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After gaining his strength, Siddhartha decided to meditate under a bodhi tree (pipal tree)near the Ganges at a place now known as Bodh Gaya ("enlightenment place"). According to some accounts he sat meditating overnight. According to others he was there for days even weeks. When Siddhartha approached the sacred tree "a high ranking serpent, who was as strong as a King elephant" was awakened by "the incomparable sound of his footsteps" and saluted Siddhartha who then seated himself in the lotus cross-legged position and did not move until he had received the enlightenment. Siddhartha's process of enlightenment had begun in his earlier life, for the enlightenment can not be attained in only one life. The scientific name of the bodhi tree is “Ficus religiosa”.

At first Siddhartha’s head was filled with fears and doubts. But after a while he began to relax. During his long meditation, Siddhartha was tempted by the demon Mara, Lord of Passions, and his three devilish sons (Furry, Gaiety, and Sullen Pride) and three voluptuous daughters (Discontent, Delight and Thirst) and a host of other demons. Mara didn’t want the Buddha to teach others how to receive nirvana. He tempted The Buddha with his daughters, flung a discus capable of slicing mountains in two, and tried to scare him by unleashing hurricanes and showers of burning rocks which Buddha turned to lotus petals when they approached him.

Mara stepped up his efforts when he realized that Siddhartha was close to enlightenment, tempted him with his beautiful daughters and threatened him with a powerful army. But Siddhartha touched the ground with his right hand, calling the Earth to witness his resolve to achieve enlightenment and thereby vanquishing Mara. After making a few final attempts to sidetrack Siddharthafrom his quest, the demons realized they were dealing with a true Buddha, and they quickly fled in panic. Siddhartha then, "free from the dust of passion, victorious over darkness gloom" fell into a deep trance. When Siddhartha arose, he had become the Buddha.This episode is similar to Jesus's encounter with the devil on the Mount of Temptation.

Websites and Resources on Buddhism: Buddha Net buddhanet.net/e-learning/basic-guide ; Religious Tolerance Page religioustolerance.org/buddhism ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Internet Sacred Texts Archive sacred-texts.com/bud/index ; Introduction to Buddhism webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/buddhaintro ; Early Buddhist texts, translations, and parallels, SuttaCentral suttacentral.net ; East Asian Buddhist Studies: A Reference Guide, UCLA web.archive.org ; View on Buddhism viewonbuddhism.org ; Tricycle: The Buddhist Review tricycle.org ; BBC - Religion: Buddhism bbc.co.uk/religion ; Buddhist Centre thebuddhistcentre.com; A sketch of the Buddha's Life accesstoinsight.org ; What Was The Buddha Like? by Ven S. Dhammika buddhanet.net ; Jataka Tales (Stories About Buddha) sacred-texts.com ; Illustrated Jataka Tales and Buddhist stories ignca.nic.in/jatak ; Buddhist Tales buddhanet.net ; Arahants, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas by Bhikkhu Bodhi accesstoinsight.org ; Victoria and Albert Museum vam.ac.uk/collections/asia/asia_features/buddhism/index

Buddha Receives Enlightenment

battle with Mara

Siddhartha experienced the Enlightenment when he learned that the way to escape hardship was to renounce all desires. At that moment “the heavens felt exceedingly joyous, the herd of beasts, as well as birds, made no noise at all, and even the trees ceased to rustle when struck by the wind." From 6:00pm to 10:00pm on the first night of the enlightenment Siddhartha recalled his former lives and the thousands of births and deaths he had experienced. He saw that life was "as unsubstantiated as the pith of a plantain tree" and concluded that "this world is unprotected and helpless, and like a wheel it turns round and round."

From 10:00pm to 2:00am he attained "the perfectly pure heavenly eye" and saw that rebirth of beings depended on the merit of their deeds, but "he found nothing substantial in the world of becoming, just as no core of heartwood is found in a plantain tree when its layers are peeled off one by one." In the third watch of his first night, from 2:00am to 6:00pm he saw how greed, delusion and ignorance produced evil and kept mankind from escaping the cycle of rebirth. After a night of spiritual searching, Siddhartha reached a transcendent state where everything was clear. "From the summit of the world downwards he could detect no self anymore."

The Buddha experienced the "Great Enlightenment" or "The Awakening" at the age of 35. Immediately afterwards Mara approached him again, this time to try and convince The Buddha to return to the enlightened state. Mara tried to appeal to Buddha's sense of frustration that the revelations he had experience were too profound and beyond words and reason for people to understand and no one would be able to understand him. The Buddha refused him again.

