Is the modern man wise?
One of the main aspects of society are the “developments” that occur over time. As human society steps into a new era, its typical characteristics also change. Also, the most precious treasure to humans, wisdom, and the ability to guide the mind, also changes when humans go through such transformations.
Humans in the past did not have instruments that modern technology has brought forth. They did not have airplanes, computers, and cell phones. There were no telecommunication capabilities that we see today such as satellites. Weapon stores seen today with all its machinery were not seen in the past. Instant news were not broadcasted each hour. Also, electricity was not found in that past. Vehicles developed by modern technology were not even imagined of by humans in the past. Countries like USA did not exist. Languages like English did not exist. Synthetic fertilizers and medicines made out of various chemicals were not found in those days.
In fact, most of the facilities that modern men use were not seen in the past. Why couldn’t they make a world such as the one we have today? Is it because they were unintelligent or impudent? Did they believe in some kind of a fictitious view? Could it be because they had a lack of wisdom of innovation? Were they indolent in their minds as well as their bodies? Or were they really brainless?
It is true that the world we had about twenty five centuries ago was not subjected to globalization. It is true that the world did not have these modern technologies. There were thieves here and there in that world without the modern transportation system to travel. Alcoholics who abused young and beautiful women were also in that world dominating society. Prostitutes were rich with gold. Pirates hiding among the ocean waves were also there to steal from people. In that world, their gods were the gigantic rocks, mountains, trees, and rivers. They saw the power of gods when they saw the Sun and Moon emanating their rays. The clouds were like packets of water that their gods filled and left in the sky. After their praying, these packets of water were released for them.
Moreover, the world of those men at that time was amazing. They talked with ‘Nagas’ (a type of divine beings in Naga world) from the Naga world. ‘Pretas’ (beings from Preta, a low-level ghostly world) appeared in front of them and asked formerits (Pin) to relieve themselves from suffering. Deities came to them to advice. They were startled fiercely after listening to stories about the dangerous hell (Niraya). This life that consists of birth and death was a concern and a mysterious puzzle for them. Isn’t the truth about life and death something amusing for the humans at present? Is the modern man’s state of wisdom so wonderful to ignore such a universal truth?
Even though the man today is pretentious to exaggerate his potential, he cannot even come close to what the men in the past were capable of. A tremendous power emerged within them in that era. It was their ambition to perceive the truth. The motivation for questioning and to pursue the truths of the world lead to the elevation of their perception about the world. They were mesmerized by the fact of realizing the truth.
Men in that era left households and worldly pleasures in search of the truth. They travelled through forests. They gave up everything, shaved their hair and beards. Only few robes were used to cover their bodies. They spent the rest of their time by living a life of a hermit. They saw the household livelihood as the birthplace of the waves of defilements. Practicing an ascetic life was like the sky for them. They disciplined their faculties and became Brahmacharee (living joyously and freely in the celibate life). Letting go of their shyness and fright to defilements with a mentality of pursuing lustful pleasures was a shameful act for them. They were ready for any kind of hardship in the journey of realizing the truth. Young and charming princes let go of their comfortable life patterns and became monks. They disciplined their speech and did not include in their conversations of the topics of war, inflation, sports players, actors/actresses, tasty foods and drinks, expensive dresses, rubbish, and defame. Their minds were not contaminated by thoughts to become superior by overpowering other people.
However, they were astonished about the mind. The puzzle of life and death was an unresolvable question. They saw that humans as well as other animals and beings were trapped in a sorrowful journey. They started to discover the kinetic energy that controls the spinning of life as a function of suffering and pleasure. It was a pleasure for them to master their minds, to meditate, and to procure concentration.
It was in fact the era of realizing the truth. It was the most distinctive era in the history of mankind up to this point. That period of time differs from present time because of the knowledge of truth they acquired.
The lust of the man in this era is an unquenchable thirst. Hatred seems to be an inextinguishable fire. Jealousy is an incurable disease. Pride is like a lifted flag that cannot be taken down. Deceit is a prevailing darkness that is unable to be brightened. Even though man in the past also had these weaknesses up to a certain level, their talent to comprehend the truth was amazing.
What is the meaning of the realization of the truth? From whom can it be received? How can someone identify the one who would realize the truth and show it to the world? Does he have any special characteristics? When would he come to exist? With all these questions marked in the minds of these wise people, a projection of a great human being named ‘the Buddha’ strolled calmly in front of their eyes within the Indian society. Their wish was to see this astonishing Buddha. The subject of their day-to-day talks was the birth of such a wondrous human being who would reveal the truth to the world.
The most astonishing person did not have any laboratories, scientific tools, or science fictions. But the wish of the people to see a supreme man who is going to attain the realization of the truth was not a mere false view. It was indeed a reality. It became true in front of their eyes. They were able to feel the sensation of seeing Him.
That sacred news of truth brought forth by that great human being was spread throughout India like a rain of flowers. He was the Supreme Buddha, the One who was able to bring the wise human being to reach full realization of the truth of the world. That amazing Man was walking in front of their eyes now. He was the One wondering, sitting down, talking with them, and coming to their homes for alms. He preached the amazing Dhamma with the most compassionate heart, and persevered for them to understand it.
He had a remarkable mind, and it cannot be measured by any instrument in the world. There was no lust, greediness towards food, hatred, fear, ignorance, agitation, doubts or suspicion in that mind. He could not be startled by any means. He had a complete vision of the world that had and has been subjected to discussion in a broad manner. No other vision or concept that has been discussed that much in any subject matter, scholarly institution, nor in any society can be found in the history of mankind. His revelation about the world and its truth was distinctive. His day-to-day life, ways of preaching the Dhamma, social communication, moral discussions, and practical ways of conducting lives were extraordinary. He was known as ‘the Buddha’. He was indeed ‘the Samma Sambuddha’.
People who were enchanted by the unique aim of realizing the truth gathered around this remarkable person, the Buddha, who had exceptional verbal skills, extraordinary logistical reasoning, phenomenal Dhamma preaching style, and lead a pure life. They were astounded by this great person. This remarkable Human being was the Sun that brought light to their lives. His emancipating speeches that brought forth the truth, inspired wise people. It was the climax of the spiritual rise in the history of mankind. Even though the traditional views, barriers and foundations governed by greed were shattered into pieces, the Sages who realized the truth (Dhamma) began to roam the earth.
Is not it because those men in that time had some specialties that they had the fortune to realize the noble truth with the guidance of the Buddha? They were capable of cultivating those specialties such as developing their mindfulness, disciplining and maintaining mind-body-words under moral qualities, disciplining their faculties, developing strength to eliminate sinful thoughts, and developing concentration and contemplation. As a result of these acts, they were able to attain states of realization. They resolved all their suspicions, doubts, various views, and uncertainties about life and death. They were capable of feeling calmness and pleasure of a mind free of all defilements, abiding in utmost liberation.
They walked in the sky without any help of external vehicles. They traveled through divine worlds such as Brahma and Dēva worlds. The pleasant news of realization of the truth (Four Noble Truths) was brought to these worlds by them. None of the mountains like Himalayan or rivers or the great ocean or its blasting waves could prevent their journeys. They won everything that can be seen or unseen to the naked eye. Their victories were not achieved by weapons, manpower, economical attacks, telecommunicating conspiracies, or language differences. Their victories were heavily dependent on the incredibly accurate advices of an astonishing teacher. He was the most amazing human being that has ever been born to this world. He was the Most Fortunate One, the Supreme Buddha.
Why is it that the modern man cannot attain the wonderful wisdom consisting of various abilities that the men in the past could achieve? Humans in this present society are full of egotism, corrupted livelihood, dishonesty, egocentric pride, deceitfulness, defacing others’ good name without compassion, enmity towards the truth, jealousy, envy, and racism. Is there someone who could surely claim that the scientists of this modern world are going to make an instrument or a scientific method in the near future that will eliminate these immoral qualities in us?
Likewise, the tremendous human being who brought forth the greatest era for the wise divine and human beings is none other but our great teacher: the Gautama Buddha. The Lord Buddha was born into this word about 2635 years ago. 2600 years ago, He became the Samma Sambuddha; He started to rotate the wheel of Dhamma, which could not and cannot be stopped by any being; He created the Arya Sangha. He passed away 2555 years ago. As Buddhists who are commemorating the Samma Sambuddha-hood, we should at least try to understand a small portion of the remarkable state of His Supreme Buddha-hood.
Most Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero