Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Truths and legends

Question (Unedited):
I read somewhere recently that Buddha Shakyamuni could read 64 languages and new all their alphabets, had mystical powers and used these to trick the guards and escape from his fathers palace. I am confused!! I have recently just started to study Buddhism as I found the path interesting and so far I have felt more calm etc. However, some of the material tends to make Buddha Godlike and similar to the characters in the Bible etc. Must we accept these legendary stories as correct or should I (as a novice) focus on the four noble truths and eightfold path.

I look forward to your reply.

My comment: 
Hi A..,
Thank you for asking me.

It is good that you seek clarifications.  However, you will also find that if you ask different groups of "Buddhists" you may end up having contradictory answers!!  So be forewarned and follow the Buddha's advice to use common sense and intelligent judgement while learning his teachings. The book "What Buddhists Believe" written by my revered teacher (who had recently passed away) is a very good reference for everyone. Click here to access:   http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/whatbelieve.pdf

Coming back to your question.  In my forty over years' learning of Buddhism, this is the first time I've heard about this "64 languages etc".  So, as far as I'm concerned I would just ignore them.  

If you study more of the Buddha's life, there will be more "fantastic" stories, events, and personal relationships with those associated with him.  All these people did not just associate with the Buddha by chance.  They were already with him during previous life-time.  You must also remember that the Buddha was not just an ordinary mortal.  He was The Buddha, the fully enlightened one, endowed with supreme power of the mind, with supernatural power to perform feats which were beyond human ability.  However, he forbade his disciples to show off their supernatural powers as they were of no use for progress of spiritual development.

Many legendary stories were merely legends, but who knows?  Most of these stories have moral messages.  It is these moral messages that are important rather than the stories themselves.  I agree with you that we should focus on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.  Happy learning.  Please come back if you need further clarification.

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