Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists/CHAPTER V

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Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists
Sister Nivedita and Anand K. Coomaraswamy

CHAPTER V : BUDDHA

The Historical Foundation

THE history of Buddha, it may be said, is not a myth. It is true that it is possible to disentangle from the Buddha legend, as from the Christ story, a nucleus of historical fact. To do this, and to clearly set forth his own teaching, has been one great achievement of Oriental scholarship during the last half-century. Here, however, we shall be concerned with the whole mythical history of the Buddha as related in various works which are not, strictly speaking, historical, but have a quite distinct literary and spiritual value of their own. But before proceeding to set forth the Buddha myth, it will be useful to briefly summarize its historical nucleus so far as we can determine it, and to give some account of the Buddha' s doctrines.

The Life of Buddha

By the fifth century before Christ the Aryan invaders of India had already pushed beyond the Panjab far into the plains, and were settled in villages and little kingdoms along the valley of the Ganges. One of the Aryan tribes, the Shakyas, was established at Kapilavastu, about one hundred miles north-east of the city of Benares and thirty or forty miles south of the Himalayas. They were an agricultural people, whose livelihood depended mainly on rice and cattle. The raja of the Shakyas was Suddhodana, to whom were married the two daughters of the raja of a neighbouring tribe, the Koliyans. Both were childless until in her forty-fifth year (about 563 B.C.) the elder became the mother of a boy, herself dying seven days afterward. The boy's family name was Gautama, and the


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name of Siddhartha was afterward given to him. Gautama was early married to his cousin Yashodhara, the daughter of the raja of Koli, and lived happily with her, free from the knowledge of care or want. In his twenty-ninth year, as the result of four visions, of age, illness, death, and, lastly, of dignified retreat from the world or in some more normal way, the problem of suffering was suddenly and impressively set before him. Filled with the thought of the insecurity of all happiness and with grief at the sufferings of others, he felt a growing unrest and dissatisfaction with the vanity of life ; and when, ten years after his marriage, a son was born to him, he only felt that there was one more tie to be broken before he could leave his guarded world to seek a solution for the deep problems of life and a way of escape from the suffering that seemed inevitably associated with it.

The same night, when all were asleep, he left the palace, taking only his horse with him, and attended only by his charioteer, Channa. He had hoped for the last time to hold his son in his arms, but, finding him asleep with Yashodhara, feared to wake the mother, and so turned away for ever from all that he loved most to become a homeless wanderer. Truly, it is danger and hardship, and not safety or happiness, that lure men to great deeds !

Gautama attached himself in turn to various Brahman hermits at Rajagriha in the Vindhyan hills; then, dissatisfied with their teaching, he endeavoured by solitary penance in the forest, after the manner of Brahman ascetics, to attain superhuman power and insight. But after enduring the most severe privations and practising self-mortification with the greatest determination for a long period, he found himself no nearer to enlightenment, though he acquired great reputation as a saint. Then he


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abandoned this life and again took regular food; he sacrificed this reputation, and his disciples deserted him.

The Temptation

In this time of loneliness and failure there came to him the great temptation, symbolically described as presented to him by Mara, the evil one, in the form of material temptation and assault. Unvanquished, however, Gautama wandered along the banks of the river Nairanjara and took his seat under a bo-tree (Ficus religiosa), and there received a simple meal from the hands of Sujata, daughter of a neighbouring villager, who at first mistook him for a sylvan deity. During the day he sat there, still assailed by doubt and the temptation to return to his home. But as the day wore on his mind seemed to grow clearer and clearer, his doubts vanished, a great peace came over him as the significance of all things made itself apparent. So day and night passed till by the dawn came perfect know ledge; Gautama became Buddha, the enlightened. With perfect enlightenment there came upon the Buddha a sense of great isolation ; how could it be possible to share this wisdom with men less wise, less earnest than him self? Was it likely that he could persuade any of the truth of a doctrine of self-salvation by self-restraint and love, without any reliance upon such rituals or theologies as men everywhere and at all times lean upon ? Such isolation comes to all great leaders ; but love and pity for humanity determined the Buddha at all hazard of mis understanding or failure to preach the truth he had seen. The Buddha accordingly proceeded to Benares to "turn the wheel of the Law," i.e. to set rolling the chariot wheel of a universal empire of truth and righteousness. He established himself in the " Deer Park " near Benares,


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and though at first his doctrine was not well received, it was not long before it was accepted by his old disciples and many others. Some became his personal followers ; others became lay disciples without leaving the house hold life. Amongst those who accepted his teaching were his father and mother and wife and son. After a ministry lasting forty-five years, during which he preached the new doctrines in Kapilavastu and the neighbouring states, and established an order of Buddhist monks, and also, though reluctantly, an order of nuns, the Buddha passed away or entered into Nirvana (about 483 B.C.), surrounded by his mournful disciples.

The Teaching of Buddha

If we know comparatively little about the life of Buddha, we have, on the other hand, a trustworthy knowledge of his teaching. Conceptions of the personality of the Buddha himself have indeed changed, but the substance of his teaching has been preserved intact since about 250 B.C., and there is every reason to believe that the works then accepted formally as canonical include the essential part of his own doctrine.

It is necessary, in the first place, to realize that though a reformer, and perhaps from a priestly point of view a heretic (if such a word can be used in connexion with a system permitting absolute freedom of speculation), the Buddha was brought up and lived and died as a Hindu. Comparatively little of his system whether of doctrine or ethics, was original, or calculated to deprive him of the support and sympathy of the best among the Brahmans, many of whom became his disciples. The success of his system was due to various causes : the wonderful personality and sweet reasonableness of the


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man himself, his courageous and constant insistence upon a few fundamental principles, and to the way in which he made his teaching accessible to all without respect to aristocracy of birth or intellect.

The idea of impermanence, of the inevitable connexion of sorrow with life and of life with desire, the doctrine of rebirth, of karma (every man must reap what he himself sows), and a complex formal psychology all these belong to the intellectual atmosphere of the Buddha's own time. Where he differed most profoundly from the Brahmans was in his denial of soul, of any enduring entity in man apart from temporary associations producing the illusion of a person, an ego.

Yet even this difference is more apparent than real, and we find in later times that it became almost impossible to distinguish between the Buddhist "Void" and the Brahman "Self." For the distinguishing characteristic of each is the absence of any characteristics at all; each is other than Being, and other than non-Being. Even the word "Nirvana" is common to Buddhism and Hinduism, and controversy turns upon whether Nirvana is or is not equivalent to extinction. The question is really improper, for the meaning of Nirvana is no more than a freeing from the fetters of individuality as the space enclosed in an earthen pot is freed from its limitation and becomes one with infinite space when the pot is broken. Whether we call that infinite space a Void or a Whole is more a matter of temperament than of fact; what is important is to realize that the apparent separateness of any portion of it is temporary and unreal, and is the cause of all pain.

The heresy of individuality, then, is the first great delusion which the one who would set out on the Buddhist road to


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salvation must abandon. Desire to maintain this illusory, individual self is the source of all sorrow and evil in our experience. The idea of soul or self is illusory, because there is, in fact, no being, only an everlasting becoming. Those free from these delusions could enter on the path which leads to peace of mind, to wisdom, to Nirvana (Release). Most briefly, this Path is summed up in the celebrated verse :

To cease from all sin,
To get virtue,
To cleanse one s own heart -
This is the religion of the Buddhas.

