Buddha : A
Journey to Enlightenment
the sixth century before the Christian era, religion
was forgotten in India. The lofty teachings of the
Vedas were thrown into the background. There was much
priestcraft everywhere. The insincere priests traded
on religion. They duped the people in a variety of
ways and amassed wealth for themselves. They were
quite irreligious. In the name of religion, people
followed in the footsteps of the cruel priests and
performed meaningless rituals. They killed innocent
dumb animals and did various sacrifices. The country
was in dire need of a reformer of Buddha's type. At
such a critical period, when there were cruelty,
degeneration and unrighteousness everywhere, reformer
Buddha was born to put down priestcraft and animal
sacrifices, to save the people and disseminate the
message of equality, unity and cosmic love everywhere.
father was Suddhodana, king of the Sakhyas. Buddha's
mother was named Maya. Buddha was born in B.C. 560 and
died at the age of eighty in B.C. 480. The place of his
birth was a grove known as Lumbini, near the city of
Kapilavastu, at the foot of Mount Palpa in the Himalayan
ranges within Nepal. This small city Kapilavastu stood on
the bank of the little river Rohini, some hundred miles
north-east of the city of Varnasi. As the time drew nigh
for Buddha to enter the world, the gods themselves
prepared the way before him with celestial portents and
signs. Flowers bloomed and gentle rains fell, although out
of season; heavenly music was heard, delicious scents
filled the air. The body of the child bore at birth the
thirty-two auspicious marks (Mahavyanjana) which indicated
his future greatness, besides secondary marks (Anuvyanjana)
in large numbers. Maya died seven days after her son's
birth. The child was brought up by Maya's sister
Mahaprajapati, who became its foster-mother.
the birth of the child, Siddhartha, the astrologers
predicted to its father Suddhodana: "The child, on
attaining manhood, would become either a universal monarch
(Chakravarti), or abandoning house and home, would assume
the robe of a monk and become a Buddha, a perfectly
enlightened soul, for the salvation of mankind". Then
the king said: "What shall my son see to make him
retire from the world ?". The astrologer replied:
"Four signs". "What four ?" asked the
king. "A decrepit old man, a diseased man, a dead man
and a monk - these four will make the prince retire from
the world" replied the astrologers.
thought that he might lose his precious son and tried his
level best to make him attached to earthly objects. He
surrounded him with all kinds of luxury and indulgence, in
order to retain his attachment for pleasures of the senses
and prevent him front undertaking a vow of solitariness
and poverty. He got him married and put him in a walled
place with gardens, fountains, palaces, music, dances,
etc. Countless charming young ladies attended on
Siddhartha to make him cheerful and happy. In particular,
the king wanted to keep away from Siddhartha the 'four
signs' which would move him to enter into the ascetic
life. "From this time on" said the king,
"let no such persons be allowed to come near my son.
It will never do for my son to become a Buddha. What I
would wish to see is, my son exercising sovereign rule and
authority over the four great continents and the two
thousand attendant isles, and walking through the heavens
surrounded by a retinue thirty-six leagues in
circumference". And when he had so spoken, he placed
guards for quarter of a league, in each of the four
directions, in order that none of the four kinds of men
might come within sight of his son.
original name was Siddhartha. It meant one who had
accomplished his aim. Gautama was Siddhartha's family
name. Siddhartha was known all over the world as Buddha,
the Enlightened. He was also known by the name of Sakhya
Muni, which meant an ascetic of the Sakhya tribe.
spent his boyhood at Kapilavastu and its vicinity. He was
married at the age of sixteen. His wife's name was
Yasodhara. Siddhartha had a son named Rahula. At the age
of twenty-nine, Siddhartha Gautama suddenly abandoned his
home to devote himself entirely to spiritual pursuits and
Yogic practices. A mere accident turned him to the path of
renunciation. One day he managed, somehow or the other, to
get out of the walled enclosure of the palace and roamed
about in the town along with his servant Channa to see how
the people were getting on. The sight of a decrepit old
man, a sick man, a corpse and a monk finally induced
Siddhartha to renounce the world. He felt that he also
would become a prey to old age, disease and death. Also,
he noticed the serenity and the dynamic personality of the
monk. Let me go beyond the miseries of this Samsara
(worldly life) by renouncing this world of miseries and
sorrows. This mundane life, with all its luxuries and
comforts, is absolutely worthless. I also am subject to
decay and am not free from the effect of old age. Worldly
happiness is transitory".
