| About Buddha
"A Unique Being, an extraordinary Man arisen in this world for the
benefit of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for
the world, for the good, benefit, and happiness of Gods and men. Who is
this Unique Being? It is the Tathagat, the Exalted, Fully Enlightened One."
On the full moon day of May, in the year 623 B.C. he was born in Lumbini
Park at Kapilavastu, on the Indian borders of present Nepal. A noble prince
who was destined to be the greatest religious teacher of the world.
His father was King Suddhodana of the aristocratic Sakya clan and his mother
was Queen Maha Maya. As the beloved mother died seven days after his birth,
Maha Pajapati Gotami, her younger sister, who was also married to the King,
adopted the child, entrusting her own son, Nanda, to the care of the nurses.
Great were the rejoicings of the people over the birth of this illustrious
prince. An ascetic of high spiritual attainments, named Asita, also known
as Kaladevala, was particularly pleased to hear this happy news, and being
a tutor of the King, visited the palace to see the Royal babe. The King,
who felt honoured by his unexpected visit, carried the child up to him in
order to make the child pay him due reverence, but, to the surprise of
all, the child's legs turned and rested on the matted locks of the
ascetic. Instantly, the ascetic rose from his seat and, foreseeing with
his supernormal vision the child's future greatness, saluted him with
clasped hands. The Royal father did likewise.
The great ascetic smiled at first and then was sad. Questioned regarding
his mingled feelings, he answered that he smiled because the prince would
eventually become a Buddha, an Enlightened One, and he was sad because he
would not be able to benefit by the superior wisdom of the Enlightened One
owing to his prior death and rebirth in a Formless Plane (Arupaloka).
On the fifth day after the prince's birth he was named Siddhartha, which
means, "wish fulfilled". His family name was Gotama.
In accordance with the ancient Indian custom many learned Brahmins were
invited to the palace for the naming ceremony. Amongst them there were
eight distinguished men. Examining the characteristic marks of the child,
seven of them raised two fingers each, indicative of two alternative
possibilities, and said that he would either become a Universal Monarch or
a Buddha. But the youngest, Kondanna, who excelled others in wisdom,
noticing the hair on the forehead turned to the right, raised only one
finger and convincingly declared that the prince would definitely retire
from the world and become a Buddha.
Plough - Festival
A very remarkable incident took place in his childhood. It was an
unprecedented spiritual experience, which later, during his search after
truth, served as a key to his Enlightenment.
To promote agriculture, the King arranged for a plough festival. It was
indeed a festive occasion for all, as both nobles and commoners decked in
their best attire, participated in the ceremony. On the appointed day, the
King, accompanied by his courtiers, went to the field, taking with him the
young prince together with the nurses. Placing the child on a screened and
canopied couch under the cool shade of a solitary rose-apple tree to be
watched by the nurses, the King participated in the plough festival.
When the festival was at its height of gaiety the nurses too stole away
from the prince's presence to catch a glimpse of the wonderful spectacle.
In striking contrast to the mirth and merriment of the festival it was all
calm and quiet under the rose-apple tree. All the conditions conducive to
quiet meditation being there, the pensive child, young in years but old in
wisdom, sat cross-legged and seized the opportunity to commence that
all-important practice of intent concentration on the breath-on
exhalations and inhalations -- which gained for him then and there that
one pointedness of mind known as Samadhi and he thus developed the First
Jhana (Ecstasy). The child's nurses, who had abandoned their precious
charge to enjoy themselves at the festival, suddenly realizing their duty,
hastened to the child and were amazed to see him sitting crosslegged
plunged in deep meditation. The King hearing of it, hurried to the spot
and, seeing the child in meditative posture, saluted him, saying--
"This, dear child, is my second obeisance".
As a Royal child, Prince Siddhattha must have received an education that
became a prince although no details are given about it. As a scion of the
warrior race he received special training in the art of warfare.
At the early age of sixteen, he married his beautiful cousin Princess
Yasodhara who was of equal age. For nearly thirteen years, after his happy
marriage, he led a luxurious life, blissfully ignorant of the vicissitudes
of life outside the palace gates. Of his luxurious life as prince, he
"I was delicate, excessively delicate. In my father's dwelling three
lotus-ponds were made purposely for me. Blue lotuses bloomed in one, red
in another, and white in another. I used no sandalwood that was not of
Kasi. My turban, tunic, dress and cloak, were all from Kasi."
"Night and day a white parasol was held over me so that I might not
be touched by heat or cold, dust, leaves or dew."
"There were three palaces built for me -- one for the cold season,
one for the hot season, and one for the rainy season. During the four
rainy months, I lived in the palace for the rainy season without ever
coming down from it, entertained all the while by female musicians. Just
as, in the houses of others, food from the husks of rice together with
sour gruel is given to the slaves and workmen, even so, in my father's
dwelling food with rice and meat was given to the slaves and
With the march of time, truth gradually dawned upon him. His contemplative
nature and boundless compassion did not permit him to spend his time in
the mere enjoyment of the fleeting pleasures of the Royal palace. He knew
no personal grief but he felt a deep pity for suffering humanity. Amidst
comfort and prosperity, he realized the universality of sorrow.
Prince Siddhattha reflected thus:
"Why do I, being subject to birth, decay,
disease, death, sorrow and impurities, thus search after things of like
nature. How, if I, who am subject to things of such nature, realize their
disadvantages and seek after the unattained unsurpassed, perfect security
which is Nibbana!" "Cramped and confined is household life,
a den of dust, but the life of the homeless one is as the open air of
heaven! Hard is it for him who bides at home to live out as it should
be lived the Holy Life in all its perfection, in all its purity."
One glorious day as he went out of the palace to the pleasure park to
see the world outside, he came in direct contact with the stark realities
of life. Within the narrow confines of the palace he saw only the rosy
side of life, but the dark side, the common lot of mankind, was purposely
veiled from him. What was mentally conceived, he, for the first time,
vividly saw in reality. On his way to the park his observant eyes met
the strange sights of a decrepit old man, a diseased person, a corpse
and a dignified hermit. The first three sights convincingly proved to
him, the inexorable nature of life, and the universal ailment of humanity.