So much for history. Now let us see what legends the race imagination has woven around this story of the Enlightened One. We have to begin with his resolve in a long previous life to become a Buddha, and with his subsequent incarnations in many forms, till at last he was born as the Shakya prince of whom we have spoken.

How Sumedha became a Buddha-Elect

A hundred thousand ages past, a wealthy, learned, and righteous Brahman dwelt in the great city of Amara. One day he sat him down, reflecting on the misery of rebirth, old age, and disease, exclaiming :

There is, there must be, an escape!
Impossible there should not be !
I'll make the search and find the way,
Which from existence shall release !

Accordingly he retired to the Himalayas and dwelt as a hermit in a leaf-hut, where he attained to great wisdom. While he was sunk in trance there was born One-who- overcame, Dipankara. It happened that this Buddha was


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proceeding on his way near where Sumedha lived, and men were preparing a path for his feet to tread. Sumedha joined in this work, and when the Buddha approached lay down in the mud, saying to himself:

Can I but keep him from the mire.
To me great merit shall accrue.

As he lay there the thought came to his mind : " Why should I not now cast off all remaining evil in myself and enter into Nirvana? But let me not do so all for myself alone; rather let me also some day achieve omniscience and convey a multitude of beings in the ship of doctrine over the ocean of rebirth safely to the farther shore?"

Dipankara, all-knowing, paused by his side and proclaimed him to the multitude as one who ages after should like wise become a Buddha, and named the place of his birth, his family, his disciples, and his tree. At this the people rejoiced ; for they thought, if we attain not to Nirvana now, in another life, taught by this other Buddha, they would have again a good opportunity to learn the truth ; for the doctrine of all Buddhas is the same. All nature then showed signs and presages in witness of Sumedha's undertaking and dedication : each tree bore fruit, the rivers stood still, a rain of flowers fell down from Heaven, the fires of Hell died down. " Do not turn back," Dipankara said. "Goon! Advance! Most certainly we know this thing ; surely a Buddha shalt thou be ! " Sumedha determined then to fulfil the conditions of a Buddha perfection in alms, in keeping the precepts, in renunciation, in wisdom, in courage, in patience, in truth, in resolution, in good will, and in indifference. Beginning, then, to fulfil these ten conditions of the quest, Sumedha returned to the forest and dwelt there till he passed away.


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Thereafter was he reborn in countless forms as a man, as a deva1 as an animal, and in all these forms he adhered to the path marked out, so that it is said there exists not a particle of earth where the Buddha has not sacrificed his life for the sake of creatures. The story of these rebirths is given in the Jataka book, where 550 births are related. Out of these we shall select a few typical examples.

The Six-tusked Elephant

Once upon a time the Buddha-elect was born as the son of the elephant chief of a herd of eight thousand royal elephants, who lived near to a great lake in the Himalayas. In the middle of this lake was clear water, and round this grew sheets of white and coloured water-lilies, and fields of rice and gourds and sugar-cane and plantains; it was surrounded by a bamboo grove and a ring of great moun tains. In the north-east corner of the lake grew a huge banyan-tree, and on the west side there was an enormous golden cave. In the rainy season the elephants lived in the cave, and in the hot weather they gathered under the branches of the banyan to enjoy the cool shade. One day the Buddha-elect with his two wives went to a grove of sal-trees, and while there he struck one of the trees with his head so that a shower of dry leaves, twigs, and red ants fell on the windward side, where his wife Chullasubhadda happened to be standing, and a shower of green leaves and flowers on the other side, where his other wife, Mahasubhadda, was. On another occasion one of the elephants brought a beautiful seven-sprayed lotus to the Buddha-elect, and he received it and gave it to Mahasubhadda. Because of these things Chullasubhadda was offended and conceived a grudge against the Great Being. So one day when he had


1 Deva, lit. a shining one, i.e. a god, other than the Supreme God.


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prepared an offering of fruits and flowers, and was enter taining five hundred private Buddhas, Chullasubhadda also made offerings to them, and made a prayer that she might be reborn as the daughter of a king and become the queen- consort of the king of Benares, and so have power to move the king to send a hunter with a poisoned arrow to wound and slay this elephant. Then she pined away and died. In due course her wicked wishes were fulfilled, and she became the favourite wife of the king of Benares, dear and pleasing in his eyes. She remembered her past lives, and said to herself that now she would have the elephant's tusks brought to her. So she went to bed and pretended to be very ill. When the king heard of this he went to her room and sat on the bed and asked her : " Why are you pining away, like a wreath of withered flowers trampled under foot?" She answered: "It is because of an un attainable wish " ; whereupon he promised her whatever she desired. So she had all the hunters of the kingdom called together, amounting to sixty thousand, and told them that she had had a dream of a magnificent six-tusked white elephant, and that if her longing for the tusks could not be satisfied she would die. She chose one of the hunters, who was a coarse, ill-favoured man, to do her work, and showed him the way to the lake where the Great Being lived, and promised him a reward of five villages when she received the tusks. He was very much afraid of the task, but finally consented when she told him that she had also dreamt that her desire would be fulfilled. She fitted him out with weapons and necessaries for the journey, giving him a leather parachute to descend from the hills to the lake.

Deeper and deeper he penetrated into the Himalayan jungle, far beyond the haunts of men, overcoming


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incredible difficulties, until after seven years, seven months, and seven days weary travelling he stood by the great banyan-tree where the Buddha-elect and the other elephants lived so peacefully and unsuspectingly. He dug a hole in the ground and, putting on the yellow robe of a hermit, hid in it, covering it over except a little space for his arrow. When the Great Being passed by he shot him with a poisoned arrow, which drove him nearly mad with anger and pain. Just when he would have killed the wicked hunter he noticed his yellow robe

Emblem of sainthood, priestly guise.
And deemed inviolate by the wise.

Seeing this robe, the wounded elephant recovered his self- control and asked the hunter what reason he had for slaying him. The hunter told him his story of the dream of the queen of Benares. The Great Being understood the whole matter very well and suffered the hunter to take his tusks. But so great was he, and the hunter so clumsy, that he could not cut them away ; he only gave the Great Being unbear able pain and filled his mouth with blood. Then he took the saw in his own trunk, and cut them off and gave them to the hunter, saying: "The tusks of wisdom are a hundred times dearer to me than these, and may this good act be the reason of my attaining omniscience." He also gave the hunter magic power to return to Benares in seven days, and so died and was burned on a pyre by the other elephants.

The hunter took back the tusks to the queen and, evidently disapproving of her wickedness now that he knew its full significance, announced that the elephant against whom she had felt a grudge for a trifling offence had been slain by him. " Is he dead ? " she cried ; and, giving her the tusks, "Rest assured he is dead," the hunter replied. Taking


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The Bodhisattva's Tusks by Abanindro Nath Tagore

the beautiful tusks on her lap, she gazed at these tokens of one that had been her dear lord in another life, and as she gazed she was filled with inconsolable grief, and her heart broke and she died the same day.

