THE LIFE OF THE BUDDHA PART I
Invitation of the Gods
Our Bodhisatta (1) was born in Tusita Heaven (2) as a Deva
(3) by the name of Svetaketu. The Devas in Tusita Heaven
were happy. The time had come for the Bodhisatta to be born
in the world for the last time. The Devas invited the
Bodhisatta to be born on earth.
Bodhisatta looked down at the world to make sure that the
five requirements necessary for His final birth in the world
were met. These five requirements are as follows:
right time - The life span of human beings at a time a
Buddha is born is between 100 and 100,000 years. If the life
span is very short, human beings want to enjoy their short
life to the fullest and tend to be very fond of material
things. If the life span is very long, they tend to forget
the impermanence of life. At this time the Bodhisatta found
that the life span was one hundred and twenty years.
right continent - All Buddhas are born in India (known as
Jumbudipa at the time of the Buddha). This is because the
people of India are spiritually more advanced than people in
other countries, and so are more ready for a Buddha.
right area - The city of Kapilavatthu was chosen as the city
of the future Buddha, as there was a just and good king and
many righteous people living there.
right caste - A Buddha is always born in a high caste -
Either a royal caste or a priestly caste. This is necessary,
as often persons born in a low caste are not accepted by
right mother - The mother of a Buddha has to be very pure.
She is a person who has resolved to be a mother of a Buddha
and observed the five precepts for many countless past
lives. The chosen mother was Queen Mahaa Maayaa, wife of
King Suddhodana of Kapilavatthu.
Bodhisatta saw that the five requirements were met.
The essay written By
This book is for
free distribution only.
This book is
dedicated to my mother and father,
Mrs. S. Seneviratna and the late Mr. D. A. Seneviratna.
They made this book a possibility by giving me a Buddhist
May they attain Nibbaana.
THE SMILE OF THE BUDDHA
Why dost Thou smile sweet Master?
What hast Thou seen,
That brings Thee such a serene calm?
What is Thy secret unexplored,
That lights Thy countenance?
The world has known the Doctrine
Twice a thousand years - and five hundred more -
And yet the world knows not
The meaning of the cloudless smile.
The features, all
unruffled and alight,
Must veil a mind of untold depths.
And yet, and yet, I wish
We understood the meaning of
The inscrutable smile!
The Buddha smiles, my son, because He knows
The end of toilsome round, and all life's woes.
What's won is won not ever lost again;
Its fruit is sure - beyond this present pain.
The goal is sure for you, that's won by me;
'Tis this that lends to Buddha's serenity.
(Bhikkhu Kassapa, Sri Lanka)
(1). Bodhisatta - One on his way to
perfection. This is the name given to a person who is trying to be a
(2). Tusita Heaven - One of the
seven happy planes of life. The Devas in the Tusita Heaven have a
life span of 576,000,000 human years. All Bodhisattas who have
completed the ten perfections await the right time for their last
birth in Tusita Heaven. The next Buddha, the Maithreya Buddha, is at
present a Deva by the name of Natha in the Tusita Heaven.
(3). Devas - Heavenly beings known in
English as gods or divine beings
. Queen Mahaa Maayaa's
One night Queen Mahaa Maayaa had a dream. She dreamt that
the Devas from the four directions of the earth took her to
Lake Anotatta on top of the Himalayan mountain. She was
bathed in the lake and dressed in heavenly clothes and
ornaments. A white baby elephant carrying a white lotus
flower in its trunk trumpeted, and after circling around her
three times, entered her body.
The next morning she told King Suddhodana of
her dream. He consulted some wise men who, on hearing the
dream said, "The Queen will have a wise and noble baby boy."
The king and queen were very happy for they had no children
and were longing for a child.
