Buddhism is a Collegiate, Academic Process through Bhakti Yoga
The reason for celebrating the birth of Gotama as you would any baby is to emphasize the fact that he was an ordinary human being.
Gotama taught that is by a process of Bhakti Yoga that we exceed our teachers. It is natural, and proper, that a student should come to exceed their teachers - if, generation by generation, we did not improve our intelligence, strength, and heart, if in our own lives our own practice did not improve and change over time, the purpose of the practice would not be fulfilled. By venerating our teachers, we are able to learn from them - and just as Brahma would use his sacrificial spoon to select what is good, and reject what is bad, we may choose to be better than our teachers ever were.
It is natural, and proper, on Buddha Jayanti for a teacher to recognize the achievements of their students - and come to see them as a teacher, too. By this process, we all become students and teachers: we all become colleagues, and by such a collegiate, academic process advance the Dharma.
The Jataka are a collection of stories the Buddha told of his past lives to help those struggling with similar problems in the present, to facilitate the academic and collegiate method. In the Ghata Jataka, when Gotama even recalled his manifestation as Krishna for the purpose helping someone with a mundane problem in their lives. In numerous others, he uses his manifestations as animals, plants, spirits, demons, people of all walks of life, demigods, and gods and still other beings to teach that there is no harm to compare ourselves with those who are greater (or lesser) than ourselves, for we share one universe, one life.
Just as Buddhism is a collegiate, academic process through Bhakti Yoga, so Kurmaism is cooperative and collaborative: by combining both cooperativism and collaboration in this collegiate, academic process, we are able to better understand the purpose of the Buddha Gotama - and Kurma.
Take a moment today to review your relationship with your teachers - and students. How do you exceed them, and how do they exceed you? How can you improve yourself with their help?
Karma Yoga as Catalyst
Gotama, as all manifestations of Vishnu, achieved Bhakti Yoga with the help of Laxmi-Saraswati. The life story of Gotama and his wife are well known stories, but it should be remembered that Gotama's wife was born Bhaddakaccana. Her name changed through her life (it is only a fairly modern custom of keeping the same name through one's life, or carrying an inheritance of a family name).
She and Vishnu share a profound love and tie - in all their manifestations. But it was for Kurma's success that Laxmi first took form. Just as for Gotama, she abandoned that form. Yasodhara died two years before the Buddha Gotama's death.
Gotama's wife is best known as Yasodhara, Bearer-Carrier of Glory. She obtained this name because of her role in helping Gotama achieve the purpose of his manifestation: she literally bore/carried Rahula (in the sense of birthing and nursing), she bore and carried the glory of enlightenment, the perfection of wisdom, and contentment, and most importantly, she bore and carried the Dharma so that others might find success. Laxmi-Saraswati has always acted as the catalyst for success and glory. She and her husband both sought enlightenment on the same day (when their son, Rahula, was born and she took the name Rahulamata, Rahula's Mother), and achieved enlightenment on the same day - it was then her husband called her Yasodhara, for he understood her love for the first time, in all their shared existences. Laxmi-Saraswati was his true love; it was at the moment Vishnu understood the love of Laxmi-Saraswati that he fulfilled her purpose of taking form.
Even an action as simple as living, growing old, giving birth, or dying, mere biological functions, can have a profound effect those about us. How can we, by the directed practices of Karma Yoga better catalyze the end of distress? How can we be good friends to each other?
Criminal Hatha Yoga
The Buddha is rejected as an Avatar of Vishnu by some Hindus, who believe that he taught against the Vedas and the Dharma, as a "criminal." This is because
- He taught against prayer (teaching instead if you desire something, understand how to create the conditions of your success: grow stronger, smarter and more compassionate!),
- He taught against worshiping the gods or demons (teaching instead that while veneration of what is admirable is appropriate, worshiping another being is not: the practice of Bhakti Yoga teaches us we may exceed even the gods).
