ABOUT BUDDHA, BEFORE AND AFTER.
During this long period the Bodhisatva who had been practicing the Ten Paramitas or pre-requisite of Buddha-hood, was born as King Vessantara. He renounce the world and give away, not only his immense wealth, but also his wife and children. On every occasion that he did these meritorious acts of charity, the earth shook. Having fulfilled all the Pre-requisite of Buddha-hood he was born in the Tusita heavens.
Then Maha Brahma came down to the human world, and joyfully proclaimed to the people, that after one thousand years have passed away, Lord Buddha would appear in the world. Everybody was requested to prepare themselves to welcome this great Being. In order that they may be worthy to receive Lord Buddha, they must observe the five precepts daily and the eight precepts at least once a week. Then the Devas and Brahmas of ten-thousand worlds, after offering divine flowers and perfumes, begged the Bodhisatva to go down to the human world and become a Buddha for the good and salvation of Devas and men. The Bodhisatva knowing that it was time for him to become Buddha, accepted the invitation, and together with all the Devas of the Tusita Heaven went to a park called Nandana and having enjoyed himself there, died and was conceived in the womb of Queen Mahamaya, wife of King Suddhodana of Kapilavattthu.
On Thursday Asalha Full Moon Day (15th day of 6th Moon) which has a great Indian Festival Day two thousand five hundred and seventy-seven years(on 1952) ago Queen Mahamaya observed eight precepts and that night she meditated and went to bed. She had a wonderful dream and this was her dream : - she was carried to the Himalaya mountains by the Devas where she was received by heavenly queens who took her to Lake Anotatta, and who bathed her to remove human stain. Then they robed her in a divine dress, anointed her with perfumes and decked her with flowers. They took her to a golden palace and prepare and set a divine bed with its head to the east. A white elephant entered the golden palace bearing a white lotus in his trunk, and circling round her bed three times, smote her right side and seemed to enter her womb.
The next day when Queen Mahamaya woke up, she found herself in her own bedroom in her palace. She told the King of her dreams and he sent for sixty-four famous Brahmins to interpret her dream. The Brahmins said, "king, be not anxious, the queen has conceived and you will have a son. He will rule the world if he becomes King and he will become a Buddha, if he becomes a holy man."
When the time came for her to give birth, Queen Mahamaya asked the King's permission to go to her father's palace and on receiving his approval, great preparations were made for the journey. The road from Kapilavatthu to Devadaha was made smooth and the queen seated in a golden palanquin borne by a thousand courtiers, set fourth with a great retinue. Between the two cities there was a pleasure grove knowns as Lumbini Grove. When the Queen and retinue arrived at this place, she ordered the party to stop for a while. She took a short walk and suddenly she felt that she was about to give birth. She informed her people and they put round her a curtain and retired. Taking hold of a branch of the Sal tree, and standing up, she delivered. At that moment, Mahabrahma received the Bodhisatta with a golden net and handed the Bodhisatta to four Devas who gave the baby to the queen's followers. In honor of the Budhisatta and his mother, two showers of water descended from the sky to the body of the Bodhisatta and his mother. The Bodhisatta then took seven steps and before his foot touched the earth, lotus flowers sprang up to receive the lotus colored feet of the Bodhisatva. Then he looked at ten directions and all Devas and men paid homage to him. He also uttered these words : - "I am the greatest of them all.' At the time of Bodhisatta's birth, thirty-two wonderful things happened and among these were: the blind received their sight, the deaf could hear, the dumb could talk, the lame could walk, the sick became well, the creatures who were kept in captivity were liberated, enemies became friends, all trees flowered and gave forth sweet scent, and there was no suffering in hell at that moment. Such was the general happiness throughout the world that the Buddha-elect's birth ushered, that nothing within the memory and knowledge of man could be described as being so beneficial to living beings as such an occasion.
Queen Mahamaya then returned to Kapilavatthu and there were general rejoicing at the good news of the birth of an heir to the throne. A very learned yogi, Asita by name, who was very clever in interpreting signs and omens, came to see the young prince. King Suddhodana carried the young prince to pay homage to the hermit and in the act of bowing to the hermit, the foot of the prince touched the head of the holy man. Asita smiled and cried. On being asked why he cried, he informed the king that he was sorry he was unable to hear the doctrine from the Buddha-elect, and that the prince would become a Buddha was shown by signs on his body. King Suddhodana did not like the Prince to become a holy man and he was not pleased with the news. Queen Mahamaya was very happy to be able to give birth to a Buddha-elect, and she passed away seven days after giving birth and was born in Tusita heaven.