Siddhartha was 35 when he reached enlightenment and became a Buddha. Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts of the The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote: “He realized that the causes of human suffering lay in the attachment to physical desires of all kinds, and as long as this was so, the karma-laden souls of living creatures were destined to suffer endless rebirths. Only with the complete elimination of worldly attachments could one reach release into a state of eternal selfless bliss, called nirvana, the Sanskrit word for “extinguishment.”“ Siddhartha continued to sit after his enlightenment, meditating beneath the tree and then standing beside it for a number of weeks. During the fifth or sixth week, he was beset by heavy rains while meditating but was protected by the hood of the serpent king Muchilinda. [Source: Rajan Thapaliya. Huffington Post, May 24, 2016; Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts, The Art of South, and Southeast Asia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York]]

Gaya and Sakyamuni's Attainment of Buddhaship

Faxian (A.D. 337– 422 ), a Chinese Buddhist monk who traveled on foot to India, wrote in “A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms": “From this place, after travelling to the west for four yojanas, (the pilgrims) came to the city of Gaya [an ancient city, now second largest city in Bihar after Patna]; but inside the city all was emptiness and desolation. Going on again to the south for twenty le, they arrived at the place where the Bodhisattva for six years practised with himself painful austerities. All around was forest. Three le west from here they came to the place where, when Buddha had gone into the water to bathe, a deva bent down the branch of a tree, by means of which he succeeded in getting out of the pool. [Source: “A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms” by Fa-Hsien (Faxian) of his Travels in India and Ceylon (A.D. 399-414), Translated James Legge, 1886, gutenberg.org/ /]

Buddha's enlightenment, AD 2nd to early 3rd century, Kushan dynasty, Gandhara

“Two le north from this was the place where the Gramika girls presented to Buddha the rice-gruel made with milk; and two le north from this (again) was the place where, seated on a rock under a great tree, and facing the east, he ate (the gruel). The tree and the rock are there at the present day. The rock may be six cubits in breadth and length, and rather more than two cubits in height. In Central India the cold and heat are so equally tempered that trees will live in it for several thousand and even for ten thousand years. /

“Half a yojana from this place to the north-east there was a cavern in the rocks, into which the Bodhisattva entered, and sat cross-legged with his face to the west. (As he did so), he said to himself, "If I am to attain to perfect wisdom (and become Buddha), let there be a supernatural attestation of it." On the wall of the rock there appeared immediately the shadow of a Buddha, rather more than three feet in length, which is still bright at the present day. At this moment heaven and earth were greatly moved, and devas in the air spoke plainly, "This is not the place where any Buddha of the past, or he that is to come, has attained, or will attain, to perfect Wisdom. Less than half a yojana from this to the south-west will bring you to the patra tree, where all past Buddhas have attained, and all to come must attain, to perfect Wisdom." When they had spoken these words, they immediately led the way forwards to the place, singing as they did so. As they thus went away, the Bodhisattva arose and walked (after them). At a distance of thirty paces from the tree, a deva gave him the grass of lucky omen, which he received and went on. After (he had proceeded) fifteen paces, 500 green birds came flying towards him, went round him thrice, and disappeared. The Bodhisattva went forward to the patra tree, placed the kusa grass at the foot of it, and sat down with his face to the east. Then king Mara sent three beautiful young ladies, who came from the north, to tempt him, while he himself came from the south to do the same. The Bodhisattva put his toes down on the ground, and the demon soldiers retired and dispersed, and the three young ladies were changed into old (grand-)mothers. At the place mentioned above of the six years' painful austerities, and at all these other places, men subsequently reared stupas and set up images, which all exist at the present day. /

“Where Buddha, after attaining to perfect wisdom, for seven days contemplated the tree, and experienced the joy of vimukti; where, under the patra tree, he walked backwards and forwards from west to east for seven days; where the devas made a hall appear, composed of the seven precious substances, and presented offerings to him for seven days; where the blind dragon Muchilinda encircled him for seven days; where he sat under the nyagrodha tree, on a square rock, with his face to the east, and Brahma-deva came and made his request to him; where the four deva kings brought to him their alms-bowls; where the 500 merchants presented to him the roasted flour and honey; and where he converted the brothers Kasyapa and their thousand disciples;—at all these places stupas were reared. /

