Buddha was mainly an ethical teacher and a mystic rather than a metaphysician and preached only orally. Buddhism, in its lifetime, has spread to South Korea, Sri Lanka, Japan, China, Thailand and many more countries. It has touched the lives of 535 million people as of 2010. So what role does Gautama Buddha have to play in this spread of the religion all across the globe? Let’s see.
Firstly, the question that Buddha tried to answer is one that is fundamental to humankind – how to cease suffering. Irrespective of one’s caste, creed, gender, colour or any other background, each one of us wants to be happy, covered in peace and bliss. But how to achieve this? Buddha spent an entire lifetime trying to answer this question and for many, he did answer it using the Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths contain what is the essence of Gautama Buddha’s teachings. It is these four truths that he realised as he meditated under the Bodhi Tree. They are:
- The truth of suffering (Dukkha)
- The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudāya)
- The truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha)
- The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga)
Buddha has been compared to a doctor, on the basis of these truths. In the first two, he diagnoses the problem. In the third one, he hints that there is a cure. And the fourth truth is the prescription using which one finds his or her release from suffering.
Secondly, Buddha was a brilliant teacher. When he started spreading the message of Dhamma, he did not do this out of any ulterior motive like that of wealth, status or power. He did it purely out of compassion and compassion only. When his first set of disciples were leaving on their journey to spread his teachings, he told them to spread his word in a manner so that many who couldn’t reach him and gain his direct guidance could also attain enlightenment.
Thirdly, in order to make people understand the various facets of the Truth, Buddha used analogies and metaphors. To make them understand evil actions, he gave them the analogy of the wheel (negative karmic energies) following the ox (the person concerned). When it came to the beneficial results of good actions, he used the example of a shadow following around a person. And finally, just as the tongue can taste quickly, the wise can understand the Dhamma quickly.
The Buddha also adjusted as per the listener. In case of a farmer, for instance, the Buddha used farming-related terms, and compared preparing the ground, planting the seed, and harvesting the crops, to preparing the mind, uprooting evil, planting good thoughts, and eventually achieving enlightenment.
And finally one very important factor was his own dedication. The Buddha was ready to answer a question at any point of time. He was never tired of teaching. He was open when it came to teaching, he had no secrets. Even before passing into Parinibbāna, he encouraged his disciples to keep asking his questions. Now that’s the spirit of a true teacher!