Stories abound of events after Buddha achieved enlightenment. Tucked among them is a little-known story that a few meditative minstrels recite. They sing paeans of how marvellous nature’s response was to Siddharth becoming Buddha. The peace engulfing him blended aesthetically with the tranquility of the surroundings, as if the universe was in the mood for serene celebration. Devas came out of their heavenly abode to view this marvellous sight. They were taken in by the splendour that was imposing compared even to their opulent palaces.
However, they were in for a surprise as Buddha did something unexpected. He folded his hands and bowed. Then he turned to his right and bowed again. He did the same, turning to his left. The gesture was repeated, looking up and down. The sight intrigued everyone.
‘Who are you bowing to, O Lord?’ One of the devas couldn’t hold back his curiosity. ‘You’ve moved to a much higher pedestal, as we understand it from our position… a place seldom reached. Perhaps once in a millennium! Please tell us who you need to bow to? Is there a force or stature higher than the one you’ve reached that we aren’t aware of?’
Buddha smiled and replied, ‘I’m bowing to the sun, the moon, the sky, stars, mountains, the wind, humans, higher beings, those in the netherworld, trees, animals, plants, rivers, seas, insects, unseen tiny creatures… to each speck of life in this vast universe.’
‘We still don’t understand, O Lord,’ another deva interjected.
‘The position I’ve reached, for which you are bowing to me, is thanks to everyone. Had the sun not risen on time, the moon not done so at night, the wind not blown, insects not buzzed, trees not swayed, animals not moved around, rivers not flowed, humans not used their imagination, this bodhi tree not given me shade, tiny blades of grass not grown under my feet, or the smallest of creatures not mutated, do you think I would have reached this position? I’m here because of all of them. Hence, I bow to them. A small token of gratitude for their immense contribution to my being in this state.’
Grasping the meaning behind this noble lesson will help us acknowledge those around us and their contribution to our achievements. We must always remember that a sense of gratitude is paramount for proper karmic balance.
Rajessh M. Iyer is a storyteller who explores human relationships through meaningful anecdotes, parables, and stories; he shares his work on www.rajesshmiyer.com.