THICH HUYEN VI
Chapter II (1)
THE MAIN POINTS OF SAKYAMUNI BUDDHA’S LIFE 1
(From descent into the world to becoming enlightened)
In every religion, the founder is always a brilliant example for believers to follow. By reading the history of his life, it informs us about his action, behavior and sermons. We get many good lessons for self and others. If we learn the Doctrine of Lord Buddha, but we do not understand the life of Buddha clearly, it is only due to our imperfection. His life reveals his doctrine. His history is the witness of the evident truth which shows people that every person can learn and practice it without difficulty
We, therefore, are learning the history of the Buddha. We do not think that by studying this only we know something, but we have to search the important point in his life and afterwards we shall have to apply them to our life.
About the life of the Buddha, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the great thinker of India, wrote, “The sight of the holly man, healthy in body, cheerful in mind, without any of the comforts of life, impressed the Buddha strongly with the conviction that the pursuit of religion was the only goal worthy of man. It makes man independent of the temporary trials and fleeting pleasures of the world…”
“In the life of the Buddha there are two sides, individual and social. The familiar Buddha-image is of a meditating sage, yogin, absorbed and withdrawn, lost in the joy of his inner meditation. This is the tradition associated with the Theravada Buddhism and Asoka’s missions. For these, the Buddha is a man, not god, a teacher and not a savior. There is the other side of the Buddha’s life, when he is concerned with the sorrows of men, eager to enter their livers, heal their troubles and spread his message for the good of the many bahu-jana-hitaya. Based on this compassion for humanity, a second tradition matured in North India under the Kusanas (70-480 A. D.) and Gupta (320-650 A.D.). It developed the ideal of salvation for all, the discipline of devotion and the way of universal service”. (1)
I. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE DESCENT INTO THE WORLD?
It is usually using the terms of Buddhism, when is mentioned the presence of the Shakymuni Buddha in this world. Buddhist people often use the term of ‘The anniversary of the descent’, i.e. the Buddha’s birthday, not the conception. It also means Lord Buddha’s appearance made every person very joyful and happy! Second term is ‘To descent into the world’, as the Buddha is said to have done from the Tusita heaven, i.e. the descent of Buddha’s spirit into Maya’s womb, and the third term is ‘the descent into Maya Devi’s womb, it means that his is born as in the same way from the mother’s womb like everyone else.
The meanings of those three terms are different. First term is to bestow praise on the Buddha’s appearance, the second term conveys a mark of respect since Lord Buddha had come from the Tusita heaven, and the third term makes us know that the Buddha was born live every person.
In the Anguttanikaya Pali, it is mentioned that, “A unique Being, an extraordinary Man arises in this world for the benefit of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit, and happiness of gods and man. Who is this Unique Being? It is the Tathagata, the Exalted, and Fully Enlightened One”. (2)
According to my opinion, Lord Buddha’s descent into this world is due to his great com passion, as well as his great vow to save all beings and lead them to enlightenment. There is a difference between him and common mortal beings. Human beings born in this world due to karma, receive the results of karma of their deeds. They get karma-dirt, the defilement or remains of evil karma.
We think that, “The Bodhisattva, the excellent pearl, the incomparable, is born for good and for blessings in the world of men, in the Sakya’s town, in the country of Lumbini. Therefore, we are glad and are greatly rejoicing.
He, the most excellent of all beings, the highest man, the bull of men, the most excellent of all creatures, will turn the wheel (of the Dharma) in the Wood of the Seers, rearing like a lion, mighty Lord of beasts”.
II. THE ENVIROMENT AND FAMILY OF PRICE SIDDHARTHA.
Prince Siddhartha came into the world about 2,604 years ago in a small country in the North of India. It is between the Nepalese foothills and the river Rapti and lay to the Northeast of the present province of Oudh. Its capital was Kapilavastu nearby Himalayan Mountain, which was the highest all over the world.
At Kapilavastu resided the chiefs of the Sakya clan. Prince Siddhartha’s father, Suddhodana, and his mother, Maya Devi belonged to this clan. Both of them were strong of purpose and reverenced by all men.
One day in Kapilavastu city of King Suddhodana, there were the republic festivals. King, Ministers and all the people held the meeting with joyful banquets and concerts. Queen Mahamaya-Devi worshipped and offered something in the imperial palace. After that she went out to give the donations to poor people. Then she came back to the royal palace to sleep. At that time, there was a Bodhisattva who drove “a young white elephant with six adorned trunks, such as has been judged proper in Brahmanical works, was preferred. He therefore leaving Tusita, descents and, in the form of an elephant, enters by the right side, into the womb or cavity of the body of Maya-Devi, the wife of Suddhodana. She never felt such a pleasure as at that moment, when she tells the king the dream she had respecting that elephant. The Brahmins and the interpreters of dreams being called by the king, they prophesy the queen shall be delivered of a son, who will become either a universal monarch or a Buddha. The King greatly rejoicing upon hearing these predictions, ordered alms to be distributed and offerings or sacrifices to be made to the gods for the safety and happy delivery of Maya-Devi, and for the prosperity of the child that was to be born. He, himself, is very solicitous to do everything according to her pleasure. The gods render her every service, and all nature is favorable disposed on account of Bodhisattva or the incarnated saint”.
