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Home History General The Buddha's Life - The Enlightenment

The Buddha's Life - The Enlightenment

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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

The Enlightenment

The departure of the five ascetics afforded the Bodhisatta the opportunity to struggle for final liberation in complete solitude. The Mula Pannasa (Vol. 2, p. 192) gives a description of how, working alone with no one near him for a full fortnight, seated on the throne of Wisdom (under the tree of Enlightenment), he attained Omniscience, the Enlightenment of a Buddha.

The Bodhisatta had gone forth at the age of twenty-nine and spent six years practising extreme austerity. Now at the age of thirty-five, still youthful and in good health, within fifteen days of resumption of regular meals, his body had filled up as before and regained the thirty-two physical characteristics of a Great Being. Having thus built up strength and energy again through normal nourishment, the Bodhisatta practised the in-breathing, out-breathing meditation and remained absorbed in the bliss of the first jhana , which was characterized by thought-conception, discursive thinking, rapture, joy and one-pointedness of mind. Then he entered the second state of the jhana , which was accompanied by rapture, joy and concentration. At the third state of the jhana , he enjoyed only joy and one-pointedness of mind and at the fourth stage, equanimity and clear mindfulness (one-pointedness).

Early on the full moon day of Kason (April) in the year 103 of the Great Era, i.e. 2551 years ago, counting back from the year 1324 of the Burmese Era, he sat down under the Bo Tree (the Bodhi Tree) near the big village of Senanigama awaiting the hour of going for alms food. At that time, Sujata, the daughter of a rich man from the village, was making preparations to give an offering to the tree-spirit of the Bo tree. She sent her maid ahead to tidy up the area under the spread of the holy tree. At the sight of the Bodhisatta seated under the tree, the maid thought the deity had made himself visible to receive their offering in person. She ran back in great excitement to inform her mistress.

Sujata put the milk rice which she had cooked early in the morning in a golden bowl worth a hundred thousand pieces of money. She covered the same with another golden bowl. She then proceeded with the bowls to the foot of the banyan tree where the Bodhisatta remained seated and put the bowls in the hand of the Bodhisatta, saying,

"May your wishes prosper like mine have." So saying, she departed.

Sujata, on becoming a maiden, had made a prayer at the banyan tree:

"If I get a husband of equal rank and same caste with myself and my first born is a son, I will make an offering."

Her prayer had been fulfilled and her offering of milk rice that day was intended for the tree deity in fulfillment of her pledge. However, later when she learnt that the Bodhisatta had gained Enlightenment after taking the milk rice offered by her, she was overjoyed with the thought that she had made a noble deed to the greatest merit.

The Bodhisatta then went down to the river Neranjara and had a bath. After bathing, he made the milk rice offered by Sujata into forty-nine pellets and ate it. The meal over, he discarded the golden bowl into the river saying:

"If I were to become a Buddha today, let the bowl go upstream."

The bowl drifted upstream for a considerable distance against the swift flowing current, and on reaching the abode of the snake king, Kala, sank into the river to be at the bottom of the bowls of the three previous Buddhas.

Then the Bodhisatta rested the whole day in the forest glade near the bank of the river. As evening fell, he went towards the Bo tree, meeting on the way a grass-cutter named Sotthiya who gave him eight handfuls of grass. In India holy men used to prepare a place to sit and sleep on by spreading sheaves of grass. The Bodhisatta spread the grass under the tree on the eastern side. Then with the solemn resolution

"Never from this seat will I stir until I have attained the supreme and absolute wisdom" , he sat down cross-legged on the grass cover facing east.

At this point Mara made his appearance and contested for the seat under the Bo tree with a view to oppose the Bodhisatta's resolution and prevent him from attaining Buddhahood. By invoking the virtues he had accumulated through the ages, fulfilling the Ten Perfections such as Charity, etc., he overcame the molestations set up by Mara before the sun had set. After thus vanquishing Mara, in the first watch of the night through jhanic meditations, the Bodhisatta acquired the knowledge of previous existences; in the middle watch of the night, the divine eye ; and in the last watch of the night, he contemplated on the law of Dependent Origination followed by development of Insight into the arising and ceasing of the five aggregates of grasping. This Insight gave him in succession the knowledge pertaining to the four Holy Paths, resulting finally in full Enlightenment or Omniscience.

Having become a fully Enlightened One, he spent seven days on the Throne of Wisdom under the Bo tree and seven days each at six other places, forty-nine days in all, enjoying the bliss of the fourth state of Fruition (Fruits of Arahatship ) and pondering long upon his newly found system of Law ( Dhamma ).

EXTREME AUSTERITY IS A FORM OF SELF-MORTIFICATION

The fifth week was spent under the goat-herd (Ajjapala) Banyan tree and while there he reflected on his abandonment of the austerity practices: "Delivered am I from the austerity practices which cause physical pain and suffering. It is well that I'm delivered of that unprofitable practice of austerity. How delightful if is to be liberated and have gained Enlightenment."

Mara, who was closely following every thought and action of the Buddha, ever alert to accuse him of any lapses, immediately addressed the Buddha:

"Apart from the austerity practices, there is no way to purify beings; Gotama has deviated from the path of purity. While still defiled, he wrongly believes he has achieved purity."

The Buddha replied:

"All the extreme practices of austerity employed with a view to achieve the Deathless (the Immortal State) are useless, unprofitable much as the cars, peddles and pushing poles are useless on land, on the sand banks. Fully convinced that they are unprofitable, I have abandoned all forms of self-mortification."

The Commentary also mentions that extreme practices such as scanty diet, scanty clothing, constitute self-torture. That extreme austerity is a form of self-mortification should be carefully noted here.



 

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" Give up anger, abandon conceit, overcome all fetters. Ills of life (dukkha) do not befall one who does not cling to mind and body and is free from moral defilements. "

The Dhammapada


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