>> Previsous page
An Offering 17.
The Great Battle
19. Whom to Teach
20. The First Teaching 21.
A Mother's Grief
next page >>
Mother's Grie 22. A Rude Man 23. Words of Praise 24. Kindness to Animals
25. The power of Love 26. The return 27. The King and the Spirit Tree 28.
Equal love to All 29. The Final days
In a small village at the edge of
the forest lived a herdsman and his wife Sujata. She just given birth to
her first child and was very happy. She took the finest milk from her
husband's cows and prepared a delicious meal from it. Now she was taking
this food into the forest as an offering to the spirits she thought lived
there. She had often prayed to these spirits and wanted to thank them for
helping her have such a healthy baby.
As she entered the forest she saw Siddhartha sitting there. His body was
thin and weak, but his face was radiant and handsome. Sujata gazed at him
in surprise. "I have never seen anyone like that before," she thought to
herself. "Perhaps it is the king of the tree spirits himself !" And so she
took the specially prepared food and placed it before him.
Siddhartha slowly opened his eyes and saw the bowl in front of him.
Smiling silently to Sujata he lifted it to his lips and began to drink. To
her amazement, his body grew more and more radiant as he drank. When he
was finished he placed the bowl down and thanked her saying, "you thought
I was a spirit, but I am only a man in search of the truth. Your offering
has made me strong again. Now, I am sure that I shall find the truth. Much
good will come from-what you have done today. Thank you."
The five men who were living in the forest with Siddhartha saw him accept
this special food from Sujata. They were very disappointed and said to
themselves, "Siddhartha has given up his search. He is no longer following
the holy life. Look, he bathes himself and takes rich food again. How can
we stay with such a man any longer? come. Let us leave this forest and
travel to Benares. We can continue our practices in Deer Park near there."
And so they left, thinking that Siddhartha was longer interested in
discovering the truth. But Siddhartha, strengthened by his meal and
prepared to meditate, was now ready to find what he had been looking for
all these many years. He stood up, waded across the river and headed
towards what would be known in later years as the Tree of Enlightenment.
The Great Battle
The moment that the world had been
waiting for was now at hand. Siddhartha, who had given up a kingdom in
search of truth, was approaching the tree. On his way, he passed a man
carrying freshly cut grass and asked him for a small bundle. This he would
use his seat.
As he drew closer the air became very still. It was as if the whole world
was holding its breath, anxiously awaiting what would happen next. The
branches of the tree bent down as if welcoming him to come and sit down
under its shade. Siddhartha carefully arranged the grass into a small
cushion and sat down, facing the east. He crossed his legs in a firm
meditation posture on rested his hands in his lap. Then he made a bold and
determined vow: "I shall not arise from this position until I have reached
my goal, even if I die sitting here !" And all the spirits of the air
looking on rejoiced, hearing Siddhartha's great pledge. It was the full
moon day of the fourth month, and the sun was about to set. But the
ancient stories tell us that not everyone rejoiced at this moment. There
was one force, called Mara, who was terrified and angry. For Mara, She is
the name the ancient Indian people gave to the evil forces that disturb
our minds. Mara is our greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy, doubt and all
the other poisons bringing people unhappiness and grief.
Thus, when Mara saw Siddhartha seated under the tree of enlightenment, he
was enraged. Calling his sons and daughters around him he shouted, "Look,
all of you. Siddhartha is seated in meditation. If he is successful and
discovers the way to end all suffering, what will happen to us? Don't you
understand that we shall lose all our power ? We can not harm people if he
teaches them the truth. We must disturb his meditation, or else we doomed
!" So Mara and his evil forces tried everything to disturb Siddhartha.
They produced a fearful storm and hurled lightning bolts down around him.
They churned up a great wind until everything around seemed ready to crash
down. But beneath the branches of the tree everything remained calm,
protected by the force of Siddhartha's meditation.
