In a sense, there really is no need to tell you that the birth of the Buddha-to-be, and His death, supposedly 80 years later, is related to one another. But one it serves as a very clear example of what a chiasmus is supposed to look like – something happens at the start or the story, and it is repeated (although in a different way) at the story’s end. More importantly, this pattern is noticed at the center of the story.
One of the things that struck me, and I hope you too, is the repetition of the non-human assembly at these events. Nagas, Yaksas, Devas, beings of the Suddhadhivasa (Pure Abode) Heavens. Even Mara – or better known as kamadeva, the god of passions – was involved.
Mara probably stands out the most, for his reactions were the very opposite of the other non-human crowd attendant at these events. At Siddhartha’s birth he “did not rejoice” and at the Buddha’s death he “uttered loud laughs” at “obtain[ing] his heart’s desire”.
The drum beaten by the heavenly beings at Siddhartha’s birth, was metaphorically used to describe the resounding Dharma realized and uncovered by the Buddha at his enlightenment. You wouldn’t have to guess that the gay Kamadeva was the one cheering the aged Buddha towards his parinirvana.
But if because of his controversial role we think Mara was the enemy of the Buddha, I think we are quite mistaken. Kamadeva was not trying to be an enemy, he was just sentient. He was the chief god of the realm of the passions, in which we live in. He stood against the Buddha’s realization because he was threatened, his realm could potentially be emptied if we transcended the passions following the Buddha’s instructions.
But that didn’t happen. On his deathbed, the Buddha reminds his disciples that he is the physician who has dispensed the necessary medicine, the onus now falls on them to take the medication. It is a message addressed to us all, even Mara, who was perhaps too etched in his role to notice.
But I might just be subjectively interpreting this passages, so further proof should be offered. Surprisingly, not all beings were so expressive of their emotions at these events. The beings of the Suddhadhivasa heavens are a key example. At the Siddhartha’s birth, they “rejoiced in their pure natures, though passion was extinct in them, for the sake of the world drowned in suffering”, and at the Buddha’s death, they “were composed and felt no agitation of mind; for they despised the nature of the world”. The ways of the world…sounds really familiar, isn’t it?
Before I go on, here’s some information about these beings:
The Śuddhāvāsa (Pāli: Suddhāvāsa; Tib: gnas gtsang ma) worlds, or “Pure Abodes”, are distinct from the other worlds of the Rūpadhātu in that they do not house beings who have been born there through ordinary merit or meditative attainments, but only those Anāgāmins (“Non-returners”) who are already on the path to Arhat-hood and who will attain enlightenment directly from the Śuddhāvāsa worlds without being reborn in a lower plane. Every Śuddhāvāsa deva is therefore a protector of Buddhism. (Wikipedia, 31/12/2013)
So we see that there are beings who, while being aloof from the world and partake in none of its emotions, are interested in the enlightenment of the Buddha.
But where do we stand? Whose ways do you inherit?
在某層面上，我其實不需要提說悉達多的出生與佛陀的涅槃是有關聯的。可是它卻又非提不可，因爲它是U-型環狀的最佳範例 – 它突現了某樣事件或主題出現在整篇故事中的開頭，結尾以及中間點。