Posted on May 23rd, 2013

Prof. Suwanda H J Sugunasiri President, Buddhist Council of Canada 

Today (May 24th) is “ƒ”¹…”Wesak Day’  at the UN, as well as in Toronto, as proclaimed by the Mayor of Toronto. This piece looks at the historical Buddha who is being respected today, and throughout the month of May.


Ears alert, the fawn dashed to the mother as it heard the footsteps of the stranger. Five men in their 30s or 40s continued ascetic silence, in a grove called Deer Park, in  Benares,  India.

The fawn, comforted by the mother who sensed no  harm  from  the approaching stranger, frolicked, attracting more deer, who nosed each other playfully. One of the men turned     toward  the footsteps, but then returned  quickly to his ascetic practice.

The deer pranced as if in anticipation. A second ascetic, answering to  the light  breeze nudging his bare skin,  allowed himself to gaze in the direction of the footsteps. Taken aback but looking  closely,  he declared, “Oh, it’s Gotama”.

“Gotama? No doubt he’s found himself heading into spiritual wilderness … Pity he didn’t stick with us and the well-worn ascetic path.  “, replied another.

“Let’s ignore him,” dared a third,  to everybody’s assent.

But as the quickening breeze enveloped their bodies, the men saw their resolve melt away like snow in the rising sun. Their crossed  legs unfolding, one by one, they  stood up, although none felt brave enough to let out the feeling of  “ƒ”¹…”Wow’ welling up within themselves in  the majestic presence of their former partner-in-asceticism.

Finally, the lips of the eldest of the Group of  Five parted, saying, “Welcome back, Gotama.”

“Address not thus,” came the confident words from the smiling face, “you’re talking to the Enlightened One.”

“Haven’t we heard this one,” was their inner thought, although they must have felt they should say, “The Buddha?”

“Yes, the Buddha, the one who has eschewed the two extremes.”

As if sensing the exchange, the deer gathered to bear witness to the unfolding of a great event, “ƒ”¹…”The Turning of the Wheel of Dharma’, as the ancient text   Tipitaka, puts it.

The five now seated in front of him cross-legged,  the Buddha  continued, answering his own question, “What two extremes?” The  first – “that which is among passions, practicing the enjoyment of passions, inferior, vulgar, common, barbarian….”

No surprise there, the celibate group concurred,  knowing also the life of  wine and women Prince Siddhartha, the future Buddha, had spent before taking to the ascetic life.

But the next extreme,  that was something else – “that which is devoted to weariness of oneself, unhappy, barbarian…”

This “ƒ”¹…”weariness of oneself’ was  the extreme asceticism that he himself had practiced with the Group, and was their continuing spiritual bread and butter! How could they bear to hear their ideal practice condemned  as barbarian?

But what they didn’t know was that Gotama, upon leaving them, had taken the asceticism to its edges. Frustrated at his failure in gaining liberation from the chain of life (samsara), he had not only completely given up eating but had also almost stopped  breathing in the thought that it, too, was a form of nutriment, and that it was this gratification of  the body that was impeding liberation.

He had  given up the extreme practice just in the nick of time to save his life, he explained.

Unconvinced, the Group of Five listened to the Buddha explain how he then returned to normal living and mastered the art of bringing peace and calm within himself through systematic mind-training. It was during  this process that he came to understand the problem with the  extremes. Both were forms of attachment! Wanting to gratify the senses is an attachment as is wanting to deny the senses of such gratification.

The Middle Path  emerged as a natural concomitant.

The deer pranced around in glee, and the wind pirouetted.  “Light has dawned, and insight,” came the cry, from one, two or more of the Group,  their attachment to extremes losing its vigour.

It is this event, this Turning of the Wheel, that Buddhists celebrate this month.

(This originally appeared in the Toronto Star, July 6, 1996)



  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    “Bishop” Rayappu Joseph of Mannar claims “he was a religious man who never advocated separatism”!!

    Bah! ….. What a LIAR!

    He ain’t going to FOOL US …. we have ALL of his pontifical pronouncements and collaboration with EELAMISTS on RECORD!

