A disciple asked Buddha, "Is not Amitabha, the Infinite Light of Revelation, the Source of innumerable miracles?" The Blessed One replied, "Amitabha, the Unbounded Light is the Source of Wisdom, of Virtue, of Buddhahood. The deeds of sorcerers and miracle mongers are frauds, but what is more wondrous, more mysterious, more miraculous than Amitabha?"1
The Buddha further stated: "A true follower of the Tathagata2 does not found his trust upon austerities or rituals but, giving up the idea of self, relies with his whole heart upon Amitabha, which is the unbounded light of Truth."3
Buddha was undoubtedly a propheta divine educatorfor the mission of prophethood is education. He educated the body-politic and trained mighty nations in the true religion of God.4 He taught people not to run to mountains, forests, sacred trees or shrines, but to seek refuge in the Buddha, the Law and Order and the four noble truths.5 Dhammapada specifies, "Not nakedness, not matted hair, not dirt, not fasting, not lying on the ground, not rubbing with ashes, not sitting motionless purify a man who is not free from doubt."6 The Buddha states a man is not an elder simply because his hair is grey. An elder is a person in whom dwell truth, virtue, non-violence, and restraint. He is wise and free from impurity.7
The Four Noble truths shown by Buddha are: Dukha (sorrow), Samudaya (the cause of Sorrow), Nirodha (the removal of sorrow) and Marga (the way leading to it). The Noble Eight-fold path that leads to Nirvana consists of: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right means of livelihood, right endeavour, right mindfulness and right contemplation.8 He also acknowledged the Causeless Causethe Absolute, Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, and Unformed. All things originate from this one Essence and they are developing according to one Law.9
Buddha issued strict injunctions against fortune telling, charm selling and mediumistic feats. He said, "I forbid you, O bikkhus, to employ any spells or supplications, for they are useless, since the Law of Karma governs all things. He who attempts to perform miracles has not understood the doctrine of the Tathagata."10
This is in keeping with the Baháí Writings, which attach no importance to astrology, numerology, or horoscopes. In their use " no exact science is involved, though sometimes some truth seems involved, but the percentage is small."11 As for Astrology, the Guardian of the Baháí Faith considers it as a pseudo-science that is " for the most part non-sensical, as it is mostly made up of superstitious beliefs and practices."12
As to the influence of the stars and planets on the life of an individual, he recommends that such ideas should be entirely dissociated from the teachings of the Baháí Faith. There is no reference to the influence of the stars on the healing of diseases in the Baháí Writings. These " astrological ideas are for the most part considered sheer superstitions."13 The Guardian advises that we should be patient with people "who believe in such things, and gradually wean them away from reliance on such things."14
In present day Buddhism, apart from fortune-telling, there is a great stress on spiritism, ghosts, tantra, ritualistic worship, etc. Obviously, these practices were never recommended by Buddha. Whereas many are confused as to the truth of these phenomena, the Baháí Writings provide infallible guidance. Abdul-Bahá states: "As to the question of evil spirits, demons and monsters, any references made to them in the Holy Books have symbolic meaning. What is currently known among the public is but sheer superstition." 15
In another place, the Beloved Master explains that " the evil spirit, Satan or whatever is interpreted as evil, refers to the lower nature in man." 16 What are generally called evil spirits are a purely imaginary creation and have no reality at all. If evil spirits are deprived of eternal life, how can they exercise any influence? The influence of holy spirits, on the other hand, exists in all the Divine worlds. Evil is to be perceived as an absence of goodness. However, it does not mean that there is no power in evil. It is negative and can take control of a mans life but he has the power to become free of such forces.
The solution to such beliefs and problems lies in the education of the masses. They will then stay away from all those illusions and practices that are potentially destructive of their spiritual and material well-being. The Supreme Baháí body, the Universal House of Justice offers this advice: "We must use the Writings of the Prophets as our measurement. If Baháulláh had attached the slightest importance to occult experiences, to seeing of auras, to the hearing of mystic voices He, Himself, would have mentioned all of these things in His Teachings. The fact that He passed over them in silence shows that to Him, they had either no importance or no reality, and were consequently not worthy to take up His time as the Divine Educator of the human race." 17
Like all other Prophets, Buddha had founded his Faith on truth and purity. However, the beliefs and rites of the Buddhists have not continued according to His fundamental teachings. The Baháí Writings indicate that Buddha had originally "established the Oneness of God, but later the original principles of His doctrines gradually disappeared, and ignorant customs and ceremonials arose and increased until they finally ended in the worship of statues and images."18
No wonder, the Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda accepted Buddha as an Incarnation, but was critical of the practices like idol worship and excessive rituals of later day degraded Buddhism. He wrote that he would be pleased if the followers carried off " the remnant of this religion with its hideous idols and licentious rites."19
Today the situation is no different. Most people are engrossed in the materialism that surrounds the world. If they attend prayer services and devotions at all, it is according to the traditions and imitations of their fathers and ancestors. Few independently investigate reality.. They have become accustomed to spending a period of time in temple worship and conforming to blind and bigoted imitations and ceremonies that lead to ancestral forms of worship. Nations and religions thus blindly profess religious beliefs without investigation, making unity and agreement impossible.
All Holy Books, including those of Buddha and Confucius, announce that radiance appears when the world is surrounded by darkness.20 This is expressed variously and symbolically, but priests interpret these prophecies literally.
The Buddhist Holy Scriptures abound in miraculous stories built round the life of Buddha. They eulogize Buddhas manifestation in many kingdoms, including the plant, animal, human, and divine kingdoms. Similarly there are stories connected with His reincarnation as Maitreye Amitabha. The Baháí Writings indicate that there are prophecies concerning the future Manifestation of the Enlightened One, the Fifth Buddha (or Baháulláh) in the Buddhist books. However, " they are in symbols and metaphors, and some spiritual conditions are mentioned therein, but the leaders of religion do not understand. They think these prophecies are material things, yet these signs are foreshadowing spiritual occurrence." 21
We should ponder deeply to discover the true meaning and spiritual significance of the miraculous events associated with the lives of the prophets or mentioned in prophecies about their return This would reduce confusion and misunderstandings and help the true seeker to recognize the Promised One.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Shirin Fozdar, Lord Buddha and Maitreiya Amitabha, Arcee Press, New Delhi, p. 14.
2. Title of Buddha meaning He who has thus come. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan explains that after attaining enlightenment, Buddha referred to Himself as Tathâgata: he who has arrived at the truth. [S Radha- krishnan, Religion and Culture, Orient Paperbacks, Madarsa Road, Kashmere Gate, Delhi-110006, 1987. p. 121.]
3. ibid., pp. 15-16.
4. Japan Will Turn Ablaze (Tablets of Abdul-Bahá, Letters of Shoghi Effendi and Historical Notes About Japan). Baháí Publishing Trust, Japan, 1974, p. 35.
5. Dhammapada, vv. 188-192.
6. ibid., v. 141.
7. ibid., v. 188.
8. Jamshed Fozdar, Buddha Maitraya-Amitabha has Appeared, Baháí Publishing Trust, New Delhi, 1976, p. 194. [Quote from Mahaparinibbana Sutta].
9. ibid., p. 193.
10. ibid., p. 199.
11. Lights of Guidance, p. 516.
15. ibid., p. 512. [From a Tablet of Abdul-Bahá: Spiritualism and Psychic Phenomena, p. 3].
16. Abdul-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 294, 1982 edition.
17. Lights of Guidance, p. 521.
18. Abdul-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 165.
19. Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, pp. 506.
20. Abdul-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 221
21. Japan Will Turn Ablaze, p. 20.