When Prince Siddhartha (as the young prince was called ) was five months old, a great festival was celebrated. Al the fields were decorated with flags and the bulls were also decorated with flowers, the King together with his retinue of soldiers and men, ministers and subjects, enter the field. The king was the first to start ploughing the field and the rest followed suit. The present Queen (the queen's aunt) brought the prince and her attendants to watch the celebrations. The young prince was put in a rich cradle under a tree with a canopy over his head. When the ceremony started, the ladies left the young prince sleeping quietly and went to watch the proceedings. As soon as he was left alone Prince Siddhartha, sat up, crossed his legs and meditating deeply attained first ecstasy. When the queen and her ladies remembered about the young prince, they ran back and was surprised to find him sitting crossed-legged and meditating. All present including the king himself paid homage to Prince Siddhartha.
The Prince's first teacher was Visva-Mitra. When he was teaching him the Pali alphabet beginning with "Ah, Ah" the prince answered "Ah Aniccam", i.e. Ah stands for "Aniccam" (Impermanence). The teacher was very surprised at Prince Siddhartha's knowledge and wisdom. Soon his knowledge surpassed all that of his teachers and they could not teach him anymore.
King Suddhodana did not want the prince to renounce the world, but wished him to rule the kingdom after his death. He ordered that all signs of unhappiness be removed from the sight of the prince and he gave him all possibilities to enjoy himself. He built for the Prince three palaces suitable for the three seasons in India; e.g. The Ramma winter palace was built that when one was in the palace one did not feel the extreme cold of the outside world; The Suramma or summer palace was built to withstand the extreme heat of the summer weather, and everywhere in the palace the atmosphere was always cool and mild. The Subba or rainy season palace was also built to cope with the rainy weather, and everywhere inside the palace everything was dry and warm.
Signs of old age, sickness, death and priesthood would bring the prince to realize his duty as a holy man according to the prophecy of Asita, and such sights were forbidden in the presence of the prince. The prince was always alone meditating and he did not like to take part in the enjoyments provided by his father. At the age of nineteen, King Suddhodana wanted the prince to get married, and requested all the kings and princes to bring daughters in order that the prince might choose a wife from among them. All of them were reluctant to allow their daughter to marry a man who was not strong enough to fight against his enemies in time of war. When Prince Siddhartha heard of this he asked the king to appoint a day in which he would compete with all the strong men and also with the learned men of science. On that day he showed that he was far superior to any of them in feats of strength and skill as well as having more wisdom than all of them. Everyone admired him and brought their daughters for him to choose. He married his cousin Yasodhara and the King was very happy because he though that the prince would not become a holy man, now that he was married.
For sometime the prince was happy and he tried to help his father rule the country as he was made Upa-raja at his marriage. But his mind was always unsatisfied as he did not like worldly things. He tried to avoid enjoyment at all possible times and though people tried to make him happy through giving him pleasures that appeal to the senses he loathed them. When he was twenty-eight years old, he went with his charioteer Channa and his retinue to the king's park. Though King Suddhodana ordered no unhappiness to be seen by the prince, yet during this journey he and Channa saw an old man and not having seen a man so old and bent with age before, he asked Channa who the old man was and why did he become like that. Channa explained to the prince that everybody must be like him gradually. On hearing this Prince Siddhartha discontinued his journey and returned to the palace and meditated on the subject of old age. He stayed in the palace for four months and nothing could make him happy. At the end of four months, when the prince expressed a wish to visit the park again, the king ordered that all unpleasant sights and anything that would make the prince sad were to be sent away from the road that the prince would pass. But on the way the prince saw lying on the road and groaning with pain. On being told that all men must be sick the prince returned tot he palace and meditate on sickness. The prince was unhappy and nothing would make him happy. After four months the prince decided to go to the park. This time greater care was taken that no sights unpleasant be seen by the prince. But as he was fated to see the reminders of his duty, he and Channa saw four man carrying a dead body. On being told that all men must die, he ordered his retinue to return to the palace. King Suddhodana was very sorry to hear that the prince had seen all the signs that would make the prince a holy man, and although he did not want his son to go to the park he reluctantly gave permission because he wanted to grant him every wish. Again greater precautions were taken to ensure that the prince should see no unhappy sights, and this time he and Channa saw a holy man wearing yellow robes and looking very happy. On being told that a holy man did not have and worldly troubles the prince was very happy and continue his journey to the park. He spent the whole day in the park because he realized his duty and he had already decided to renounce the world at midnight. Then he heard that a son had been born to him and exclaimed "Rahu Jato" meaning "a fetter has been born" and when the king Suddhodana heard the Prince "Rahu Jato" as soon as he heard the news, he called his grandson "Rahula". In the evening Prince Siddhartha returned home and dancers and musicians came to entertain him but he did not pay attention to them and turned away from them and went to sleep.