At Lumbini there was a beautiful grove, on the full moon day of May-Vassatatide (according to lunar calendar of Chinese, it mentioned the eighth of 4th, 624 B.C.). It was far from Kapilavastu city about 15 miles. “Queen Mahamaya-Devi was traveling in state from Kapilavastu to Devadsha, her parental home, according to the custom of the times, to give birth to her child. But that was not to be, for halfway between the two cities, in the Lumbini grove, under the shade of a flowering Sal tree, she brought forth a son”.(5)
On the Siddhartha’s birthday, in the Kapilavastu city the nature looked lovely, the weather was cool, on the trees appeared so many flowers and fruits. In the sky, many births sang and aureole was shining in the ten cardinal points.
When the boy Gautama was born, King Suddhodana was very happy! “The Queen, be-holding her child and the commotion which his birth created, felt in her timorous heart the pangs of doubt.
None there was at that time in a grove near Lumbini Asita, a rishi, leaving the life of a hermit. He was a Brahman of dignified mien, famed not only for wisdom and scholarship, but also for his skill in the interpretation of signs. And the King invited him to see the royal babe.
The seer, beholding the Price, wept and signed deeply; and when the King saw the tears of Asita he became alarmed and asked, “Why has the sight of my son caused the grief and paint”? But Asita’s heart rejoiced, and, knowing the king’s mind to be perplexed, he addressed him saying, “The King, like the moon when full, should feel great joy, for he has begotten a wondrously noble son. I do not worship Brahma, but I worship this child, and the gods in the temples will descent from the places of honor to adore him. Banish all anxiety and doubt. The spiritual omens manifested indicate that the child now born will bring deliverance to the whole world. Recollecting that I, myself am old, on that account I could not hold my tears, for now my end is coming on and I shall not see the glory of this babe. For this son of thane will rule the world”. (6)
“For this prince was endowed with the thirty-two marks of the Great-Man. (7) If he lives the life of the householder, he would become a Universal Monarch but if he adopted the religious life he would become a Buddha, removing from the world the veils of ignorance and sin”, Asita said.
King Suddhodana would like to keep his newborn infant in his to succeed to the throne. After the prince’s birth he was named Siddhartha or Sidhatha which means “he who was accomplished his purpose”. His family name was Gautama.
Seven days after the birth of Price Siddhartha, Queen Maha-Devi dies and is born again into the heaven palace, in the Trayas-trimsha heaven.
Under the kind care of Siddhartha is maternal aunt, Maha-Prajapati Gautama, Siddhartha spent his early years in ease, luxury and culture. And as the light of the moon increases little by little, so the royal boy grew from time to time in mind and in body, and truthfulness and love resided in his heart.
III. ATTAIMENT AND MORALITY OF PRINCE SIDDHARTHA
Prince Siddhartha, the more he grew up, the more he became clever, his countenances was the more good looking, as well as his capacity was outstanding. In art, literature and other secular crafts, he was experienced. He knew many kinds of letter shown by the schoolmaster. The master was astonished at his wisdom and uttered many soaks expressive of is praise. He excelled all other young Sakya in the gymnastic exercises, such as swimming, leaping wrestling, archery. Siddhartha cleared and reads of an immense tree that had fallen down.
Although Siddhartha’s capacity was better than others. He was a man of superior accomplishment. Siddhartha had never shown any pride or looked down upon any person. His attitude was very tactful, and conciliating. Therefore, his father-king loved him very much, as well as all people respected him.
IV. KING SUDDHODANA DISCOURACED SIDDHARTHA’S GREAT AMBITION.
When Prince Siddhartha had grown to youth, King Suddhodana was worried much. He remembered Asita’s words, ‘Prince will become a Buddha’. He saw the face of Siddhartha was not so happy, he was thinking very much. Now Raja Suddhodana had three palaces built for the boy Gautama, one for the rains, one for the winter and one for the summer, and he every kind of luxury for the five senses. Thus, it came to pass that Gautama spent the four months of the rainy season in the rains palace, ministered to by bands of female musicians, and not one did he come down into the mansion.
But, this much was not enough yet. Suddhodana chose the Princess Yasodhara, the daughter of Suprabuddha of Kapilavastu, and devised a plan to engage Siddhartha’s heart. After their marriage a son was born to them whom they named Rahula, which mean “fetter” or “tie”.