The fourth signified the means to overcome the ills of life and to attain
calm and peace. These four unexpected sights served to increase the urge
in him to loathe and renounce the world.
Realizing the worthlessness of sensual pleasures, so highly prized by
the worldling, and appreciating the value of renunciation in which the
wise seek delight, he decided to leave the world in search of Truth and
When this final decision was taken after much deliberation, the news of
the birth of a son was conveyed to him while he was about to leave the
park. Contrary to expectations, he was not overjoyed, but regarded his
first and only offspring as an impediment. An ordinary father would have
welcomed the joyful tidings, but Prince Siddhattha, the extraordinary
father as he was, exclaimed "An impediment (rahu) has been born;
a fetter has arisen". His grandfather accordingly named the infant
The palace was no longer a congenial place to the contemplative Prince
Siddhattha. Neither his charming young wife nor his lovable infant son
could deter him from altering the decision he had taken to renounce the
world. He was destined to play an infinitely more important and beneficial
role than a dutiful husband and father or even as a king of kings. The
allurements of the palace were no more cherished objects of delight to
him Time was ripe to depart.
He ordered his favourite charioteer Channa to saddle the horse Kanthaka,
and went to the suite of apartments occupied by the princess. Opening
the door of the chamber, he stood on the threshold and cast his dispassionate
glance on the wife and child who were fast asleep. Great was his compassion
for the two dear ones at this parting moment. Greater was his compassion
for suffering humanity. He was not worried about the future worldly happiness
and comfort of the mother and child as they had everything in abundance
and were well protected. It was not that he loved them the less, but he
loved humanity more.
Leaving all behind, he stole away with a light heart from the palace at
midnight, and rode into the dark, attended only by his loyal charioteer.
Alone and penniless he set out in search of Truth and Peace. Thus did
he renounce the world? It was not the renunciation of an old man who has
had his fill of worldly life. It was not the renunciation of a poor man
who had nothing to leave behind. It was the renunciation of a prince in
the full bloom of youth and in the plenitude of wealth and prosperity
-- a renunciation unparalleled in history.
It was in his twenty-ninth year that Prince Siddhattha made this historic
He journeyed far and, crossing the river Anoma, rested on its banks. Here
he shaved his hair and beard and handing over his garments and ornaments
to Channa with instructions to return to the palace, assumed the simple
yellow garb of an ascetic and led a life of voluntary poverty.
The ascetic Siddhattha, who once lived in the lap of luxury, now became
penniless wanderers, living on what little the charitably minded gave
of their own accord.
He had no permanent abode. A shady tree or a lonely cave sheltered him
by day or night. Bare-footed and bareheaded, he walked in the scorching
sun and in the piercing cold. With no possessions to call his own, but
a bowl to collect his food and robes just sufficient to cover the body,
he concentrated all his energies on the quest of Truth.
Search for Truth
Thus as a wanderer, a seeker after what is good, searching for the unsurpassed
Peace, he approached Alara Kalama, a distinguished ascetic, and said:
"I desire, friend Kalama to lead the Holy Life in this Dispensation
of yours." Thereupon Alara Kalama told him: "You may stay with
me, O Venerable One. Of such sort is this teaching that an intelligent
man before long may realize by his own intuitive wisdom his master's doctrine,
and abide in the attainment thereof."
Before long, he learnt his doctrine, but it brought him no realization
of the highest Truth.
Then there came to him the thought: When Alara Kalama declared: "Having
myself realized by intuitive knowledge the doctrine, I -- 'abide in the
attainment thereof --, it could not have been a mere profession of faith;
surely Alara Kalama lives having understood and perceived this doctrine."
So he went to him and said "How far, friend Kalama, does this doctrine
extend which you yourself have with intuitive wisdom realized and attained?"
Upon this Alara Kalama made known to him the Realm of Nothingness (Akincannayatana),
an advanced stage of Concentration.
Then it occurred to him: "Not only in Alara Kalama are to be found
faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. I too possess these
virtues. How now if I strive to realize that doctrine whereof Alara Kalama
says that he himself has realized and abides in the attainment thereof!"
So, before long, he realized by his own intuitive wisdom that doctrine
and attained to that state, but it brought him no realization of the highest
Truth. Then he approached Alara Kalama and said; "Is this the full
extent, friend Kalama, of this doctrine of which you say that you yourself
have realized by your wisdom and abide in the attainment thereof?"
"But I also, friend, have realized thus far in this doctrine, and
abide in the attainment thereof."
The unenvious teacher was delighted to hear of the success of his distinguished
pupil. He honoured him by placing him on a perfect level with himself
and admiringly said:
"Happy, friend, are we, extremely happy; in that we look upon such
a venerable fellow-ascetic like you! That same doctrine which I myself
have realized by my wisdom and proclaim, having attained thereunto, have
you yourself realized by your wisdom and abide in the attainment thereof;
and that doctrine you yourself have realized by your wisdom and abide
in the attainment thereof, that have I myself realized by my wisdom and
proclaim, having attained thereunto. Thus the doctrine, which I know,
and also do you know; and the doctrine, which you know, that I know also.
As I am, so are you; as you are, so am I. Come, friend, let both of us
lead the company of ascetics."
The ascetic Gotama was not satisfied with a discipline and a doctrine
which only led to a high degree of mental concentration, but did not lead
to "disgust, detachment, cessation (of suffering), tranquility; intuition,
enlightenment, and Nibbana." Nor was he anxious to lead a company
of ascetics even with the co-operation of another generous teacher of
equal spiritual attainment, without first perfecting himself. It was,
he felt, a case of the blind leading the blind. Dissatisfied with his
teaching, he politely took his leave from him.
