were/are/brought into the world.
Meditation: Recollection of the Buddha. Some simple ways to explore this most classical, and devotional, of meditation subjects. (5.7.19)
Talk: the Triple Jewel, the verses honoring Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha, and the opening of the discourse “Wonderful and Marvelous.” (5.7.19)
Talk: The full narrative of the Wonderful and Marvelous events surrounding Gotama’s birth, and the Buddha’s smart right turn at the end. (5.14.19)