The Buddha appeared on earth to dispel by the illumination of knowledge the ignorance that had enveloped the human mass, to release the human soul from the prison-cell of desire into the wideness of the silence and peace of Nirvana.
Sri Chinmoy 1
Lord Buddha, to your life as a human being I bow. To your supreme attainment of nirvana, parinirvana and mahaparinirvana I bow. You blessed us with the message of continual transcendence in the physical when you attained nirvana and, right after leaving the mortal sheath, parinirvana. Then, at the choice Hour of the highest Transcendental Supreme, you entered into mahaparinirvana.
The Silence of the Absolute Supreme and ever-unknowable Reality blessed you and claimed you as its own to liberate humanity from the sufferings of ignorance. Lord Buddha, to the human in you we bow. To the divine in you we bow. To the ever-transcending Reality in you we bow and bow and bow. 2
Your son Siddhartha
Was the possessor of Eternity’s
Sri Chinmoy 3
Siddhartha did. He flew from his household life into the state of homelessness. The Supreme did. He placed the Buddha in the adoring heart of humanity, in the lap of universal Love. Temptation Siddhartha saw and shunned; austerity he felt and lived; the Middle Path he realised and offered. The Omnipotent did two things through Siddhartha. He revealed the ideal of perfection in a human being. He revealed His Enlightenment and Compassion in a divine being. The Buddha cast aside caste. The fallen learned from him the value of self-respect. The unbending learned from him the necessity of humility.
The Buddha had Divinity in its fullest measure. With His Heart, the Unfathomable came to the Buddha; with His Mind, the Unknowable came to the Buddha; with His Bliss, the Transcendental came to the Buddha. Hinduism is the tree; Buddhism is its largest branch. The son discovered that his mother was not perfect, so he decided to live alone. 4
Question: What happened after Siddhartha attained enlightenment? Did he not see God? Why was it impersonal?
Sri Chinmoy: The Buddha spoke about Light, about enlightenment. What else is enlightenment, if not God? Illumination is God; Light is God. The Buddha saw the Light and then he became the Light when he attained enlightenment, only he did not use the term ‘God’.
After his enlightenment, the Buddha did not want to come down. He wanted to stay in that state where it is all peace. There are two aspects. One is the extinction of all earthly sufferings. If you can go to that realm, there will be no suffering at all. The other aspect is that if you climb up to the top of the tree and eat the most delicious mango yourself, you do not want to come down; as soon as you reach the foot of the tree again, you will see that there are many, many thorns. You feel that the best thing is to remain at the top of the tree, eat and never come down.
The Buddha attained nirvana. Then, after nirvana, he spoke about parinirvana. First comes the extinction of suffering. Then one becomes so completely immersed in the Universal Consciousness that one does not take human incarnation again. The bird has gone out of the cage; it does not want to come back into the cage any more. [fn:5]
Question: Whereas we emphasise God and the soul on our path, the Buddhist philosophy on these matters is one of silence. Usually this silence is interpreted as meaning that God may or may not exist and that the soul may or may not exist. It would be very helpful for us to have your word on what the Buddha meant or intended.
Sri Chinmoy: Buddhists may not believe in the soul but they do believe in light. Lord Buddha spoke about inner light. For us, that light is the soul. The soul embodies illumination. So what they call light, we call the soul. It is like the sun and its flames. We use the word 'sun' and they use the word 'flames'. The flames come from the sun and, again the sun comes from the flames. The two are inseparable. I will call a flower 'phul,' and you will call it 'flower.' When I say 'phul' I will get one kind of feeling; and when you say 'flower', you will get another kind of feeling. But the flower remains the same.
It is the same thing with God. When we speak about God, we are referring to the Highest. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. The Buddhists use the term 'Nirvana.' Lord Buddha attained the state of Nirvana, which is the highest form of bliss. Perhaps only one person out of a million or a billion will know what Nirvana is. But everybody knows what silence is. So when Lord Buddha speaks about Nirvana, let us think only of silence. This silence that the Buddhists speak of is nothing other than God, for inside silence we see the whole creation. Inside God also we see the whole creation.
In absolute silence we are far beyond the mind. In this silence are peace, light and all the divine qualities. The Buddhists feel something in this silence that they want to grow into. Similarly, we feel something in God and are trying to grow into His Infinity, Eternity and Immortality. But those who follow Lord Buddha's path and those who follow our path are talking about absolutely the same thing. These are not dictionary words; they are realities that we can realise through prayer and meditation.
So the Buddhists speak of light and we speak of the soul. They speak of silence or Nirvana and we speak of God. But it is the same thing. People who are sincerely interested in our philosophy will have no difficulty when we speak of God and the soul. Just as the flower cannot be separated from its fragrance, so also the soul cannot be separated from light and God cannot be separated from Nirvana or silence.
An essay entitled "Buddha" Sri Chinmoy, Mother India's Lighthouse: India's spiritual leaders, Agni Press, 1971.↩
Sri Chinmoy, Mother India: Infinity’s Beauty-Eye, Immortality’s Fragrance-Heart, Agni Press, 1997.↩