The dancers and musicians said, "The prince for whom we were dancing has fallen asleep. Let us also stop for he cannot hear while he sleeps. Then they also fell to sleep. When Prince Siddhartha woke up at midnight he saw the entertainer sleeping like dead people in their cemetery with their instrument thrown about. He called Channa to get ready his horse Kanthaka as he wanted to go out. Then he visited the palace of Yasodhara and saw Yasodhara and Rahula sleeping peacefully. He did not want to wake them up as they might dissuade him from his purpose of leading a holy life. He wanted to find a way to save mankind from suffering and determined to succeed before coming back to his family again. After that he went out of the palace at midnight on Asalha Full moon day and rode out of the palace with Channa on Kanthaka. He crossed Anoma River, near Buddha Gaya and taking off his clothes, cut his hair and ordered Channa to take his clothes and jewels to his father. He wore yellow robes that were offered by Mahabrahma, King of Devas. His horse Kanthaka died when he saw his master renouncing the world and Channa returned home to tell the King Suddhodana about Prince Siddhartha's renunciation.
The prince (now an ascetic) set out on his quest for enlightenment. He stayed seven days at Anupiya Mangrove, near Anoma River and he felt very happy when he meditated that he had no worldly ties to trouble him. Then he went to Rajagaha, the capital of the country ruled by King Bimbisara. As he walked along, though his dress was not fine, he attracted attention because of his princely and holy appearance, and all who meet him showed him great respect. He begged for food and at all the places he went the people give him their best. When he sufficient he retired to the food of Pandawa Hill to take the food in his bowl. At first the food seemed repulsive to him and when he remembered his mission the food seemed the best he had ever taken. King Bimbisara who had sent to report the movements of the Bodhisatta, was very pleased when he heard that the Bodhisatta was sincere in his practice and he immediately set out with his ministers to interview the Bodhisatta. He offered to share his kingdom with the Bodhisatta if he would give up his purpose, but when he was convinced that the Bodhisatta was going to seek for the path to release beings from evil and suffering, he begged the Bodhisatta to let him be a disciple when he succeeded. This the Bodhisatta promised to do and he blessed the king for holiness and faith.
The Bodhisatta went to two clever teachers, Kalama and Uddaka, and after learning all he could from them, he surpassed them in all practices. He found that he could not get further knowledge from them and he left them.
He went to Uruvela where he found five holy men famous for their practices in self-mortification. He first learnt under them and when he beat them in anything they did, he becomes their master. So severe did he practice self-mortification during the six years that he stayed at Uruvela that he was able to take very little food daily. So famous did he become that people from long distances came to see him and receive his blessings.
The Bodhisatta found no consolidation in self-mortification and one day he decided to take another course, because he could not find enlightenment through self-mortification. He began to take food and very soon he became quite strong. His disciple saw that he did not want to continue self-mortification and they left him. He then went to Gaya and sat under the Banyan Tree to meditate. He begged for food daily. Then one day Sujata, the daughter of the chief herdsman of the place offered him food in a bowl made of pure gold and after taking the food, he went to the Neranjara River and putting the bowl in the water he said that if he were to become the Enlightened One, the bowl would go up the river. The bowl then went up the rive and sank. He then knew that he would succeed in getting enlightenment and he went and sat down under the Bodhi Tree determined not to get up until he found enlightenment. On Wesak Full Moon Day he become enlightened. He conquered Mara, who tried to tempt him and he found out about his previous births, of the causes of rebirths, and the way to get rid of suffering. He became the Buddha. He recognized that ignorance was the root of all evil and he traced the links in the development of the life called the Twelve Nidanas (dependant origination) as follows : -
Condition by Avijja(ignorance) arise Sankhara(previous impressions); conditioned by Sankhara(previous impression) arise Vinnana(consciousness); conditioned by Vinnana(consciousness) arise Nama Rupa(name and form); condition by Name Rupa(name and form) arise Salayatana(six sense organs); conditioned by Salayatana(six sense organs) arise Phassa(contact); condition by Phassa(contact); arise Vedana(feelings); conditioned by Vedana(feelings) arise Tanha(desire); conditioned by Tanha(desire) arise Upadana(attachment); conditioned by Upadana(attachment) arise Bhava(existence); condition by Bhava(existince) arise Jati(birth); condition by Jati(birth) arise Jara, Marana, Soka, Parideva, Dukkha, Domanassupayasa(decay, grief, lamentations, sufferings, distress and trouble).
