Buddha and Buddhism
Having gained this doctrine the Buddha thought how difficult it would be for humanity to understood because of their attachments and lust. Trying to teach it to them would be vexation for him. However, the god Brahma asked him to teach the doctrine, because some people, who were not too impure, were falling away from not hearing the teachings. Then the Buddha in pity for beings surveyed their conditions and saw some of little impurity whom he could teach. At first he thought of his former teachers Alara Kalama and Uddaka, but in his clairvoyant awareness he realized that both of them had just died in the last few days. Then he decided to teach the five mendicants who had been with him in their striving. Perceiving that they were in the deer park at Benares, he decided to go there.
Along the way he met an Ajivika ascetic named Upaka, who when told of the Buddha's enlightenment, merely said that he hoped that it was so and went his way. When the five mendicants saw Siddartha Gautama, they thought they would not rise in respect but would offer him a seat. However, as the Buddha arrived, they spontaneously greeted him as a friend. They still criticized him for living in abundance, but the Buddha explained that he does not live in abundance. He spoke to them as one enlightened, and they had to agree that he never had spoken to them in that manner before. While he admonished two of them, the other three went off to collect alms; then he spoke with those three while the other two went for alms. In this way all five soon attained insight and the supreme peace.
In this deer park at Benares the Buddha gave his first sermon in which he explained that the two extremes are not to be practiced by the one who is enlightened - what is joined with the passions and luxury which is low, vulgar, common, ignoble, and useless, nor what is joined with self-torture which is painful, ignoble, and useless too. Avoiding these two extremes the enlightened follow the middle path which produces insight and knowledge and leads to peace, wisdom, enlightenment, and nirvana. Buddha then expounded the four noble (aryan) truths of his doctrine.
Now this, monks, is the noble truth of pain:
birth is painful; old age is painful;
sickness is painful; death is painful;
sorrow, lamentation, dejection, and despair are painful.
Contact with unpleasant things is painful;
not getting what one wishes is painful.
In short the five groups of grasping are painful.
Now this, monks, is the noble truth of the cause of pain:
the craving, which leads to rebirth,
combined with pleasure and lust,
finding pleasure here and there,
namely the craving for passion,
the craving for existence,
and the craving for non-existence.
Now this, monks, is the noble truth
of the cessation of pain:
the cessation without a remainder of craving,
the abandonment, forsaking, release, and non-attachment.
Now this, monks, is the noble truth
of the way that leads to the cessation of pain:
this is the noble eightfold way, namely,
correct understanding, correct intention,
correct speech, correct action, correct livelihood,
correct attention, correct concentration,
and correct meditation.1
The Buddha declared that Kaundinya had understood the doctrine, and he welcomed him as the first monk in the community by saying, "Come, monk, well proclaimed is the doctrine; lead a religious life for making a complete end of pain."2 After further instruction the other four mendicants were also admitted into the community (sangha). Then the Buddha preached to the five that the body, perceptions, feelings, the mind, and even discriminating consciousness are not the self or soul. By turning away from the body, perceptions, feelings, mind, and discriminating consciousness, one becomes free from craving and emancipated. Life then becomes religious and is no longer under finite conditions.
Yasa, the son of a wealthy guildmaster, lived in luxury at Benares, and like Siddhartha he became disgusted with his palace attendants. After hearing the Buddha's doctrine he left home and became the first lay disciple in the new Community. The first women to become lay disciples were Yasa's mother and former wife. They were soon followed by four friends of Yasa and then fifty more. The Buddha then suggested that the sixty disciples wander around separately to preach the doctrine so that others may be liberated from the fetters of illusion, while he went to Uruvela in Magadha.
There thirty men of royal blood had entered the forest with their 29 wives and a courtesan for the one who was not married. When the courtesan ran off with their gold, silver, and gems, they all went to search for her and found the Buddha. He asked them if it was more important to seek for that woman or for themselves. When they agreed that their selves were more important, they sat down so that the Buddha could teach them how to seek within themselves.
Shakyamuni was sitting under a banyan tree when a Brahmin named Drona approached him in awe, asking if he was a god. The Tathagata said no. The Brahmin asked if he were a kind of nature spirit (gandharva or yaksha), but again the Buddha denied it. When he asked if he were a human, he denied that too. Finally Drona asked him if he was neither divine nor non-human nor human, then what was he? The reply was that he is Buddha (awake).