Sakyamuni Buddha, the moment he reached enlightenment, here from Tawang Gompa in Arunachal Pradesh, India

“At the place where Buddha attained to perfect Wisdom, there are three monasteries, in all of which there are monks residing. The families of their people around supply the societies of these monks with an abundant sufficiency of what they require, so that there is no lack or stint. The disciplinary rules are strictly observed by them. The laws regulating their demeanour in sitting, rising, and entering when the others are assembled, are those which have been practised by all the saints since Buddha was in the world down to the present day. The places of the four great stupas have been fixed, and handed down without break, since Buddha attained to nirvana. Those four great stupas are those at the places where Buddha was born; where he attained to Wisdom; where he (began to) move the wheel of his Law; and where he attained to pari-nirvana.” /

After the Enlightenment the Buddha Proclaims 'I Am the Holy One in this World, I Am the Highest Teacher'

According to 'Mahavagga,' I, 7-9: “Now Upaka, a man belonging to. the Ajivaka sect (i.e. the sect of naked ascetics), saw the Blessed One travelling on the road, between Gayd and the Bodhi tree; and when he saw him, he said to the Blessed One: 'Your countenance, friend, is serene; your complexion is pure and bright. In whose name, friend, have you retired from the world? Who is your teacher? Whose doctrine do you profess?' [Source: T. W. -Rhys Davids and Hermann Oldenberg, Vinaya Texts, part I, in Sacred Books of the East, XIII, (Oxford, 1881), pp. 90-1, Eliade Page website]

“When Upaka the Ajivaka had spoken thus, the Blessed One addressed him in the following stanzas: '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. Having myself gained knowledge, whom should I call my master? I have no teacher; no one is equal to me; in the world of men and of gods no being is like me. I am the holy One in this world, I am the highest teacher, I alone am the Absolute Sambuddha; I have gained coolness (by the extinction of all passion) and have obtained Nirvana. To found the Kingdom of Truth I go to the city of the Kasis (Benares), I will beat the drum of the Immortal in the darkness of this world.'

Image of minfulness and wisdom: The Abhayamudra hand pose shown here where the hands (or right hand) are held upright with the palm facing outwards is meant to dispel fear and bring divine protection and bliss to the devotee; It is the first mudra after Buddha's enlightenment (the gesture is found in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain iconography and practice)

(Upaka replied): 'You profess then, friend, to be the holy, absolute Jina [a Buddha-like figure in Jainism. Buddha said]: 'Like me are all Jinas who have reached extinction of the Asavas; I have overcome all states of sinfulness; therefore, Upaka, am I the Jina.' When he had spoken thus, Upaka, the Ajivaka replied: 'It may be so, friend': shook his head, took another road, and went away.

Buddha Ponders: Must I Now Preach What I So Hardly Won?

'Majjhima-.nikaya,' XXVI from the 'Ariya-pariyesana-sutta' reads: “I have attained, thought I, to this Doctrine profound, recondite, hard to comprehend, serene, excellent, beyond dialectic, abstruse, and only to be perceived by the learned. But mankind delights, takes delight, and is happy in what it clings on to, so that for it, being thus minded it is hard to understand causal relations and the chain of causation, hard to understand the stilling of all artificial forces, or the renunciation of all worldly ties, the extirpation of craving, passionlessness, peace and Nirvana. Were I to preach the Doctrine, and were others not to understand it, that would be labour and annoyance to me ! [Source: Translation by Lord Chalmers, Further Dialogues of the Buddha, I (London, 1926), pp. 118-119, Eliade Page website]

Yes, and on the instant there flashed across my mind these verses, which no man had heard before:
Must I now preach what I so hardly won?
Men sunk in sin and lusts would find it hard
to plumb this Doctrine,-up stream all the way,
abstruse, profound, most subtle, hard to grasp.
Dear lusts will blind them that they shall not see,
-in densest mists of ignorance befogged.

As thus I pondered, my heart inclined to rest quiet and not to preach my Doctrine. But, Brahma Sahampati's mind came to know what thoughts were passing within my mind, and he thought to himself: The world is undone, quite undone, inasmuch as the heart of the Truth-finder inclines to rest quiet and not to preach his Doctrine I Hereupon, as swiftly as a strong man might stretch out his arm or might draw back his outstretched arm, Brahma Sahampati vanished from the Brahma-world and appeared before me. Towards me he came with his right shoulder bared, and with his clasped hands stretched out to me in reverence, saying:-May it please the Lord, may it please the Blessed One, to preach his doctrine ! Beings there are whose vision is but little dimmed, who are perishing because they do not hear the Doctrine;-these will understand it !