left for ever his home, wealth, dominion, power, father,
wife and the only child. He shaved his head and put on
yellow robes. He marched towards Rajgriha, the capital of
the kingdom of Magadha. There were many caves in the
neighbouring hills. Many hermits lived in those caves.
Siddhartha took Alamo Kalamo, a hermit, as his first
teacher. He was not satisfied with his instructions. He
left him and sought the help of another recluse named
Uddako Ramputto for spiritual instructions. At last he
determined to undertake Yogic practices. He practiced
severe Tapas (austerities) and Pranayama (practice of
breath control) for six years. He determined to attain the
supreme peace by practicing self-mortification. He
abstained almost entirely from taking food. He did not
find much progress by adopting this method. He was reduced
to a skeleton. He became exceedingly weak.
that moment, some dancing girls were passing that way
singing joyfully as they played on their guitar. Buddha
heard their song and found real help in it. The song the
girls sang had no real deep meaning for them, but for
Buddha it was a message full of profound spiritual
significance. It was a spiritual pick-me-up to take him
out of his despair and infuse power, strength and courage.
The song was:
goes the dancing when the Sitar is tuned,
Tune us the Sitar neither low nor high,
And we will dance away the hearts of men.
The string overstretched breaks, the music dies,
The string overslack is dumb and the music dies,
Tune us the Sitar neither low nor high."
realized then that he should not go to extremes in
torturing the body by starvation and that he should adopt
the golden mean or the happy medium or the middle path by
avoiding extremes. Then he began to eat food in
moderation. He gave up the earlier extreme practices and
took to the middle path.
Buddha was in a dejected mood as he did not succeed in his
Yogic practices. He knew not where to go and what to do. A
village girl noticed his sorrowful face. She approached
him and said to him in a polite manner: "Revered sir,
may I bring some food for you ? It seems you are very
hungry". Gautama looked at her and said, "What
is your name, my dear sister ?". The maiden answered,
"Venerable sir, my name is Sujata". Gautama
said, "Sujata, I am very hungry. Can you really
appease my hunger ?"
innocent Sujata did not understand Gautama. Gautama was
spiritually hungry. He was thirsting to attain supreme
peace and Self-realization. He wanted spiritual food.
Sujata placed some food before Gautama and entreated him
to take it. Gautama smiled and said, "Beloved Sujata,
I am highly pleased with your kind and benevolent nature.
Can this food appease my hunger ?". Sujata replied,
"Yes sir, it will appease your hunger. Kindly take it
now". Gautama began to eat the food underneath the
shadow of a large tree, thenceforth to be called as the
great 'Bo-tree' or the tree of wisdom. Gautama sat in a
meditative mood underneath the tree from early morning to
sunset, with a fiery determination and an iron resolve:
"Let me die. Let my body perish. Let my flesh dry up.
I will not get up from this seat till I get full
illumination". He plunged himself into deep
meditation. At night he entered into deep Samadhi (superconscious
state) underneath that sacred Bo-tree (Pipal tree or ficus
religiosa). He was tempted by Maya in a variety of
ways, but he stood adamant. He did not yield to Maya's
allurements and temptations. He came out victorious with
full illumination. He attained Nirvana (liberation). His
face shone with divine splendour and effulgence. He got up
from his seat and danced in divine ecstasy for seven
consecutive days and nights around the sacred Bo-tree.
Then he came to the normal plane of consciousness. His
heart was filled with profound mercy and compassion. He
wanted to share what he had with humanity. He traveled all
over India and preached his doctrine and gospel. He became
a saviour, deliverer and redeemer.
gave out the experiences of his Samadhi: "I thus
behold my mind released from the defilement of earthly
existence, released from the defilement of sensual
pleasures, released from the defilement of heresy,
released from the defilement of ignorance."
the emancipated state arose the knowledge: "I am
emancipated, rebirth is extinct, the religious walk is
accomplished, what had to be done is done, and there is no
need for the present existence. I have overcome all foes;
I am all-wise; I am free from stains in every way; I have
left everything and have obtained emancipation by the
destruction of desire. Myself having gained knowledge,
whom should I call my Master ? I have no teacher; no one
is equal to me. I am the holy one in this world; I am the
highest teacher. I alone am the absolute omniscient one (Sambuddho).
I have gained coolness by the extinction of all passion
and have obtained Nirvana. To found the kingdom of law (Dharmo)
I go to the city of Varnasi. I will beat the drum of
immortality in the darkness of this world".
Buddha then walked on to Varnasi. He entered the
'deer-park' one evening. He gave his discourse there and
preached his doctrine. He preached to all without
exception, men and women, the high and the low, the
ignorant and the learned - all alike. All his first
disciples were laymen and two of the very first were
women. The first convert was a rich young man named Yasa.
The next were Yasa's father, mother and wife. Those were
his lay disciples.
argued and debated with his old disciples who had deserted
him when he was in the Uruvila forest. He brought them
round by his powerful arguments and persuasive powers.
Kondanno, an aged hermit, was converted first. The others
also soon accepted the doctrine of Lord Buddha. Buddha
made sixty disciples and sent them in different directions
to preach his doctrine.
told his disciples not to enquire into the origin of the
world, into the existence and nature of God. He said to
them that such investigations were practically useless and
likely to distract their minds.
number of Buddha's followers gradually increased. Nobles,
Brahmins and many wealthy men became his disciples. Buddha
paid no attention to caste. The poor and the outcastes
were admitted to his order. Those who wanted to become
full members of his order were obliged to become monks and
to observe strict rules of conduct. Buddha had many lay
disciples also. Those lay members had to provide for the
wants of the monks.
the forest of Uruvila, there were three brothers - all
very famous monks and philosophers. They had many learned
disciples. They were honoured by kings and potentates.
Lord Buddha went to Uruvila and lived with those three
monks. He converted those three reputed monks, which
caused a great sensation all over the country.
Buddha and his disciples walked on towards Rajgriha, the
capital of Magadha. Bimbisara, the king, who was attended
upon by 120,000 Brahmins and householders, welcomed Buddha
and his followers with great devotion. He heard the sermon
of Lord Buddha and at once became his disciple. 110,000 of
the Brahmins and householders became full members of Lord
Buddha's order and the remaining 10,000 became lay
adherents. Buddha's followers were treated with contempt
when they went to beg their daily food. Bimbisara made
Buddha a present of Veluvanam - a bamboo-grove, one of the
royal pleasure-gardens near his capital. Lord Buddha spent
many rainy seasons there with his followers.
Buddhist monk takes a vow, when he puts on the yellow
robe, to abstain from killing any living being. Therefore,
a stay in one place during the rainy season becomes
necessary. Even now, the Paramahamsa Sannyasins (the
highest class of renunciates) of Sankara's order stay in
one place for four months during the rainy season (Chaturmas).
It is impossible to move about in the rainy season without
killing countless small insects, which the combined
influence of moisture and the hot sun at the season brings
Buddha received from his father a message asking him to
visit his native place, so that he might see him once more
before he died. Buddha accepted his invitation gladly and
started for Kapilavastu. He stayed in a forest outside the
city. His father and relatives came to see him, but they
were not pleased with their ascetic Gautama. They left the
place after a short time. They did not make any
arrangement for his and his followers' daily food. After
all, they were worldly people. Buddha went to the city and
begged his food from door to door. This news reached the
ears of his father. He tried to stop Gautama from begging.
