Muhammad Mawlud, from
Sri Lanka, was born into a Buddhist family and ordained himself as a
Buddhist monk in his search for truth. After five years as a monk
following the spiritual disciplines of a Buddhist ascetic, he met
some Muslims in Sri Lanka who were traveling with their Shaykh (a
spiritual master). As a result of his association with the Shaykh
and his murids, Muhammad Mawlud embraced Islam and went to America
to visit the community there.
The following is his
story about the experiences of his life that led up to this event,
and a short narration about Gautama Buddha and his path.
I was born in Vawniya,
located in the northern part of Sri Lanka. My parents were from the
south. When I was young I was sent to a hostel, as my parents had
separated. They reunited and brought me home, but I was unhappy and
ran away at the age of twelve. They found me but I ran away again
and again. Finally, after more than two years away from my parents,
I returned home with the intention of behaving correctly. I went to
school, but mentally I was confused and dissatisfied. During this
period I met Jayantha, who spoke to me about meditation. He
introduced me to some teachers and I began to practice meditation
and learned about the Buddha's doctrine. It led me to a good
beginning upon the spiritual path.
I felt the necessity to
renounce worldly affairs but could not find a teacher skilled enough
to take me to the goal of self-knowledge to ordain me as a monk.
After searching for some time, two friends and I decided to ordain
ourselves as monks, as the Buddha had done, with no connection to a
teacher or sect. We built a mud hut to live in, went from door to
door begging for our food, practiced according to what we learned
from early scriptures, and tried to imitate the Buddha as much as we
could. We were helped by a man who used to be an ascetic, and
learned from him some aspects of outward discipline.
Soon the nearby
villagers heard about us and wanted to support our livelihood. They
proposed to build us a better residence and other facilities. They
began to make a society and elected a chairman, secretary, and other
officers. This, we thought, was going to become like our lives
before, so we left the place and began to wander again. We used to
spend time in caves, cemeteries, and empty huts. We would separate
and then meet up again. I had to beg and sometimes had no food,
water, medicine, nor a place to sleep. I had nothing to protect me,
no capacity to earn, few attachments and no responsibilities.
Therefore my mind was reasonably quieted. That lifestyle led me to
many interesting experiences.
Accidentally, when I saw
a girl, or something that I liked, all the passions and misery would
suddenly be aroused in me. Violence, jealousy, and other emotions
would spring up with intensity and appear more powerful and
unbearable than before. I became angry with myself. I hated the life
of the world, because as an ascetic I could not have it. I used to
criticize the things of the world. Sometimes I would see myself as a
hypocrite, because I was suppressing the desires within me.
At this time I read some
books that led me to a new outlook. I also met Heenatiyana
Dhammaloka Mahanayaka Thero, a high priest whom I admired very much.
I became his pupil and learned many things from him. He passed away
in his 82nd year and I felt alone. I sensed no more
spiritual vibration in the monastery and felt at a loss. I had no
intention in my life. I read some books on Sufism and became
interested in these teachings. I met a Sufi teacher called Bawa. He
advised me to continue my studies, but soon he left Sri Lanka. Once
again, I found myself alone.
One day on my return
from a gathering of Bawa's disciples, I was approached at a bus stop
in Colombo by two young men who asked me why I was dressed in robes
and had a shaven head. As we talked I noticed that one of them had a
"tasbih" (prayer beads). I found out they were visiting with
their Shaykh who was giving public talks. I came to where the Shaykh
was staying, but he had gone to the eastern part of the island. I
met his close associate Hajj Muhammad Ibrahim who explained to me
something of what he had learned from the Shaykh.
The next day Shaykh
Fadhlalla Haeri returned from the east and I attended a public
meeting where he spoke. I was able to take many beautiful points
about self-knowledge from him. I kept company with Hajj Muhammad and
other brothers and learned the prayer and some points from the
Shaykh Fadhlalla asked
me to visit the community at Bayt-ud-Deen in the United States and I
went. During this time I listened to the Shaykh's lectures on
Qur`an, began to study Arabic, did salat and dhikr.
The brothers worked together, cooked together, and I really enjoyed
myself. I did not see any necessity to remain a Buddhist monk as I
began to see the beauty and deep spirituality of Islam.
Shaykh Fadhlalla sent me
into "khalwa," or isolation, to meditate on Allah for a few
days. That experience gave me a different view about myself. I began
to recognize my slave-ness to Allah. I feel as though I am just a
new comer to this tremendous world. By Allah's grace I have
everything to learn about Allah. Now my
intention is to become a pure slave to Allah and serve Him only.