Mara saw that the storm had no effect so he turned to his troops and
shouted, "Attack!" The whole horde of evil spirits, demons and nightmare
shapes turned against Siddhartha. They ran towards him wildly, yelling
blood-curdling screams. They shot poisoned arrows of hate at him. But as
these arrows flew towards the Siddhartha, they turned into lotus petals
and fell harmlessly at his feet. Nothing could disturb the peace of his
meditation. "If these weapons and fearful shapes do not distract him,"
Mara thought, "perhaps a vision of beauty will disturb his mind." All at
once the frightful demons turned into the most beautiful and alluring of
women. These bewitching creatures danced in front of the meditation, but
even they could not affect him. Memories of the pleasure palaces, visions
of his wife and son, heavenly music, delicious food-nothing could break
through the calm determination of this seeker of truth.
Mara felt defeated. But he had one last plan. Dismissing his attendants,
he appeared alone in front of the Prince . Addressing him in a mocking
voice he said, "so you are the great Prince Siddhartha ? you think you are
a great meditation. So many holy people have failed to find the truth, but
you think you will succeed ! "How foolish you are ! Don't you know that it
takes a lot of preparation to find the truth you are looking for. First
you wasted twenty-nine years pampering yourself. Then you wasted six more
years starving yourself. Now you sit here thinking that wisdom will just
come to you. How foolish ! Quit this meditation, or at least show me a
witness who will swear that you are worthy of succeeding where all others
have failed. "
These scornful words failed to bother Siddhartha . Silently he lifted his
right hand from his lap, reached in front of him and touched the earth.
Yes, the earth itself was Siddhartha's witness ! For countless lifetimes
he had appeared on this earth in various forms. He had practiced
generosity and patience, he had acted lovingly and had avoided harming
others, and he had meditated on the truth. He had done all these
things-sometimes as a man, sometimes as a woman; sometimes rich, sometimes
poor-over and over again. He had done this all , just for the sake of
discovering the end to all suffering. And the earth was his witness. Mara
realized that now he was truly defeated, and faded away like a bad dream.
Siddhartha was left completely alone. The storm clouds parted and the moon
shone brightly in the sky. The air smelled sweet and a light dew glistened
on the tips of the grass. Everything was ready.
Siddhartha's mind was calm and
relaxed. Slowly his concentration deepened and his wisdom grew brighter.
In his mind's eye he saw far into the past. He saw that when one life
ended, another began. Death only brought the body to an end; life itself
continued on and on finding a new body again and again. He saw that when a
person did evil in one life-such as harming another-he or she experienced
sadness in the future. But when a person acted with love, happiness and
joy followed. Nothing anyone did was ever lost, but was carried on from
life to life, bringing happiness or pain.
As he discovered how all life is linked together in this way, deeper
truths appeared to his mind. The sun, planets, all the stars, the galaxies
of the universe-they all appeared in his meditation. He saw how
everything, from the smallest speck of dust to the largest star, was
linked together. Everything was constantly changing , growing, decaying,
and growing again. Nothing happened without a cause, and every cause
produced and effect.
Then he saw all the sufferings of the world. He saw how everyone-from the
smallest insect to the greatest king-ran after pleasure, only to end up
with unhappiness. And he discovered the reason for all this unhappiness.
He saw that people do not really understand that everything is always
changing. They are blind to this truth. In their blindness they fight and
steal and kill for the things they want, but these things can never bring
them lasting happiness. Soon they change or decay, and the search starts
He saw that people fight against the things they dislike. Their whole life
is filled with hatred and anger. And every time they harm someone else,
they suffer for it later. They go from lifetime to lifetime creating more
unhappiness for themselves. They are searching for peace, but find nothing
Finally he discovered the way to end all this suffering. If a person could
see the truth clearly-as he himself and seen it this night-all running
after pleasure and away from pain would stop. There would be no more greed
or hatred in the person's mind. He or she would no longer do anything to
harm anyone else. Thus, there would be no more unhappiness to be felt.