Long ages afterward she was born at Savatthi, and became a nun. She went one day with other Sisters to hear the Buddha's doctrine. Gazing upon him, so peaceful and radiant, it came into her heart that she had once been his wife, when he had been lord of a herd of elephants, and she was glad. But then there came to her also the remembrance of her wickedness how she had been the cause of his death only because of a fancied slight and her heart grew hot within her, and she burst into tears and sobbed aloud. Then the Master smiled, and when the brethren asked him why he smiled, he told this story, which hearing, many men entered on the Path, and the Sister herself afterward attained to sainthood.

The Tree-God

Long ago, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, there came this thought into his mind : " Everywhere in India there are kings whose palaces have many columns ; what if I build a palace supported by a single column only? Then shall I be the first and singular king among all other kings." So he summoned his craftsmen, and ordered them to build him a magnificent palace supported by a single pillar. " It shall be done," they said ; and away they went into the forest.

There they found a tree, tall and straight, worthy to be the single pillar of such a palace. But the road was too rough and the distance too great for them to take the trunk to the city, so they returned to the king and asked him what was to be done. " Somehow or other," he said, " you must


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bring it, and that without delay." But they answered that neither somehow nor anyhow could it be done. "Then," said the king, " you must select a tree in my own park."

There they found a lordly sal-tree, straight and beautiful, worshipped alike by village and town and royal family. They told the king, and he said to them : " Good, go and fell the tree at once." But they could not do this without making the customary offerings to the tree-god living there, and asking him to depart. So they made offerings of flowers and branches and lighted lamps, and said to the tree : " On the seventh day from this we shall fell the tree, by the king's command. Let any deva that maybe dwelling in the tree depart elsewhere, and not unto us be the blame ! " The god that dwelt in the tree heard what they said, and considered thus : " These craftsmen are agreed to fell my tree. I myself shall perish when my home is destroyed. All the young sal-trees round me will be destroyed as well, in which many devas of my kith and kin are living. My own death touches me not so nearly as the destruction of my children, so let me, if possible, save their lives at least." So at the hour of midnight the tree-god, divinely radiant, entered the king's resplendent chamber, his glory lighting up the whole room. The king was startled, and stammered out : " What being art thou, so god-like and so full of grief ? " The deva-prince replied : " I am called in thy realm, O king, the Lucky-tree; for sixty thousand years all men have loved and worshipped me. Many a house and many a town, many a palace, too, they made, yet never did me wrong; honour thou me, even as did they, O king ! " But the king answered that such a tree was just what he needed for his palace, a trunk so fine and tall and straight; and in that palace, said he, "thou shalt long


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endure, admired of all who behold thee." The tree-god answered : " If it must be so, then I have one boon to ask : Cut first the top, the middle next, and then the root of me." The king protested that this was a more painful death than to be felled entire. "O forest lord ! he said, "what gain is thine thus to be cut limb from limb and piece by piece ? " To which the Lucky-tree replied : " There is a good reason for my wish : my kith and kin have grown up round me, beneath my shade, and I should crush them if I fall entire upon them, and they would grieve exceedingly."

At this the king was deeply moved, and wondered at the tree-god's noble thought, and lifting his hands in salutation, he said : " O Lucky-tree, O forest lord, as thou wouldst save thy kindred, so shall I spare thee ; so fear nothing."

Then the tree-god gave the king good counsel and went his way ; and the king next day gave generous alms, and ruled as became a king until the time came for his departure to the heavenly world.

The Hare-Mark on the Moon

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the future Buddha was born as a hare and lived in a wood. He had three friends, a monkey, a jackal, and an otter ; all these animals were very wise. The hare used to preach to the others, exhorting them to give alms and keep the fast-days. On one of these fast-days the hare and his friends were seeking their food as usual; the otter found some fish, the jackal some meat, the monkey some mangoes. But the hare, as he lay in his form before going out to eat his grass, reflected that if anyone should ask him for a gift of food, grass would be useless. As he


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had no grain or meat he made up his mind to give up his own body if anyone asked him for food.

Now when any wonderful thing such as this takes place on earth, the throne of Sakra in Heaven grows hot. Sakra looked down to see what was happening, and perceiving the hare, determined to test his virtue. He took the shape of a Brahman, and went first to the otter and asked for food. The otter offered him fish. The jackal and the monkey in turn offered him meat and fruit. Sakra declined all these offers and said that he would return next day. Then he went to the hare, who was overjoyed at the chance of giving himself in alms. " Brahman," said he, " to-day I will give such alms as I never gave before ; gather wood and prepare a fire and tell me when it is ready." When Sakra heard this he made a heap of live coals and told the hare that all was ready ; then the hare, who would some day be a Buddha, came and sprang into the fire, as happy as a royal flamingo alighting in a bed of water-lilies. But the fire did not burn it seemed as cold as the air above the clouds. At once he inquired of the disguised Sakra what this might mean. Sakra replied that he was indeed no Brahman, but had come down from Heaven to test the hare's generosity. The hare replied : " Sakra, your efforts are wasted ; every creature alive might try me in turn, and none could find in me any unwillingness to give."

Then Sakra answered : " Wise hare, let your virtue be proclaimed to the end of this world-cycle." Taking a mountain, he squeezed it, and holding the hare under his arm, he drew an outline picture of him on the moon, using the juice of the mountain for his ink. Then he put down the hare on some tender grass in the wood and departed to his own heaven. And that is why there is now a hare in the moon.


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Santusita

The last incarnation of the Buddha-elect of this age was as King Vessantara, concerning whose perfection in alms giving a long Jataka is related. After reigning for many years the Buddha-elect passed away to the Tusita heaven, to await his final birth amongst men. It should be under stood that a Buddha-elect shortens his stay in the god- world between each incarnation as much as possible, though his merit, of course, entitles him to lengthy residence there ; indeed, he might have attained Nirvana at the time of his first assurance of future Buddhahood had he not chosen constant rebirth in this world for the sake of creatures. But for these sacrifices the Bodhisattva (Buddha-elect) has some compensations; in itself the attainment of Buddhahood is a great incentive, a feat likened to the difficult ascent of a man to the top of a tree to pluck its fruit. Again, a Bodhisattva is never born in any hell nor in a degraded or deformed shape. Above all, the pain of constant sacrifice is overpowered by the joy of looking forward to the greatness of the reward, the attainment of power to enlighten others.

