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30th May 1999

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"Never from this seat will I stir, till I attain absolute wisdom!"

By Upali Salgado

Buddha Gaya, the place of Buddha's enlightenment is in the State of Bihar, North India. It is said that when the Bodhisatva Sakyamuni was looking out for a suitable spot to embark on a deep meditation, He was warned by Deva Sakka, head of the thirty-two realms:-

"This is not the place for the Tathagatha to perfect supreme wisdom. There is a Pipal (Bo tree) tree some three miles south of the Pragbodhi hill, on the bank of the river, under which is a diamond throne, - Vajrasana. All past Buddhas sat on this throne to obtain true enlightenment, and so will those Imageyet to come. Pray, then proceed to that spot!"

The wandering sage then chanced to meet a grass-cutter named Swastika, who kindly offered him eight handfuls of Kussa (holy) grass. The Bodhisatva accepted his gift. On reaching the time-hallowed spot, where there was a tall Pipal tree, the Great Being who had been secluded from sensual desires and from unprofitable things said to himself,... "This is the immovable spot on which all previous Buddhas had planted themselves! This is the place for destroying passion's net"!

He then took a handful of Kussa grass and shook it. Ancient stories state that, the blades of grass formed themselves into a seat fourteen cubits long, but then the King of the Devas, Sakka did not deem it suitable that a future Buddha, so close to His goal should sit on a bush of grass. For that reason, then and there appeared a beautiful flat stone (Vajrasana), also known as the "Diamond Throne", indestructible and unshakeable on which the Bodhisatva sat motionless in meditation.

Before He went through deep Jhana, over several days, He sat turning His back to the Bo-tree, facing east and made a mighty resolution:- "Let my skin and bones become dry and welcome!, let my flesh and blood dry up, but never from this seat will I stir, until I have attained the supreme and absolute wisdom!".

He sat with great determination in a dyna-mudra (cross legged) manner, in an unconquerable position, from which not even the descent of a thousand thunderbolts and storms of mud and sand, sent by Mara (the personification of evil and of death) could dislodge him. When all attempts of Mara failed to break the Bodhisatva's concentration, He finally became the Awakened One, the All Knowing One.

Old texts say that, at that moment of unparalleled glory, the blind began to see, the mute spoke for the first time, birds and snakes sang loudly, the earth trembled, many deserts had rain, and flowers bloomed providing sweet scent in the air. The Devas in heaven announced joyfully that "Mara has been defeated, Prince Siddhartha has conquered, let us go, celebrate the victory."

When Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha had conquered all ills and was pure ( he had eradicated Raga, Dhosa and Moha), He was ready at the instance of Maha Brahama Sampathi to make known to the world His Dharma. Within a span of four centuries his Dharma had spread to Central Asia, lands around the Caspian sea, to Balukhistan, Afghanistan, Tibet, China, Burma, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia and even the Maldives and today's Indonesia.

The Buddha realised that Craving and Ignorance were the prime causes for suffering manifested in numerous forms. The cultivation of Compassion to all animals ( humans included) was to be the lynch pin of his dust-free stainless Dharma, whilst the Theory of Dependent Origination and the Laws of Karma were two axles of His "Chariot". Mahayana Buddhist texts refer to Him as the "Chariot Driver", who traversed through a Vedic-Hindu Society steeped in faith, conservative in outlook.

At the moment He gained enlightenment, this "Prince of Peace" ( Shanthi Raja) breathed forth an utterance, which Lord Chalmers (who incidentally was a Governor of Ceylon in about 1915), being a Pali scholar, has translated to be:

"Through many a birth I wandered ( in Samsara).
I vainly sought the Architect,
A torment is repeated birth, Architect, I see thee!
Never again a House (craving ) shall I build;
Demolished are thy rafters ( Passions),
Thy ridgepole (Ignorance) has been shattered.
My mind attains the unconditioned (Buddha hood)
Achieved is the cessation of Craving (Desire)

Sutta Nipatha III.

The Buddha-Gaya Vihare, a spot venerated by millions each year from all parts of the world (like Jerusalem to the Christians) stands majestic 170 feet tall. Built by Emperor Asoka using large quantities of red sandstone, it was restored rather haphazardly in the 13th century by Burmese devotees. Sir Alexander Cunningham, a well known archaeologist of India, has recorded that he found a sandstone floor, with a polished throne at the base of the Bo tree behind the Vihare, which was adorned with a goose frieze motiff. He also discovered that the inner precincts of the Vihare had been rebuilt during the Kusan period.

Interestingly, there had been a very early Sri Lankan connection with this hallowed shrine. The ancient books say, equally significant is a stone inscription of a Sri Lankan monk Mahanaman, dated 269 (probably of the Gupta period). The monk had recorded his donation in the Bodhimanda. On the pedestal of the Buddha image found at Buddhagaya is yet another inscription of Mahanaman. These inscriptions clearly attest the presence of a Sri Lankan community at Buddhagaya in the Gupta period, where there was according to traveller Xnanzang a large international monastery. A brief reference is also made to the Buddha image displaying a Bhumisparsa Mudra. In this mudra, the Buddha is shown to touch with his right palm finger the earth, which is said to have trembled the moment He did so. It happened soon after gaining enlightenment. This happening took place, when the Buddha was finally challenged by Mara (the personification of evil and of death) to demonstrate that He had reached Buddhahood, and was the 'Awakened One", the All knowing One, who had appeared to end all forms of suffering on earth. Buddhist literature and archaeologists indicate that Buddha Gaya Vihare is the exact spot where the Master became the Buddha. Further, Asvaghosha in his "Buddha-Charitha", says, this place "is the navel of the earth," the only spot that could bear the vibrations of a Meditator before gaining enlightenment. The fifth century pilgrim traveller Fahien has also stated that this was the exact spot where all past Buddhas obtained perfect wisdom.

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