Buddha in his past lives

Buddha Remembers His Earlier Existences

The 'Majjhima-nikaya,' IV in the 'Bhaya-bherava-sutta reads: “With heart thus steadfast, thus clarified and purified, clean and cleansed of things impure, tempered and apt to serve, established and immutable,-it was thus that I applied my heart to the knowledge which recalled my earlier existences. I called to mind my divers existences in the past,-a single birth, then two . . . [and so on to] . . . a hundred thousand births, many an aeon of disintegration of the world, many an aeon of its reintegration, and again many an aeon both of its disintegration and of its reintegration. In this or that former existence, I remembered, such and such was my name, my sect, my class, my diet, my joys and sorrows, and my term of life. When I passed thence, I came by such and such subsequent existence, wherein such and such was my name and so forth. Thence I passed to my life here. Thus did I call to mind my divers existences of the past in all their details and features.-This, brahmin, was the first knowledge attained by me, in the first watch of that night,-ignorance dispelled and knowledge won, darkness dispelled and illumination won, as befitted my strenuous and ardent life, purged of self. [Source: Translation by Lord Chalmers, Further Dialogues of the Buddha, I (London, 1926), pp. 15-17, Eliade Page website]

That same steadfast heart I now applied to knowledge of the passage hence, and re-appearance elsewhere, of other beings. With the Eye Celestial, which is pure and far surpasses the human eye, I saw things in the act of passing hence and of re-appearing elsewhere,-being high and low, fair or foul to view, in bliss or woe; I saw them all faring according to their past. Here were beings given over to evil in act, word and thought, who decried the Noble and had a wrong outlook and became what results from such wrong outlook;-these, at the body's dissolution after death, made their appearance in states of suffering, misery and tribulation and in purgatory. Here again were beings given to good in act, word and thought, who did not decry the Noble, who had the right outlook and became what results from right outlook;-these, at the body's dissolution after death, made their appearance in states of bliss in heaven. All this did I see with the Eye Celestial; and this, brahmin, was the second knowledge attained by me, in the second watch of that night,-ignorance dispelled and knowledge won, darkness dispelled and illumination won, as befitted my strenuous and ardent life, purged of self.

That same steadfast heart I next applied to knowledge of the eradication of Cankers. I comprehended, aright and to the full, the origin of Ill (sickness) , the cessation of Ill, and the course that leads to the cessation of Ill. I comprehend, aright and to the full, what the Cankers were, with their origin, cessation, and the course that leads to their cessation. When I knew this and when I saw this, then my heart was delivered from the Canker of sensuous pleasure, from the Canker of continuing existence, and from the Canker of ignorance; and to me thus delivered came the knowledge of my Deliverance in the conviction-Rebirth is no more; I have lived the highest life; my task is done; and now for me there is no more of what I have been. This, Brahmin, was the third knowledge attained by me, in the third watch of that night,-ignorance dispelled and knowledge won, darkness dispelled and illumination won, as befitted my strenuous and ardent life, purged of self.

Buddha, the Teacher

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first sermon
According to Buddhist scriptures, Siddhartha could have remained in his enlightened state of eternal bliss for eternity, but he chose to return to the real world and spread the word of the enlightenment to other people. Others had experienced the enlightenment before him but they were a class of Buddhas known as “pratyekabuddhas” , those who achieved enlightenment through their own unaided efforts but were unable to help others . The Buddha Siddhartha differed from them in that he was enlightened and given the mission of teaching others.

Buddha saw himself as a teacher and physician whose calling it was show people the way to enlightenment. But at first he had doubts about his ability to be a teacher. He had to be urged on by a supernatural force.

After his conversion and up to his death at age 80, he preached what he had learned and attracted a great number of disciples. To his followers, Buddha was known as Sakyamuni (the sage of the Sakya clan). The historical Siddhartha was one on many radical thinks who challenged Hinduism's beliefs.

The Buddha taught for 40 years, right until his death. New York Times art critic Holland Cotter wrote, “The Buddha was before all else a great teacher...You might describe his entire career as explaining mortality to a class of clueless, distracted, adolescents — us — using catchy stories and familiar pictures. And he came to the subject, umpteen rebirths earlier, pretty clueless himself. This is important. It makes a teacher a bit of a hero if you know he or she has walked the talk.”