Gautama said: "O king, I am a mendicant - I am a
monk. It is my duty to get alms from door to door. This is
the duty of the Order. Why do you stop this ? The food
that is obtained from alms is very pure". His father
did not pay any attention to the words of Gautama. He
snatched the bowl from his hand and took him to his
palace. All came to pay Buddha their respects, but his
wife Yasodhara did not come. She said, "He himself
will come to me, if I am of any value in his eyes".
She was a very chaste lady endowed with Viveka
(discrimination), Vairagya (dispassion) and other virtuous
qualities. From the day she lost her husband she gave up
all her luxuries. She took very simple food once daily and
slept on a mat. She led a life of severe austerities.
Gautama heard all this. He was very much moved. He went at
once to see her. She prostrated at his feet. She caught
hold of his feet and burst into tears. Buddha established
an order of female ascetics. Yasodhara became the first of
the Buddhistic nuns.
pointed out the passing Buddha to her son through a window
and said, "O Rahula! That monk is your father. Go to
him and ask for your birthright. Tell him boldly, 'I am
your son. Give me my heritage'". Rahula at once went
up to Buddha and said, "Dear father, give me my
heritage". Buddha was taking his food then. He did
not give any reply. The boy repeatedly asked for his
heritage. Buddha went to the forest. The boy also silently
followed him to the forest. Buddha said to one of his
disciples, "I give this boy the precious spiritual
wealth I acquired under the sacred Bo-tree. I make him the
heir to that wealth". Rahula was initiated into the
order of monks. When this news reached the ears of
Buddha's father, he was very much grieved because after
losing his son, he now lost his grandson also.
performed some miracles. A savage serpent of great magical
power sent forth fire against Buddha. Buddha turned his
own body into fire and sent forth flames against the
serpent. Once a tree bent down one of its branches in
order to help Buddha when he wanted to come up out of the
water of a tank. One day five hundred pieces of firewood
split by themselves at Buddha's command. Buddha created
five hundred vessels with fire burning in them for the
Jatilas to warm themselves on a winter night. When there
was flood, he caused the water to recede and then he
walked over the water.
one of Buddha's cousins, was one of the principal early
disciples of Buddha and was a most devoted friend and
disciple of Buddha. He was devoted to Buddha with a
special fervour in a simple childlike way and served him
as his personal attendant till the end of his life. He was
very popular. he was a very sweet man with pleasant ways.
He had no intellectual attainments, but he was a man of
great sincerity and loving nature. Devadatta, one of
Ananda's brothers, was also in the Order. Devadatta became
Buddha's greatest rival and tried hard to oust Buddha and
occupy the place himself. A barber named Upali and a
countryman called Anuruddha were admitted into the Order.
Upali became a distinguished leader of his Order.
Anuruddha became a Buddhistic philosopher of vast
went to Sravasti, the capital of the kingdom of Kosala.
Here a wealthy merchant gave him for residence an
extensive and beautiful forest. Buddha spent many rainy
seasons there and delivered several grand discourses. Thus
Lord Buddha preached his doctrine for over forty-five
years traveling from place to place.
died of an illness brought on by some error in diet. He
became ill through eating Sukara-maddavam, prepared
for him by a lady adherent named Cundo. The commentator
explains the word as meaning 'hog's flesh'. Subadhara
Bhikshu thinks it means something which wild boars are
fond of and says that it has something of the nature of a
truffle. Dr. Hoey says that it is not boar's flesh but Sukarakanda
or hog's root, a bulbous root found chiefly in the jungle
and which Hindus eat with great joy. It is a Phalahar that
is eaten on days of fasting.
said to Ananda, "Go Ananda, prepare for me, between
twin Sal trees, a couch with the head northward. I am
exhausted and would like to lie down". A wonderful
scene followed. The twin Sal trees burst into full bloom
although it was not the blossoming season. Those flowers
fell on the body of Buddha out of reverence. Divine coral
tree flowers and divine sandalwood powders fell from above
on Buddha's body out of reverence.
Buddha said, "Come now, dear monks. I bid you
farewell. Compounds are subject to dissolution. Prosper ye
through diligence and work out your salvation".