“All that we are is the result of what we have thought, it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the wagon.” –Lord Buddha For Buddhists [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Reflecting on significant events in Lord Buddha’s life


“All that we are is the result of what we have thought, it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the wagon.” –Lord Buddha

For Buddhists the world over, the Vesak Full Moon Day is marked by the occurrence of three hallowed events. First came the birth of Siddhartha Gautama (the aspirant Buddha) in Lumbini in Nepal in an arbour of Sal trees to Queen Mahamaya. He took seven steps and said, “I am the foremost of the world. This is my last birth, I will cross the ocean of existence.”

Asoka pillar 

The great emperor Asoka of India of the 3rd century B.C., had visited Lumbini as a pilgrim. As an everlasting tribute, he erected an inscribed pillar “Here the Buddha was born.” That Asokan pillar stands to this day in Lumbini which became a popular place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from the earliest times.

The second hallowed event that transpired on Vesak full moon day was Siddhartha Gautama’s Supreme Attainment as Buddha- the Enlightened One. After six years of great privation undergoing hardships, penances and self-mortification, Siddhartha Gautama after an arduous journey in search of Enlightenment reached Bodhi Buddhagaya on the banks of the river- Niranjana. Here under the great Bodhi tree at the age of 35 years, he vanquished the Mara and attained Supreme Enlightenment. For over 25 centuries, Buddhagaya has been a place of pilgrimage and worship.

The other sacred sites found there are the shrines and colossal monuments of stone erected by Emperor Asoka. The hallowed Bo Tree under which Siddhartha attained Supreme Enlightenment- is alleged to have been destroyed. However, the sapling from this original Bo Tree where Buddha attained Enlightenment in Buddhagaya was brought by Theri Sangamiththa (Asoka’s daughter) and planted at Anuradhapura. This tree known as the Sri Maha Bodhiya, is the oldest historical tree in the world.

Buddha’s visit to Kapilavastuwa

The ‘Dhammapada’ by Sri Dhammannada(1988) published by Sasana Abbiwurdhi Wardhan Society, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, referring to Lord Buddha’s visit to Kapilavastuwa for the first time after his Enlightenment , says:

“When the Buddha visited Kapilavastuwa for the first time after his Enlightenment, he stayed at the Nigrodharama monastery. There he expounded the Dhamma to his relatives. King Suddodhana (Lord Buddha’s father) ,thought that the Buddha being his own, would not go anywhere but would surely come to the palace for alms the next day. He did not specifically invite the Buddha, but ordered alms food to be prepared for him and his bhikkhus.”

As there was no special invitation for alms-giving on that day, the Buddha and his bhikkhus went on their alms round. Before proceeding he considered within himself, “did the Buddhas of the past upon entering the city of their kinsfolk, straightaway enter the houses of the relatives or did they go from house to house to receive alms? Perceiving that they did go from house to house, the Buddha went along the streets of Kapilawastuwa seeking alms.

“On hearing of this seemingly humiliating conduct of the Buddha from his daughter-in-law, Yasodara, the king greatly perturbed, went to the Buddha and said, “Son, why do you ruin me? I am overwhelmed with shame to see you begging for alms. Is it proper for you, who used to travel in a golden palanquin, to seek alms in this city? Why do you put me to shame? Where upon the Buddha replied: “O King, I am not putting you to shame. I am following the custom of my Buddha lineage. All previous Buddhas have lived by seeking alms. The King understood that was the way of the Buddhas and accepted it.”

Buddhist traditions 

Buddhist traditions say the Lord Buddha spent seven serene weeks in the bliss of his Supreme Enlightenment at Buddhagaya. Then Lord Buddha came to Sarnath in Deer Park outside Varanasi(present Benares), where he preached his first sermon which paved the way for the motion of the Wheel of Dharma (Dharmachakkaraya). At Sarnath too, are ruins of temples, shrines, and other stone monuments reminiscent of Emperor Asoka as the builder. The most outstanding one is the Asokan stupa which marks Lord Buddha’s maiden sermon.

Vaisali is another ancient city that was visited by Buddha many times. On one such visit, troops of monkeys are said to have offered the Compassionate One a bowl of honey. It was also at Vaisali that the famed courtesan Amarapali made her obeisance to Lord Buddha. There the Buddha honoured her by partaking of a meal at her home.

Lord Buddha had reached the age of 80 years when he felt and even announced his impending attainment of Nirvana in this city itself.
Having left Vaisali, Lord Buddha reached Kushinagar on the banks of river Hiranya in the 80th year of his life. His great disciple Ananda was weeping by his deathbed and he consoled Ananda thus: “Do not weep- O Ananda, for all that is born comes within itself and the seeds of dissolution. Be ye a lamp unto yourself…Be ye a refuge to yourself. Behold now brethren… decay is inherent in all component things. Work out your salvation with diligence.”

Thus Lord Buddha passed away into Parinibbana on a full moon day of Vesak at Kusinagar. An inscription in stone found at the site of Kusingar/ Kusina confirms the sacred site where reference had been made to this effect. The inscription is said to date back to the Guptha period of Emperor Asoka’s time.

“As in the ocean’s midmost depth,
No wave is born, but all is still.
So let the monk be still.
Be motionless, and nowhere should he swell.
Just as a blue, red or white lotus although born in the water,
Grown up in the water, when it reaches the surface stands,
There unsoiled by the water- just so although born,”
In the world, grown up in the world, having overcome,
The world, I abide unsoiled in the world. Take it that I am Buddha.”

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