- He taught against religiosity as superstitiousness, and against habitual behavior, against instinctual behavior and taught instead a rational, logical behavior, free from all identity of culture, nation, sex, religion, race, or any other identifier.
- He taught a "negatory" logic which seemed to contradict Krishna's logic (Gotama taught all was false until proven true, and that the manner of proof had to be founded upon a method of ruling out all other possibilities - and most importantly that whatever is true could not be known with certainty, and was only conditionally true, or likely to be true under certain conditions).
- He taught a flexible ethical code: his "criminal" ethics permitted someone, for example, to lie - if that lie would save a life, or accomplish other necessary purposes.
- He taught against strict dietary practices, for sometimes a person cannot choose what they must eat - and the life of any living thing, even a plant, is no more sacred than that of an animal, or even a person. While he encouraged vegetarianism, it was for the purposes of improving the health and strength of the vegetarian.
- He established numerous training rules, but said these were "criminal Dharma," or "counterfeit Dharma." Like the practice of Bhakti Yoga, the practice of Hatha Yoga should result in its abandonment. Fixed rules serve only as training for the flexible ethics required in life.
And this is why some Buddhists reject Gotama as an Avatar of Vishnu: because they misinterpret Gotama's claim he was not a god (thinking Vishnu is a god is incorrect), or because the study of Avatara can result in the superstitious and religious behavior Gotama taught against, or even because they feel it culturally appropriates a teaching which is founded against culturalism. But mostly because Gotama taught that beliefs were contrary to his skeptical practice: proof is demanded to understand truth.
By the practices he taught, one could manifest first enlightenment, then perfect that wisdom into contentment - and thereby become able to manifest Vishnu for one's self to know.
Hence, the context of counterfeit Dharma, the context of criminal yoga, is better understood with their development - not only in the Buddha's life as he wandered and mastered practice after practice, but within the many manifestations of Vishnu, especially Kurma's simultaneous manifestations as Mohini (the seductress) and Dhanvantari (they physician), both of which were simultaneously manifested in the Buddha's existence as well. A doctor must sometimes harm a patient for their welfare, and even the adharmic practices of seduction (or other himsa) have been used for the welfare of the world.
Understanding that all beings are interdependent and interconnected, we are naturally motivated by our selfishness toward the betterment of the world. And we understand that to achieve this goal requires greater strength, wisdom and heart. How can you grow stronger, smarter and more compassionate through Hatha Yoga?
Courageous Jnana Yoga
Gotama taught a process for understanding understanding itself through Jnana meditation, a combination of directed and undirected meditation. By this awareness, his logic could be understood: because whatever we sense is perceived and then interpreted by mind, awareness of reality requires logic, and proof.
In Gotama's logic, there is no purity of truth, and no purity of ahimsa, no purity of Dharma, no purity of Artha, no purity of Kama. Yet purity is not the goal: just as pure gold is useless to shape or spend, but gold mixed with impurities may is malleable enough to be made into valuable coins for spending, so too can our practice of ethics be both malleable and valuable if we exercise reason and logic through the contentment of perfected, enlightened wisdom. Justice, or any duty, without mercy or purpose is cruel.
Courage is not fearlessness. He taught that we should act without regard to pleasure or pain, without fear of death or hope for life, without instinct - but through logic try to understand what is right, and then accomplish that without hesitation, like Kurma.
Are you prepared for what your mental churning will reveal? Do you know your duty?
The Deer Park
It is also customary to remember the first lesson Gotama gave after enlightenment, only because it was the first he gave after his enlightenment.
When Gotama was living in the Deer Park at Isipatana near Varanasi, he addressed five monks, saying, Two extremes ought not be practiced: the pursuit of pleasure, and the deprivation of pleasure, both are unworthy and unprofitable. Avoid both extremes. The middle path gives vision, knowledge, leads to calm, insight, enlightenment and freedom from suffering. This middle path is doing what is right, regardless of pleasure – or pain – by practicing right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.