Tag: renunciation

Story of the Golden Bowl going upstream

An account narrates a miracle in the Buddha’s life involving a golden bowl. It goes like this:

One day, Buddha had a vivid dream and interpreted it to mean the day he would achieve his enlightenment.

He went to have his meal of the day at the house of a devotee named Sujata. She was a rich noblewoman who believed in charity and providing to bhikkus.

She served him his meal in a golden bowl, offering it to him along with the food. Gautama asked her as to what shall he do with the bowl. To which she said that it belonged to him and he can do whatever he wishes with it. He remarked that he had no use of such a bowl, to which she told him that it would be rude of her to not offer the bowl despite offering the food.

Thus, he left with the bowl in his hands. He came across banks of a river and bathed and ate. Now that the bowl was empty, he threw it into the water as he said “If I am to become a Buddha today, then may the bowl go upstream, else let it go with the current.”

The bowl is said to have floated out of the river and have went upstream, eventually disappearing in a whirlpool. Said to have eventually gone to where bowls of previous Buddhas too went when they were emptied and thrown.

Thus, Buddha ventured forth to find a suitable spot along the river to meditate. Evening came and he discovered a tree of Peepal, now considered the Bodhi tree, or the “Tree of Knowledge”.

He came across a man reaping grass. The reaper is said to have given him eight handfuls of grass for his seat.

Gautama then sat under the tree and began meditating with the strongest resolve to attain the supreme truth.

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The Buddha’s Discovery of the Middle Path

Siddhartha Gautama discovered the Middle Path upon contemplation of his practiced lifestyles. He understood that the moderate path with no extremes would be the best.

Now that Gautama had seen and practiced both extremes of life, he had realised that neither of the two extremes would do any good to him or any individual who would indulge in them. He was now convinced that self harm was no good. Despite the fact that it was considered essential for enlightenment in his day, it actually weakened the body and intelligence.

He thus gave up this extreme of painfulness as he had given up indulgence in his life as a prince. He then thought about swaying towards neither side but rather living a life which would be the mean of these two. This would later be known as the Middle Path.

Gautama then recalled the ploughing incident in his childhood and how he had attained the first jhāna. He realised that this was the path of enlightenment; by living by the Middle path and meditating as he did back then, he can attain his goal.

Realising that enlightenment cannot be achieved with a weak and exhausted body, he decided to take care of his body. Even when his companions had left him alone, he did not lose hope. Contrary, it benefitted him in the same manner as it did when they had accompanied him in struggles.

After his enlightenment, this concept of moderation was manifested as the Eightfold Noble Path. Which is now considered a means to live by moderation and achieve enlightenment with practice.

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Struggle for Enlightenment in Uruvela

Prince Siddhartha came to be known as the Ascetic Gautama after taking leave from his second teacher. He wandered from place to place in Magadha and decided to live and practice in the forest of Uruvela. He found the place to be beautiful and worthy to live and meditate in as the forest was calm and pleasant. He thus began his struggle to seek truth by the means of enduring suffering.

5 young men, who too had become ascetics, sought him and eventually met him at his new abode. They were Kondanna, the one who had predicted his Buddhahood, and four sons of other sages: Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji. They joined his company and decided to struggle together and practice various forms of ritual tortures with him. They looked after him and encouraged him to strive to endure more pains. They were convinced that doing so would eventually lead to his enlightenment.

It was believed that one cannot gain enlightenment unless one is fully detached from pleasures of this world. Interpreting it as instead making one’s body suffer and torment. Thus, the company of these 6 monks did the same and endured various forms of pains.

Gautama practiced fasting, he used to live on a grain of rice a day, and then, nothing at all. This affected his body and he became frail and weak. Among other methods he would practice was the practice of holding one’s breath for a long time until it started to hurt violently. He would later describe his efforts in great details in the Sutras.

For six years, he would endure such practices. He eventually realised that such struggle was futile and he is not getting any wiser or getting close to his goal. He then began to beg for food to build his body back. Upon seeing this, his five companions left him in disappointment.

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Renunciation of the Buddha : Siddhartha leaves the Palace

Prince Siddhartha’s renunciation soon took place after the birth of his son Rahula. He affirmed his decision to leave after a feast failed to distract him.