In those happy days when there were no political disturbances the intellectuals
of India were preoccupied with the study and exposition of some religious
system or other. All facilities were provided for those more spiritually
inclined to lead holy lives in solitude in accordance with their temperaments
and most of these teachers had large followings of disciples. So it was
not difficult for the ascetic Gautama to find another religious teacher
who was more competent than the former.
On this occasion he approached one Uddaha Ramaputta and expressed his
desire to lead the Holy Life in his Dispensation. He was readily admitted
as a pupil.
Before long the intelligent ascetic Gotama, mastered his doctrine and
attained the final stage of mental concentration, the Realm of Neither
Perception or Non-Perception (N'eva Sanna N'asannayatana), revealed by
his teacher. This was the highest stage in worldly concentration when
consciousness becomes so subtle and refined that it cannot be said that
a consciousness either exists or not. Ancient Indian sages could not proceed
further in spiritual development.
The noble teacher was delighted to hear of the success of his illustrious
royal pupil. Unlike his former teacher the present one honoured him by
inviting him to take full charge of all the disciples as their teacher.
He said: "Happy friend, are we; yea, extremely happy, in that we
see such a venerable fellow-ascetic as you. The doctrine, which Rama knew,
you know; the doctrine, which you know, Rama knew. As was Rama so are
you; as you are, so was Rama. Come, friend, henceforth you shall lead
this company of ascetics."
Still he felt that his quest of the highest Truth was not achieved. He
had gained complete mastery of his mind, but his ultimate goal was far
ahead. He was seeking for the Highest, the Nibbana, the complete cessation
of suffering, the total eradication of all forms of craving. "Dissatisfied
with this doctrine too, he departed thence, content therewith no longer."
He realized that his spiritual aspirations were far higher than those
under whom he chose to learn. He realized that there was none capable
enough to teach him what he yearned for the highest Truth. He also realized
that the highest Truth is to be found within oneself and ceased to seek
Struggle For Enlightment
Meeting with disappointment, but not discouraged, the ascetic Gotama
seeking for the incomparable Peace, the highest Truth, wandered through
the district of Magadha, and arrived in due course at Uruvela, the market
town of Senani. There he spied a lovely spot of ground, a charming forest
grove, a flowing river with pleasant sandy fords, and hard by was a
village where he could obtain his food. Then he thought thus:
"Lovely, indeed, O Venerable One, is this spot of ground, charming is
the forest grove, pleasant is the flowing river with sandy fords, and hard
by is the village where I could obtain food. Suitable indeed is this place
for spiritual exertion for those noble scions who desire to strive."
The place was congenial for his meditation. The atmosphere was peaceful.
The surroundings were pleasant. The scenery was charming. Alone, he
resolved to settle down there to achieve his desired object.
Hearing of his renunciation, Kondanna, the youngest Brahmin who predicted
his future, and four sons of the other sages - Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama,
and Assaji -- also renounced the world and joined his company.
In the ancient days in India, great importance was attached to rites,
ceremonies, penances and sacrifices. It was then a popular belief that no
Deliverance could be gained unless one leads a life of strict asceticism.
Accordingly, for six long years the ascetic Gotama made a superhuman
struggle practising all forms of severest austerity. His delicate body was
reduced to almost a skeleton. The more he tormented his body the farther
his goal receded from him.
How strenuously he struggled, the various methods he employed, and how he
eventually succeeded is graphically described in his own words in various
Suttas. Maha Saccaka Sutta describes his preliminary efforts thus:
"Then the following thought occurred to me:
"How if I were to clench my teeth, press my tongue against the
palate, and with (moral) thoughts hold down, subdue and destroy my
"So I clenched my teeth, pressed my tongue against the palate and
strove to hold down, subdue, destroy my (immoral) thoughts with (moral)
thoughts. As I struggled thus, perspiration streamed forth from my
"Like unto a strong man who might seize a weaker man by head or
shoulders and hold him down, force him down, and bring into subjection,
even so did I struggle.
"Strenuous and indomitable was my energy. My mindfulness was
established and unperturbed. My body was, however, fatigued and was not
calmed as a result of that painful endeavour -- being overpowered by
exertion. Even though such painful sensations arose in me, they did not at
all affect my mind.
"Then I thought thus: How if I were to cultivate the non-breathing
"Accordingly, I checked inhalation and exhalation from my mouth and
nostrils. As I checked inhalation and exhalation from mouth and nostrils,
the air issuing from my ears created an exceedingly great noise. Just as a
blacksmith's bellows being blown make an exceedingly great noise, even so
was the noise created by the air issuing from my ears when I stopped
"Nevertheless, my energy was strenuous and indomitable. Established
and unperturbed was my mindfulness. Yet my body was fatigued and was not
calmed as a result of that painful endeavour -- being overpowered by
exertion. Even though such painful sensations arose in me, they did not at
all affect my mind.
"Then I thought to myself: How if I were to cultivate that
"Accordingly, I checked inhalation and exhalation from mouth,
nostrils, and ears. And as I stopped breathing from mouth, nostrils and
ears, the (imprisoned) airs beat upon my skull with great violence. Just
as if a strong man were to bore one's skull with a sharp drill, even so
did the airs beat my skull with great violence as I stopped breathing?
Even, though such painful sensations arose in me, they did not at all
affect my mind.
Then I thought to myself: How if I were to cultivate that non-breathing
"Accordingly, I checked inhalation and exhalation from mouth,
nostrils, and ears. And as I stopped breathing thus, terrible pams arose
in my head. As would be the pains if a strong man were to bind one's head
tightly with a hard leathern thong, even so were the terrible pains that
arose in my head.
"Nevertheless, my energy was strenuous. Such painful sensations did
not affect my mind.
"Then I thought to myself: How if I were to cultivate that
non-breathing ecstasy again!
"Accordingly, I stopped breathing from mouth, nostrils, and ears. As
I checked breathing thus, plentiful airs pierced my belly. Just as if a
skilful butcher or a butcher's apprentice were to rip up the belly with a
sharp butcher's knife, even so plentiful airs pierced my belly.
