Following on from the post of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s reflections on the Buddha, here is an account of the Buddha’s last words to his disciples at his moment of leaving this world. In his eightieth year and knowing his end was approaching, the Buddha laid down between two sala* trees and said the following words to his assembled disciples.
*The Buddha’s mother also gave birth to him under a tree, which according to some traditions was a sala tree. The trees between which the Buddha gave his final talk were in bloom, although it was not the season for them.
Make of yourself a light. Rely upon yourself.
In his final words to his disciples under the sala trees, the Buddha uttered these words:
Make my teaching your light! Rely upon it; do not depend upon any other teaching. Make of yourself a light. Rely upon yourself; do not depend upon anyone else.
Consider your body; think of its impurity; how can you indulge its cravings as you see that both its pain and delight are alike causes of suffering? Consider your soul; think of its transiency; how can you fall into delusion about it and cherish pride and selfishness, knowing that they must all end in inevitable suffereing? Consider all substances; can you find among them any enduring ‘self’? Are they not all aggregates that sooner or later will break apart and be scattered? Do not be confused by the universality of suffering, but follow my teaching and you will be rid of pain. Do this and you will indeed be my disciples.
My disciples. The teachings that I have given you are never to be forgotten nor abandoned. They are to be treasured, they are to be thought about, they are to be practiced! If you follow these teachings you will always be happy.
The point of the teachings is to control your own mind. Restrain your mind from greed, so shall you keep your body right, your mind pure, your words faithful. Always thinking of the transiency of your life, you will be able to desist from greed and anger and will be able to keep clear from all evil.
If you find your mind entangled in greed and tempted, you must suppress the greed and control the entangled mind; be the master of your own mind. A man’s mind may make of him a Buddha, or it may make of him a beast. Being misled by error one becomes a demon; being enlightened one becomes a Buddha. Therefore keep your mind under control and do not let it deviate from the Noble Path.
Under my teachings, brothers should respect each other and refrain from disputes; they should not repel each other like water and oil, but should mingle together like milk and water. Study together, learn together, practice the teachings together. Do not waste your mind and time in idleness and bickering. Enjoy the blossoms of enlightenment in their season and harvest the fruit of benevolence.
The teachings which I have given you, I gained by following the path myself. You should follow the teachings and conform to their spirit on every occasion. If you neglect them it means that you have never really met me. It means that you are far from me even though you are actually with me, but if you accept and practice my teachings then you are very near to me, even though you are far away.
My disciples. The end is approaching, our parting is near, but do not lament. Life is ever changing; none escape the dissolution of the body. Now I am to manifest the Dharma by my own death, the body falling apart like a decayed cart. Do not vainly lament, but wonder at the rule of transiency and learn from it the emptiness of human life. Do not cherish the unworthy desire that the changeable might become unchanging. The demon of worldly desire is always seeking chances to deceive the mind. If a viper lives in your room, if you wish to have a peaceful sleep, you must chase it out. You must break the bonds of worldly passions and get rid of them as you would a viper.
The true Buddha is not a human body: it is Enlightenment.
My disciples. The last moment has come, but do not forget that death is but the vanishing of a body. The body was born from parents and was nourished by food, so sickness and death is unavoidable. But the true Buddha is not a human body: it is Enlightenment. A human body must vanish, but the wisdom of Enlightenment will exist forever in the truths of the Dharma, and in the practice of the Dharma. He who sees my body only, is not the one who truly sees me. He who accepts my teachings, is the one who truly sees me. After my death, Truth shall be your teacher. Follow Truth and you will be true to me.
During the last forty-five years of my life I have kept back nothing from my teaching. There is no secret teaching, no hidden meaning, everything has been taught openly and clearly.
My dear disciples; this is the end. In a moment I shall be passing into Nirvana.