Prince Siddhartha is stated to have passed many years in the court of King Suddhodana, enjoying during that time all worldly pleasures. Afterwards, the following circumstances determined him to take the religious character.
V. THE FOUR AFFLICIONS OF THE WORLD
One day Prince Siddhartha followed the king to attend a plugging festival. The landscape was like a picture. It was very beautiful. There were so many fresh flowers and the birds sang together. Siddhartha looked at the view. He was not so happy, the pensive child, young in years but old in wisdom. He saw the cultivators and the buffalos’ suffering! The birds killed so many insects. That is, the afflictions of the world! After thinking, Siddhartha sat cross-legged and seized the opportunity to commence that all important practice of intent concentrations on the breath-on exhalations and inhalation which gained for him, then and there, that one wontedness of mind know as Samadhi and he thus developed the First Ghana (a developed state of consciousness gained by concentration) or Ecstasy. The child’s nurses, who had abandoned their precious charge to enjoy themselves at the Festival, suddenly realizing their duty, hastened to the child and were amazed to see him, sitting cross-legged plunged in deep meditation. The king hearing of it, hurried to the spot and, seeing the child in meditative posture, worshipped him, saying, “This, dear child, is second obeisance”. (9)
Some other days, Siddhartha desired to visit outside the royal palace. King Suddhodana gave command that everywhere should be swept and garnished nicely. Siddhartha rode with Channa, his charioteer, through the streets of the city. First time he saw an old man his head was white, his eyes were bleared, and his body was withered! Second time Siddhartha met a sick person he looked at this man. The four elements of his body were confused and out of order. All persons are subject to such conditions, the poor and the rich, ignorant and wise all creatures that have bodies, are liable to the same calamity! He thought thus. Third time he saw a corpse, his body was stark; his life was gone; his thoughts were still; his family and friends who loved him now carried the corpse to the grave.
What he saw he discussed with Channa, the Prince was full of awe and terror. There is no escape from birth, age, sick and death! Siddhartha was thinking so much!
On the last visit out, Siddhartha met a Sramana who was self-possessed, serene, dignified, self-controlled, with downcast eyes dressed in the garb of a religious and carrying a bowl. “Who are you?” said Siddhartha. “I am a Sramana. I would like seek the path of salvation for me and others. In this world everything is impermanent. Birth, old age, disease and death always make us trouble”.
On hearing the Sramana’s answer, Siddhartha thought, “It is a good idea and makes me eager to follow the same course of life to become a Sramana’s, and it shall be my refuge and the refuge of others and shall yield the fruit of life and immortality”.
At one, Siddhartha returned to the royal palace again. This time he decided to request his father to allow him to leave home to become a Sramana’s. This had been requested before but King Suddhodana did not allow. Prince Siddhartha then requested 4 conditions. If the king granted the following, he can change his decision. The four conditions were as follows:
1) How can I become young man forever?
2) How can I be healthy forever?
3) How can I gain a long life forever?
4) How can the human beings be free from sufferings?
These four conditions were impossible for King Suddhodana to fulfill.
VI. THE GREAT RENUNCIATION.
King Suddhodana knew the determination of Siddhartha; the king would not allow his son to depart with free will. But it was not to be.
One night, Siddhartha “returned to the bedroom of his wife to take a last farewell glance at those whom he dearly loved above all the treasures of the earth. He longed to take the infant once more into his arms and kiss him with a parting kiss. But the child lay in the arms of his mother and the price could not kiss him without awakening both”.
“There Siddhartha stood gazing at his beautiful wife and his beloved son, and his heart grieved. The pain of parting overcame him powerfully. Although his mind was determined so that nothing is it good or evil could shake his resolution, the tears followed freely from his eyes, and it was beyond his power to check their stream. But the prince tore himself away with a manly heart, suppressing his feeling but not extinguishing his memory”.
“Siddhartha had cut his waving hair and had exchanged his royal robe for a mean dress of the color of the ground. Having sent home Channa, the charioteer, together with the noble steed Karnataka, to King Suddhodana to bear him the message that the prince had left the world, the Bodhisattva walked along on the highroad with a beggar’s bowl in his hand”. (10)
After, to take leave of the life of royal prince, Siddhartha went to the deep forest to search for the truth.
First of all, Siddhartha went to Alara Kalama and Udraka Brahmaputra and sat at their feet. He learned the doctrines of Atman or self from them. He studied their view about the transmigration of soul, as well as the law of Karma, etc. These teaching did not satisfy him. He approached other teachers, but he could not learn from them the way of escape from sorrow and suffering. At that time he went here and there to find the best leaders, but he could not find those who taught the ways of release from the wheel of births-and-deaths, the round of mortality. From then, he went to the bank of the Nairahjana River. He applied himself to self mortification. And now he thought, “This way is the means to conquer birth and death”. He practiced there an austere rule of fasting and of mortification for six years. His body became shrunken like a withered branch. One time he thought that practice of the most severe asceticism cannot make me successful. I should go the middle way (majjhima patipada). Therefore, he received some rice milk offered by a shepherd girl. Afterwards, he took a bath in the Nairahjana River.