Shubha, a Brahmin student, asked the Buddha why humans differed so much in birth, intelligence, health, and so on. Shakyamuni explained that beings are heirs of karma, the consequences of their actions. Evildoers may experience happiness until their deeds ripen, and the good may experience bad things until their good deeds ripen. The pure and the impure create their own destinies; no one can purify another.
Also living in this region were three Brahmin brothers of the Kashyapa family. They were ascetics with matted hair over the age of seventy and were the most respected religious leaders in Magadha with a total of about one thousand disciples. The Buddha spoke with the oldest, Uruvilva Kashyapa, but it was difficult for him to accept that such a young man could be so holy. Finally the Buddha used his mystic powers, and convinced of the Buddha's superiority Uruvilva decided to follow him. The Buddha suggested that they ask his five hundred followers what they wanted to do, and they all decided to join as well, shaving their hair and beards and throwing their ceremonial utensils into the river. The two Kashyapa brothers saw the implements in the river and eventually joined as well with their disciples.
On the way to Rajagriha the Buddha and the thousand disciples saw the volcanic mountain Gayashirsa with its glowing fire. The Buddha preached his sermon on fire - how the sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and actions are burning with the poisons of covetousness, anger, and ignorance. At the capital he preached to King Bimbisara about the triple doctrine of almsgiving, precepts, and good works. The king declared that all five of his wishes had been fulfilled - that he might be king, that a Buddha would come to his kingdom, that he would meet him, be instructed by him, and understand the teachings. After the sermon King Bimbisara donated a bamboo grove near the capital as a site for a monastery.
Also at Rajagriha lived the agnostic Sanjaya, who also had many disciples under two named Shariputra and Maudgalyayana who were seeking enlightenment and a better teacher. Shariputra observed Assaji (one of the first five mendicants in the Community) begging and learned of the Buddha's teachings. He told Maudgalyayana, and they told the two hundred fifty disciples of Sanjaya. Even though Sanjaya tried three times to stop them from going away, they all went to find the Buddha, who greeted them with the revelation that these two would become his greatest disciples. Within two weeks of joining the community both Shariputra and Maudgalyayana had become enlightened.
In meditating Maudgalyayana had trouble with drowsiness and falling asleep. The Buddha suggested several remedies including laying down for a while to sleep before resuming meditation. The uncle of Shariputra was a skeptic like Sanjaya and told the Buddha that he could not accept any conclusive doctrine. Shakyamuni simply asked him if he recognized his own doctrine as conclusive. Caught in self-contradiction, he realized the weakness and limitation of skeptical philosophy. Then the Buddha explained the law of causation in human life.
Having heard that his son had become a Buddha, King Suddhodana sent Udayin to invite Shakyamuni to the capital at Kapilavastu. Udayin was converted to the new religion, and Shakyamuni returned to his home town. His father criticized him for begging for food when he was rich enough to feed thousands of followers. Shakyamuni replied that mendicancy was the correct custom for his line, by which he meant the line of Buddhas. Verbal discussions were not enough to win over people who had known him as a boy; so the Buddha used his mystical powers to convince them.
Siddartha's half-brother Nanda was about to be declared crown prince and married to Sundari, the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, but he decided to join the community instead. However, he could not help thinking about Sundari; so the Buddha gave him a vision of hundreds of heavenly maidens, though this was later criticized by others as a wrong motivation for seeking enlightenment. Eventually Nanda repented of this motivation and asked the Buddha to dissolve his promise of these maidens, and Nanda attained enlightenment and became an arhat (a term meaning "worthy" or "honorable" used for disciples who attained the highest level of awareness).
Siddartha's son Rahula was also admitted to the community at the age of ten, but later a rule was made that minors under twenty could not join the community without permission from their parents. Many Shakya nobles also joined the community at this time (according to legend 80,000) including Ananda, Anuruddha, Devadatta, Bhaddiya, and Kimbila. On the way to Buddha they were accompanied by their barber and slave, Upali. They sent him back to Kapilavastu with their jewels, but afraid of the Shakyas' reaction, he put them on a tree and rejoined the five aristocrats. Upali, who was of the lowest caste, was ordained first giving him seniority over the nobles he had served so that their Shakya pride might be moderated. Like Mahavira, the Buddha taught in the ordinary language of the people rather than in the aristocratic Sanskrit.
