Thursday, December 25, 2014

Seven weeks after enlightenment

Crystal Quintero and CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly; (e-learning)
Prayer flags flutter over Boudha stupa (reliquary), Nepal (Amiraelwakil/flickr)

(Part I) 18. Seven Weeks After Enlightenment (porlandnonsequitur)
1. Under the Bodhi Tree
During the first week after enlightenment, the Buddha sat under the bodhi (enlightenment, awakening) tree experiencing the bliss and happiness of complete freedom and final peace. He was liberated from all disturbing thoughts, calm and full of joy.

2. Gazing at the Tree
Woodland spirits (
During the second week, out of thanks and gratitude to the tree that had sheltered him during his quest for supreme enlightenment, the Buddha stood without moving his eyes as he meditated on the bodhi tree.

Following this example, it is the custom of Buddhists to pay respect to not only the original bodhi tree (which centuries later was destroyed by Muslim religious extremists), but also to the descendants of the bodhi tree that still thrive today, particularly on a giant island just off the southern tip of India, which is the location of the oldest documented tree.
3. The Golden Bridge
Climbing a golden bridge (Vitaliy Raskalov/Krulwich wonders/
In the third week the Buddha saw through his mind’s eye that the devas [fairies, sylphs, dryads, gandharvas] in the vicinity were not sure whether or not he had attained enlightenment. To prove his enlightenment the Buddha created a golden bridge in the air and walked up and down it in meditation for seven days.

4. The Jewelled Chamber
Triple Gem (
In the fourth week he created a beautiful jewelled chamber and sitting inside it meditated on what was later known as the "Detailed Teaching" (Abhidharma).

His mind and body were so purified that an aura of six colored rays came out of his body -- blue, yellow, red, white, orange, and a mixture of these five.
Today these six colors make up the popular Buddhist flag.

Buddha flags in HK (m.gin/
Each color represented one noble quality of the Buddha: yellow for holiness, white for purity, blue for confidence, red for wisdom and orange for desirelessness. The mixed color represented all these noble qualities.

5. Three Girls
Distractions (
During the fifth week while meditating under a banyan tree, three very charming girls called Taṇhā, Arati, and Raga [Craving, Boredom, and Passion, Mara's three "daughters"] came to disturb his meditation. They "danced" in a most seductive and charming manner and did everything to tempt the Buddha to watch their dance and lead him astray. But he continued to meditate undisturbed. Before long they tired and left him in peace.
6. The Mucalinda Tree
Buddha with Mucalinda naga (idewz/flickr)
The Buddha then went and meditated at the foot of a mucalinda tree. It began to rain heavily and a huge king cobra (shapeshifting naga) came out of its den near the tree and coiled its body seven times around the Buddha to keep him warm. And it placed his hood over the Buddha’s head to protect him from the rain. After seven days the rain stopped, and the naga transformed into a young man who paid his respects to the Buddha. The Buddha then said:

Tibetan prayer flags in Nepal, Swayambhunath
"Happy are they who are contented. Happiness is for those who hear and know the truth. Happy are they who have goodwill in this world towards all sentient beings. Happy are they who have freed themselves of attachments and have passed beyond desires for sense-pleasures. The disappearance of the conceit 'I AM' is indeed the highest happiness."
7. The Rajayatana Tree
Many trees figure into the story of the Buddha: He was born under a sal, strived under a banyan, attained under a pipal, meditated under these two, the mucalinda and rajayatana, lived under others, and chose to recline into final nirvana between twin sal trees (WQ/BM).
During the seventh week the Buddha meditated under the rajayatana tree. On the fiftieth morning, after seven weeks of fasting, two traveling merchants came by. They were named Tapussa and Bhallika. They offered this awe-inspiring ascetic, the Buddha, rice cakes and honey to break his fast. And the Buddha told them some of what he had discovered during his enlightenment.

Golden Shwedagon stupa (Rohit_saxena)
The two merchants, by pledging to go for guidance in the Buddha and his Dharma (his "teachings"), became the first Buddhist lay followers. There was no monastic order (Sangha), no monks or nuns yet. They asked the Buddha for some sacred keepsake to take with them. The Buddha wiped his head with his right hand and pulled out some hair to give to them.

These sacred "hair relics," called kesa datu, were later reputed to have been enshrined by the merchants on their return home to what is now Burma, in Shwedagon Pagoda in the former capital of Rangoon.

What happened to the original bodhi tree?
Dhr. Seven and Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly (SPECULATION)
Bodhi tree, offspring of the original, India
Once the Buddha, being young, failed to rise for an elder ascetic and pay him the customary honors. That elder ascetic thought the Buddha uncouth and complained wanting to know why the younger wandering ascetic would not honor him as was the proper shramanic thing to do. The Buddha later explained that there was no one he could pay homage to as his superior or elder, not even his parents, which brought his father the king much consternation when he returned to Shakya-land. The reason for this is that for him to do so would cause their head to split into seven pieces. This is a common idiom of the day, which seems to mean "completely destroy." The expression comes up, for example, in Sariputra's Lion's Roar, a sutra where his chief male disciple declares his attainments. The Buddha encourages him to pardon a younger monk making false allegations because, should Sariputra fail to, "his head will split into seven pieces." That is, his karma against a fully enlightened elder teacher, Sariputra, will utterly destroy him. The Buddha did not awaken to everything all at once. He learned as he went along, often pondering what would be the best thing to do in a given situation, looking back to what other buddhas had done before him. Therefore, in this scene, he is innocently paying respect to this one tree, honoring it, in a sense paying homage to it. What happened to this tree? It was utterly destroyed by Muslim extremists, who were outraged that people seemed to be engaged in idolatry, which is against their tradition, much as it is against Jewish and Christian traditions. The same may be said of the very land, now known as the state of Bihar, which the Buddha foresaw would always have a time of it.

No comments: