O n the full moon day of May, in the year 623 B.C., a noble prince was born in the Lumbini Park at Kapilavatthu , on the Indian borders of present Nepa l. H e was named Siddhattha which means " wish fulfilled " . His father’s name was King Suddhodana, who was the king of Kabilaphattu City . His mother’s name was Queen Sirimahamaya who lived in Thevathaha City . The beloved queen died seven days after his birth.
The great ascetic named Asita smiled at first and then was sad . Questioned regarding his mingled feelings, he answered that he smiled because the prince would eventually become a Buddha, an Enlightened One, and he was sad because he would not be able to benefit from the superior wisdom of the Enlightened One owing to his prior death and rebirth in a Formless Plane .
Examining the characteristic marks of the child, seven of them raised two fingers each, indicative of two alternative possibilities, that he would either become a Universal Monarch or a Buddha . But the youngest, Kondanna , who excelled others in wisdom, noticing the hair on the forehead turned to the right, raised only one finger and convincingly declared that the prince would definitely retire from the world and become a Buddha .
The pensive child, young in years but old in wisdom, sat cross - legged and seized the opportunity to commence that all - important practice of intent concentration on the breath - on exhalations and inhalations . Then and there, this gained him the one - pointedness of mind known as Samadhi . He thus developed the First Jhana ( Ecstasy ).
Later on Prince Siddhartha was sent to study with Visavamit who was a famous and well - known teacher during that time . He gained distinction in every subject and became cleverer than his teachers . He was the wisest and the only one who asked many questions from his teachers and elders . He was the strongest, the tallest and the most handsome boy in the class . He was never lazy, he never misbehaved and was never disobedient to the teachers . He loved everybody and everybody loved him . He was a friend to all .
When he grew up at the age of 16 years, he got married to a very beautiful Princess named Yasodhara or Bimba . Thirteen years after their marriage, they had one son whose name was Rahula .
One day while traveling to a Royal Garden , he saw four sights, he saw an old man, a sick man, a dead body, and a monk ( a Brahmin monk ). These made him realize that only a luxurious life could not let him reach the real happiness of life .
“ There were three palaces built for me -- one for the cold season, one for the hot season, and one for the rainy season . During the four rainy months, I lived in the palace for the rainy season without ever coming down from it, entertained all the while by female musicians . ” Siddhartha played in a sunny world of gardens and groves, attended by dancing girls and musicians. He lived in a world of plenty and beauty. He could have whatever he wanted, yet he was not happy.
When he was 29 years old, h e journeyed far and, crossing the river Anoma , rested on its banks. Here he shaved his hair and beard and handing over his garments and ornaments to Channa with instructions to return to the palace, assumed the simple yellow garb of an ascetic and led a life of voluntary poverty.
Thereupon, Bimbisara, the King, approached the ascetic Gotama , and being pleased with his princely deportment and appearance offered him all his kingly glory . “Great King” replied the Future Buddha, “I do not seek for the gratification of my senses or my passions, but have retired from the world for the sake of the supreme and absolute enlightenment of a Buddha” . The King said “ You are sure to become a Buddha, but when that happens your first journey will be to my Kingdom” .
The ascetic Gotama approached Alara Kalama and Uddaha Ramaputta and expressed his desire to lead the Holy Life in his Dispensation. Before long the intelligent ascetic Gotama, mastered his doctrine and attained the final stage of mental concentration ใ He realized that his spiritual aspirations were far higher than those under whom he chose to learn . He realized that there was none capable enough to teach him what he yearned for -- the highest Truth.
For six long years the ascetic Gotama made a super - human struggle to practice all forms of the severest austerity . His delicate body was reduced to almost a skeleton . Hearing of his renunciation, Kondanna , the youngest brahmin who predicted his future, and four sons of the other sages -- Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama, and Assaji -- also renounced the world and joined his company.
He realized that Enlightenment could not be gained with such an utterly exhausted body. Physical fitness was essential for spiritual progress . So he decided to nourish the body sparingly and took some coarse food both hard and soft . The five favourite disciples who were attending on him with great hopes thinking that whatever truth the ascetic Gotama would comprehend, that would he impart to them, felt disappointed at this unexpected change of method. They thus left him and went to Isipatana
On the full moon day of the month Visakha ( April - May ) the Future Buddha who had attained 35 years of age, was sitting under the bayan tree . Sujata caught sight of the Future Buddha and, supposing him to be the tree - god, her benefactor, who had come down, offered him milk - porridge in a golden bowl that was worth a hundred thousand pieces of money .
The god Mara, the Evi One, saw the Future Buddha seated in that unconquerable position and knew that he was sure to become a Buddha . He went back to his celestial realm and brought his army drawn out for battle . He grasped a variety of weapons himself and sounded the war - cry, “Advance ! Seize ! ” to frighten the Great Being . But the Future Buddha won a peaceful victory over Mara with the power of loving kindness, which he had practised in his many past lives.