Complaints that monks wandering around during the rainy season trampled the grass and destroyed living creatures led the Buddha to adopt the custom of staying in retreat during the three months of rain. After one of these retreats a wealthy householder from Shravasti, who became known as Anathapindada ("Giver of alms to the unprotected"), confessed to the Buddha that he enjoyed his investing and business cares. Shakyamuni suggested that he be a lay disciple and continue his work and use it as a blessing for other people. So Anathapindada invited the Buddha to spend the next rainy season at Shravasti, the chief city in Kosala, where he purchased and built the Jetavana Monastery. Later when Anathapindada was dying of a painful illness, Shariputra went and taught him the mental concentration for the avoidance of pain usually only taught to monks, and Anathapindada died in peace.
The Buddha liked the Jetavana Monastery to be quiet, for he once dismissed Yashoja and five hundred monks for talking too loudly after they arrived. However, they went to another place near Vaishali and made great spiritual gains. Later when the Buddha traveled to Vaishali he noticed that the area was illuminated. He told Ananda to invite Yashoja and the five hundred monks to the hall with the peaked roof. When they arrived, the Buddha was sitting in silent meditation; they too joined him in silent concentration. Every few hours Ananda approached the Buddha to ask him to greet these monks, but Shakyamuni remained silent and in the morning told Ananda that if he understood meditation better he would not have kept asking him to greet the monks, who were likewise sitting in immovable concentration.
A new monk once confessed to the Buddha for having eaten meat in his almsbowl, but the Buddha forgave those who ate meat that was not prepared for them. Their ethical principle was not to harm any living creature. Yet he criticized those who hunt and kill animals for sport and warned his followers not to accept any food from such blood-stained hands.
After Shakyamuni's father died as a lay disciple, he declared that a lay disciple, whose mind is free from the poisons of lust, attachment, false views, and ignorance, is no different than anyone else who is free. Fearing a famine the Shakya warrior chiefs agitated for a war with the Kolyas over water rights to the Rohini River. The Kolyas had built a dike to conserve water; when they refused the Shakyas' demand to dismantle it, both sides prepared for war. Just before the battle was to begin, the Buddha spoke to both sides, asking them to compare the value of earth and water to the intrinsic value of people and the human blood they were about to spill. He told a parable about a decrepit demon, who fed on anger and took over a royal throne becoming stronger as more anger was directed at him until the true king came and calmly offered to serve the throne which led to the diminishment and disappearance of the anger demon. In this way the war was avoided.
Krisha Gautami was stricken with grief when her only son died. Unable to find a physician who could bring him back to life, someone suggested that she go to the Buddha. He told her to get a handful of mustard seed in the city, but it must be from a house where no one has ever lost a child, spouse, parent, or friend. Eventually she came to realize how common death was and put aside her selfish attachment to her child.
Prajapati, the aunt and foster mother of Shakyamuni, asked to be admitted to the community. With Ananda acting as intermediary the Buddha established eight conditions for the admittance of nuns into the community. Nuns had to make obeisance to all the monks even the newest, and nuns were not allowed to criticize a monk, though monks criticized nuns. Although they were not treated equally, at least women were allowed to join the community. The sexism was also apparent when the Buddha told Ananda that the religious life would only last five hundred years instead of a thousand because women had been admitted.
A legend tells how a disciple used magical power to get a sandalwood bowl that had been tied from the top of a bamboo pole as a kind of contest. When the Buddha heard of it, he forbade those in the community to use such magical powers and had the bowl broken up and used as perfume. He suggested that his disciples only gain adherents by the miracle of instruction.
In the ninth year after the enlightenment the Buddha was at Kaushambi, and the monk Malunkyaputra complained that the Buddha never explained whether the world is eternal or temporary, finite or infinite, or whether life and the body are the same or different, or whether arhats are beyond death or not. He even threatened to leave the community if the Buddha would not answer his questions. First the Buddha asked him if he had ever promised to explain these things; he had not.
