The seer Asita saw that the gods were abundantly joyful. Questioning them about their excitement, they responded that the Bodhisatta had just been born in the world, that the future Wheel-turner had just been born in the world! Asita rushed to find the future Buddha.
Approaching Suddhodana’s dwelling, Asita asked to see the young prince. Upon seeing the radiantly beautiful and brightly shining Bodhisatta, Asita became joyful and filled with rapture.
But this rapture quickly turned to sorrow and tears. Asita was old and he would not live long enough to hear the future Buddha proclaim the Dharma. He rushed away from the Sakyans and to his young nephew, Nalaka. Out of compassion for his nephew, he instructed him to eventually seek out the one they call ‘Buddha’ and live the holy life under him.
Asita passed away before the Buddha Turned the Wheel of Dharma. But Nalaka had the good fortune to be alive during the Buddha’s lifespan. He found the Buddha as Asita had instructed him to do.
We also have the good fortune to be alive during a time when the Dharma has been proclaimed. There are numerous teachings, practice centers, and ways of hearing the teachings. There are numerous ways to help ourselves in our daily lives. There are innumerable reminders to awaken – the wind in your face, the food stuck in between your teeth, revolutions in the streets, the face before you when you look in the mirror.
All we need to do is take one step on the Path. Don’t worry about the second step – the first one will be tough enough!
As I recently posted – this is not easy at all. I look for breaks, cheats, easy ways out, and the like. I find myself making a small bow before eating only to grab the iPod seconds later to read the news or check email. Reading the story about Asita reminds me how fortunate I am to be able to hear the Dharma in this very lifetime.
May we all awaken to that good fortune! May we all awaken to the fundamental matter! May we all awaken!
What better time than now?
(The story of Asita and Nalaka is from The Rhinoceros Horn and Other Early Buddhist Poems (Sutta Nipata), translated by K. R. Norman, pp. 116 – 120. You can also look up Sutta Nipata III.11.)