"Nevertheless, my energy was strenuous. Such painful sensations did
not affect my mind.
"Again I thought to myself: How if I were to cultivate that
non-breathing ecstasy again!,
"Accordingly, I checked inhalation and exhalation from mouth,
nostrils, and ears. As I suppressed my breathing thus, a tremendous
burning pervaded my body. Just as if two strong men were each to seize a
weaker man by his arms and scorch and thoroughly burn him in a pit of
glowing charcoal, even so did a severe burning pervade my body.
"Nevertheless, my energy was strenuous. Such painful sensations did
not affect my mind.
"Thereupon the deities who saw me thus said: 'The ascetic Gotama is
dead.' Some remarked: 'the ascetic Gotama is not dead yet, but is dying.'
While some others said: 'The ascetic Gotama is neither dead nor is dying
but an Arahant is the ascetic Gotama. Such is the way in which an Arahant
Change of Method: Abstinence from Food
Then I thought to myself: How if I were to practice complete abstinence
"Then deities approached me and said: 'do not, good sir, practice
total abstinence from food. If you do practice it, we will pour celestial
essence through your body's pores; with that you will be sustained."
"And I thought: 'If I claim to be practicing starvation, and if these
deities pour celestial essence, through my body's pores and I am sustained
thereby, it would be a fraud on my part'. So I refused them, saying 'There
is no need'.
"Then the following thought occurred to me: How if I take food little
by little, a small quantity of the juice of green gram, or vetch, or
lentils, or peas!
"As I took such small quantity of solid and liquid food, my body
became extremely emaciated. Just as are the joints of knotgrasses or
bulrushes, even so did the major and minor parts of my body owe to lack of
food? Just as is the camel's hoof, even so were my hips for want of food.
Just as is a string of beads, even so did my backbone stand out and bend
in, for lack of food. Just as the rafters of a dilapidated hall fall this
way and that, even so appeared my ribs through lack of sustenance. Just as
in a deep well may be seen stars sunk deep in the water, even so did my
eye-balls appear deep sunk in their sockets, being devoid of food. Just as
a bitter pumpkin, when cut while raw, will by wind and sun get shriveled
and withered, even so did the skin of my head get shriveled and withered,
due to lack of sustenance.
"And I, intending to touch my belly's skin, would instead seize my
backbone. When I intended to touch my backbone, I would seize my belly's
skin. So was I that, owing to lack of sufficient food, my belly's skin
clung to the backbone, and I, on going to pass excreta or urine, would in
that very spot stumble and fall down, for want of food. And I stroked my
limbs in order to revive my body. Lo, as I did so, the rotten roots of my
body's hairs fell from my body owing to lack of sustenance. The people who
saw me said: The ascetic Gotama is black' some said, 'The ascetic Gotama
is not black but blue.' Some others said: 'the ascetic Gotama is neither
black nor blue but tawny.' To such an extent was the pure colour of my
skin impaired owing to lack of food.
"Then the following thought occurred to me: Whatsoever ascetics or
Brahmins of the past have experienced acute, painful, sharp and piercing
sensations, they must have experienced them to such a high degree as this
and not beyond. Whatsoever ascetics and Brahmins of the future will
experience acute, painful, and sharp and piercing sensations they too will
experience them to such a high degree and not beyond. Yet by all these
bitter and difficult austerities I shall not attain to excellence, worthy
of supreme knowledge and insight, transcending those of human states.
Might there be another path for Enlightenment!"
Temptation of Mara the Evil One
His prolonged painful austerities proved utterly futile. They only
resulted in the exhaustion of his valuable energy. Though physically a
superman his delicately nurtured body could not possibly stand the great
strain. His graceful form completely faded almost beyond recognition. His
golden coloured skin turned pale, his blood dried up, his sinews and
muscles shriveled up, and his eyes were sunk and blurred. To all
appearance he was a living skeleton. He was almost on the verge of death.
At this critical stage, while he was still intent on the Highest (Padhana),
abiding on the banks of the Neranjara river, striving and contemplating in
order to attain to that state of Perfect Security, came Namuci, uttering
kind words thus:
"You are lean and deformed. Near to you is death".
"A thousand parts of you belong from death to life (there remains)
one. Life, O good sir! Life is better. Living, you could perform merit.
"Leading a life of celibacy and making fire sacrifices could acquire
much merit. What will you do with this striving? Hard is the path of
striving, difficult and not easily accomplished."
Mara reciting these words stood in the presence of the Exalted One.
To Mara who spoke thus, the Exalted One replied:
"O Evil One, kinsman of the heedless! You have come here for your own
"Even an iota of merit is of no avail. To them who are in need of
merit it behoves you, Mara, to speak thus.
"Confidence (Saddha), self-control (Tapo), perseverance (Viriya), and
wisdom (Panna) are mine. Me who am thus intent, why do you question about
"Even the streams of rivers will this wind dries up. Why should not
the blood of me who am thus striving dry up?
"When blood dries up, the bile and phlegm also dry up. When my flesh
wastes away, more and more does my mind get clarified? Still more do my
mindfulness, wisdom, and concentration become firm.
"While I live thus, experiencing the utmost pain, my mind does not
long for lust! Behold the purity of a being!
"Sense-desires (Kama), are your first army. The second is called
Aversion for the Holy Life (Arati). The third is Hunger and Thirst (Khuppipasa).
The fourth is called Craving (Tanha). The fifth is Sloth and Torpor (Thina-Middha).
The sixth is called Fear (Bhiru). The seventh is Doubt (Vicikiccha), and
the eighth is Detraction and Obstinacy (Makkha-Thambha). The ninth is Gain
(Labha), Praise (Siloka) and Honour (Sakkara), and that ill-gotten Fame (Yasa).
The tenth is the extolling of oneself and contempt for others (Attukhamsanaparavambhana).
"This, Namuci, is your army, the opposing host of the Evil One. That
army the coward does not overcome, but he who overcomes obtains happiness.