The Way of Buddha
The word 'Buddha' means
'the enlightened one' in the ancient Pali language, and was applied
to a man who lived over 2,500 years ago in the subcontinent of
India. His name was Gautama and by all indications he was a
messenger of Allah sent to the people of India to establish the way
of Truth, and the path to Him.
"And messengers we
have mentioned to you before . . . and messengers we have not
mentioned to you, messengers of good news and warning in order that
mankind might have no argument against Allah after the Messengers."
teaching was the teaching of Tawhid, but as with every
spiritual teaching except that of the final messenger Muhammad, may
Allah shower his blessings upon him and his family, it became
corrupted and degenerated, and of course was superseded by the
Prophetic teachings that came after it.
Gautama Buddha was a
prince raised in a royal family to become king. He led a very
sheltered life, until when older, he was exposed to the harsh
realities of existence. He had many keen experiences that indicated
to him the transitory nature of the world, until he renounced his
kingdom and set out in search of Truth.
The Buddha was an
outstanding ascetic, and endured extreme privations, until after
many years he discovered the middle path, the path of moderation. He
developed special breathing techniques in meditation and soon
reached enlightenment. After reaching enlightenment, he did not want
to teach, because he was unable to explain the nature of the
shattering experience of gnosis. But a divine being came to him and
invited him to teach as he was the Messenger of his time.
In the same way as our
beloved Prophet, may Allah bless him and his family and grant them
peace, Buddha reached out first to those who were closest to him. He
began teaching five fellow monks who had been his companions. As he
successfully led these men to enlightenment, he then took on sixty
disciples and transmitted the pure knowledge of Tawhid to
them. After fully training them in all aspects of outward practice
and inward discipline, he sent them to all parts of India, and the
teaching began to spread.
Buddha faced many
difficulties throughout his life, and there were many enemies to his
teachings. As with every genuine spiritual teaching, his message
abrogated the traditional practices that were before it and upset
established customs. There were several attempts on his life, and
once his own brother-in-law let loose a drunken elephant upon him in
hopes that it would trample him to death. When the elephant charged
up to the Buddha however, it stopped and knelt down in order to pay
Buddha's teaching was
not only for a few ascetics living in the wilderness, but a
comprehensive path that included all aspects of life. His teachings
were collected into a book called the "Tripitaka." Another book, the
Dhamma Pada, is known popularly by the people. It is a topical
collection of the discourses in the Tripitaka in four hundred-fifty
stanzas and is still in existence today. There are many texts about
his life, and there is a book of five hundred-fifty stories which
Buddha told, and interpreted their outward and inward meanings. The
essential basis of his teachings were laid down in five precepts:
The first was no killing or harming any being. The second was no
stealing. The third was no adultery or fornication. The fourth was
no lying. The fifth was no intoxication.
For the people who
aspired to be monks there were more conditions, but these five
commandments were considered to be enough for those who wanted to
live an upright and moral life. These precepts were then followed by
the eight fold noble path to enlightenment. By following this path
with the guidance of a true spiritual master, the sincere seeker was
able to attain inward knowledge and vision of the Truth.
The first step is
correct understanding. As there were sixty-four different
philosophies at the time of Buddha, it was considered necessary to
discriminate between the pure and the impure. The basis of this
discrimination are the four noble truths: Suffering, the cause of
suffering, the eradication of suffering, and the way to eradication
The second step
is to have correct thoughts. By thoughts are meant correct
intentions and positive opinions.
The third step is
correct speech. One not only has to be truthful, but one must also
not harm anyone by harsh speech.
The fourth step
is correct action. One's actions and intentions must be unified.
Otherwise one would be in a state of hypocrisy.
The fifth step is
correct living. One's lifestyle and dealings with the world must be
honest and correct.
The sixth step is
correct effort. One must practice meditation in a balanced way,
without starving the body.
The seventh step
is correct mindfulness. This means to be aware, and to be present in
the moment. By this one attains true efficiency.
The eighth step
is correct concentration. Only by eliminating stray thoughts through
ceaseless effort may one reach the goal of inward knowledge.
After the death of
Buddha, his followers split into different sects, and the original
pure doctrine was gradually dissipated. There are now two major
schools of Buddhist thought known as the hinayana and the
mahayana. All have different interpretations and applications of
the Buddhist doctrine. The remarkable record of this ancient
messenger is a proof that Allah has sent a messenger to every
people, and provided a means for them to take on their noble
heritage, as Allah's Representatives on Earth.
"And certainly we
raised in every nation a messenger, saying: Serve Allah and shun the
devil, then of them was he whom Allah guided, and of them was he
whose remaining in error was justly due. So travel in the land then
see what was the end of the rejecters."