He discovered the Four Noble Truths that lead to cessation of suffering and these Four Noble Truths are as follows: -
After getting Enlightenment the Buddha fasted for forty-nine days and he spent the time in this way : -
After that, two merchants Tapassu and Bhallika offered Him food and in return Lord Buddha gave them the Dhamma, and made them lay-disciples. Then He went to Ajapala and thought of the great value of the Doctrine and that the Doctrine would be very difficult to understood. Brahma Sahampati came as soon as he thought of this and begged him to take pity on the suffering creatures and impart the Doctrine to those who were able to get knowledge. He agreed to do so, as He saw that there were some who were able to be enlightened.
The first persons the Buddha though of, were Kalama and Uddaka, but as he found that they had passed away, He though of His five disciples who were now in Isipatana, Sarnath Benares. He then proceeded thence and as they saw him approaching, they agreed not to show him the respect due their old master as they said He had give up holy life. As He drew nearer and nearer, they forgot their resolution and looked to His comforts. He preached the Doctrine to them and they were so impressed that they became His disciples again. During the first sermon, the Devas came to listen and were full of joy when they heard the Doctrine and praised the Buddha for his wisdom. This first sermon was know as Dhamma-cakkap Pavattana Sutta, which means the Turning of the Wheel of Religion.
Yasa Kulaputta, the son of a rich merchant next came to Lord Buddha and he was converted and made a disciple. Four friends of Yasa Kulaputta named Vimala, Subahu, Purmajin and Gawampati, sons of rich people of Benares, also became Lord Buddha's disciples. Then another forty of their friends followed their examples and became disciples, making a total of sixty Arahats one including Lord Buddha at that time. Then Lord Buddha advised all the sixty disciples to go and preach the Doctrine using these famous words, "Go ye, O Bhikkhus, and wander forth for the gain of the many, for the welfare of the many in compassion for the world, for the good, for the gain, for the welfare of Devas and men. Proclaim O Bhikkhus the Doctrine glorious, preach ye a life of holiness, perfect and pure."
Then Lord Buddha after sending away His first sixty disciples went to Uruvela. On the way He met thirty princes who were searching for a thief who stole the jewelleries of their wives. Lord Buddha preached the Doctrine to them and they became His disciples.
In Uruvela there lived a sect of fire worshippers known as Jatilas. Their chief was Kassapa who was famous throughout all India for his magical powers. When Lord Buddha asked for shelter in his place, he wanted to test the power of Lord Buddha in the sacred fire serpent. The serpent tried to kill Lord Buddha but all attempts failed and his anger died and when the Jatilas came to see Lord Buddha whom they thought had been killed, they were surprised to see the fire serpent so tame and circling round Lord Buddha and keeping Lord Buddha's body from their view. Then Kassapa was full of envy and tried to show that he was more powerful than Lord Buddha, but at last after hearing the Doctrine and seeing the Lord Buddha's power, the Jatilas threw into the river their things used for fire worshipping and gave up their old practices and become Lord Buddha's disciples. When the two brothers of Kassapa saw the things of the Jatilas floating down the river, they came to see what had happened, and they were also converted and became disciples.
