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Home History General The Buddha's Life - Noble and Ignoble Quests

The Buddha's Life - Noble and Ignoble Quests

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Article Index
The Buddha's Life
Noble and Ignoble Quests
Renunciation of Worldly Life
Meeting Alara, the Great Ascetic
Meeting the Sage Udaka
Practising Extreme Austerities
Mara's Persuasion
Right Reasoning
The Enlightenment
Giving First Sermon
Meeting with Upaka
Group of Five Monks
All Pages

Noble and Ignoble Quests

Bodhisatta and Worldly Pleasure

After the Bodhisatta had passed away from Tusita Heaven, he entered the womb of Mahamaya Devi, the principal queen of King Suddhodana of Kapilavatthu. The Bodhisatta was born on Friday, the full moon of Kason in the year 68 of the Great Era, in the pleasure-grove of Sal trees called the Lumbini Grove and was named Siddhattha. At the age of sixteen, he married Yasodhara Devi, daughter of Suppabuddha, the Royal Master of Devadaha. Thereafter, surrounded by forty thousand attendant princesses, he lived in enjoyment of kingly pleasures in great magnificence.

While he was thus wholly given over to sensuous pleasure amidst pomp and splendour, he came out one day accompanied by attendants to the royal pleasure grove for a garden feast and merry-making . On the way to the grove, the sight of a decrepit, aged person gave him a shock and he turned back to his palace. As he went out on second occasion, he saw a person who was sick with diseased person and returned greatly alarmed. When he sallied forth for the third time, he was agitated in heart on seeing a dead man and hurriedly retraced his steps. The alarm and agitation felt by the Bodhisatta were described in the Ariyapariyesana Sutta .

THE IGNOBLE QUEST

The Bodhisatta pondered thus:

"When oneself is subjected to old age, to seek and crave for what is subjected to old age is not befitting. And what are subjected to old age? Wife and children, slaves, goats and sheep, fowls and pigs, elephants, horses, cattle, gold and silver, all objects of pleasures and luxuries, animate and inanimate, are subjected to old age. Being oneself subjected to old age, to crave for these objects of pleasures, to be enveloped and immersed in them is not proper."

"Similarly, it does not befit one, when oneself is subjected to disease and death, to crave for sensual objects which are subjected to disease and death. To go after what is subjected to old age, disease and death (what is not befitting and proper) constitutes an Ignoble Quest ( Anariyapariyesana)."

THE NOBLE QUEST

"Being oneself subjected to old age, disease and death, to go in search of that which is not subjected to old age, disease and death constitutes a Noble Quest (Ariyapariyesana)."

That Bodhisatta himself was engaged at first in Ignoble Quest was described in the sutta as follows:-

"Now Bhikkhu, before my Enlightenment while I was only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, being myself subjecteded to birth I sought after what was also subjected to birth; being myself subjected to old age I sought after what was also subjected to old age."

This was a denunciation or stricture of the life of pleasure he had lived with Yasodhara amidst the gay society of attendant princesses. Then, having perceived the wretchedness of such life, he made up his mind to go in search of the Peace of nibbāna which is free from birth, old age, disease and death. He said,

"Having perceived the wretchedness of being myself subject to birth, old age, it occurred to me it would be fitting if I were to seek the incomparable, unsurpassed Peace of nibbāna, free from birth, and old age."

Thus, it occurred to the Bodhisatta to go in quest of Nibbanic Peace, which is free from old age, disease and death. That was a very laudable aim and we shall consider it further to see clearly how it was so.

Suppose there was someone who was already old and decrepit, would it be wise for him to seek the company of another man or woman who, like himself, was aged and frail, or of someone who, though not advanced in age, yet would surely turn old in no time? No, not at all judicious.

Again, for someone who was himself in declining health and suffering, it would be quite irrational if he were to seek companionship in another who was ill and afflicted with painful disease. Companionship with someone, who though enjoying good health presently would soon be troubled with illness, would not be prudent either. There are even those who, hoping to enjoy each other's company for life, got into wedlock and settled down. Unfortunately, one of the partners soon becomes a bedridden invalid, imposing on the other the onerous duty of looking after the stricken mate. The hope of a happy married life may be dashed when one of the partners passes away, leaving only sorrow and lamentation for the bereaved one. Ultimately, both of the couple would be faced with the misery of old age, disease and death.

Thus it is extremely unwise to go after sensual pleasures which are subject to old age, disease and death. The most noble quest is to seek out what is not subject to old age, disease and death.



 

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