"This Munja do I display! What boots life in this world! Better for
me is death in the battle than that one should live on, vanquished!
"Some ascetics and Brahmins are not seen plunged in this battle. They
know not nor do they tread the path of the virtuous.
"Seeing the army on all sides with Mara arrayed on elephant, I go
forward to battle. Mara shall not drive me from my position. That army of
yours, which the world together with gods conquers not, by my wisdom I go
to destroy as I would an unbaked bowl with a stone.
"Controlling my thoughts, and with mindfulness well-established, I
shall wander from country to country, training many a disciple.
"Diligent, intent, and practising my teaching, they, disregarding
you, will go where having gone they grieve not."
The Middle Path
The ascetic Gotama was now fully convinced from personal experience of the
utter futility of self-mortification which, though considered
indispensable for Deliverance by the ascetic philosophers of the day,
actually weakened one's intellect, and resulted in lassitude of spirit. He
abandoned forever this painful extreme as did he the other extreme of
self-indulgence, which tends to retard moral progress. He conceived the
idea of adopting the Golden Mean, which later became one of the salient
features of his teaching.
He recalled how when his father was engaged in ploughing, he sat in the
cool shade of the rose-apple tree, absorbed in the contemplation of his
own breath, which resulted in the attainment of the First Jhana (Ecstasy).
Thereupon he thought: "Well, this is the path to Enlightenment."
He realized that Enlightenment could not be gained with such an utterly
exhausted body: Physical fitness was essential for spiritual progress. So
he decided to nourish the body sparingly and took some coarse food both
hard and soft.
The five favourite disciples who were attending on him with great hopes
thinking that whatever truth the ascetic Gotama would comprehend, that
would he impart to them, felt disappointed at this unexpected change of
method, and leaving him and the place too, went to Isipatana, saying that
"the ascetic Gotama had become luxurious, had ceased from striving,
and had returned to a life of comfort."
At a crucial time when help was most welcome his companions deserted him
leaving him alone. He was not discouraged, but their voluntary separation
was advantageous to him though their presence during his great struggle
was helpful to him. Alone, in sylvan solitudes, great men often realize
deep truths and solve intricate problems.
Dawn of Truth
Regaining his lost strength with some coarse food, he easily developed the
First Jhana, which he gained in his youth. By degrees he developed the
second, third and fourth Jhanas as well.
By developing the Jhanas he gained perfect one-pointedness of the mind.
His mind was now like a polished mirror where everything is reflected in
its true perspective.
Thus with thoughts tranquillized, purified, cleansed, free from lust and
impurity, pliable, alert, steady, and unshakable, he directed his mind to
the knowledge as regards "The Reminiscence of Past Births" (Pubbenivasanussati
Nana). He recalled his varied lots in former existences as follows: first
one life, then two lives, then three, four, five, ten, twenty, up to fifty
lives; then a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand; then the
dissolution of many world cycles, then the evolution of many world cycles,
then both the dissolution and evolution of many world cycles. In that
place he was of such a name, such a family, such a caste, such a dietary,
such the pleasure and pain he experienced, such his life's end; Departing
from there, he came into existence elsewhere. Then such was his name, such
his family, such his caste, such his dietary, such the pleasure and pain
he did experience, such life's end. Thence departing, he came into
Thus he recalled the mode and details of his varied lots in his former
This, indeed, was the First Knowledge that he realized in the first watch
of the night.
Dispelling thus the ignorance with regard to the past, he directed his
purified mind to "The Perception of the Disappearing and Reappearing
of Beings" (Cutupapata Nana). With clairvoyant vision, purified and
supernormal, he perceived beings disappearing from one state of existence
and reappearing in another; he beheld the base and the noble, the
beautiful and the ugly, the happy and the miserable, all passing according
to their deeds. He knew that these good individuals, by evil deeds, words,
and thoughts, by reviling the Noble Ones, by being misbelievers, and by
conforming themselves to the actions of the misbelievers, after the
dissolution of their bodies and after death, had been born in sorrowful
states. He knew that these good individuals, by good deeds, words, and
thoughts, by not reviling the Noble Ones, by being right believers, and by
conforming themselves to the actions of the right believers, after the
dissolution of their bodies and after death, had been born in happy
Thus with clairvoyant supernormal vision he beheld the disappearing and
the reappearing of beings.
This, indeed, was the Second Knowledge that he realized in the middle
watch of the night.
Dispelling thus the ignorance with regard to the future, he directed his
purified mind to "The Comprehension of the Cessation of
Corruptions" (Asavakkhaya Nana).
He realized in accordance with fact: "This is Sorrow"
"This, the Arising of Sorrow", "This, the Cessation
Sorrow", "This, the Path leading to the Cessation of
Sorrow". Likewise in accordance with fact he realized: "These
are the Corruptions", "This, the Arising of Corruptions",
"This, the Cessation of Corruptions", "This, the Path
leading to the Cessation of Corruptions". Thus cognizing, thus
perceiving, his mind was delivered from the Corruption of Sensual Craving;
from the Corruption of Craving for Existence; from the Corruption of
Being delivered, He knew, "Delivered am I" and He realized,
"Rebirth is ended; fulfilled the Holy Life; done what was to be done;
there is no more of this state again."
This was the Third Knowledge that He Realized in the last watch of the
Ignorance was dispelled, and wisdom arose; darkness vanished, and light
Characteristics of the Buddha
After a stupendous struggle of six strenuous years, in His 35th year the
ascetic Gotama, unaided and unguided by any supernatural agency, and
solely relying on His own efforts and wisdom, eradicated all defilements,
ended the process of grasping, and, realizing things as they truly are by
His own intuitive knowledge, became a Buddha an Enlightened or Awakened
Thereafter he was known as Buddha Gotama, one of a long series of Buddhas
that appeared in the past and will appear in the future.
He was not born a Buddha, but became a Buddha by His own efforts.