With these new disciples Lord Buddha proceed to Rajagaha, the capital of King Bimbisara to fulfill His promise to the king. King Bimbisara came with his nobles and their people and they were all converted as lay disciples. King Bimbisara offered the Veluvana Temple to Lord Buddha and He stayed there for two months. During these months Sariputta and Moggalana, two famous religious teachers, came to see Lord Buddha as they received the Doctrine from one of the first sixty disciples. Both paid their respects to Lord Buddha and became his disciples. While Lord Buddha was at Rajagaha, King Suddhodana sent one of his ministers with a thousand men to invite Lord Buddha to Kapilavatthu. These men went, listened to Lord Buddha's preaching and become His disciples. They forgot to tell Lord Buddha their mission. King Suddhodana sent nine other ministers each with one thousand men, one after the other to invite Lord Buddha but they forgot their mission, and became his disciples. It was not until the tenth party came that Lord Buddha was told about King Suddhodana's invitation. The head of the tenth party was kaludayi, the chief minister of King Suddhodana, who was born on the same day as Lord Buddha. These ten thousand and ten men of King Suddhodana all became Arahats and they went together with Lord Buddha and His other disciples to Kapilavatthu where they arrived after two months as they walked all the way. All the people of Sakya race became Buddhists. Nanda, the son of King Suddhodana by Mahapajapati and Rahula, Lord Buddha's son became arahats. After them many other princes joined the order. Later on Mahapajapati Gotami withy Lord Buddha's permission founded the Order of Bhikkhuni. Princes Yasodhara and many other women joined this order. This order existed for thousand years after Lord Buddha's passing away as there must be no Bhikkhuni Order when there are no Arahats in this human world. Lord Buddha preached in Kapilavatthu for some time and then he went all over India to preach the Doctrine.
Lord Buddha daily lead this routine: -
Morning : -
He rose up from Samapatti (Trance of compassion) and washed Himself.
Then he meditates again up to the time of begging food.
Then after dressing, He went to beg for food, sometimes alone, and sometimes with His followers.
Then He took His food and preached the Doctrine after food.
Then He took in disciples.
Afternoon : -
He preached to His disciple and then retired to His room. Then He surveyed the Universe to see who would succeed in practicing the Doctrine and then preached the Doctrine to anyone who came for the Doctrine till evening.
6 p.m. to 10 p.m. :-
He washed Himself and dressed up ready for people to ask questions on the Doctrine and to reply
to them. He then taught the way of how to meditate, and gave suitable subjects to individuals.
2 a.m. to 6 a.m. :-
He walked about for one third of the time.
He rested for one third of the time.
He surveyed the Universe to see what He could do for the benefit of the world the rest of the time.
Lord Buddha worked for twenty-three hours a day for the benefit of living beings through pity for them. He preached for forty-five years. He stayed in the following places during the rainy seasons : -
21-44. Jetavana and Pubbarama.
Four month only a year (during the rainy season) He spent in the above places, The other eight months, He walked from place to place, preaching.
Lord Buddha also attended the sick, as shown below:-
When Lord Buddha was at Jetavana temple at Savatthi, one householder listening to Lord Buddha's preaching realized the uselessness of life, renounced the world and become a Bhikkhu. His name was Tissa. After some time he become ill and his body was covered with sores. From the size of a mustard seed the boils expanded and burst. The matters from the broken sores ran over his body and give forth an unpleasant smell and were very filthy. His disease was incurable, and his robes stuck to his body. All his disciple left him and everybody in the temple went away. So the sick Bhikkhu was left alone. Lord Buddha while surveying the world in the morning, saw the sick monk left all alone. He went to the sick Bhikkhu's temple, washed a pot, boiled some water, and cleaned the sores. He then changed the monk's robes and made him comfortable so that the Bhikkhu from being very depressed became very happy. All this was done in the presence of many of his disciples and then Lord Buddha said to them, " In attending to the sick thou art honoring me". He then preach to the sick Bhikku saying, "in a short time this body will become like a useless log of wood on the ground". The sick bhikkhu hearing this became an Arahat.
Lord Buddha passed away into Pari-Nibbana at Kusinara at the age of eighty, after taking food at Cunda's house.
These were the last words He uttered before he entered Mahaparinibbana and which should be remembered and treasured up by all of us who seek for spiritual happiness.
"ATTADIPA VIHARATHA ATTA SARANA
ANANNA SARANA VAYADHAMMA SANKHARA
"Be ye a light unto yourself, be ya a refuge unto yourself, there is no external refuge. All component things are impermanent. Work out your Salvation in earnestness".
May each and every Buddhist strive diligently and follow the Way shown us by the Exalted One till Final Deliverance be attained.