Then he told the parable of a man who was pierced by a poisoned arrow, and his relatives summoned a doctor. Suppose, he said, the physician had said that he would not remove the arrow nor treat the patient until his questions had been answered, such as who made the bow, what kind it was, all about the arrow, and so on. The man would die, and still the information would not be known. Then the Buddha told Malunkyaputra that a person would come to the end of one's life before those metaphysical questions he had asked could be answered by the Tathagata. Those questions do not tend toward edification nor lead to supreme wisdom. However, the Buddha's teaching regarding suffering, its cause, and the means of ending it is like removing the poisoned arrow.
A conflict arose in the community when a monk who refused to admit he had committed an offense was expelled. Some complained that this violated their principle that only evil deeds committed with conscious intent are morally reprehensible. However, the Buddha declared that the two greatest ways to obtain demerit are not to ask forgiveness after committing a wrong and not to forgive one who has confessed and asked for forgiveness.
A Kalama nobleman from north of Kaushambi admitted that he had doubts because various teachers expressed contradictory views. The Buddha responded that he was wise not to believe everything but to question with reason and by experience. After thorough investigation whether the teachings are good, free from faults, praised by the noble, and when practiced lead to the welfare and happiness of oneself and other beings as well, then they may be accepted and lived.
At Asyapura they found Brahmin priests sacrificing horses, sheep, goats, cows, and other animals on bloody altars decorated with images of gods. The Buddha told his followers not to be deceived but to purify their hearts and cease to kill. They should not refuse to admit they are ascetics, who enjoy robes, bowl, bed, and medicine. In their simplified lives they learn how to calm their bodies and concentrate their minds to awaken the four religious qualities of loving friendship, compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity. The Buddha also declared that in regard to this ascetic life all the castes are equal.
A monk named Sona in the Sitavana Monastery at Rajagriha was so zealous in walking that his feet left a bloody trail. The Buddha asked him if his lute could be played well if the strings were too tight or too loose. Just so, excessive zeal may make the mind weary and one's thoughts irritable and uncertain. He suggested to Sona that gradual progress led to self-mastery and happiness rather than anxiety.
A young Brahmin named Vakula was so infatuated with the Buddha that he continually kept him in his sight. The Buddha explained that the one who sees the dharma (doctrine) sees the Buddha, but Vakula still always remained in his presence. Finally at the end of the rainy season the Buddha asked him to go away. Realizing that Vakula was climbing Vulture Peak to commit suicide, Shakyamuni went after him and called him back lest he destroy the conditions for winning great fruit.
An ambitious disciple named Purna decided to spread the doctrine to the Shronaparantakas. The Buddha knowing that they were a dangerous people asked him what he would do if they insulted and abused him. Purna said he would consider them good and kind for not hitting him and throwing rocks at him. But what if they hit and throw rocks? Then he would be glad they did not use clubs and swords. If they used clubs and swords, he would be glad they did not kill him; even if they kill him, they will have delivered him from his vile body. So equipped with patience and love Purna went to the Shronaparantakas and was about to be killed by a hunting archer for fun, when the hunter was so struck by how willing this person was to die that he stopped and eventually accepted the three refuges of the Buddha, the Doctrine, and the Community.
Another monastery at Purvarama near Rajagriha was donated by Vishakha, the daughter of a rich man. Once at this monastery the Buddha remained silent on the moon day when the preaching service and confessions by the monks took place. Finally the Buddha said to Ananda that the assembly was not wholly pure. Maudgalyayana perceiving who the immoral person was, asked him to leave; when he refused to leave three times, he was escorted out of the hall by the arm. The Tathagata thought it strange that he should wait until he was thrown out. Then the Buddha declared that he would no longer attend these sessions, but the monks would recite the regulations themselves.
