No Monks on Mountaintops: The Message of Dharma Day
Here at Oracle we have a saying, "no monks on mountaintops." Our mission focuses on using spirituality as a vehicle for activism, to encourage our fellow man and to better the world around us. It is not enough, we believe, to focus on one's personal spiritual progress alone, to isolate oneself from the world and ignore the ways in which one should be a part of the solution to all of the problems around us. So, it is no wonder that the Buddhist holy day Asalha Puja Day, or Dharma Day, is one that resonates with Oracle Institute staff and the Valley of Light community.
Tradition says that when Siddhartha Gautama gained enlightenment and became the Buddha ("awakened one") it took the persistence of his friends to convince him to go and teach others. After agreeing to do so, the Buddha journeyed for two months to Benaras and gave his first sermon at Deer Park. This sermon is what Asalha Puja Day celebrates.
Instead of choosing to focus on his personal enlightenment and spirituality alone, the Buddha went back out into the world and shared his message with others. Buddhists believe that in doing so, he "set into motion the wheel of dhamma/dharma," which is comprised of the Four Noble Truths:
- Life means suffering (dukka)
- The origin of suffering is attachment (tanha)
- The cessation of suffering is attainable
- The way to cessation is the Eightfold Path, which entails Right Understanding, Right Intent, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.
According to tradition, the Buddha also established the first order of monks on this day, ordaining his first disciple and establishing Buddhism as a religion.
To commemorate all of this, Buddhists around the world visit their temples, offer donations to monks, meditate, listen to sermons, recite the Eight Precepts, and participate in a candle/incense procession around their temples where they chant in Sanskrit or pray.
They say the Buddha delivered his first sermon to five friends. Today, Buddhism is a religion followed by around 10% of the world's population – hundreds of millions of people. It is hard to believe that would have been possible if the Buddha had not agreed to share his wisdom and teach others after his enlightenment.
So, too, can our efforts yield unimaginable fruits, if we only take the time to act. One person might not feel able to change the world by oneself, but real change takes individuals who care enough about the common good to step outside of what is safe or comfortable and be determined to make a difference.
And that is what we are trying to do at The Oracle Institute. We want to make a difference, to be agents of good in the world – because we agree with the words of Alice Walker, that “activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.” We understand that our existence is a responsibility, not just a privilege. We are members of a global community, and we have an obligation to care for our extended human family and for the planet on which we all live and depend to continue to exist.
So please, follow in the Buddha’s example and don’t be a monk on a mountaintop. Be active and engaged in the world around you. And if the mission and message of The Oracle Institute resonates with you, feel free to delve deeper and to reach out. We’re seeking like-minded and like-spirited individuals to join us as we do this sacred work.