Siddhartha often made his points based on stories from his earlier incarnations. When he was Prince Mahasttva, for example, he said he met a hungry tigress while he was walking in the jungle. After being confronted with the fierce animal, , exhausted after giving birth to seven cubs, the story goes, Mahasattva thought, "Now the time has come for me to sacrifice myself! For a long time I have served this putrid body and given it bed and clothes, food and drink, and conveyances of all kinds. It cannot subsist for ever, because it is like the urine which must come out. Today I will use it for a sublime deed. Then it will act for me as a boat which helps me to cross the ocean of birth and death." After saying that prince cut his throat with a sharp piece of bamboo and the tigress, who was too weak to perform the killing herself, consumed every part of his body except for the bones.

Buddha’s First Sermon

Dhamekh Stupa in Sarnath, the site of the First Sermon

Seven weeks after his enlightenment, The Budda left his seat under the tree and decided to teach others what he had learned, encouraging people to follow a path he called "The Middle Way," which is one of balance rather than extremism. He discoursed with five ascetics, who became his first disciples and gave his first sermon (Buddha's First Sermon at Sarnath, 1980.527.4) in a deer park in Sarnath, on the outskirts of the city of Benares. Buddhists refer to that initial sermon as "Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Law," which means that the Buddha had embarked on a journey (turning the wheel) on behalf of the law of Righteousness (dharma). [Source: Kathryn Selig Brown, Independent Scholar, Metropolitan Museum of Art 1993]

In his first discourse to the five ascetics on Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, The Buddha said "Open ye your ears, O bhikkus, deliverance from death is found. I teach you. I preach the law. If ye walk according to my teaching, ye shall be partakers in a short time of that for which sons of noble families have left their homes to lead a life of homelessness, it being the highest end of my spiritual effort. Ye shall, even in this present life apprehend the truth itself and see it face to face".

Buddha’s first sermon at Sarnath is an important event to Buddhists. Tradition has it that Buddha was not convinced through his own reflections that teaching what he had discovered through his meditations would be of any benefit to others. It took the intercession of the great gods, Brahma and Indra, to persuade him to do so for the benefit of all sentient beings. The Buddha then addressed the five people who had been his companions during the time spent with the forest yogins concerning the Truth of Suffering, and the other Noble Truths.

The First Sermon begins: “And the Blessed one thus addressed the five Bhikkhus [monks]. ' "There are two extremes, O Bhikkhus, which he who has given up the world, ought to avoid. What are rhese two extremes'? A life given to pleasures, devoted to pleasures and lusts: this is degrading, sensual, vulgar, ignoble, and profitless; and a life given to rnortifications: this is painful, ignoble, and profitless. By avoiding these two extremes, O Bhikkhus, the Tathagata [a title of Buddha meaning perhaps "he who has arrived at the truth"] has gained the knowledge of the Middle Path which leads to insight, which leads to wisdom which conduces to calm, to knowledge, co the Sambodhi [total enlightenment], to Nirvana [state of release from samsara, the cycle of existence and rebirth]. [Source: T.W. Rhys Davids and Herman Oldenberg, trans, Vinyaya Texts, in F. Max Mueller, ed., The Sacred Books of the East, 50 vols., (Oxford: Clarendon, 1879-1910), Vol 13. pp. 94-97, Brooklyn College]

Buddha Wanders Around India

During his period 40-year period as a teacher Buddha wandered from place to place with a group of loyal followers. He became famous. Crowds showed up to see him. Sometimes he would sit and talk and then hit the road again.

The Buddha covered much of northern India in what are now Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states when he was an itinerant monk and a teacher after receiving enlightenment. During the rainy season, Buddha and his followers settled in one place and were dependent local people to provide them with food and shelter.

The Buddha’s devotees fell into two groups: monks devoted to meditation and "lay-followers" with families. Some of his disciples wandered the countryside teaching. The first monasteries were set up because travel was impossible during the three-month monsoon season and the monks needed some place to stay. The help local people gave monks disciples provided the basis for the relationship between monks and lay people that exists today.

The Buddha established the Jetavana monastery near Savatthi and over the years spent he more and more time at there, supported by gifts from King Bimbisara, who provided support in return for the merit the king hoped such acts would give him.