When born in any heaven the Buddha-elect can exercise his peculiar power of incarnation at will ; he lies down upon a couch and " dies," being reborn on earth in such place and manner as he determines. Previous to his last incarnation, contrary to custom he lingered for a long time in the Tusita heaven, where he was known as Santusita ; and when at last the devas perceived that he was about to be reborn, they gathered round him with congratulations. Vanishing from there, he was conceived in the womb of Mahamaya, wife of Suddhodana, the Shakya king of Kapilavastu. His conception was miraculous, taking place


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in a dream. Mahamaya was translated by the devas of the four quarters to the Himalayas, and there bathed and ceremonially purified by their four queens. Then the Bodhisattva appeared to her, like a moonlit cloud, coming from the north, holding a lotus in his hand, or, as some say, in the form of a white elephant. This appearance approached the queen and circumambulated her thrice; at that moment, Santusita, who had followed the course of the dream, disappeared from the presence of the devas and entered the womb of Mahamaya. At this moment great wonders took place: the ten thousand spheres thrilled at once, the fires of Hell were quenched, instruments of music played untouched, the flowing of rivers ceased (as if to stand and behold the Bodhisattva), and trees and herbs burst into flower, even beams of dry wood bore lotus blooms. Next day the queen's dream was interpreted by sixty-four Brahmans, who announced that she would have a son who would become either a Universal Emperor or a Supreme Buddha. For nine months Mahamaya was guarded by the devas of the four quarters and forty thousand devas of other worlds. Meanwhile her body was transparent, so that the child could be distinctly seen, like an image enclosed in a crystal casket. At the conclusion of ten lunar months Mahamaya set out to visit her parents, riding in a golden litter. On the way she stopped to rest in a garden of sal-trees, called Lumbini ; and while resting there the Buddha was born, without pain or suffer- ing. The child was received by Brahma, and from him by the four devas, and from them by the nobles attendant on the queen ; but at once he stepped to the ground, and on the spot first touched by his feet there sprang up a lotus. On the same day were born Yashodhara Devi, who afterwards became his wife ; the horse Kantaka, upon


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which he fled from the city when he went forth to seek for wisdom; his charioteer, Channa, who accompanied him on that occasion ; Ananda, his favourite disciple ; and the bo-tree under which he attained enlightenment.

The Guarding of Siddhartha

Five days after his birth the young prince was named Siddhartha, and on the seventh his mother died. When he was twelve years old the king took counsel with his Brahmans, who informed him that the prince would become an ascetic, as the result of seeing old age, sickness, death, and a hermit. The king desired to avoid this event, saying to himself : " I do not wish my son to become a Buddha, as in so doing he will be exposed to great danger from the attacks of Mara ; let him rather become a Universal Emperor." The king therefore took every pre caution to keep him faraway from the " four signs," having three guarded palaces built, where every delight abounded, and sorrow and death might not even be mentioned. The raja, moreover, thought that a sure way to attach the prince to his royal estate would be to find him a wife. In order to discover secretly some princess who might awaken his love the king had made a number of splendid jewels, and announced that on a certain day the prince would bestow these one by one upon the noble ladies of the land. When all the gifts had been bestowed, there came one lady more, whose name was Yashodhara, daughter of the minister Mahanama. She asked the prince if he had no gift for her, and he, meeting her eyes, gave her his own costly signet-ring. The king was duly informed of the glances exchanged, and he sent to Mahanama to ask his daughter in marriage for the prince. It was, however, a rule amongst the Shakya nobles that


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the fairest maidens could be given only to those who proved themselves victors in martial exercises. " And I fear," he said, " that this delicately nurtured prince may not be expert in archery or wrestling." However, a day was appointed for the trial, and the young nobles came with the prince to compete for the hand of Yashodhara. There was first a competition in literary and mathematical lore, and then in archery. Each of the young nobles did well ; but the prince, using a sacred bow handed down from his grand father' s time, which none else could string, much less draw, easily surpassed them, and he excelled in turn in riding, swordsmanship, and wrestling. Thus he won Yashodhara, and he lived with her in the beautiful palace made by his father, guarded from all knowledge of suffering and death. About the palace was a great garden with a triple wall, each wall with a single gate, well guarded by many soldiers.

Meanwhile the devas reflected that time was passing, and the Great One ought no longer to linger amid the pleasures of the palace, but must go forth on his mission. They therefore filled all space with this thought, " It is time to go forth," so that it reached the mind of the prince; and at the same time the music of the singers and the gestures of the dancers assumed a new meaning, and seemed to tell no more of sensuous delights, but of the impermanence and vanity of every object of desire. The songs of the musicians seemed to call to the prince to leave the palace and see the world; so he sent for his charioteer, and announced that he wished to visit the city. When the raja heard this he ordered the city to be swept and gar- nished and made ready for the prince s visit, and no old or infirm person nor any inauspicious object was to be left in view. But all these precautions were in vain ; for


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a deva appeared before him as he drove through the streets, in the form of a tottering old man, bent with sickness and age, short of breath, and wrinkled. The prince inquired the meaning of this strange sight, and his charioteer replied: "This is an old man." The prince again asked : "What is the meaning of this word old ?" and the charioteer explained that the man's bodily powers were now impaired by long years, and he might die at any moment. Then the prince asked again : " Is this man one only, or does this fate come to all alike, and must I also become old?" And when he was informed that it was even so, he would see no more that day, but returned to the palace to reflect on so strange a thing and to bethink him if there were no way of escape.

Another day the prince drove out again, and in the same way beheld a man very ill; and still another day he beheld a corpse. "Must I also die?" he asked, and learnt that it was even so. On another day still, the prince drove out and beheld a begging monk, and con versed with him ; the yogi explained that he had left the world to seek equanimity, to have done with hatred and love, to attain freedom for self. The prince was deeply affected and worshipped the wandering beggar, and returning home, prayed his father's leave to go forth alone in the same fashion, for, he said : " All worldly things, O king, are changeable and impermanent." The old king was thunderstruck and could but weep bitterly ; and when the prince had retired he redoubled the guard about the palace and the delights within it, and, indeed, the whole city strove to prevent the prince from leaving his home.


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The Departure of Siddhartha

About this time Yashodhara bore a son to Prince Siddhartha, and he was named Rahula. But not even this new tie could dissuade the prince from his purpose, and there came a night when the devas called upon him to depart. He beheld for the last time Yashodhara sleeping, with one hand resting on the baby's head, so that he could not even lift it in his arms for fear of waking her ; leaving them both, he lifted the jewelled net that divided the chamber from the outer hall, and passing slowly through the outer rooms, he paused at the eastern door, and invoked all the Buddhas and stood with lifted head surveying the sky with its countless stars. Then Sakra and the guardian devas of the four quarters, and innumer able devas from the heavens, surrounded him and chanted : " Holy Prince, the time has come to seek the Highest Law of Life." Then he reflected: "Now all the devas have come down to earth to confirm my resolution. I will go : the time has come." Then he sent for Channa, his charioteer, and for his horse, born the same day as himself. So Channa brought the horse, splendidly caparisoned, and he neighed with joy; then the prince mounted him, making a vow that it should be for the last time. The devas lifted Kantaka' s feet from the ground that he might make no noise, and when they came to the gates each opened silently of itself. Thus Prince Siddhartha left the palace and the city, followed by hosts of angels lighting up the path and scattering flowers before him.

Channa strove continually to dissuade the prince from his purpose, praying him rather to become a Universal Emperor. But the prince knew that he would attain Perfect Enlightenment, and would have preferred any


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Departure of Prince Siddhartha by Abanindro Nath Tagore

death to returning home. He dismounted from Kantaka for the last time and ordered Channa to lead him home. By him also he sent a message to his father that he should not grieve, but rather rejoice that his son had set forth to find out a means of saving the world from the recurrence of birth and death, from sorrow and pain. " And I am now freed," he said, " from the love due only to relatives; take the horse Kantaka and depart." After many arguments Channa was forced to yield, and he kissed the prince' s feet, and Kantaka licked them with his tongue, and those two departed.