The Pali term Buddha is derived from "budh", to understand, or
to be awakened. As He fully comprehended the four Noble Truths and as He
arose from the slumbers of ignorance He is called a Buddha. Since He not
only comprehends but also expounds the doctrine and enlightens others, He
is called a Samma-Sambuddha --a Fully Enlightened One -- to distinguish
Him from Pacceka (Individual) Buddhas who only comprehend the doctrine but
are incapable of enlightening others.
Before His Enlightenment He was called Bodhisatta, which means one who is
aspiring to attain Buddhahood.
Every aspirant to Buddhahood passes through the Bodhisatta Period -- a
period of intensive exercise and development of the qualities of
generosity, discipline, renunciation, wisdom, energy, endurance,
truthfulness, determination, benevolence and perfect equanimity.
In a particular era there arises only one Samma-Sambuddha. Just as certain
plants and trees can bear only one flower even so one world-system (lokadhatu)
can bear only one Samma-Sambuddha.
The Buddha was a unique being. Such a being arises but rarely in this
world, and is born out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit,
and happiness of gods and men. The Buddha is called "acchariya
manussa" as He was a wonderful man. He is called "amatassa
data" as He is the giver of Deathlessness. He is called "varado"
as He is the Giver of the purest love, the profoundest wisdom, and the
Highest Truth. He is also called Dhammassami, as he is the Lord of the
As the Buddha Himself says, "He is the Accomplished One (Tathagata),
the Worthy One (Araham), the Fully Enlightened One (Samma-Sambuddha), the
creator of the unarisen way, the producer of the unproduced way, the
proclaimer of the unproclaimed way, the knower of the way, the beholder of
the way, the cognizer of the way."
The Buddha had no teacher for His Enlightenment. "Na me acariyo atthi"
-- A teacher have I not -- are His own words. He did receive His mundane
knowledge (from His lay teachers, but teachers He had none for His a
supramundane knowledge, which He himself realized by His own intuitive
If He had received His knowledge from another teacher or from another
religious system such as Hinduism in which He was nurtured, He could not
have said of Himself as being the incomparable teacher (aham sattha
anuttaro). In His first discourse He declared that light arose in things
not heard before.
During the early period of His renunciation He sought the advice of the
distinguished religious teachers of the day, but He could not find what He
sought in their teachings. Circumstances compelled Him to think for
Himself and seek the Truth. He sought the Truth within Himself. He plunged
into the deepest profundities of thought, and He realized the ultimate
Truth, which He had not heard or known before. Illumination came from
within and shed light on things which He had never seen before.
As He knew everything that ought to be known and as He obtained the key to
all knowledge, He is called Sabbannu - the Omniscient One. This
supernormal knowledge He acquired by His own efforts continued through a
countless series of births.
Who is the Buddha?
Once a certain Brahmin named Dona, noticing the characteristic marks of
the footprint of the Buddha, approached Him and questioned Him.
"Your Reverence will be a Deva?"
"No, indeed, Brahmin, a Deva am I not," replied the Buddha.
"Then Your Reverence will be a Gandhabba?"
"No indeed, branmin, a Gandhabba am I not."
"A Yakkha then?"
"No, indeed, Brahmin, not a Yakkha."
"Then Your Reverence will be a human being?"
"No indeed, Brahmin, a human being am I not."
"Who, then, pray, will Your Reverence be?"
The Buddha replied that He had destroyed Defilements which condition
rebirth as a Deva, Gandhabba, Yakkha, or a human being and added:
"As a lotus, fair and lovely,
By the water is not soiled,
By the world am I not soiled;
Therefore, Brahmin, am I Buddha."
The Buddha does not claim to be an incarnation (Avatara) of Hindu God
Vishnu, who, as the Bhagavadgita charmingly sings, is born again and again
in different periods to protect the righteous, to destroy the wicked, and
to establish the Dharma (right).
According to the Buddha countless are the gods (Devas) who are also a
class of beings subject to birth and death; but there is no one Supreme
God, who controls the destinies of human beings and who possesses a divine
power to appear on earth at different intervals, employing a human form as
Nor does the Buddha call Himself a "Saviour" who freely saves
others by his personal salvation. The Buddha exhorts His followers to
depend on themselves for their deliverance, since both defilement and
purity depend on oneself. One cannot directly purify or defile another.
Clarifying His relationship with His followers and emphasizing the
importance of self- reliance and individual striving, the Buddha plainly
"You yourselves should make an exertion. The Tathagatas are only
The Buddha only indicates the path and method whereby He delivered Himself
from suffering and death and achieved His ultimate goal. It is left for
His faithful adherents who wish their release from the ills of life to
follow the path.
"To depend on others for salvation is negative, but to depend on
oneself is positive." Dependence on others means a surrender of one's
"Be ye isles unto yourselves; be ye a refuge unto yourselves; seek no
refuge in others."
These significant words uttered by the Buddha in His last days are very
striking and inspiring. They reveal how vital is self-exertion to
accomplish one's ends, and how superficial and futile it is to seek
redemption through benignant saviours, and crave for illusory happiness in
an afterlife through the propitiation of imaginary gods by fruitless
prayers and meaningless sacrifices.
