He who sees the Dharma sees me;
he who sees me sees the Dharma.
Truly seeing the Dharma, one sees me;
seeing me, one sees the Dharma.
– The Buddha (Vakkali Sutta)
In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the Buddha told Ananda of how he attended hundreds of assemblies of nobles, priests, householders, ascetics, the Four Great Kings (of the Catumaharajika heaven), the Thirty-three Gods (of the Tavatimsa heaven), the Maras (of the Paranimmita-vasavatti heaven), and the Brahmas of their heavens. Before sitting and conversing with them, he renders his appearance and voice to be similar to theirs, so as to blend in. Thus teaching the Dharma to benefit, he would spiritually rouse and gladden them, after which he would vanish. During and after interacting with him, they would not know his true identity, and ask of one another about him, wondering if he is a man or god.
In the Mahasihanada Sutta, the Buddha tells Sariputra that he is able to abide in safety as he approaches the above assemblies with these four kinds of fearlessness – (1) being fully enlightened in regard to all things, (2) having eradicated all defilements, (3) knowing what all spiritual obstructions are, and (4) being able to teach that which when practised, leads to the end of all suffering (i.e. ultimate liberation). Being able to visit many planes of existence with multiple manifestations (nirmanakayas) at the same time through his mastery of supernormal powers, the Buddha has truly transcended human and even godly limitations, and is truly no mere man or god; but a supreme ‘Teacher of humans and gods’.
That the Buddha skilfully spreads his great wisdom far and wide in so many worlds exemplifies his great boundless compassion to guide as many as he can towards enlightenment. Speaking of his frequent presence in various assemblies in his last sermon (Mahaparinibanna Sutta) before relinquishing his body, the Buddha implied that he will always be around, to guide those who are ready for the Dharma. This is naturally so due to his immeasurable compassion. Though we might not karmically deserve the presence of the Buddha in person at the moment, the helpful perfect strangers who slip in and out of our lives might already be manifestations of enlightened beings. Following the Buddha’s example, we should equip ourselves with the right Dharma understanding and practice to skilfully manifest the Dharma to inspire others too!
The Buddha is nowhere when we do not appreciate the Dharma.
The Buddha is now here when we appreciate the Dharma.
The Buddha is somewhere when another is ready for the Dharma.
The Buddha is everywhere as he is one with the Dharma.
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