The enlightenment of Gautam Buddha
R. L Kaith
One night Mahamaya, Chief queen of Suddodhana, King of the Sakyas, dreamt that she was carried away to the divine lake Anavataps in the Himalayas, where she bathed the heavenly guardians of the four quarters of the universe. A great white elephant with a lotus flower in its trunk approached her and entered her side. Next day the dream was interpreted for her by wise men-she had conceived a wonderful son, who would be either a Universal Emperor or a Universal Teacher. The child was born in a grove of Sal tress called Lumbini, near the capital of the Sakyas, Kalilavastu, while his mother was on the way to her parents’home for her confinement. At birth he stood upright took seven strides and spoke “This is my last birth-henceorth there is no more birth for me.”
The boy was named Siddhartha at a great ceremony to the fifth day from his birth. His Gotra name was Gautama. The sooth sayer prophasied that he would become a Universal Teacher. To prevent this prophecy coming true, King Suddodhana resolved that he should never know the sorrows of the world. He was reared in delighful palaces from whose garks every sign of death, discase and misery was removed. He learned all the arts that a prince should learn and excelled as a student. He married his cousin Yasodhara whom he won at a great contest at which performed feats of strength and skill which put to shame other contestants including his envious cousin Devadatta.
But for all his prosperity and success he was not inwardly happy and for all the effort of his father he did see the four signs foretold which were to decide his career, for the gods knew his destiny and it was this who placed the signs before him. One day as he was driving round the royal park with his faithful charioteer Channa, he saw an aged man in the last stages of infermity and decrepitude-actually a God who had taken this disguise in order that Siddhartha Gautama might become a Buddha. Siddhartha asked Channa who this repulsive being was, and when learned that all men must grow old he felt troubled. This was the first sign. The second came a little later, in the same way, in the form of a very sick man, covered with boils and shivering with fever. The third was even more terrible a corpse being carried to the cremation gound, followed by weeping mourners. But the fourth sign brought hope and consolation a wandering religious beggar, clad in a simple yellow robe, peaceful and calm with a mien of inward joy. On feeling him Siddhartha realised where his destiny lay and set his learnt to become a wanderer.
Hearing of this king Siddhodhana doubled his pretution. Siddhartha was made a virtual prisoner though still surrounded with pleasures and luxuries of all kinds, his heart knew no peace and he could never forget the four signs. One morning news was brought to him that Yasodhara had given birth to a son but it gave him no pleasure. That night there were great festivities but when all were sleeping he roused Channa who saddled his favourite horse Kanthakas and rode off into the night surrounded by rejoicing demigods who cautioned the fall of his horse’s hoofs, so that one should hear his departure. When far from the city he stripped off his jewellery and fine garments and put on a hermit ‘s robe provided by an attendant demigod. With his sword, he cut off his flowing hair and sent it back to his father with his garments by the hand of Channa. The horse Kanthaka dropped dead from grief when he found he was to be parted from his masteer, to be reborn in one of his heavens. Thus Siddhartha performed his “Great Going Forth”, and became a wandering ascetic owning nothing but thre robe he wore.
At first he beggad food as a wanderer but he soon gave up this life for that of a forest hermit. From sage named Alara Kalama he learned the technique of meditation and the lore of Brahman as taught in the Upnishads, but he not convinced that man could obtain liberation from sorrow by self-discipline and knowledge, so he joined forces with ascetics who practising the most rigorous self-mortification in the hope of wearing away their Karma and obtaining final bliss.
His penances became so severe that five quickly recognised him as their leader. For six years he torched himself until he was nothing but a walking skelton. One day , worn out by penances and hunger, he fainted and his followers believed that he was dead. But after a while he recovered consciousness and realised that his fasts and penances have been useless.He again began to beg food and his body regained its strength. The five disciples left in disgust at his backsliding.
One day Siddhartha Gautama, now thirty five years old, was seated beneath a large Pipal tree on the outskirts of the town of Gaya, in the realm of Bimbisara, King of Magadha. Sujata, daughter of a nearby farmer, brought him a large bowl of rice boiled in milk. After eating some of this he bathed, and that evening, again sitting beneath the Pipal tree, he made a solemn vow that, though his bones wasted away and his blood dried up, he would not leave his seat until the riddle of suffering was solved.
So for forty nine days he sat beneath the tree. At first he was surrounded by hosts of gods and spirits, awaiting the great moment of enlightenment but they soon fled, the Mara, the spirit of the world and sensual pleasure, the Buddhist devil, approached. For days Gautama withstood temptations of all kinds. Mara, disguished as a messenger, brought news that the wicked cousin Devadatta has revolted, thrown Suddhodhana into prison, and seized Yasodhara, but Gautama was not moved. Mara called his demon hosts, and attacked him with whirlwind, tempest, flood and earthquake, but he sat firm, crossed legged beneath the tree. Then the temper called on Gautama to produce evidence of his goodness and benevolence, he touched the ground with his hand, and the earth itself spoke with a voice of thunder: “I am his witness”. Mara then tried gentler means of shaking Gautama’s resolve. He called his three beautiful daughters . Desire, Pleasure and Passion, who danced and sang before him, and tried every means of seduction. Their wiles were quite inaffectual. They offered him Universal Empire but he was quite unmoved.
At last the demon hosts gave up the struggle and Gautama, left alone, sank deeper and deeper into meditation. At the dawning of the forty ninth day he knew the truth. He had found the secret of sorrow, and understood at last why the world is full of suffering and unhapiness of all kinds, and what man must do to overcome them. He was fully enlightened a Buddha. For another seven weeks he remained under the Tree of Wisdom, meditating on the great truths he had found.