The Buddha was a human being. As a man He was born, as a Buddha He lived,
and as a Buddha His life came to an end. Though human, He became an
extraordinary man owing to His unique characteristics. The Buddha laid
stress on this important point, and left no room for any one to fall into
the error of thinking that He was an immortal being. It has been said of
Him that there was no religious teacher who was "ever so godless as
the Buddha, yet none was so god-like." In his time the Buddha was no
doubt highly venerated by His followers, but He never arrogated to Himself
The Buddha's Greatness
Born a man, living as a mortal, by His own exertion He attained the
supreme state of perfection called Buddhahood, and without keeping His
Enlightenment to Himself, He proclaimed to the world the latent
possibilities and the invincible power of the human mind. Instead of
placing an unseen Almighty God over man, and giving man a subservient
position in relation to such a conception of divine power, He demonstrated
how man could attain the highest knowledge and Supreme Enlightenment by
his own efforts. He thus raised the worth of man. He taught that man could
gain his deliverance from the ills of life and realize the eternal bliss
of Nibbana without depending on an external God or mediating priests. He
taught the egocentric, powerseeking world the noble ideal of selfless
service. He protested against the evils of caste-system that hampered the
progress of mankind and advocated equal opportunities for all. He declared
that the gates of deliverance were open to all, in every condition of
life, high or low, saint or sinner, who would care to turn a new leaf and
aspire to perfection. He raised the status of downtrodden women, and not
only brought them to a realization of their importance to society but also
founded the first religious order for women. For the first time in the
history of the world He attempted to abolish slavery. He banned the
sacrifice of unfortunate animals and brought them within His compass of
loving-kindness. He did not force His followers to be slaves either to His
teachings or to Himself, but granted complete freedom of thought and
admonished His followers to accept His words not merely out of regard for
Him but after subjecting them to a thorough examination "even as the
wise would test gold by burning, cutting, and rubbing it on a piece of
touchstone." He comforted the bereaved mothers like Patacara and
Kisagotami by His consoling words. He ministered to the deserted sick like
Putigatta Tissa Thera with His own hands. He helped the poor and the
neglected like Rajjumala and Sopaka and saved them from an untimely and
tragic death. He ennobled the lives of criminals like Angulimala and
courtesans like Ambapali. He encouraged the feeble, united the divided,
enlightened the ignorant, clarified the mystic, guided the deluded,
elevated the base, and dignified the noble. The rich and the poor, the
saint and the criminal, loved Him alike. His noble example was a source of
inspiration to all. He was the most compassionate and tolerant of
His will, wisdom, compassion, service, renunciation, perfect purity,
exemplary personal life, the blameless methods that were employed to
propagate the Dhamma and His final success -- all these factors have
compelled about one fifth of the population of the world to hail the
Buddha as the greatest religious teacher that ever lived on earth.
Paying a glowing tribute to the Buddha, Sri Radhakrishnan writes:
"In Gotama the Buddha we have a master mind from the East second to
none so far as the influence on the thought and life of the human race is
concerned, and sacred to all as the founder of a religious tradition whose
hold is hardly less wide and deep than any other. He belongs to the
history of the world's thought, to the general inheritance of all
cultivated men, for, judged by intellectual integrity, moral earnestness,
and spiritual insight, he is undoubtedly one of the greatest figures in
In the Three Greatest Men in History H.G. Wells states:
"In the Buddha you see clearly a man, simple, devout, lonely,
battling for light, a vivid human personality, not a myth. He too gave a
message to mankind universal in character. Many of our best modern ideas
are in closest harmony with it. All the miseries and discontents of life
are due, he taught, to selfishness. Before a man can become serene he must
cease to live for his senses or himself. Then he merges into a greater
being. Buddhism in different language called men to self-forgetfulness 500
years before Christ. In some ways he was nearer to us and our needs. He
was more lucid upon our individual importance in service than Christ and
less ambiguous upon the question of personal immortality."
The Poet Tagore calls Him the Greatest Man ever born.
In admiration of the Buddha, Fausboll, a Danish scholar says -- "The
more I know Him, the more I love Him."
A humble follower of the Buddha would modestly say: The more I know Him,
the more I love Him; the more I love Him, the more I know Him.
In the memorable forenoon, immediately preceding the morn of His
Enlightenment, as the Bodhisatta was seated under the Ajapala banyan tree
in close proximity to the Bodhi tree, a generous lady, named Sujata,
unexpectedly offered Him some rich milkrice, specially prepared by her
with great care. This substantial meal He ate, and after His Enlightenment
the Buddha fasted for seven weeks, and spent a quiet time, in deep
contemplation, under the Bodhi tree and in its neighbourhood.
The Seven Weeks
Throughout the first week the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree in one
posture, experiencing the Bliss of Emancipation (Vimutti Sukha).
After those seven days had elapsed, the Buddha emerged from the state of
concentration, and in the first watch of the night, thoroughly reflected
on "The Dependent Arising" (Paticca Samuppada) in direct order
thus: "When this (cause) exists, this (effect) is; with the arising
of this (cause), this effect arises."
Dependent on Ignorance (avijja) arise moral and immoral Conditioning
Dependent on Conditioning Activities arises (Relinking) Consciousness (vinnana).
Dependent on (Relinking) Consciousness arise Mind and Matter (nama-rupa).
Dependent on Mind and Matter arise the Six Spheres of Sense (salayatana).
Dependent on the Six Spheres of Sense arises Contact (phassa).
Dependent on Contact arises Feeling (vedana).
Dependent on Feeling arises Craving (tanha).
Dependent on Craving arises Grasping (upadana).
Dependent on Grasping arises Becoming (bhava).
Dependent on Becoming arises Birth (jati).
Dependent on Birth arise Decay (jara), Death (marana), Sorrow
Lamentation (parideva), Pain (dukkha) Grief (domanassa), and Despair
Thus, does this whole mass of suffering originate?
Thereupon the Exalted One, knowing the meaning of this, uttered, at that
time, this paean of joy:
"When, indeed, the Truths become manifest unto the strenuous,
meditative Brahmana, then do all his doubts vanish away since he knows the
truth together with its cause."
In the middle watch of the night the Exalted One thoroughly reflected on
"The Dependent Arising" in reverse order thus: "When this
cause does not exist, this effect is not; with the cessation of this
cause, this effect ceases.
With the cessation of Ignorance, Conditioning Activities cease.
With the cessation of Conditioning Activi95ties (Relinking) Consciousness
With the cessation of (Relinking) Consciousness, Mind and Matter cease.
With the cessation of Mind and Matter, the six Spheres of Sense cease.
With the cessation of the Six Spheres of Sense, Contact ceases.
With the cessation of Contact, Feeling ceases.
With the cessation of Feeling, Craving ceases.
With the cessation of Craving, Grasping ceases.
With the cessation of Grasping, Becoming ceases.