. The birth of a Prince
According to the custom of that time, Queen Mahaa Maayaa
decided to visit her mother so that she could be with her at
the time of the birth of her baby.On the way she stopped at
the Lumbini Pleasure Garden to rest. Under a sweet-scented
Sal tree, on a full moon day in the month of May, in the
year 623 B.C., the Prince was born. The baby Prince took
seven steps, and a lotus flower burst through the ground to
receive His feet. He made the following announcement:
"Aggo hamasmi lokassa -
"I am the Chief in the world
Jettho hamasmi lokassa - There is no equal to me
Settho hamasmi lokassa - I am Supreme
Ayamanthima jathi - This is my last birth
Natthi dani punabbhavo. - " No rebirth for me."
It is said in the Anagata Vamsa that the next
Buddha, Maithreya, will make a similar announcement at His
The ministers took the Queen and the baby
back to Kapilavatthu and King Suddhodana. Many wise men came
to see the baby. They said that one day the Prince would
either be a King of the world or a Supreme Buddha. The baby
Prince was named Siddhaartha Gotama. Siddhaartha means "wish
fulfilled" and Gotama was His family name. Seven days after
the birth of the Prince, Queen Mahaa Maayaa died. She was
born as a Deva by the name of Matu-deva putta in the Tusita
Heaven. Her sister, Mahaa Prajaapathi Gotami, took care of
. Ploughing festival
Every year there was a big festival at the time the rice
fields were ploughed. One day King Suddhodana took the
little Prince to the ploughing festival. The Prince fell
asleep. Seeing that the Prince was sleeping, His maids
joined in the festivities of the day.
When they came back they found the Prince
deep in meditation. He was meditating on His breathing in
and breathing out. This meditation is known as breathing
meditation (Aanaapaana Sati Meditation). This form of
meditation is very important, as it was this meditation that
was later used by the Buddha to attain enlightenment (*).
(*) enlightenment - the supreme knowledge
that leads to the end of rebirth.
. The story of the swan
The Prince grew up to be a kind and gentle boy. One day He
was walking in a grove when a swan that had been shot down
fell near Him. The Prince picked up the swan, pulled out the
arrow, and placed some soothing herbs on its wound. He then
carried it back to the palace. His cousin, Devadatta, ran
after Him to claim the bird, as it was he who had shot it
down. Prince Siddhaartha refused to give Devadatta the bird.
angry at not getting the bird he had shot, complained to
King Suddhodana. After listening to the young Princes, the
King decided to have their dispute settled in court. At
first the jury were angry that a children's petty dispute
should be brought to court. However, King Suddhodana
insisted on their settling the dispute saying, "These are
our future rulers. It is best that this should be settled in
gave his side of the story first, saying that he had shot
down the bird, and that as such, the bird belonged to him.
Prince Siddhaartha agreed that it was Devadatta who had shot
down the bird, but said that it was He who had saved its
life by applying soothing herbs. Prince Siddhaartha said,
"If the bird had died, then it would have belonged to you. I
saved its life by attending to it. Life belongs to the
saviour of life, not to the destroyer."
listening to Prince Siddhaartha's defence, the jury agreed
with him that life belongs to its saviour, not to its
destroyer. The bird was given to Prince Siddhaartha.
. His marriage
The Prince grew up in luxury. He was a good student,
obedient, kind and generous. The gentle Prince was liked by
all. It was time
for the Prince to be married. Prince Siddhaartha
chose His own
cousin, Princess Yasodharaa, as His bride. She too,
wanted to marry Him.
Princess Yasodharaa's father, King Suprabuddha, did not want
his daughter to marry Prince Siddhaartha. He knew that some
wise men had said that one day the Prince would give up His
wealth and royal position and become a Buddha. He did not
want Prince Siddhaartha to give up his daughter and kingdom.
However, Princess Yasodharaa wanted to marry Him and no
other. The Prince and Princess were married with great
ceremony. Both Prince Siddhaartha and Princess Yasodharaa
were sixteen years old at the time of their marriage. They
were very happy together.