Mara knew Buddha was close, so he put all his efforts in trying to lure Buddha back to the world . Here is shown the episode when Mara drives an elephant towards Buddha, and causes the land to be covered with water, so as to drown Buddha . However, Buddha was steadfast and regarded everything that happened within and around him as just more happenings in the world, arising and passing away according to causes and conditions, with no abiding self to be found .
Having vanquished the army of Mara, the Future Buddha sat cross - legged at the foot of the Bodhi tree with the firm resolution that he would not get up from his seat until he attained the supreme wisdom of a Buddha, and went into deep mediation . Having understood the world as it is, the Buddha was perfected in wisdom, never to be born again . Craving and destructive desire had been completely eradicated — as a fire goes out for lack of fuel .
Mara then changes his tactics and tries to seduce the Buddha . He summons his three daughters and orders them to dance in the most seductive manner. Again the Buddha remains in serene meditation; nothing can persuade him from his path. Finally Mara accepts defeat and together with his confused daughters withdraw leaving the Buddha alone beneath the Bodhi tree.
In the sixth week, during which time Lord Buddha was in the joy of freedom under a big tree, east of the Phrasimaha Bodhi Tree, a heavy rainstorm broke out . Then appeared the Mujjalint Naga, a seven - headed serpent residing in a big pond near where Lord Buddha was seated . The serpent coiled itself into the form of a seven - tiered seat for Lord Buddha and spread his head like an umbrella to protect the Lord from the rainstorm .
Brahma requested Buddha to 'look down at the human race which is drowning in pain and to travel far and wide to save the world . ' The Buddha thus carefully listened to Brahma and gazed upon the world with his eyes full of compassion, realizing that the gates of Nirvana were wide open for all, and he was the destined instrument to lead humanity it . God Saham Bhrommabodee requested Lord Buddha to announce his Sacca Dhamma
Lord Buddha advised the Bhadda Vaggi to follow the Middle Way, avoiding the two extremes of self - indulgence and self - torture . For the first time he taught the Four Noble Truths and how to practise the Eightfold Path, the Noble Way that would lead to freedom from suffering and to the way of enlightenment . With the conversion of the five ascetics at the Deer Park at Sarnath, the order of monks was established .
While Lord Buddha was still at Sarnath a young man called Yasa left home out of dispassion for the householders life . He wandered and eventually met the Buddha, who could see that Yasa's mind was : 'as a clean, unstained cloth that would take the teachings evenly . ' Indeed Yasa got enlightened . In the meantime his parents were out searching for him . His father found him and also got enlightened . Yasa ordained and when his friends heard of this they too requested ordination . Now there were 60 monks.
Lord Buddha went to Uruvela to convert a thousand hermits headed by the three Kassapa brothers known as Uruvela Kassapa, Nadi Kassapa and Gaya Kassapa . Lord Buddha tamed the King of the Dragons in a fire - shed by using a variety of his supernatural powers . The thousand hermits became monks and with this retinue, the Blessed One proceeded to Gayasisa . On arrival there he preached to them again and they all became arahants .
The Buddha went from there to Rajagaha accompained by those monks and dwelt in the Toddy Palm Grove . King Bimbisara went there with a large following of 120,000 persons to pay his respects to the Buddha . As the ascetic Kassapa was held in high esteem by his people, he was at a loss to understand whether the Buddha was a disciple of Kassapa or the latter was a disciple of the former . The Venerable Kassapa acknowledged the Buddhas superiority, saying, “My teacher, Lord, is the Lord, I am the disciple” repeatedly .
“ The Doctrine proclaimed by the Blessed One, I approve . It shows suffering, cause of suffering, cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering” . On hearing this exposition of the Doctrine, Sariputta was established in the first holy stage of the Ariyan Path . Then Sariputta went to tell his friend the good news and Moggallana was also established in the first holy stage of the Ariyan Path . Both of them with a large following of their disciples became monks under the Doctrine and Discipline of the Buddha .
On the full moon day of the 3rd lunar month, Makha, of the year, 4 special events happened : 1 . It was the full moon day . 2 . There were 1,250 Sangha followers, that came to see Buddha that evening without any schedule . 3 . All of them were " Arhantas', the Enlightened One, and all of them were ordained by the Buddha himself . 4 . The Buddha gave those Arhantas the principles of the Buddhism, called " The Ovadhapatimokha ". Those principles are : - To cease from all evil, - To do what is good, - To clean one's mind.
During the Buddha's stay in the forest, a monkey broke off a piece of honeycomb and offered it as a gift . The Buddha smiled but was unable to accept it, explaining that he could not eat the honeycomb with the bees still inside . The monkey carefully removed the honey from the honeycomb and placed it in the Buddha's alms bowl instead, so that the spiritual teacher could have his sustenance without causing suffering to others .