He then entered on a course of reflection and self-examination, trusting to his own reason. Now he sat under the Bodhi tree at Bodhigays and made this firm resolution, “Let my skin, sinews and bones along remain, and let my blood and fresh dry up, yet never will I move from this seat without attaining full enlightenment”.
VII. THE SUPPREME ENLIGHTEMENT.
As the man who has attained Enlightenments, the supreme wisdom and becomes a Buddha. Before that time he tried his best to fight with Mara, the Evil One. Inside he fought with his desire, resentment, stupidity, arrogance, doubt and so on, and outside he tried to fight with Diva-Mara, who dwells in the sixth heaven with his innumerable host, whence he constantly obstructs the Buddha-truth and its followers. Siddhartha triumphed over the inside enemies, as well as the outside Mara. To the highest bliss has he attained who has conquered all selfishness and vanity? He became the Samyaksambuddha, the Holy One, the Blessed One, and the Perfect One.
On the night of the 49th, The Enlightenment One attained the Purvanivasanusmrtijnanam knowledge of all former existences of self and others, i.e. Insight into the mortal conditions of self and others in previous lives, in the second watch. In the midnight he attained and Divyam caksuh Diva-vision, i.e. instantaneous view of anything, anywhere in the form-realms. It was in the fourth watch, the Blessed One attained the Asravak-sayajnanam, supernatural consciousness of the waving of vicious propensities, i.e. into present mortal suffering so as to overcome all passions or temptations.
From that day, he becomes Anuttara Samyaksam-Buddha. His title is Shakymuni-Buddha, a fully Enlightened One. He becomes Jinni, a victorious one. The problem of suffering was solved from now on. The solution is given in the four noble truths.
VIII. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BUDDHA’S RENUNCIATION.
The army commanders triumphing over the enemies on the battlefield are called heroes. The more victory they achieve, the more ovation they get. Examples of such heroes can be seen in Napoleon of France (1769-1821); Ch’in-Shid-Huang, the first Emperor of a United-China (221-209 B. C.); Julius Caesar, a Roman General and statesman (100-44 B. C.) and so on. Which of these persons got victory over their desires? Conquering the enemies is difficult no doubt, but conquering our own selves is yet more difficult. Lord Buddha own over the internal enemies, as well as the external Mara, the Evil One. He can really be called the great hero and the great brave man.
Lord Buddha left home to become monk not for himself, but for all human beings due to compassion. His compassion was not only for this world, but it was also for the three states of mortal existence in the trailokya, i.e. in the realms of desire, of form and beyond form. His compassion can be compared to the deep ocean, to the great mountain. He can really be called the great compassionate and the great should full of pity.
With compassion, the Buddha moved off the royal seat, the imperial palace, and he also took leave of the beautiful wife and lovely child, gave up the five desires, arising from the objects of the five senses, things seen, heard, smelt, tested and touched. Even the desires of wealth, sex, food and drink, fame and sleep. He went to the deep forest, continued for six years patiently torturing him and suppressing his desires. He trained his body and exercised his mind in the modes of the most rigorous ascetic life. Lord Buddha did so for the sake of human beings! The entire world is full of darkness and ignorance; there is no one who knows how to cure the ills of existence. Lord Buddha would like to give up his own life in order to save humanity from the danger above. Therefore, he can really be called the great joy, i.e. Seeing others rescued from suffering and the great indifference, i.e. rising above these emotions or giving up all things.
Today, whenever we speak high of the Buddha, we never forget the significance of him, that is, the great hero, the great brave man, the great compassionate, the great pit, the great joy and the great indifference.
We, Buddhists, should have mental right initiation and industry!
We already know the main points of Lord Buddha’s life from descent into the world up to his becoming enlightened. The brilliant example of Lord Buddha shows us many excellent ways and reveals to us many new meanings of life.
First of all, we must follow Lord Buddha’s footsteps and practice what he taught us in the doctrine, furthermore, we have to vow to help other people. We should never be selfish but for others. We should do only one thing, that is, “Above to seek the enlightenment, below to save all human beings”. Even if we meet with any obstacle, we do not step back. As when Lord Buddha sat under the tree at Gaya, many things happened to disturb him! But he did not pay any heed to it at all. We must follow him on that point. Thereby, we can be called the true sons of the Buddha’s!
Without suffering one cannot become a Buddha.
The end of chapter II (1)