    Controversial Sri Lanka Buddhist organization to hold a conference to challenge Mannar Bishop

    ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    May 24, Colombo: Leader of Bodu Bala Sena(BBS), the Buddhist extremist organization in Sri Lanka, Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero vowed to hold a conference in Mannar to challenge Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph.

    The Buddhist monk said the aim of the conference is to safeguard the people of Mannar from the Christian invasion.

    He further said that the Tamils and Muslims who are with the BBS will provide a good answer to the allegations the Mannar Bishop has made.

    In response to a statement of the BBS opposing the Northern Provincial Council election, the Bishop said that the BBS has to learn the history of the country and it should refrain from breaking the solidarity that is being built between the communities.

    In a controversial statement, the Thero accused that the Mannar Bishop was trying to act like Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tamil Tiger terrorist outfit Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

    The Bishop vehemently denied the allegation and said he was a religious man who never advocated separatism.

  2. Marco Says:

    Ananda, i wonder why CPND used the word “Controversial” when referring to the organisation and its statement?

  3. Marco Says:

    Rugby and Buddhist Monk

    Our own Daily News reports incidents as follows;

    Monk self-immolates over killing of cattle

    A Buddhsit monk, Ven.Kahawatte Indrarathana Thera, a former Pelmadulla Pradeshiya Sabha member and Chief Incumbent of the Poranuwa temple attempted to self immolate (setting himself on fire) near the Wahalkada of the Sri Dalada Temple in Kandy yesterday.

    The monk said that he was setting fire to himself to register his protest on the killing of cattle (cows). He also said that there were others to follow in his footsteps. Doctors at the Kandy hospital said the monk had suffered burn injuries on over 80 per cent of his body.

    “The monk was rushed to the Kandy Hospital with burn injuries, and later transferred to the Colombo National Hospital as his condition was critical,” sources said.

    Yoshitha fetches Rs. 11 million

    Western Warriors were able to obtain the services of Sri Lanka skipper Yoshitha Rajapaksa for Rs. 11 million at the bidding for the captains for the Carlton local and international sevens held at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Centre on Wednesday.

    Yoshitha who led the Navy Sports Club successfully in 2011 and 2012 and then led the Sri Lanka national team to victory in the Asian five nations tournament last month fetched the highest amount of Rs. 11 million with North Western Blacks and Sabaragamuwa Stallions unsuccessfully bidding for him for Rs. 8 million and 10 million respectively. Yoshitha also led the Jaffna Challengers successfully at last year’s Carlton Rugby Sevens in which they were joint runners-up.

    In addition to the Carlton international sevens this year a local sevens tournament too will be conducted by a new organization called Ceylon Premier Sports headed by Dhammika Perera in collaboration with the SLRFU with its secretary Rizly Illyas as the secretary.

    The bidding for the captains of Carlton rugby sevens was held at the auditorium of Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute at which Northern Gladiators bought Sri Lanka sevens skipper Fazil Marija for Rs. three million while Srinath Sooriyabandara was bought for Rs. 2.5 million by Southern Sharks.

    Havelocks Star Ruggerite Shenal Dias was secured by Eastern Eagles for Rs. 2.5 million while Central Kings and North Western Blacks obtained the services of Nigel Ratwatte and Gayan Weeraratne respectively for Rs two million.

    Pradeep Liyanage fetched Rs. 1.3 million for North Central Typhoons while Rohitha Rajapaksa, Sajith Saranga, and Chamara Dabare were bought for Rs. eight lakhs by Sabragamuwa Stallions, Jaffna Challengers and Uwa Vipers respectively

    Any guesses which of the two following reports was important to the nation? (count the number of words!)

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    “Mannar Bishop was trying to act like Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tamil Tiger terrorist outfit Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).”

    Well said BBS.

    ONLY BBS has the balls to call Kasippu Joseph a terrorist which is TRUE. He is a DISGRACE to the church too.


    Kasippu Joseph should self immolate to protest the killing of Thalaivar. Buddhist monks doing such violent acts is NOT GOOD.

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