07]. The four signs
The Prince and Princess led an idyllic life together. King
Suddhodana made sure that they had every luxury. He did not
want the Prince to see or feel any sorrow, for he did not
want Prince Siddhaartha to give up His kingdom and become a
Buddha. King Suddhodana wanted his son to be the next king.
when the Prince was out riding with Channa, His charioteer,
He saw a very old man. The man was very feeble, hunched
over, and could hardly walk. Having never seen old age
before, the Prince inquired from Channa as to what had
happened to the man. He then found out from Channa about old
age and that it would someday happen to all of us. The
kind-hearted Prince was very sad and thoughtful about this
day when He was out with Channa He saw a very sick man in
great pain. The Prince, who had never seen such grave
sickness, inquired from Channa as to what was wrong with the
man. He was even sadder when He heard about sickness and
pain and that it could happen to anyone.
was again out with Channa when He saw the funeral of a man.
The dead man's friends and relatives were crying and
carrying him for his burial. Having never faced death
before, the young Prince was horrified to find that death
was something we all had to face.
days the young Prince was disturbed by these sights: Old
age, Sickness, and Death, common to all living beings. "Was
there any way he could stop this life of old age, sickness
and death that all mankind had to face? Was there any way
that he could deliver mankind from pain and sorrow?" The
young Prince pondered these questions.
The sad and
thoughtful Prince was again out with Channa when He saw an
ascetic, a person who had renounced the world and all his
belongings and taken the life of a monk. What serenity, what
peace of mind! The ascetic's face looked calm, free from
worries. This, then, must be the answer, thought Prince
Siddhaartha. He made up His mind to give up all of His
wealth and kingdom to become an ascetic. He decided that He
wanted to find a way to end this sorrow of old age, sickness
and death, so that He could help mankind.
. The Great Renunciation
Prince Siddhaartha was twenty-nine years old. It was a full
moon day in the month of July. The Prince had decided that
this was the day when He would leave the palace and become
an ascetic, when the news came that Princess Yasodharaa had
given birth to a baby boy. The first word that the Prince
said when he heard of the birth of His son was "Raahu".
Raahu means an obstacle. The baby prince would make Prince
Siddhaartha's decision to leave the palace and His loved
ones even more difficult. An obstacle to His leaving had
arisen. The baby was named Raahula, by his grandfather.
Siddhaartha went to His wife's sleeping chamber to look at
her and His new-born son. Both were asleep. The princess's
hand was covering the baby's face. The Prince knew that His
wife would wake up if He tried to move her hand to see the
baby's face. It would then be very difficult for Him to
leave. "I must leave quietly and find a way to end this
recurring life of old age, sickness, and death," thought the
Prince. "I must find this happiness for mankind, my wife,
and son. Then I will come back to see my son."
took one last look at His beloved wife and son. He then
called Channa, His charioteer, and left the palace on His
horse Kanthaka. He crossed the river Anomaa and handed all
His jewellery and rich clothes to Channa. He asked Channa to
take them back to His family and tell them that He had gone
to find a way to end death.
king Sakka handed Him the robes and bowl of an ascetic. His
faithful horse Kanthaka did not want to leave Him. The
sorrow of parting was too great for it. Kanthaka died of a
broken heart and was born as a Deva in the Taavatimsa Heaven
(1). Channa went back to break the news of the Great
Renunciation to the king. After the renunciation Prince
Siddhaartha was known as the ascetic Gotama.
Bodhisattas must be married and have a child in their last
birth before enlightenment. It has been so with all the
Buddhas of the past and will be so with all the Buddhas of
the future. Otherwise, because a supreme Buddha is such a
perfect being, so God-like, He would be mistaken for a God
(Brahma). They in the Brahma world (2) do not marry. The
Buddha, however, is above all Gods. He is the perfect being,
teacher of Gods and humans, and incomparable.
Taavatimsa Heaven - One of the seven happy planes of life
also known as the Heaven of the thirty-three Devas. It was
in this Heaven that the Buddha taught the Higher Teachings (Abhidhamma)
for three months.
world - There are sixteen happy planes of life where the
beings have pleasures, but not the pleasures of the senses.
Usually, those who have achieved the spiritual levels of the
mental absorptions (Jhaanas) are born in these planes of