With all hatred finished, the person's heart would fill with love. And
this love would bring a peace and happiness unlike anything else.
When Siddhartha had seen all this, even the last speck of darkness
disappeared from his mind. He was filled with a radiant clear light. He
was no longer and ordinary person. He had become fully enlightened to the
truth. He was now a Buddha. He had reached his goal ! With a calm
and peaceful smile, he arose from his meditation. It was morning, and the
sun was rising in the east.
Whom to teach
All of nature rejoiced that glorious
morning. Fresh flowers blossomed everywhere and sent their sweet perfume
into the air. Birds sang joyfully and creatures everywhere forgot their
fear. Rainbows and beautifully coloured clouds appeared in the sky, and
people marvel led to see such wondrous sights.
Buddha himself was filled with the highest happiness. His mind, free from
all darkness and pain, felt a boundless joy. For days and weeks he stayed
near the Tree of Enlightenment, enjoying the bliss and happiness only a
Buddha knows. Then he thought, "it was so difficult for me to reach the
end of suffering and become a Buddha. I had to work so hard for so long.
When I see how blind and ignorant most people are, I wonder if there is
anyone who can understand the truths I have discovered. How could I
possibly teach them? Perhaps it is better for me to live the rest of my
life in the forests alone and enjoy the happiness of being a Budhha
myself." Then he heard an inner voice which said, "please do not forget us
! We are the suffering beings of the world. We have been waiting for this
moment ever since your birth, and even before that. We have hoped and
prayed these for many years that you would leave the princely life and
discover the way to end all suffering. Now that you have found this path,
please teach it to us. Unlike you, we are still suffering."
But another thought arose in buddha's mind: "who will be able to follow
the teachings I have to give ? Who is strong and brave enough ? Who will
try hard and long enough ?" And the inner voice came again: "It is true
that our minds are clouded in ignorance, O Buddha. But for some people
this ignorance is not so thick. They will be able to understand you. For
their sake, please teach us all the true path !" And Buddha smiled and
said, "Of course, of course, I shall teach. The only reason I felt the
princely life was to find a way to help others. Now that I have become a
Buddha, I shall do everything I can."
"But even a Buddha can not remove the sufferings of others if they do not
try to help themselves. People must want to get better before a doctor can
cure them. In the same way, they must want to hear the teachings of the
truth before anyone can help them. But whoever comes to me with an open
mind will find that I am ready to teach them in every way I can."
Then he thought, "who, among all the people in world, should I teach first
? Who is the most ready? He remembered Arada and Udraka, the two teachers
he had met six years before. "They would be the best to teach, but I can
see that they have already died and left this world." Then he thought of
the five men who lived with him for so long in the forest. "They are ready
to understand the truth, " he thought, " I shall teach them first." He
knew that he would find these men in the Deer Park near Benares, the
holiest city of ancient India. "I shall go there," Budhha proclaimed, "
and begin the work I came to do."
The First Teaching
It was a long way to Benares and
Budhha walked slowly through village and farm. Everyone was immediately
attracted to him. He was tall and handsome and moved with dignity and
grace. Just seeing him brought calmness and joy to the people. He spoke
kind and gentle words of comfort to everyone he met. Whether they were
rich or poor, simple or intelligent, of noble birth or low, Buddha treated
them all equally, with great love and respect.
Finally, he reached the Deer Park. From a distance the five men saw him
approach. Quickly they s whispered to one another, "Here comes that
good-for-nothing Siddhartha. Let us have nothing to do with such a quitter
! Ignore him if he comes near." But as Buddha approached the men
immediately felt that there was something very special about him.
Forgetting their plan to ignore him, they automatically stood up as he
drew near. With great respect they prepared a seat for him, took his robe,
brought him some water and said, "Welcome Siddhartha, to the Deer Park. We
are honored that you have joined us here." Buddha answered, " I thank you
for your kind welcome, O monks. But you should know that I am no longer
simply Siddhartha, and it is no longer right for you to call me by that
name." "By what name should we call you then ?" they asked. "The whole
world is asleep in ignorance," he answered. "When someone discovers the
truth, he or she is asleep no longer. Now I am awake, having discovered
the truth. All such Awakened Ones are called Buddha."