Buddha Sermons

The Buddha’s first sermon at Sarnath, near Varanasi, is in many ways to Buddhists what the Sermon on the Mount is to Christians. In this sermon The Buddha introduced the Middle Way, the Four Holy Truths of Buddhism and the Eightfold Path — three of Buddhism’s most basic doctrines. The five ascetics who attended this sermon were Siddhartha’s companions during his period of asceticism. His message to them was that asceticism was not the answer but the the Middle Way between self-indulgence and self-torture was. The five ascetics became the first Buddhist monks and today are regarded with great reverence.

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In his Second Discourse The Buddha addressed the topic of fire worship, a ritual at the heart of Hinduism, and the whole notion of addressing the world through one’ senses, which he said causes confusion and should be ignored. In a deer park not far from where he was born The Buddha gave his famous “Discourse of the Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma." Dharma, he said, is the eternal truth to which he had been "awakened."

In the years that followed The Buddha gave more sermons and instructed his disciples on methods that could be used to discover the eternal truth. The Buddha spoke on a number of subjects and often used stories about monkeys, wealthy lords and fishermen and similes such as comparing “hold of the mind” to “trainer’s hook” used to pacify a “savage elephant” to make his points. He presented himself as a man not a god of myth and thereby argued that anyone could achieve what he had done. The Buddha attracted a great many followers.

The Buddha criticized the Hindu caste system and said that his form of religion was open to anyone. He adapted his message to the audiences he faced, saying, “I know well that when I approached various large assemblies, even before I had sat down there or had spoken or begun to teach, whatever was their sort I made myself of a like sort, whatever their language so was my language. And I rejoiced them with talk on Dharma.”

Buddha’s Teachings

The Buddha spent the remaining forty years of his life preaching his ascetic doctrine and making vast numbers of converts. He taught that nirvana could only be achieved through first realizing the Four Noble Truths: 1) that all life is suffering; 2) that suffering is caused by desires; 3) that to eliminate suffering, one must eliminate desires; and 4) that this can be done by following the Eightfold Path, which includes right thoughts, right intentions, right deeds, and the right concentration in meditation. Nirvana can only be attained through the extinguishment of one’s ego by following the Eightfold Path. He soon had many disciples and spent the last 45 years of his life walking around northeastern India spreading his teachings. Although the Buddha presented himself only as a teacher and not as a god or object of worship, he is said to have performed many miracles during his lifetime [Source: Kathryn Selig Brown, Steven M. Kossak and Edith W. Watts, The Art of South, and Southeast Asia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York]

Buddha teaching

Vinay Lal, professor of history at UCLA, wrote: “The very first disciples he acquired became the members of the Buddhist sangha or association, and slowly his fame spread. It is said that Kasshyapa, a renowned Brahmin sage, came to realize the futility of worshipping the fire (agni) upon encountering the Buddha, and similarly the Buddha was able to persuade king Bimbisara, who would become his patron, that the sacrificial killing of innocent animals could not be construed as adding merit or happiness to one’s life...Over the years, though his father endeavored to restore to him the kingdom that he had renounced, the Buddha could not be tempted to abandon his calling; eventually, his own son, Rahula, became his disciple. The oral sources relate how some people conspired to kill him: a huge boulder was thrown down upon him and some disciples gathered around him, but it is said that the boulder split in two, and a piece fell on either side of the Buddha. [Source: Vinay Lal, professor of history, UCLA. sscnet.ucla.edu ==]

“The Buddha became the great exponent of ahimsa or non-violence, but he resolutely refused to claim for himself any miraculous powers. One of the most famous episodes in Buddha’s life relates how, since his fame had spread, a woman once came to him with her dead child, and asked him to bring him back to life. While consoling her, the Buddha asked her to bring him a few mustard seeds from any house where no death had taken place; and though she went from door to door, this woman had to return to the Buddha with the news that she had not been able to find any such house. This would be the great teaching of the Buddha: whatever is born must die, and there is no permanence except sorrow; and to free us from this sorrow, one must become free from desire itself.” ==

Arhats (Buddha's Disciples)

The first Buddhist monks were called “arhats” . They were regarded as men well on their way down the path to seeking nirvana. One passage from an early Buddhist text goes: “Ah, happy indeed the Arhants! In them no craving’s found. The “I am” conceit is rooted out; confusion’s net is burst. Lust-free they have attained; translucent is the mind of them. Unspotted in the world are they...all cankers gone.”