Suddhodana organised a great feast for the young prince to celebrate the birth of his son, Rahula. The best dancers and musicians in the country were invited to perform. It was not out of delight that Suddhodana arranged it. He saw that Siddhartha was unhappy and that his new infant child was not giving him joy. The king was worried about the prince’s plans to leave the Palace. For the last time, he tried his best to divert him far from his solemn reflections.
Siddhartha went to the gathering just to satisfy his father. Siddhartha was worn out from his thoughts and he soon nodded off.

The performers soon stopped and they too rested when they saw this. Soon thereafter, the prince arose, stunned to see these people asleep. All the best performers and entertainers in the kingdom were now in such positions. These same people, who, hours prior, were endeavoring to make the prince so cheerful were now snoring loudly, some crushing and biting their teeth, they were tired from the effort. This change in their appearance made Siddhartha much more sickened and sad. He thought how oppressive it was. His mind turned again towards leaving the castle. He got up silently from the room and, woke up Channa, and made a request to saddle Kanthaka, his steed.

As Channa was saddling up Kanthaka, Siddhartha went to see his infant child for the first time. Yasodhara was laying down with the child next to her, her hand laying on the infant’s head. Siddhartha thought that if he attempts to move her hand so he can hold the baby for one final hug, he might wake her and she will keep him from his renunciation. He should leave at any cost, however, when he has discovered what he seeks, he shall return and see them once more.

Discreetly, Siddhartha left. At midnight, and the ruler was on his white steed Kanthaka with Channa, his loyal servant, held its tail. No one halted him as he rode far from all who knew, regarded and cherished him. He looked at the city of Kapilavastu one last time in the moonlight. He was renouncing his life to figure out to understand old age, disease and death. He rode to the bank of the stream Anoma (“celebrated”) and got off from his steed. He took off his adornments and royal garments and offered them to Channa to take them back to Suddhodhana. He then took his sword and trimmed off his long hair, wore simple robes, took a begging bowl and requested Channa to return with Kanthaka. Channa was asked to tell the king about his renunciation and that he shall return only when he had found the truth.

Channa was reluctant to return, but he began to go, however Kanthaka won’t follow him. The prince tried to persuade him, but Kanthaka won’t budge. Kanthaka figured that he might never see his master again. Kanthaka died of sadness as Siddhartha vanished into the horizon.

Thus was the renunciation.

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Monk : The sight which gave Buddha inspiration

The sight of a monk was the last of the four sights which compelled the Buddha to seek a means to end suffering and eventually be enlightened.
After numerous days of consideration and pain, Siddhartha went to the city for the fourth time. As he was heading to the park, he saw a man wearing an orange shaded robe. He asked Channa about the man in robes. Channa told him that the robed man was a monk. He was enthralled by the ascetic in saffron robes. The monk’s serene strides, calm face, tranquility and the look of being unbound from the world. The Prince wondered how brilliant it would be, to become a Samanna. At that point it struck Him, this is the path, to go in seeking for the truth. He knew, when one doesn’t have anything to own, one feels free. In this manner, letting the characteristics of the psyche to develop and appear, bringing peace, and the acknowledgment of the cause of suffering.

Living in the Palace could never give the freedom of the monk. It would, however, be a deterrent to the path of freedom and truth. He made plans to leave the Palace and turn into a sammana(wandering monk), and carry on with an ascetic life, endeavoring until discovering the cause of suffering. By doing so, he could help everybody live a tranquil and content life. Resolved to do that, the Prince came back to the Palace.

He strolled for a while to think some more. As he was sitting under the cool shady tree, news came that his wife had given birth to a son. When he heard the news he stated, “An obstruction (“rahula”) has been destined to me, a barrier to my abandonment has been conceived,”. Along these lines, his child was named Rahula. Rahula implies a block in way. A newborn child implies a barrier on the way to become a monk.

As he was coming back to the palace he met a Princess named Kisagotami. She had been watching out of the castle window and, seeing the sovereign coming, was so taken by his attractive looks that she said uproariously, “Gracious! How cheerful must be the mother, and father, and the spouse of such a nice looking youthful prince!”

As he passed this lady, Siddhartha heard this and pondered internally, “In a nice looking figure the mother, father and spouse discover bliss. Be that as it may, but how can one escape snags and enduring to achieve nirvana?”. He understood what he should do after this question and decided to abandon his family life and resign from the world in journey of illumination. He sent her a teacher’s fee. Siddhartha respected his pledge and sent it to Kisagotami to appreciate what she unknowingly taught him.

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