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One evening at Jetas Grove, Savatthi, which was a large property donated to the Buddha and the Buddha Sasana by Sudatta, (better known as Anathapindika, the wealthy banker, who earned that name by giving of his wealth to orphans), Bhikkus who gathered at the assembly hall were heard to say:
"It is wonderful friends, it is marvellous how the Perfect Ones power and might enable him to know of past enlightened ones who attained complete extinction of defilements, cut the tangle and broke the circle, ended the round and surmounted all suffering; to know that such were the Blessed Ones previous births, such their names and clans." (As translated by Bhikkhu Nammoli from the Pali)
The Elder Ananda, disciple and personal attendant of Gotama Buddha who recited the Discourses by memory at the First Council held at Rajagaha, three months after the Buddhas Maha-parinibbana (passing away) hearing of what the Bhikku gathering discussed; then further enlightened them, and said:
"Our Master, Gotama Buddha had told me that prior to His being born as Prince Siddharta, he had moved in His samsaric journey many times over. When the time was ripe to be born on earth, the Bodhisattva passed away from Tusitha Heaven of the contented, and descended into Queen Mahamayas womb."
According to the scriptures the devas then had said: "The time is at hand valiant hero to descend into your mothers womb. Deliver to the world of gods and men and reveal the religion of Deathlessness."
Further, it is said, at that wonderful historic moment a great measure of light surpassing the splendour of gods appeared in this world. Four deities including the Vedic gods Brahma, and Indra guarded Him so that, no human or non human beings should harm Him, or His mother.
His mother became intrinsically pure and was inaccessible to any man with lustful mind. The Bodhisattva, Prince Siddharta Gotama was in his mothers womb for exactly 10 months.
On that Vesak month, full-moon day over 2541 years ago when Sal Trees in the gardens of Lumbini, were in bloom with the air filled with scented flowers when orchards around were heavily laden with luscious fruit, when beautiful feathered birds chirped away singing melodies, and deities in Tusitha heaven were joyous, the Sage of the Sakya Clan was born.
Prince leaving in search of enlightenment
Asitha the Ascetic, a venerable patriarch ripe with wisdom, who lived in the Himalayan heights, on seeing the new born babe, recognised that he was destined to give to this world, "the light" to end all forms of suffering or misery. He detected that the child had thirty two characteristics (Lakshana) of great men, and predicted that the Prince would give up his kingdom, his wife and child, to lead a life of a humble recluse, and with tremendous strife attain Buddhahood (Bodhi).
The Prince practised the extreme of asceticism - the extreme of coarseness, the extreme of seclusion. He went naked rejecting conventions , later clothed himself in coarse hemp mixed cloth, in refuse rags, in tree bark, in Kussa grass, rejected seats, always squatted, made a mattress of spikes his bed, let dust and dirt accummulate over the years, cake off his body and flake off, he would feed on the dung of young suckling calves of cowherds and would drink his own urine.
The Bodhisattva lived thinking that way, he could find the noble truth to end humanitys suffering. Then one day spontaneously this stanza came to him, never heard before.
"Chilled by night and scorched by day,
Alone in awe-inspiring groves
Naked, no fire to sit beside
The Sage yet pursues his quest"
Majjhima Nikaya (Mahasihanda Sutta)
As stated in the (Majjhima Nikaya 12), addressing Venerable Sariputta, the Buddha said, "Yet Sariputta, by such conduct, by such practice, by such performance of austerities I did not attain any super-human status, any distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of noble ones. Why was that?
Because I did not attain the noble wisdom, which when attained is noble and emancipating and leads to one who practises in accordance with it, to the complete destruction of suffering." The Bodhisattva thereafter, took to the "middle way" of life of a recluse, and concentrated deeply on his earthly mission.
After seven long years in search of the truth, the Bodhisattva, again on a full moon day in the month of Vesak, after being the centre stage figure of a great drama in which Mara the evil one played a principal role, and in the presence of the Devas, attained Buddhahood.
Perhaps, the greatest event which more than two and half billion Buddhists all over the world today look back on is, the Great Awakening. Seated cross legged on Kussa grass,facing East and under a Pipal (Bo Tree) the Great Being whose mind was secluded away from lust, hatred and all forms of Ill, resolved, "Let my skin and bones become dry, let flesh and blood in my body dry-up, but never will I stir from this seat, until I have attained the supreme and absolute wisdom!
Then Mara, Sovereign of passion and personification of death, challenged the Bodhisattva on many counts to distract him and break his Jhana. When he failed to do so with his deadly spears, arrows, rains of stones, storms, showers of sand, hot ash and mud, Mara caused three beautiful daughters - Tanha (Desire), Rati, (Passion) and Raga (Sensuality) to sing and dance before the sage, hoping to seduce him and break his Jhana - but failed!
The Sage without even turning his head dismissed them, and instantly they turned to be old women! When the Bodhisattva ultimately triumphed, Mara was vanquished. The devas saw Mara flee, and in that glorious hour of victory said:
The Bodhisattva thereafter continued his Jhana until he attained Buddhahood (Bodhi). When He had attained to omniscience and was the centre of unpararelled glory and homage, the earth trembled and many unique incidents took place.
The Great Master, the Compassionate One, then breathed forth that solemn utterance which never, never has been omitted by any of the Buddhas, twenty seven in all, before him:
"Through birth and rebirth endless rounds
Seeking in vain, I hastened on to find who
Framed this edifice. What misery! birth
Incessantly! Oh Builder, I have discovered thee.
This fabric (CRAVING) thou shall never rebuild.
The rafters (PASSION) all are broken now. Your
Ridge pole (Ignorance) has been demolished. My mind
Has now attained unformed Nibbana, and reached the
End of Craving (DESIRE)."
Sutta Nipatha III (Translated by Lord Chalmers)
Continue to Plus page 2 - Thoughts on Karuna
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