In the Dhajagga Sutta on ‘Banner Protection’, which is one of the discourses compiled in the classic ‘Book of Protection’ (Paritta) for novice monastics as a ‘beginner’s guide’ of sorts, Sakyamuni Buddha related of how, when there was a battle between the devas (gods) and asuras (demi-gods), Sakka, the king of Tavatimsa heaven, advised the devas that should they have fear, they should recall the crest of his banner to allay the fear (as it represents his virtues). And if they should be unable to do so, they should accordingly recall the crests of other lesser deva kings, such as Pajapati, Varuna and Isana. However, fear that has arisen might or might not dissipate as these gods are yet to to be free from the spiritual defilements of greed, hatred and delusion, and are themselves susceptible to fear.
As such, the Buddha advised that monastics who have fear in lonely or abandoned places should be mindful of himself, the supremely enlightened and blessed Buddha, who has both great wisdom and meritorious virtues, is the lord and knower of the world, and the peerless teacher of humans and gods. Fear will be vanquished as he is free from defilements, from which there is no more fear. If not mindful of him, they should be mindful of the Dharma, which is well expounded by the Buddha, for personal investigation and realisation with immediate results, and leads to liberation. If not mindful of it, they should be mindful of the Sangha, which is the order of the Buddha’s disciples with upright, wise and dutiful conduct, who are worthy of offerings and reverence, thus a wonderful and incomparable field of merits for all.
Buddhists do not take refuge in gods as most are not liberated. Gods aware of this, such as Sakka, take refuge in the Triple Gem. What encouraged is mindfulness of the Triple Gem in the preferred priority of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, which is very sensible as it is impossible to be mindful of all three at once. Yet, when you are mindful of the Buddha, this encompasses all, with him being the perfect personification of Dharma and leader of the Sangha. The most fearful moment for many would be when dying with great dread of the unknown future. This is when mindfulness of Buddha (e.g. Amitabha Buddha; Amituofo), as taught by Sakyamuni Buddha, can be crucial for connecting to his protective blessings for peaceful and blissful rebirth in his Pure Land, for the smoothest progress towards liberation.
With his selfless immeasurable merits,
sincere mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha when dying
surely leads to the immeasurably blessed rebirth.
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“The Kokalika Jataka tells that many years ago in Benares, the king had a bad habit of talking too much. A wise and valued minister decided to teach the king a lesson. A cuckoo, rather than rearing her own young, had laid an egg in a crow’s nest. The mother crow, thinking the egg to be one of her own, watched over the egg until it hatched and then fed the young infant bird.
Unfortunately, one day, while not yet grown, the small intruder uttered the distinct call of the cuckoo. The mother crow grew alarmed, pecked the young cuckoo with her beak, and tossed it from her nest. It landed at the feet of the king, who turned to his minister. ‘What is the meaning of this?’ he asked. The wise minister (the future Buddha) replied that:
‘They that with speech inopportune offend
Like the young cuckoo meet untimely end.
No deadly poison, nor sharp-whetted sword
Is half so fatal as ill-spoken word.’
The king, having learned his lesson, tempered his speech, and avoided a possible overthrow of his rule. In his commentary, the Buddha notes that he was the wise minister and the talkative king one of his garrulous monks, Kokalika.”
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