The first five ascetics who became the first monks under The Buddha were joined by 55 others. They together with The Buddha are known as the 61 arhats. The were ordained by The Buddha by repeating the simple phrase: “Come monk; well-taught in the Dharma; fare the attainment of knowledge for making a complete anguish.” Others that came later were ordained after cutting their hair and beard, donning a robe and uttering three times: “I go to The Buddha for refuge, I go to Dharma for refuge, I go to the sangha for refuge.” This ritual remains the basis of the Theravada monk ordination process today.

Aanada was The Buddha constant companion. His two chief disciples’sariputta and Moggallana — were two ascetics who for were known for seeking the Dharma to deathlessness Mahkaccan was ranked the highest for his ability to interpret the Buddha’s brief statements. Buddha instructed his disciples on methods that could be used to discover the eternal truth.

Miracles of Buddha

The Gautama Buddha allegedly performed miracles not unlike those of Jesus Christ. It is said that he gained his superhuman powers through deep meditation in which he tore himself away from the earthly world and attained a state beyond the physical limitations of the human body. Buddha, Moses and Jesus are all known for miracles involving power over nature and their bodies but as a rule the miracles performed by the Buddha benefitted only a few people, particularly while those performed by Jesus and Moses affected a much larger crowd. The following are some miracles attributed to him. [Source: “The Long Discourses of the Buddha, A Translation of the Digha Níkaya” by Maurice Walshe, East West Insights blog, hosbeg.com ++]

miracle at Sravasti: when The Buddha supernaturally multiplied his body

The Twin Miracle was one of the first miracles performed by the Buddha. According to Buddhist scripture, when Gautama Buddha returned to his father’s kingdom after achieving enlightenment, people there were not convinced that the Buddha had actually attained enlightenment. To show that he had in fact attained enlightenment, the Buddha radiated flames from the upper part of his body, and emitted streams of water from the lower part of his body. He alternated the flames and water from top to bottom and left to right. Both flames and water were produced simultaneously, which is why it is called the “Twin Miracle” (Yamaka-patihariya). ++

The second major miracle attributed the Buddha is his immediate taming of a wild elephant. According to this story, Gautama Buddha had an envious cousin named Devadatta who was determined to destroy the Buddha. One day, Devadatta sent a crazed elephant called Nalagiri to kill the Buddha. As the elephant came near the Buddha, a woman frightened by the animal accidentally dropped her baby at the Buddha’s feet. When the demented elephant was so close it seemed that he would soon kill the Buddha and the baby, the Buddha calmly stretched out his hand and touched the elephant. The elephant instantly became calm. In some versions of the story the elephant knelt down quietly before the Buddha. ++

Another popular miracle of the Buddha is similar to Moses’ parting of the Red Sea. According to this story, Buddha once found himself in a heavily flooded place. The Buddha commanded the flood waters to separate and stand back so that he could make his way to dry land. The flood waters responded to the Buddha’s words and separated so that the Buddha could pass through. No one other than the Buddha was helped this miracle. In contrast, Moses parted the Red Sea so that perhaps two million Israelites could escape Egypt and slavery under the Pharaoh. Jesus calmed a terrible storm to save the lives of his disciples.

Turning dirty water into clean water is to be one of the most often-told miracles of Buddha. One day, the Buddha was thirsty and asked his disciple Ananda to fetch him some water from a well nearby. Anada did as he was told but when he returned told the Buddha of the water was unfit for drinking and practically all chaff, grass and dirt. The Buddha told the disciple to get him the water any way. Ananda obeyed him and brought him the filthy water. The Buddha asked him several times, and every time the water was not drinkable. Finally, the disciple went to the well one last time, and this time when he drew the water, the water was so clean and clear it sparkled. In a similar story, Jesus turned water into wine while attending a wedding. He did this because the wedding host had run out of wine for his many guests. Buddha is also said to have walked on water. When Jesus did it, it was a demonstration to build faith among the disciples.

It was also said that the Buddha passed through solid objects as if through space, rose and sank in the ground as if in the water, walked through mountains, and dove in and out of earth. It is also said that the Buddha travelled to other worlds, like the world of Brahma, with or without his body, and traveled to the heavens to school the gods and returned. After Jesus’s resurrection, he entered a sealed room where the Apostles were hiding in fear. He entered the room by passing through the walls or a closed door.To calm their fears, he twice said “Peace to you.” After being seen by approximately 500 people, he blessed his disciples and ascended into heaven.