Presently the prince, proceeding on his way, met with a hunter, and to him he gave his royal robes in exchange for tattered rags, more suited for a hermit. This hunter was another deva who had assumed a form for that very purpose. Yet another became a barber, and shaved the prince' s head. The prince proceeded to the hermitage of a community of Brahmans, who welcomed him reverently, and he became the pupil of one of the most learned. But he perceived that though their systems might lead to Heaven, yet they provided no means of final deliverance from rebirth on earth or even in Hell.

" Unhappy world," he said, " hating the demon Death, and yet seeking hereafter to be born in Heaven I What ignorance ! What delusion ! "

The Wanderings of Siddhartha

So he left the hermitage, to the great grief and dis appointment of the yogis who lived there, and set out for the home of a famous sage named Alara. His system also proved incomplete, and the prince departed, saying : " I seek a system where there shall be no questioning of existence or non-existence, eternity or non-eternity, and


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the idea of the boundless and illimitable shall be realized, but not talked of." From Alara's hermitage he proceeded to Rajagriha, and was welcomed there by King Bimbisara. This king endeavoured to persuade the prince to abandon his wandering life ; but he would not hear of it, and pro ceeded farther to a village near Gaya and took up his abode in a neighbouring wood, eating daily a modicum of millet seed, just sufficient to maintain life. Then his skin became wrinkled, his flesh fell away, and his eyes grew hollow, and all those who beheld him felt a strange feeling of fear and reverence because of these austerities.

During all these years his father, Suddhodana, sent messengers from time to time praying his son to return, and setting before him every argument and inducement ; they came also to Gaya, when the prince was at the point of death; but he would have none of their sayings, and gave them this order, if he should die before attaining Perfect Enlightenment, to take back his bones to Kapilavastu and say : "These are the relics of a man who died in the fixed prosecution of his resolve."

But the prince found that these austerities benefited nothing; rather he experienced less of the illumination of wisdom than heretofore. He resolved, therefore, to nourish his body, and accepted food and attention. The story is told, in particular, of one Sujata, a daughter of a village lord, who was fore warned by an angel, and prepared food as follows : she collected a thousand cows, and with their milk fed five hundred others, and with theirs two hundred and fifty others, and so on down to fifteen cows, and then, mixing their milk with rice, she prepared a dish of the greatest purity and delicacy. When the Bodhisattva went into the village to beg for food she offered him this rice-milk on a golden dish, and it seemed to him a good omen. He took the


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food and went out of the village and bathed in a river, and would have crossed to the other side, but the current carried him away, and had it not been that a deva dwelling in a certain great tree on the farther bank stretched out his jewelled arm to draw him to land, he would have been drowned. He reached the shore, how ever, and sat down to take his meal ; after which he cast the golden dish into the river, where it was caught by a naga, who took it to his palace. Sakra, however, in the form of a garuda, 1 snatched it from the naga's hand and carried it to the Tusita heavens.

Meanwhile the Bodhisattva proceeded toward the Wisdom- tree, beneath which the previous Buddhas had attained enlightenment. As he walked along the forest path hundreds of kingfishers approached him and, circling thrice about him, followed; after them came five hundred peacocks and other birds and beasts ; so that he walked on surrounded by devas, nagas, asuras, and creatures of every kind towards the Tree of Wisdom.

A naga king who dwelt near the path and was very old, having seen more than one of the former Buddhas come by that way, chanted his praise ; and his wife, with count less snake-girls, welcomed him with flags and flowers and jewelled ornaments, and kept up a perpetual song of praise. The devas of the Worlds of Form hung flags and banners on the Wisdom-tree and on the trees that led to it, so that the Bodhisattva might find the way easily. As he went he reflected that not only this host of friendly beings, but also Mara, the evil one, should witness his victory ; and this thought, like a ray of glory from his brow- spot, penetrated to Mara s abode, and brought him dreams and portents. A messenger came also in haste to Mara


1 A mythical bird, hereditary enemy of serpents (nagas}.


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warning him of Bodhisattva s approach to the Wisdom-tree. Then Mara assembled his army. A horrible sight was that. There were some with a hundred thousand mouths, some with heads or hands or eyes or feet misshapen, some with fiery tongues, some devouring serpents, some drinking blood, others pot-bellied and bandy-legged, and all with spears and bows and clubs and weapons and armour of every sort. All these marched toward the Wisdom-tree.

The Wisdom-Tree

The Bodhisattva, however, approached the tree, shining like a mountain of pure gold, and took his seat on its eastern side, vowing never to rise again till he had attained enlightenment. Then the earth quaked six times. Then Mara took the form of a messenger arriving post-haste from Kapilavastu with the news that Devadatta, Buddha's cousin, had usurped the government and was practising every sort of cruelty and tyranny, and praying the Bodhisattva to return and restore good government and order.

But he reflected that Devadatta acted so from lust and malice, and the Shakya princes permitted it only from cowardice, and thus reflecting upon human weakness, the Bodhisattva was all the more determined to attain to something higher and better.

Meanwhile the deva of the Wisdom-tree rejoiced, and cast her jewels before his feet, and prayed him to per severe. The devas of other trees came to inquire of her who was the glorious being seated there; and when she informed them that it was the Bodhisattva they cast down flowers and perfumes about him, and exhorted him by words and songs to go forward. Then Mara ordered his three beautiful daughters to tempt the Bodhisattva in every way, and they went to sing and dance before him.


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They wooed him with song and dance and every artifice of love; but he remained unchanged in face or mind, like a lily resting on quiet waters, and firm as Mount Meru, like the iron walls that gird the universe. Then they argued with him, depicting the pleasures and duties of worldly life, and the difficulty and danger of the search for wisdom ; but he answered :

Pleasure is brief as the lightning flash
Why should I then, covet the pleasures you describe?

And Mara's daughters, recognizing their failure, left him with a prayer for his success :

That which your heart desires may you attain !
A nd finding for yourself deliverance , deliver all.

The Defeat of Māra

Then Māra himself engaged in argument; and when he also was unsuccessful, he led on his demon army to the attack. All the devas were terrified and fled away, leav ing the Bodhisattva alone. Of every shape, kind, and colour, uttering every unearthly sound, filling the air with darkness and shaking the ground, the horrid army advanced with threatening gestures toward the Bodhisattva ; but the spears stuck to their hands, their limbs were paralysed, and though they would have ground him to dust or burnt him with fiery tongues, they could not hurt so much as a hair; he sat unmoved, while the weapons showered upon him fell at his feet as flowers. Mara exhausted every resource, and when all had failed he took up his terrible discus, and mounting the elephant Cloud-mountain, him self approached the prince. Now this weapon, if it were thrown against Mount Meru, would cut it in twain like a


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bamboo; if it were thrown into the sky, it would prevent the falling of rain for twelve years ; yet it refused to touch the Bodhisattva, but floated through the air like a dry leaf and remained above his head like a garland of flowers in the air. Then Mara was enraged like a fire into which oil is poured again and again, and he came close to the prince and bade him " Begone ! " But he answered : " This throne is mine by virtue of the merit I have acquired in many long ages. How canst thou possess it who have no merit? " Then Mara boasted : " My merit is greater than thine," and called his army to witness, and all his warriors called out : " We witness," so that a sound like the roar of the sea rose to the very sky. But Bodhi sattva replied: "Your witnesses are many and partial; I have one and an impartial witness " ; and he stretched out his hand from his robe like lightning from an orange cloud and touched the earth and called on her to witness to his merit. Then the Earth Goddess rose at his feet and cried with a hundred thousand voices like the sound of a cosmic drum : " I witness " ; and Mara's army fled and returned to Hell like leaves that are scattered by the wind. Cloud-mountain curled up his trunk and put his tail between his legs and fled away. Mara himself fell prostrate and made acknowledgment of the Bodhisattva's power, and rose only to rush away and hide his shame ; for his mind was filled with sorrow to know all his efforts had failed, and the prince would soon obtain enlighten ment and would preach the truth by which thousands of creatures should reach Nirvana.