Lord Buddha and his disciples arrived at Kabillapath City and had their morning meals as offered by the King and other relatives in their alms - bowls, Lord Buddha gave Dhamma Desana to the King, his adopted mother and other relatives as clearly as possible about the cessation of suffering which he had been searching for a very long period of time . They understood, accepted and ready to practise the Sacca Dhamma in their life . They announced themselves to be Upasok and Upasika ( male and female Buddhist ).
Yasodara, Rahula's mother, was watching the Buddha from her chamber and she saw him begging for food from house to house . So she was overwhelmed with grief . She also held her son in her arms and pointed to the Buddha saying . " That is your father !"
As the Buddha left the palace Rahula followed him saying, “ Give me my inheritance. ” Coming to the park the Buddha thought, “ He desires his fathe r’ s wealth , but this goes with the worldly life and is full of trouble and suffering. I shall instead give him what I know and thus give him an excellent inheritance. ” The Buddha then asked Sariputta, one of his disciples, to ordain Rahula.
Phra Nandha had no mood of practising monks’ activities and kept thinking of resigning from the monkshood. The Buddha took Phra Nandha to visit Heaven and along the way , he pointed out female heavenly beings that were most beautiful and their beauty could be found in any being of the human world . On this occasion, the Buddha taught that once we saw something better, we would say that the latter was much better . This was an endless process . Phra Nandha started practising meditation vigorously until he attained Arahanta .
Mahamaya, the Buddha's mother, who was living among the devas in the Dusita heaven, also came to listen to the Buddha's teaching, and the Buddha taught her the Abhidhamma for the whole of the rains retreat .( 3 months period ) Hearing the teaching, the Buddha's mother attained Stream Entry, while a great number of devas attained the Path and Fruit according to their dispositions .
“ I stand still Angulimala evermore, For I am merciful to all living beings; But you are merciless to living beings . Therefore I stand still and you stand not still . ” Angulimala was very pleased with what the Buddha said and throwing away his sword knelt before him. The Buddha blessed him and took him to the monastery, where he became a monk.
Lord Buddha, with his retinue of holy monks, was coming into the city of Rajagaha on his alms - round, when the elephant - keepers, desirous of gaining promotion in service, set the full - grown elephant in the direction of the Buddha . The Blessed One stood where he was and sent out his thought of loving - kindness towards the elephants Nalagiri, which was running towards him to crush him down . When the elephant came near the Buddha, it stood quietly before Him listening to the words of advice uttered by him .
Phra Devadhat was so weak and asked his servants to carry him on a stretch and headed for the Vihara of Lord Buddha to confront Lord Buddha about the Bikkhu who returned to Lord Buddha with Phra Sariputta. On his way to see Lord Buddha, because of his bad past activities and his intention to split the Bikkhu, Phra Devadhat was consumed to death by quick sand .
Many years later, on hearing of His father’s imminent death , the Buddha visited Kabillapath to give His last discourse to His father . On hearing the Dhamma, King Suddhodana attained Arahanthship . Seven days later he passed away . The Buddha was about forty years old at the time of His father’s death.
What, O Ananda, is the Mirror of the Dharma? Herein a noble disciple has absolute confidence in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha . Because of his confidence, These results will help him attain the first stage of sainthood ( sotapanna ). " Possessing this Mirror of Dharma, a noble disciple shall be able to predict for himself that he shall not fall back to lower states like hell, the animal world, the ghost world and other sorrowful and unhappy states ."
When the Buddha and his disciples arrived at Pava, the son of the village goldsmith, whose name was Cunda, invited the party to a meal called sukaramaddava, or " boar's delight ". The Buddha advised Cunda to serve him only with the sukaramaddava that he had prepared. But soon after this, the Buddha suffered from an attack of the dysentery he had been suffering from earlier and sharp pains came upon him.
“ In this teaching of mine, O Subhadda, is to be found the Noble Eightfold Path, and in it alone the sotapanna, the sakadagami, the anagami, and the arahant are found . In no other schools of religious teachers can such araya beings be found . And if only my disciples live rightly and follow my precepts or training rules, the world will never be without genuine arahants . ” Then Subhadda asked to be admitted to the order of monks and the Buddha granted his request . Subhadda became the very last convert and disciple of the Buddha.
Then the Buddha addressed all the monks once more, and these were the very last words he spoke : “Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you . All component things in the world are changeable . They are not lasting . Work hard to gain your own salvation . ” The passing away, or the final nirvana of the Buddha, occurred in 543 BC on a full-moon day in the month of May, known in the Indian calendar as Vesak.
Picture : Ajarn Kamnuan Chanantho Prepared by Sompong Yusoontorn