Ananda was the cousin of the great Buddha. When Buddha attained enlightenment, Ananda decided to spend all his time with Him. Before taking initiation, he wanted to make sure that Buddha would not treat him at par with the other disciples and that he would retain his special status as the elder cousin brother of Buddha. So, Ananda said to Buddha, “Being my younger brother, it is your duty to obey me. After initiation, you shall become my master and I shall be your disciple. Henceforth I shall not be able to ask you for anything or command you. So let me ask you for some things now, before I get initiated.” Buddha nodded and said, “As you please.” Ananda continued, “My first wish is that I will always be with you. You shall never talk to anyone in secret. You shall never send me away. Secondly, if I want you to meet anyone at any time of the day or night, you shall not refuse to do so. Lastly, you and I shall sleep in the same room. I want to be always with you. Don’t forget these wishes of mine. Now I am ready, initiate me into Buddhism…”
So, Ananda became like a shadow to Buddha. Wherever Buddha went, Ananda was always by his side.
Many years later, one day Buddha declared, “It is time for me to depart now. By dusk tomorrow, I shall be gone. Call all the monks so that I can address them one last time.” By dawn next day, all the monks were back and gathered around Buddha. There were about a thousand enlightened monks. All of them were calm and composed, no one was crying or in grief. All except Ananda, who had lived each moment of his life in the shadow of Buddha’s physical body! Ananda was in anguish. He was shedding tears and was inconsolable. Buddha looked at Ananda and smiled. “Why do you cry Ananda? I didn’t break my promises to you. I fulfilled all your desires,” he said. Ananda wailed, “What shall become of me? I breathed the same air as you did. I did everything that you did, but I have not attained the state of enlightenment. Without you, my life shall be hopeless. What shall I do without you …?”
Buddha replied, “When you asked for three wishes, I knew that they would be a barrier to your spiritual progress, but you were not willing to forget that I was your younger sibling. You wanted to retain your privileges over others. Your surrender was conditional. Perhaps my death shall make it unconditional!”
Buddha left his mortal coil. All enlightened monks congregated in close proximity to recollect and recount the words of the great master, so that they could be preserved for posterity. Ananda was not included in this congregation for he was a complete wreck emotionally. He was nowhere near enlightenment.
As Ananda shed tears of agony, he felt totally helpless and alone. He realized what a futile life he had led with Buddha. He had seen everything, yet he had not seen. He had drunk from the fountain of nectar, but he had not tasted the nectar. In the midst of hundreds of monks, Ananda found himself to be absolutely alone. This helplessness and the vulnerability of his existent state raised a question within him. For the first time he felt a void within himself. He became aware of his unbridled ego and arrogance. A silence loomed around him as he realized that his master had left him and he was all alone. There was no hope for him. As he delved into this silence alone… he felt a transformation taking place. What had not happened in forty two years in Buddha’s presence, happened in one night of self introspection! Ananda became enlightened! A deep peace engulfed him and he became calm and one with the Eternal.
The monks realized that Ananda had attained enlightenment. They rejoiced! They welcomed him to their fold for it was Ananda alone, who could give the most accurate accounts of Buddha’s life, even though he had only been part of it just physically at that time.
Our Bhagwan Baba said that living with the Lord is not enough. Be with the Lord, for being with Him ensures that your body, mind and soul bathe in the ecstasy of experiencing His presence. Be aware of His presence at all times; feel Him with you in all that you do and you shall be in bliss!!!