Perfectly Enlightened

The sun had not yet set when Mara was defeated. Buddha remained seated beneath the Wisdom-tree. Gradually


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through the night the enlightenment for which he sought dawned in his heart : at the tenth hour he perceived the exact conditions of all beings who have ever been in the infinite and endless worlds; at the twentieth hour he gained the divine insight by which all things far or near appeared as if close at hand. Then he obtained the knowledge that unfolds the causes of the repetition of existence ; then the privileges of the four paths and their fruition; and at dawn of day he became a Supreme Buddha, the Perfectly Enlightened. Then rays of six colours spread far and wide from his shining body, penetrating to the uttermost bounds of space and announcing the attainment of Buddhahood. Not even a hundred thousand tongues could proclaim the wonders that therewith were manifested.

Then the Buddha himself proclaimed his victory in a song of triumph :

Through many diverse births I have passed
Seeking in vain the builder of the house.
Ah; housc-framer, now I have seen thee !
Never again shalt thou build me a house.
I have broken thy rafters,
I have destroyed the king-post.
My mind is detached;
Desire is extinguished.

Then Buddha remained seven days in meditation; for jseven days more he fixed his gaze on the Wisdom-tree ; again he walked seven days rapt in thought upon a golden ambulatory prepared by the devas ; then he sat for seven days in a golden palace, where every event of the remainder of his life became known to him and the whole of the dharma became clear to his mind, from the first to the


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last word of his teaching; in the fifth week he sat under the tree Ajapala and experienced detachment (Nirvana) ; during the sixth week he sat by the Lake Muchalinda, where a naga of the same name sheltered him from storms of rain; in the seventh week he sat in a grove of Nyagrodha trees.

The Merchants

It was now forty-nine days since he had received the milk-rice from Sujata. It so happened that two merchants were passing through the forest with their caravan. For many ages and in many lives they had desired the opportunity to make some offering to a Buddha. In the same forest was a devi in fact, a dryad who had once been their relative : now, to fulfil their desire she caused the wheels of their carts to stick fast in deep mud. The merchants made an offering of lights and perfumes, and prayed to the god whom they supposed responsible for the misfortune. The devi appeared to them, commanded them to make an offering of food to the Buddha, and released the wagons. The merchants, overjoyed, made their way to him with a gift of honey. Now Buddha had no alms-bowl, for Brahma's bowl, given when Sujata brought the rice-milk, had vanished, and the golden dish she herself had given had been transported to Snake-land. Now, therefore, the guardian gods of the four quarters appeared with emerald bowls, and when Buddha would not accept these they offered in turn bowls of stone. Then as each desired that his own bowl might be accepted, the Buddha received the four and made them appear like one. In that bowl he received the honey, and in return he taught the triple formula to the merchants, and they became lay-disciples. They also received from him a lock of hair as a relic.


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In the eighth week the Buddha seated himself under the Ajapala tree, and there reflected that the doctrine is deep, while men are neither good nor wise. It appeared to him useless to proclaim the law to those who could not under stand it. But Brahma, perceiving this doubt, cried out : " The world will perish ! " and the cry was echoed by the devas of the wind and rain and by all other brahmas and devas innumerable. Then Brahma appeared before the Buddha and said : " My lord, the Buddhahood is hard to obtain ; but you have obtained it that you might release the beings of the world from existence ; therefore proclaim the law that this may come to pass. O wise one, let the dharma be taught ! " Then Buddha agreed that it should be so, and looked about for one to whom he should first preach. He thought first of two of his old disciples, but he perceived that they were now dead. He therefore set out for Benares, intending to instruct the five hermits with whom he had formerly practised austerities.

The Hermits of Benares

When the five hermits saw him from afar they said : "Siddhartha has recovered his strength and beauty; he comes to us, having failed to accomplish the penance. As he is of royal birth, let us offer him a seat, but we will not rise or go to meet him." Buddha perceived their thoughts and directed his loving-kindness towards them. Immediately, just as a withered leaf is helplessly swept away in a torrent, so they helplessly, overcome by the force of his love, rose and went to do him honour. They washed his feet and inquired of his welfare, and he informed them that he was now become a Supreme Buddha. Then the whole universe rejoiced, knowing that the Law would be preached for the first time. The


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evening, like a beautiful lady, came to worship him ; Meru danced for joy ; the seven mountain ranges bowed before him ; and the beings of every world assembled to receive the nectar of the good doctrine. They stood in circles, ever more and more crowded by fresh arrivals, till at last they were so close that a hundred thousand devas occupied a space no more than the point of a needle ; all the heavens of the devas and brahmas were emptied. The sound was like that of a storm, but when the lords of the various heavens blew their conchs there was utter silence. Then Buddha opened his mouth.

" There are two things," he said, " that must be avoided by one who becomes a hermit, viz. wrong desires and mortification of the body." This was the subject-matter of the first discourse, and it seemed to each hearer that it was spoken in his own tongue, and every kind of animal heard him with the same impression. Myriads of devas entered the first and the second and third and fourth paths.

The Preaching of Buddha

From that time onward Buddha turned the Wheel of the Law that is to say, he preached the Good Doctrine to all who heard him. He converted the worshippers of fire by many miracles ; Bhimasaha, king of Rajagriha, became his disciple. Buddha also visited his native city. This was the manner of the visit. King Suddhodhana, hearing of the Buddhaship of his son, sent an embassy of noblemen asking him to visit Kapilavastu ; but all the nobles, hearing the Buddha's doctrine, became disciples and remained with him. The same thing happened with many others. At last the king sent a most trusted messenger, the noble Kaludā, who had been Buddha's playfellow from infancy. He also became a disciple, but when the spring season


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came, and the roads grew green, and the trees blossomed, he went to the Buddha and began to speak of Kapilavastu. " Your father looks out for your coming," he said, " as the water-lily looks for the rising sun; and the queens sxpect you, as the night-lily expects the moon." Buddha perceived that the time had come when it would be proper for him to visit his native city. The king prepared a beautiful garden for his comfort. At last he arrived, surrounded by no less than twenty thousand priests, his disciples. At first the Shakya princes would not do him homage; but he rose into the air, and displayed first the issuing of streams of water from his body, extending over the whole of the ten thousand worlds, and sprinkling all who desired it; then the issuing of fire, which extended throughout the whole universe, but burnt not so much as a cobweb. Other wonders he showed ; then Suddhodhana worshipped his son, saying :

" My lord, my Buddha, my Prince Siddhartha, though I am indeed thy father, never again shall I call thee my child ; I am not worthy to be thy slave. Again and again I worship thee. And were I to offer thee my kingdom, . thou wouldst but account it as ashes." When the king bowed low the princes also made their obeisance, like the bending of a forest of bamboos before the wind.

The next day the Buddha proceeded on foot to the city to ask for alms. At every step there arose a lotus-flower beneath his feet, and vanished as he passed on; rays of light arose from his head and mouth; and because of these wonders all citizens came forth to meet him. All I were astonished, for as yet this manner of asking alms was I unknown. When Yashodara heard of it she came to the palace door and worshipped him, and said: "O Siddhartha, that night Rahula was born thou didst go away in


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silence and rejectedst thy kingdom ; now hast thou a more glorious kingdom instead." The king remonstrated with Buddha for seeking his food in such a manner ; but he replied : " It is the custom of my race," meaning of all the former Buddhas. Then he addressed the king and taught him the Law, so that he entered the first and second paths, becoming the Buddha's disciple.

The Princess is comforted

The king then sent to inform Yashodara that she might also come to worship Siddhartha. Buddha, however, proceeded to her palace; as he went he informed his disciples Seriyut and Mugalāna that the princess would obtain Release. "She grieves for me," he said, "and her heart will break if her sorrow be suppressed. She will indeed cling to my feet, but do not hinder her, for the end will be that she and her companions will embrace the Law." When Yashodara heard that the Buddha was coming she cut off her hair and went in humble garments to meet him, followed by five hundred of her ladies. Because of her abounding love, she was like an overflowing vessel and might not contain herself, but, forgetting that she was only a woman, she fell at the Buddha's feet and clung to him, weeping. But recollecting that her father-in-law was present, she presently rose and stood a little apart. Indeed, not even Brahma may touch the body of a Buddha ; but he suffered Yashodara to do so. The king spoke of her faithfulness. "This is no sudden expression of her love," he said; "for all these seven years she has done what thou hast done. When she heard that thou didst shave thy head, or put on mean garments, or didst eat only at appointed times and from an earthen bowl, she did the same, and has refused every offer of remarriage ; therefore


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Buddha as Mendicant by Abanindro Nath Tagore

pardon her." Then Buddha related how, in a former life, Yashodara had formed the wish to become the wife of a Buddha, and thereafter in many long ages had been his companion and helper. By this means the princess was comforted. Not long afterward Rahula was admitted to the order of monks. Buddha, however, refused to admit Yashodara to the order of priesthood. Many years afterward he instituted the order of Buddhist nuns, to which Yashodara was admitted ; and she, who had been born on the same day as Buddha, attained to Nirvana two years before his own decease.

Buddha visits the Tavatimsa Heaven

Upon another occasion Buddha visited the devaloka or heaven known as the Tavatimsa and remained there three months. Indra hastened to prepare his throne for the Buddha to sit upon, but feared it would be too large ; and, indeed, it measured some fifteen leagues in height, while the height of Buddha was twelve cubits. No sooner did Buddha approach, however, than it shrank to a convenient height. It remained, however, of the original length, and Buddha therefore performed the miracle of extending his robe on all sides for a distance of more than a thousand miles, so that the throne appeared like a seat expressly prepared for a preacher. The devas, led by Matru, who had lately been the mother of Buddha, requested the Buddha to expound the abhidhai-ma. Many myriads of devas and brahmas entered the paths.

When the time came for Buddha to return to earth, Indra caused three ladders to extend from Heaven to earth, two of gold and one of silver. On one of the golden ladders, which had steps alternately of gold, silver, coral, ruby, emerald, and other gems, Buddha descended, preceded by


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Indra blowing his conch. On the other golden ladder proceeded the devas with instruments of music; and on the silver ladder the brahmas, carrying umbrellas. Thus Buddha returned to his own hermitage.

Buddha prevents a war

Upon a certain occasion Buddha prevented a war which was on the point of breaking out between the Shakyas and the Kolis. Between the cities of Kapilavastu and Koli ran the river Rohini; across this river a dam had been built which enabled the people of both countries to irrigate their fields. It so happened that there was a great drought, and the husbandmen on each side claimed the sole right to the little water that remained. The rival claimants called each other by the worst possible names ; and the matter, coming to the ears of the princes of each country, much exaggerated by rumour, led to the outbreak of war, and matters had gone so far that the armies of the Shakyas and the Kolis were encamped over against each other on opposite banks of the diminished river. At this crisis Buddha perceived what was going on, and proceeding through the air, at the same time making himself visible, he arrived at the place of battle. The Shakyas threw down their weapons out of respect for him whom they regarded as the jewel of their race, and the Kolis followed their example. Buddha inquired if they were assembled for a water-festival, and being informed that it was for battle, asked the cause. The princes said that they were not quite sure, but would inquire of the generals ; they in turn asked their under-officers, and so on downward until it came to the original husbandmen. When Buddha was informed of the cause he asked the value of water, and being told that it was very little, he asked what was the


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value of men, and was told that it was very great. " Why then," he asked, " do you propose to throw away that which is of great value for the sake of that of little value ? " This convincing argument sufficed to end the matter. At the same time it was resolved that two hundred and fifty princes of each party should become disciples of Buddha. They did so unwillingly and not of their own choice. Their wives also no sooner heard of it than they complained bitterly. Buddha, however, was able to prevail upon the princes to think better of it, and it was not long before they entered the paths to Release and became Arhats. They remained quite indifferent when their wives again sent messages imploring them to return home.

The Admission of Women

This matter led to the first admission of women to the order of priesthood the wives of the five hundred princes, together with the queen-mother Prajapati, co-wife with Mayadevi and now widow of Suddhodhana, who had lately died. She requested that they might be admitted to the order of priesthood. Buddha refused her request three times, after which she did not like to ask again. After returning home, however, the ladies determined to act more vigorously; they cut off their hair, assumed mean garments, and set out on foot for the place where Buddha was residing. They, who had been accustomed to walk on smooth marble and to be protected from the heat of the sun and the violence of the wind, were soon exhausted, and only reached the hermitage in a quite help less and fainting condition. Again Prajapati asked to be admitted. Ananda now pleaded for them on account of the hardships they had endured. Buddha still refused.


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Then Ananda inquired whether a woman, if admitted, could enter the paths and attain Release. Buddha could only reply by asking if Buddhas were born in the world solely for the benefit of men. "The way is open for women as for men," he said. Again Ananda reminded him that on a former occasion he had announced that at a later time women would be admitted. Buddha then saw that the time had come to establish the order of nuns. His reluctance had been caused from his knowledge that the doing so would lead to doubts and scandal spoken of his order by those who were not yet his followers.

Devadatta plots Evil

The ministry of Buddha was not entirely unopposed. Not only were Brahman philosophers often his keen opponents in controversy, but his cousin Devadatta, who through countless past births had been his bitter enemy, even attempted to murder him. Though Devadatta by meditation and asceticism had attained great powers, yet owing to his evil nature, these powers, so far from helping him toward Release, involved him in utter ruin. He established himself at the court of the king of Sewet, with five hundred monks of his own, and, supported by Prince Ajasat, obtained much influence. By Devadatta's advice Ajasat first attempted to murder his father by violence, and afterward starved him to death, in order to obtain the kingdom for himself. Not long after the accession of Ajasat Devadatta asked for a band of five hundred archers to kill Buddha. He chose thirty-one of these, and ordered the first to slay Buddha, the next two to slay the first, the next four to slay the two, and the last sixteen he intended to slay himself, in order that the matter might be kept secret. Buddha, however, though well aware of their


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intentions, received the first and all the other archers in turn very kindly, and preached to them, so that they entered on the path to Release and became priests. On another occasion Devadatta himself projected a great rock at Buddha as he was walking below a high cliff, but it broke into two pieces and merely inflicted an insignificant wound on Buddha's foot.

Devadatta next laid a deeper plot. There was a fierce elephant named Malagiri, accustomed to drink every day eight measures of beer. Devadatta commanded that on a certain day he should receive sixteen measures ; a royal proclamation was also issued to the intent that no persons should remain in the streets; it was hoped thus that the elephant would destroy the Buddha as he went out in search of alms. News of this reached him in good time, but he would not change his custom ; and next day all the balconies were lined with friends and enemies of Buddha, the former eager to behold his victory, the latter expecting his death. When Buddha approached, the elephant was loosed, and soon began to destroy the houses and show its evil temper in other ways. The friars entreated Buddha to escape, as the elephant was evidently unacquainted with his merit. Then many of the friars asked to be allowed to stand before Buddha to protect him ; but he replied that his own power was one thing, that of the disciples another. When at last Ananda took it upon himself to go in front, Buddha by will-power compelled him to remain behind. Presently a little child ran out of a house, and the elephant was about to kill her; but Buddha called out : " You were not intended to attack anyone but me; do not waste your strength on anyone else." But when the elephant beheld Buddha all its fury abated, and it approached him in the gentlest way and kneeled to him.


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Buddha charged the creature never to hurt anyone again, but to be kind to all ; and the elephant repeated the five commandments aloud in the presence of all the people; indeed, had he not been a four-legged creature he might have entered the path to Release. When the people saw this wonder the noise of clapping and shouting was like the sea or the thunder. They covered the elephant with jewels, and eighty-four thousand people entered the path. Not long after this Ajasat was converted and became a supporter of Buddha's party. When Ajasat departed from the monastery after this event Buddha remarked: " Had not the king murdered his father he might to-day have entered the first path. As it is, he will be saved from the lowest hell, where otherwise he must have remained a whole age. He will spend sixty thousand years in the other hells ; then after long ages spent with the gods he will be born on earth and become a private Buddha."

Devadatta was now in disgrace, but hated Buddha all the more. However, he collected another band of disciples, five hundred in number. But Buddha sent two of his wisest followers to preach to those of Devadatta; and while he slept they all departed to follow Buddha. Deva datta then fell ill, and remained so for nine months ; after which he determined to go and seek Buddha's forgiveness. Buddha felt no ill-will toward Devadatta ; but he informed the friars : " Devadatta will not see the Buddha ; so great are his crimes that not even a thousand Buddhas could save him." Devadatta, borne in his palanquin, came nearer and nearer to Buddha's monastery ; but when he set foot to the ground at the entrance flames rose up from the lowest hell and wrapped his body in their folds, first his feet, then his middle, then his shoulders. He cried out to Buddha for help and repeated a verse of a hymn, by which


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he accepted the three gems, the Buddha, the Law, and the Church ; and this will help him eventually, though he none the less went to Hell and received a body of fire sixteen hundred miles in height.

Buddha's Final Release

This was the manner of Buddha's death, called Parinit vana, or Final Release. In the forty-fifth year of his ministry the Buddha suffered from a severe illness, and declared that he would not live long. While residing in the city of Pawa he was entertained by a good smith named Chunda. He prepared an offering of pork, which was the cause of a sickness resulting in death. Buddha became very faint, and though he set out for Kushinagara, had to rest many times on the way. All this was endured that others might be reminded that none are exempt from old age, decay, and death. At last the Buddha reached the city, and there he addressed Ananda as follows : " Inform the smith Chunda that his offering will bring a great reward, for it will be the immediate cause of my attaining Nirvana. There are, indeed, two offerings which will bring great reward : one was given by the lady Sujata before I reached the supreme wisdom, the other has just now been made by Chunda. These are the two foremost gifts." The Buddha spoke thus lest Chunda should feel remorse, or should be blamed by others ; but he had given strict orders that the remainder of the offering was to be buried. Buddha lay down on a couch in a grove of sal-trees near Kushinagara. He sent a message informing the Malwa princes of his arrival, knowing that their regret, if he died without their once more beholding him, would be very great. Thus it was that a great company of kings and princes, nobles and ladies of the court, beside innumerable priests, and the


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The Final Release by Abanindro Nath Tagore

devas and brahmas of the ten thousand worlds, assembled about the Buddha's death-bed. All these wept and wrung their hands, and bowed themselves to the ground in their grief. This occasion has been made the subject of countless pictures, similar in sentiment to the Christian Pietas. Buddha inquired if the priests had any last questions to put to him ; but as they had no doubts on any point they remained silent. A Brahman of Kushinagara, however, arrived, and desired to argue certain matters; Buddha would not have him denied, and in the end he became a disciple. None of his disciples was more stricken with grief than Ananda. Buddha had given him instructions about his burial and about the rules to be observed by the monks and nuns. Then he said : " Now I depart to Nirvana ; I leave with you my ordinances ; the elements of the all- knowing one will indeed pass away, but the three gems will remain." But Ananda broke down and wept bitterly. Then Buddha continued : " O Ananda, do not let yourself be troubled ; do not weep. Have I not taught you that we must part from all that we hold most dear and pleasant? No being soever born or created can overcome the ten dency to dissolution inherent in itself; a condition of permanence is impossible. For a long time, Ananda, your kindness in act and thought and speech has brought you very near to me. You have always done well ; persevere, and you, too, shall win to perfect freedom from this thirst of life, this chain of ignorance." Then he turned to the other mourners and commended Ananda to them. He said also that the least of those present who had entered the path to Release should never entirely fail, but should at last prevail and reach Nirvana. After a pause he said again : " Mendicants, I now impress it upon you that the parts and powers of man must be dissolved ; work out your salvation


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with diligence." Shortly afterward the Buddha became unconscious and passed away.

The Malwa princes, after they had a little recovered from their sorrow, wrapped the body in fold upon fold of finest cloth, and for six days the body lay in state. Then it was burnt on a magnificent pyre in the coronation hall of the princes. They were unable to set fire to the pyre, but in the end it ignited spontaneously. The body was entirely consumed, leaving only the relics like a heap of pearls. The chief of these, afterward enshrined in glorious monuments, were the four teeth, two cheek-bones, and the skull.


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