|"Enlightenment" mural scene with devis at Bodhgaya Temple, India (Marianna Rydvald)|
- This is figurative, as his daughters are named "Craving," "Dejection," and "Lust," Tanha, Arati, and Raga, in the Buddha-Carita (xiii.) Ratī, Prītī, Trsnā, and in the Lal. (353) Ratī, Aratī, and Trsnā). These names are from the Samyutta Nikāya (S.i.124f.; given also at Lal. 490 (378); cp. A.v.46; see also DhA.iii.195f ). In the Dhītaro Sutra they are represented as tempting the Buddha after his enlightenment. Their names are evidently personifications of three of the ten forces in Māra's army, as given in the Padhāna Sutra. They assume numerous forms of varying age and charm, full of blandishment, but their attempts are in vain, and they are obliged to admit defeat. When Māra came to be regarded as the spirit of evil in Buddhism, which is not how he was originally thought of, all temptations of lust, fear, greed, and so on were regarded as his activities. And Māra was represented as assuming various disguises in order to carry out his nefarious plans and temptations. The texts mention various occasions when Māra appeared before the Buddha and his disciples, male and female, to lure them away from their chosen spiritual path.
This awakening or enlightenment was reached during a night of meditation, which passed through various stages as the illumination he had sought slowly arose in his heart/consciousness. He knew the condition of all beings and the karmic causes of their rebirths. He saw beings live, die, and be reborn according to their well-done and ill-done deeds (actions = karma).
In meditating on human suffering, he awakened about both its origin and the means of bringing about its complete destruction. The complete end of ignorance is called awakening or enlightenment (bodhi), and the complete end of suffering is called nirvana.
- the universality of suffering (disappointment)
- the cause of suffering (conditioned by ignorance and craving)
- the solution to suffering (nirvana)
- the way to overcome all suffering (the path).
After considering it for a time, Brahma came in person to ask him to teach the Dharma rather than simply keeping the knowledge he rediscovered to himself. The Buddha yielded and stayed on in the world.
For 45 years he traveled and taught the path to wisdom about the force of compassion, mindfulness, virtue, concentration (coherence of mind through the meditative absorptions called "right concentration" or samma samadhi) and the destruction of all ignorance.
He chose as his first students the five wandering ascetic companions with whom he had lived when he followed his extreme asceticism. To them he taught his first discourse or sutra in the Deer Park at Isipatana in Benares (on the banks of the Ganges in the ancient city of Varanasi), outlining to them a teaching now encapsulated as the Four Noble Truths.
From this small group of wandering ascetics, the community of monastics (or Buddhist sangha) grew to about 60 fully enlightened disciples. It would come to include his foster mother, wife, son or sons (Ananda in some traditions being his son from a harem woman named Mrgri, and Rahula being his son from his wife Bimba Devi, popularly known as Rahulamata), cousins, other Scythians. While his father did not ordain as a monk, he did attain a stage of realization before passing away thanks to the Buddha's teaching.
Later, the Buddha was persuaded by the woman who raised him as his adoptive mother, Queen Prajapati, to accept females into the sangha. This followed Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, allowing women into his wandering ascetic school, but was always in line with his stated goal that his mission would not be accomplished until he had established a full sangha, which had to include female monastics and lay disciples. Buddhism therefore became the first world-religion in history to accept women.
The remaining 45 years of the Buddha's life were spent journeying around what is now north and northwestern India and back to Central Asia, alongside the Ganges and other great rivers like the lost Saraswati, teaching devas and humans.
"There are two extremes to be avoided -- a wasted life of hedonistic pleasure, which is low and ignoble, unworthy and useless, and runs counter to awakening, and a life of extreme austerity, which is sad, unworthy, and useless for awakening.
"Perfect realization has kept its distance from these two extremes and has found the Middle Way [that avoids these two extremes and] that leads to repose, knowledge, illumination, and nirvana.
"So here is the enlightening (i.e., noble) truth about suffering (disappointment): Birth, old age, sickness, death, and separation from all we love are 'suffering.'
"And this is the origin of suffering: It is [ignorance firstly and the] craving (thirst) for pleasure, craving for eternal existence, craving for annihilation.
"And here is the truth about the cessation of suffering: It is the extinction of this craving by its destruction [through wisdom].
"Letting go (giving), knowledge, and virtue are possessions that cannot be lost. To do a little good is worth more than accomplishing works of a difficult nature. The perfect person is so by radiating kindness on all creatures, consoling the abandoned. This Dharma is a doctrine of compassion. The way of liberation is open to all. Destroy passions as the elephant would trample a reed hut. But know that it is a mistaken idea to believe that one can escape one's passions by taking shelter in hermitages. The only remedy against harmful karma is a healthy knowing-and-seeing of reality."
So the Buddha wandered [knowing "Not all wander are lost"] and taught all able to listen. He performed many miracles but saw danger in doing so so avoided it as much as possible. He returned to Central Asia and converted his family and many Scythian followers [in what are now called the Stans].
During his life he taught that no one was to succeed him as leader of the sangha. Instead, his teach, the Dharma, was to become the "teacher." The sutras and monastic disciplinary rules were to become the guide he worked 45 years in establishing so as to not need his presence. These were to become the sole guides, taking oneself as a guide, enlightened disciples, and the teachings handed down first orally then written, and from practitioner to practitioner since that time.
By the time the Buddha reached the age of 80, he began to feel the ill effects of aging. He visited all the monasteries he had founded and prepared to meet his final liberation from death, rebirth, and suffering.
He saw that no one would be able to digest them (presumably because they were some form of toxic fungi). In the end, he came to the river and bathed. Then he set down a robe between twin sal trees. He positioned his body in the lion's posture, lying down on his right side with his right hand supporting his head, the other resting on his body, and a rolled robe tucked under his right arm.
This reclining posture is how he reclined into nirvana and became a popular motif indicating his final attainment of peace and the end of suffering.
The Buddha's disciples kept watch on him after they were told he was to attain "final nirvana" (parinirvana). That night as countless devas gathered around and many disciples also came to see him, a Brahmin scholar came to ask a question. But he was stopped by the Buddha's attendant disciple, Ananda.
Hearing Ananda turn him away, the Buddha requested him to allow him to ask. The scholar Subhadda approached and asked. Therefore, he became the Buddha's last disciple. The Buddha said to his disciples that they should not be sorry but instead take their guidance from the "Threefold Guidance" (ti-sarana) from the "Three Jewels" (ti-ratana) of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, the three most precious things in the world because they guide any followers to the end of all suffering. Disciples were to become "lamps or islands unto themselves" with these three guides pointing the way. Their awakening depended on their doing and no one else.
The Buddha's remains were cremated in accordance with ancient tradition of how to treat the remains of a universal monarch, as became the Buddhist tradition for all arhats, building a stupa or tope over the relics.
This great passing, like his birth and attainment of awakening, occurred about 483 BC on the full moon day of the ancient month of Vesak.