THE 14th of May is Buddha Poornima. Although the term ‘Buddha’ is usually synonymous with Gautama Buddha, there have been thousands of Buddhas on the planet and there still are.
The word ‘Buddha’ literally means one who is above the intellect. Once you are above the intellect, you are beyond suffering. Buddha Poornima is a reminder that it is possible for every single human being to go beyond suffering. You don’t have to know the scriptures; you don’t have to sit on top of the Himalaya to get there. The only qualification is willingness. What is within you can never be denied to you. If you are willing, it is always available.
After years of self-mortification, Gautama’s body had become weak and battered. It is said that he decided one day to give up his ascetic practices and sit under a tree with a sense of determination: ‘Either I will get up enlightened, or I will die in this posture.’ In a moment, he was there.
That full moon day is celebrated to this very day as Buddha Poornima. It reminds us that if it is the only priority in our lives, enlightenment can happen in a moment. Because people are so scattered, so identified with so many things around them, it takes them a long time to gather themselves into one organic whole. Once that happens, what you are seeking can be yours in an instant.
There have been many spiritual masters in the history of humanity, but Gautama is the most celebrated – not because he is more enlightened than others, but because he understood the need of his times. He was practical enough to release the essential wisdom of the Upanishads from the tangle of culture and present it as a simple science. One reason why he positioned himself this way was because he wanted to replace a traditional ritualistic culture with a meditative one. So, he kept aside the more mystical aspects of his teaching for a few, and presented spirituality to the masses in a very modern, accessible way. This made himhugely successful.
Unfortunately, the Middle Way that Gautama advocated has been misinterpreted over the years. Today, many consider it a path of desirelessness, of contentment rather thancourage. Contentment means containment, isn’t it? Why would anybody want to contain his life? Because he is afraid of it. This teaching of desirelessness and detachment has come into vogue because people choose to involve themselves selectively with life. When you choose to involve yourself selectively, you get naturally entangled with life; this is normally referred to as attachment.
When people say, ‘Become detached’, it means their solution for life is, ‘Avoid it’! If you want to avoid life, it means death. Being alive and wanting to die, but not dying, is torture. It is a half-life. People believe that involvement means getting hurt. It is not so. If you are involved, you will not get hurt. It is entanglement–or selective involvement–that causes pain and suffering.
What, then, do we do with our desires?
Fighting them will be futile. Desire is a tool towards your infinite nature, beyond the limited. When Gautama spoke of desirelessness, he was speaking of using desire as a tool to go beyond the physical. The infinite cannot be approached in instalments. If the boundlessness of your desire finds expression in stages, it is a self-defeating process, because you can’t count yourself to infinity. If you are looking for unlimited expansion, you are actually seeking spirituality. You are not willing to settle for just a piece of creation; you want the creator himself. This is ultimate greed.
So, this Buddha Poornima, just desire the highest in life. All your passions, just direct them to the highest possibility that you can think of. Educate your desires to flow in the right direction that is all. Unleash your desire; do not limit it to the limited. In the boundlessness of desire is your ultimate nature.
Sadhguru, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader (www.ishafoundation.org)