With the cessation of Becoming, Birth ceases.
With the cessation of Birth, Decay, Death, Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain,
Grief, and Despair cease.
Thus does this whole mass of suffering cease. Thereupon the Exalted One,
knowing the meaning of this, uttered, at that time, this paean of joy:
"When, indeed, the Truths become manifest unto the strenuous and
meditative Brahmana, then all his doubts vanish away since he has
understood the destruction of the causes."
In the third watch of the night, the Exalted One reflected on "The
Dependent Arising" in direct and reverse order thus. "When this
cause exists, this effect is; with the arising of this cause, this effect
arises. When this cause does not exist, this effect is not; with the
cessation of this cause, this effect ceases".
Dependent on Ignorance arise Conditioning Activities and so forth.
Thus does this whole mass of suffering arise?
With the cessation of Ignorance, Conditioning Activities cease . . . and
Thus does this whole mass of suffering cease.
Thereupon the Blessed One, knowing the meaning of this, uttered, at that
time, this paean of joy:
"When indeed the Truths become manifest unto the strenuous and
meditative Brahmana, then he stands routing the hosts of the Evil One even
as the sun illumines the sky."
The second week was uneventful, but He silently taught a great moral
lesson to the world. As a mark of profound gratitude to the inanimate
Bodhi tree that sheltered him during His struggle for Enlightenment, He
stood at a certain distance gazing at the tree with motionless eyes for
one whole week.
Following His noble example, His followers, in memory of His
Enlightenment, still venerate not only the original Bodhi tree but also
As the Buddha had not given up His temporary residence at the Bodhi tree
the Devas doubted His attainment to Buddhahood. The Buddha read their
thoughts, and in order to clear their doubts He created by His psychic
powers a jewelled ambulatory (ratana camkamana) and paced up and down for
The fourth week He spent in a jewelled chamber (ratanaghara) contemplating
the intricacies of the Abhidhamma (Higher Teaching). Books state that His
mind and body were so purified when He pondered on the Book of Relations (Patthana),
the seventh treatise of the Abhidhamma, that six coloured rays emitted
from His body.
During the fifth week too the Buddha enjoyed the Bliss of Emancipation (Vimutti
Sukha), seated in one posture under the famous Ajapala banyan tree in the
vicinity of the Bodhi tree. When He arose from that transcendental state a
conceited (huhunkajatiha) Brahmin approached Him and after the customary
salutations and friendly, greetings, questioned Him thus: "In what
respect, O Venerable Gotama, does one become a Brahmana and what are the
conditions that make a Brahmana?"
The Buddha uttered this paean of joy in reply:
"That Brahmin who has discarded evil, without conceit (huhumka), free
from Defilements, self-controlled, versed in knowledge and who has led the
Holy Life rightly, would call himself a Brahmana. For him there is no
elation anywhere in this world."
According to the Jataka commentary it was during this week that the
daughters of Mara-Tanha, Arati and Raga made a vain attempt to tempt the
Buddha by their charms.
From the Ajapala banyan tree the Buddha proceeded to the Mucalinda
where he spent the sixth week, again enjoying the Bliss of Emancipation.
At that time there arose an unexpected great shower. Rain clouds and
gloomy weather with cold winds prevailed for several days.
Thereupon Mucalinda, the serpent-king, came out of his abode, and coiling
round the body of the Buddha seven times, remained keeping his large hood
over the head of the Buddha so that He may not be affected by the
At the close of seven days Mucalinda, seeing the clear, cloudless sky,
uncoiled himself from around the body of the Buddha, and, leaving his own
form, took the guise of a young man, and stood in front of the Exalted One
with clasped hands.
Thereupon the Buddha uttered this paean of joy:
"Happy is seclusion to him who is contented, to him who has heard the
truth, and to him who sees. Happy is goodwill in this world, and so is
restraint towards all beings. Happy in this world is non-attachment, the
passing beyond of sense-desires. The suppression of the 'I am' conceit is
indeed the highest happiness."
The seventh week the Buddha peacefully passed at the Rajayatana tree,
experiencing the Bliss of Emancipation.
One of the First Utterances of the Buddha.
'Thro' many a birth in existence wandered I,
Seeking, but not finding, the builder of this house.
Sorrowful is repeated birth.
O house builder, thou art seen. Thou shalt build no house again.
All thy rafters are broken. Thy ridgepole is shattered.
Mind attains the Unconditioned.
Achieved is the End of Craving.
At dawn on the very day of His Enlightenment the Buddha uttered this paean
of joy (Udana), which vividly describes His transcendental moral victory
and His inner spiritual experience.
The Buddha admits His past wanderings in existence, which entailed
suffering, a fact that evidently proves the belief in rebirth. He was
compelled to wander and consequently to suffer, as He could not discover
the architect that built this house, the body. In His final birth, while
engaged in solitary meditation, which He had highly developed in the
course of His wanderings, after a relentless search He discovered by His
own intuitive wisdom the elusive architect, residing no outside but within
the recesses of His own heart. It was craving or attachment, a
self-creation, a mental element latent in all. How and when this craving
originated is incomprehensible. One can destroy what one creates. The
discovery of the architect is the eradication of craving by attaining
Arahantship, which in these verses is alluded to as "end of
The rafters of this self-created house are the passions (kilesa) such as
attachment (lobha) aversion (dosa), illusion (moha), conceit
views (ditthi), doubt (vicikiccha), sloth (thina), restlessness
moral shamelessness (ahirika), moral fearlessness (anottappa). The
ridgepole that supports the rafters represents ignorance the root cause of
all passions. The shattering of the ridgepole of ignorance by wisdom
results in the complete demolition of the house. The ridgepole and rafters
are the material with which the architect builds this undesired house.
With their destruction the architect is deprived of the material to
rebuild the house, which is not wanted.
With the demolition of the house the mind, for which there is no place in
the analogy attains the unconditioned state, which is Nibbana. Whatever
that is mundane is left behind, and only the Supramundane State, Nibbana,