It was after this decision was made that he heard of the birth
of his son, and regarding the new born child as an impediment
rather than a blessing, named him Rahula meaning "fet er". It
was a clear indication that his heart was already turning away
from household life. On that night, he left his uncongenial pal-
ace and traded his princely robes for the lowly clothings of an
ascetic. His search for truth and peace had begun and it was
more from sympathy with the sufferings of others than from any
personal sorrow which he had no occasion to experience.
His departure from home was not a case of desertion of his be-
loved family, but an unprecedented case of historic renunciation.
He left his worldly life not in old age but in the prime of man-
hood, not in poverty but in the midst of plenty.
Fol owing the path of extreme asceticism, as was the custom of
those days, he was not able to seek what he sought for until he
gave up the practice of austerity some six years later.
e reat nlightenment
One day, in the forest at Buddha Gaya, after a last meal of milk
rice, Gautama sat down, crossed-legged, on a grass mat spread
under a "Bodhi" tree, and declared, "If I do not succeed in this
way of seeking the truth by searching within, I will not rise
from this place". His mind soon became tranquil and purified
and he then attained the Samadhi that he had experienced in
During meditative trances in that night's three watches he
gained the knowledge of al his past lives, acquired the "super-
human divine eye" by which he envisaged the passing away
and rebirth of al living beings of al times. It was like that of
the whole universe appearing before him as a mirror. He saw
that good karma brings about a happy rebirth and evil karma
leads to a miserable next life. en, at the third watch (2.00 am
-- 6.00 am), he reached the highest state in which the "outflows"
of his life i.e., his ignorance and cravings, were final y quel ed.
It was then that he perceived the Four Noble Truths of the way
of Enlightenment, noting, "is is Suffering, this is the Cause
of Suffering, this is the Cessation of Suffering, and this is the
Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering". us ignorance
was dispel ed and wisdom arose. Being enlightened, he real-
ised, "Rebirth is ended; fulfil ed the Holy Life; done what was
to be done; there is no more this state again". ereafter he was
known as Buddha Gautama, one of the long line of Buddhas
that already had appeared in the past and wil appear in the
us at the age of 35, Gautama, under the full moon in the
month of Vesakha (April -- May), about the year 525 BC at a
place cal ed Buddha Gaya, attained the Supreme Enlightenment
and Buddhism was born to the world. e Buddha then spent
seven weeks contemplating on the Truth that he had realised,
particularly the more difficult ones on causal relations or the
Truth of Dependent Origination.
Initial y the Buddha was hesistant to reach out to teach the
Truth because he felt that the world being caught up in the pas-
sion and darkness of Samsara will find it difficult to accept the
truth of his teachings. However, due to his great compassion and
his realisation that man exists at different levels of spiritual de-
velopment he decided to reach out and set in motion, the Wheel
of Truth, which is depicted by the `mudra' or hand-signs of the
fingers as shown in the il ustration.
e Buddha spent his remaining forty five years travel ing all
over India, teaching the Dharma and living in the manner of a
begging monk. He formed the first monastic Order in the world
which is known as the Sangha and his most notable disciples in-
cluded Sariputra, Mahakasyapa, Mogal ana, Subuti and his per-
sonal at endant and cousin, Ananda. His fol owers were people
from all walks of life which included kings, princes, ministers,
ascetics, brahmins and commoners. He taught them according
to their ability to learn, with parables and through questions
and answers applying all suitable means to aid them to spiritual
growth. He did not demand blind faith, but adopted the unusual
"come and experience for yourself" at itude which won the hearts
of thousands. His was the path of self-reliance which required
unswerving personal effort.
e Buddha also converted his father, his family, and a large
number of the Sakyan people. At the urging of his close disciple
Ananda, he formed the first Order of Nuns and his foster mother,
Queen Mahaprajapati, and a large number of her friends became
the first members of the Order.
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