Then the five men, with great respect, said, "O Buddha, please teach us
what you have learned so that we too may awaken." And so, in answer to
their request, Buddha delivered his first teaching. It is called "
Turning the Wheel of the Dharma" and "Dharma" is the truth he discovered.
"O monks, " he began, "you must know that there are four Noble Truths. The
first is the Noble Truth of suffering. Life is filled with the miseries of
old age, sickness, death and unhappiness. People chase after pleasure but
find only pain. Even when they find something pleasant they soon grow
tired of it. Nowhere is there any real satisfaction or peace.
The second is the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering. When our mind is
filled with greed and desire, sufferings of all types follow. For example,
if a rich man is attached to his wealth, his miserliness will bring him
nothing but pain.
The third is the Noble Truth of the End of Suffering. When we remove all
craving and desire from our mind, suffering will come to an end. We shall
experience a peace and happiness that is beyond words.
Finally, the fourth truth is the Noble Truth of the Path. This path leads
to the end of all suffering. If we avoid harming all other living beings,
if we sharpen and focus our mind, and if we gain wisdom, each of us can
reach perfect happiness, the end of all misery."
When they heard these words the five men felt as happy as if they had
found a great treasure of gold. " Oh, Buddha," they said, "you have indeed
found the truth. Please teach us the path to perfect wisdom and happiness
and we shall be your followers." It is said that many unseen spirits also
heard these first teachings and flew to the ends of the earth crying, "The
Buddha has begun to teach. Let us the world rejoice !"
A Mother's Grief
Buddha taught in many
different ways. To simple people and to children he taught by telling
stories. To those people with high intelligence, Buddha gave
detailed explanations of the path. To others, he taught without speaking
any words at all. But, perhaps, his most powerful teaching was his own
example, the very way he lived his life. He always acted with kindness and
love. He was patient with everyone, even the most ignorant and foolish.
Very soon, many people were attracted to him and became his followers. If
someone had a problem, he or she would go to Buddha and ask his advice.
There was one woman, named Gotami, whose child had just died. She was so
sad that she became crazy. She went everywhere trying to bring her child
back to life. Her friends felt sorry for her and said, "Gotami, you should
go and see the Buddha. Perhaps he can help you."
She went before Buddha still holding her child in her arms. "Please bring
him back to life for me," she cried. Very gently Buddha answered her, " I
can help you, Gotami, but first you must bring me something. I need one
small mustard seed. However, it must come from a house where no one has
ever died." Gotami quickly went out in search of a mustard seed. She asked
at one home and the woman there answered, "Of course you can have a
mustard seed. You can have whatever you want... But you should know that
last year my husband died. "
"Oh," Gotami replied, "then I must search elsewhere" and ran off to the
next house. But everywhere she went, the same thing happened. Everyone
wanted to help her, but someone had died in every family she visited. One
person told her, "Three years ago I lost my daughter." Another said, " my
bother died her yesterday." It was always the same.
At the end of the day she returned to the Buddha. "What have you found,
Gotami?" he asked. "Where is your mustard seed. ? And there is your son?
You are not carrying him any longer." She answered, "Buddha, today I have
discovered that I am not the only one who has lost a loved one. Everywhere
people have died. I see how foolish I was to think I could have my son
back. I have accepted his death, and this afternoon I buried him. Now I
have returned to you to hear your teachings. I am ready to listen. " Then
Buddha said, "Gotami, you have learned a great deal today. Death must come
to everyone sooner or later. But if you learn the truth you can live and
die in happiness. Come, I shall teach you." And so he taught her, and soon
she found more peace and happiness than she had ever known before.
next page >>