Tibetan Buddhist parable of the Arhats

The Buddha was said to have had the gift of Divine seeing — the ability to see past lives, know a person’s present thoughts, and foresee future events. There are no references of Buddha’s using these powers affect or influence anyone. Jesus demonstrated similar powere when talked with the Samaritan woman. He knew her personal history: that she had had five husbands and was currently living with a man that was not her husband. The woman was amazed by his insights and told people in her village, many of whom became followers of Jesus.

Sutra on Buddha’s Enlightenment

The following sutra mentions Buddha's enlightenment (Sn 3.11 PTS: Sn 679-723 Nalaka Sutta: To Nalaka) :

I ask you, Gotama,
you who have gone
to the beyond of all things.
I'm intent on the homeless life;
I long for the almsround.
Tell me sage, when I ask you,
the utmost state of sagacity.

[The Buddha:]
I'll explain to you
a sagacity hard to do,
hard to endure.
Come now, I'll tell you.
Be steadfast. Be firm.
Practice even-mindedness,
for in a village
there's praise & abuse.
Ward off any flaw in the heart.
Go about calmed & not haughty.
High & low things will come up
like fire-flames in a forest.
Women seduce a sage.
May they not seduce you.

Abstaining from sexual intercourse,
abandoning various sensual pleasures,
be unopposed, unattached,
to beings moving & still.
'As I am, so are these.
As are these, so am I.'
Drawing the parallel to
neither kill nor get others to kill.
Abandoning the wants & greed
where people run-of-the-mill are stuck,
practice with vision,
cross over this hell.
Stomach not full,
moderate in food,
having few wants,
not being greedy,
always not hankering after desire:
one without hankering,
is one who's unbound.

Instructed by the one
whose mind was set on his benefit,
seeing in the future the utmost purity,
Nalaka, who had laid up a store of merit,
awaited the Victor expectantly,
guarding his senses.
On hearing word of the Victor's
turning of the foremost wheel,
he went, he saw
the bull among seers. Confident,
he asked the foremost sage
about the highest sagacity,
now that Asita's forecast
had come to pass.

Having gone on his almsround, the sage
should then go to the forest,
standing or taking a seat
at the foot of a tree.
The enlightened one, intent on jhana,
should find delight in the forest,
should practice jhana at the foot of a tree,
attaining his own satisfaction.
Then, at the end of the night,
he should go to the village,
not delighting in an invitation
or gift from the village.
Having gone to the village,
the sage should not carelessly
go among families.
Cutting off chatter,
he shouldn't utter a scheming word.
'I got something,
that's fine.
I got nothing,
that's good.'
Being such with regard to both,
he returns to the very same tree.
Wandering with his bowl in hand
— not dumb,
but seemingly dumb —
he shouldn't despise a piddling gift
nor disparage the giver.

High & low are the practices
proclaimed by the contemplative.
They don't go twice to the further shore.
This [Unbinding] isn't sensed only once.[2]

In one who has no attachment —
the monk who has cut the stream,
abandoning what is
& isn't a duty —
no fever is found. I'll explain to you
sagacity: be like a razor's edge.
Pressing tongue against palate,
restrain your stomach.
Neither be lazy in mind,
nor have many thoughts.
Be committed to taintlessness,
having the holy life as your aim.
Train in solitude
& the contemplative's task,
is called
Alone, you truly delight
& shine in the ten directions.

On hearing the fame of the enlightened
— those who practice jhana,
relinquishing sensual pleasures —
my disciple should foster
all the more
conviction & conscience.

Know from the rivers
in clefts & in crevices:
those in small channels flow
the great
flow silent.
Whatever's not full
makes noise.
Whatever is full
is quiet.
The fool is like a half-empty pot;
one who is wise, a full lake.
A contemplative who speaks a great deal
endowed with meaning:
knowing, he teaches the Dhamma,
knowing, he speaks a great deal.
But he who,
knowing, is restrained,
knowing, doesn't speak a great deal:
he is a sage
worthy of sagehood;
he is a sage,
his sagehood attained.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: East Asia History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu , “Topics in Japanese Cultural History” by Gregory Smits, Penn State University figal-sensei.org, Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia, Asia Society Museum asiasocietymuseum.org , “The Essence of Buddhism” Edited by E. Haldeman-Julius, 1922, Project Gutenberg, Virtual Library Sri Lanka lankalibrary.com “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World's Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 5 East and Southeast Asia” edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1993); “ National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated June 2022

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