When Shakyamuni was about 55 his personal attendant at the time, Nagasamala, insisted on taking a different road than the Buddha advised and was beaten by robbers. At the Shravasti Monastery the Buddha announced that he wanted to have a permanent attendant. Shariputra volunteered, but the Buddha said his work was teaching. Maudgalyayana and others were also rejected. Ananda remained silent, but Shakyamuni asked him if he would find it a bother. Ananda said that it would not be bothersome, but he did not consider himself worthy. Then he offered to do it on the following eight conditions: that he not have to accept gifts or alms given to the Buddha nor dwell in his chamber nor accept invitations offered only to him and that he may accompany the Perfect One when the monks are invited, that he may present him to those who come from a distance, that he may have access to him at all times, and that whatever teaching he missed by absence should be repeated to him by the Perfect One's own lips. The Buddha heartily agreed, and Ananda was his personal attendant for the rest of his life.
Shakyamuni was able to tame a dangerous robber and admitted him into the community. He also bathed and treated a monk, who was suffering from dysentery and had been neglected by the other monks because he lay in his own excrement. On another occasion he found that a leper understood the doctrine very well as he explained that whatever has a beginning must have an end.
About 491 BC when Shayamuni was 72 a schism arose in the community, because his cousin Devadatta wanted to take over as head of the community; but Buddha refused saying that he would not even turn it over to Shariputra or Maudgalyayana much less to a vile one to be vomited like spit. Devadatta became resentful and used his magical powers to win the favor of Prince Ajatashatru, the son of King Shrenika Bimbisara. They plotted together to take over the kingdom of Magadha and the Buddhist community. Bimbisara and the Buddha were to be murdered, but since Bimbisara turned over his kingdom to his son he was merely put in prison where he soon died, though chronicles stated he was killed by his son.
Hired killers were converted by the Buddha, but Devadatta tried to roll a huge boulder from Vulture Peak down upon the Buddha. However, only Shakyamuni's foot was scratched. Yet spilling the blood of a Tathagata with murderous intent created terrible karma for Devadatta. When he had learned of his intent, the Buddha had already declared that Devadatta's words and actions were not to be considered as representing the community in any way. Although he had gained a few followers, these were persuaded to return to the real community after long sermons by Shariputra and Maudgalyayana when Devadatta fell asleep after his own talk. Abandoned and with his psychic powers destroyed by his evil intentions Devadatta soon became ill and died.
King Ajatashatru, who had also listened to Mahavira, was eventually converted by the Buddha, but his previous evil intentions and actions prevented him from attaining the enlightenment he might have achieved in that life. Ajatashatru married the daughter of the Kosala King Pasenadi, and Pasenadi's son married a maiden of the resentful Shakyas who was secretly of low birth. Her son, Vidudabha, swore revenge against the Shakyas. Pasenadi killed his powerful general and his sons, replacing them with the nephew Digha Karayana. While Pasenadi was listening to the Buddha, Digha hurried off and put Vidudabha on the throne. Pasenadi tried to get help from Ajatasatru but died of exposure on the way to Rajagriha.
Surveying the world the Buddha became aware of Vidudabha's intention to attack the Shakyas and three times was able to convince him to turn back, but on the fourth time the Shakyas' karma for poisoning the river could not be averted, and they were massacred. Enough Shakyas remained, however, to accept a portion of Shakyamuni's relics after his death. When Shakyamuni was 79, both his chief disciples, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, died. Shariputra died in the home where he was born, but Maudgalyayana was killed by robbers to balance karma from a former life.
At the age of eighty the vitality of the Tathagata's body seemed to diminish, and he declared that he had only three months to live. Ananda missed the opportunity to plead with him to stay until the end of the eon as Buddhas could do, and Ananda was later blamed for that by the Community. Finally Shakyamuni took his last meal, ordering a smith named Cunda to give him some mushrooms (literally pig's food or pork) and give the monks other food and then bury the rest of the mushrooms. Sharp sickness arose with a flow of blood and deadly pains, but the Buddha mindfully controlled them and declared that he would die in the third watch of the night. He sent word that Cunda was not to feel remorse but consider this giving of alms of the greatest merit.
Ananda asked the Buddha how he was to act toward women. The Buddha advised him not to see them; but if he saw them, not to speak to them; but if speaking, to exercise mindfulness. Then he said his burial was to be handled by the local Kshatriyas. That evening Ananda brought the local families to say goodby, and then the Buddha answered the questions of an ascetic named Subhadda. Before going through the four stages of higher awareness into nirvana, the last words of the Buddha were, "Decay is inherent in all component things. Work out your salvation with diligence."3