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DateLine Sunday, 18 May 2008

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The life of the Buddha

His return to Kapilavastu and His Passing Away:

Seven years after He left his native city, the Buddha decided to return to Kapilavastu. King Suddhodhana had not yet forgiven his son for the “Great Departure,” which had caused him such disappointment. Suddhodhana even reproached his son for degrading himself as a beggar in his hometown in front of everybody.

When the Buddha paid a visit to His father’s house, Yasodhara, His former wife, adorned with all her jewels pushed Rahula, now aged eight, to Him, saying: “Rahula, that is your father. Go and ask Him for your inheritance!” Little Rahula did as he was told.

He greeted the Buddha politely, and waited until his father had left the house without giving any direct answer. Then Rahula followed Him with these words: “Father, give me my inheritance!” The Buddha’s reaction was as dignified as it was effective. He instructed His chief disciple Sariputra to ordain the boy as a novice, saying: “This is your inheritance.”

Plots to kill Him

Toward the end of His life, the monk Devadatta, His cousin, watched the Buddha aging great interest and decided to takeover the control of the Order as His successor.


Tending to an ailing monk

Devadatta had the courage not to pursue his aim solely by trickery, but to announce it openly. The Buddha never allowed him to do so.

This made Devadatta His enemy. Devadatta, who was humiliated in public, planned a series of plots to kill the Buddha. The third attempt on the Buddha’s life took place within the city of Rajagaha. Devadatta bribed certain mahouts with promises to let the working elephant Nalagiri loose against the Buddha.

The mighty elephant, which had already killed one person, stormed through the streets on the exact path along which the Buddha was coming on His round to collect alms.

Throwing away a person with his trunk, the brute rushed at the yellow-robed Buddha who, unafraid, glowed with loving kindness towards the animal. Then the miracle took place!

Suddenly the raging elephant became calm and peaceful, and knelt before the Buddha, who lifted His right hand and patted the animal’s forehead. This is the well-known story of the Buddha’s defeat of a mad elephant in Rajagaha. At age 80 the Buddha was weary and not in a good physical condition:

“I am now old, and full of years; my journey is done and I have reached my sum of days; I am turning eighty years of age. And just as a worn-out cart is kept going with the help of repairs, so it seems is the Tathagata’s body kept going with repairs”.

Parinibbana

With an untiring enthusiasm for teaching, however, the Buddha decided to get on another long preaching journey. After passing through a number of villages, the Buddha proceeded to a place called Pava where He and His disciples were invited to dinner by a lowly blacksmith, Chunda.


The Great Passing Away

After the meal, however, the Buddha, who was already in a weakened condition, became seriously ill. In spite of the severe pains, the Buddha insisted upon continuing His preaching tour, and soon ended up in a small village called Kushinagara. By this time the Buddha was too exhausted to go on and wanted to lie down.

The monk Ananda prepared a resting-place for Him between two blossoming sal trees. Then Ananda, who was struck by grief, lent against a door and wept. The Buddha called for him and explained: “Enough, Ananda, do not sorrow, do not lament. Have I not explained that it is the nature of things that we must be divided, separated, and parted from all that is beloved and dear?

How could it be, Ananda, that what has been born and come into being, that what is compounded and subject to decay, should not decay? It is not possible”.

The Buddha told Ananda to make His impending death known to the people in Kushinagara so that they could prepare His funeral. At that time, a wandering ascetic named Subhadda came to see the Buddha, but was sent away by Ananda who tried to prevent the exhausted old master from being disturbed.

But the Buddha, who overheard the conversation, asked the ascetic to approach His side and, after answering his questions on the Law, accepted Him into the Order. Thereby Subhadda became the last person to be accepted to the Order in the Buddha’s lifetime.

Then the Buddha gave the surrounding monks a last opportunity to question Him about the Law: “Ask, monks, in case you afterwards feel remorse, thinking: “We sat face to face with the Master, and yet we failed to ask Him personally.”

The Buddha asked this three times, but the monks remained silent. Then the Buddha gave them one more chance: if they did not dare to speak out of respect for Him, they should ask through a fellow-monk. Again the monks remained silent. It was evident that He had explained everything very clearly to them.

The night was far advanced, and it was quiet between the trees when the dying teacher gave the monks His last words: “Now, monks, I declare to you: all elements of personality are subject to decay. Strive on untiringly”! With these words He Passed Away.

Fact file

* The father of Prince Siddhartha was King Suddhodhana and mother was Queen Mahamaya.

* The wife of Prince Siddhartha was Yasodhara and his son was Rahula.

* Prince Siddhartha left his palace when he was aged 29.

* The Buddha preached Buddhism for 45 years before He passed away at the age of 80.

* The two main assistant Bhikkus of the Buddha were Sariputta Thera and Mugalan Thera, while Ananda Thera was the helper.

 

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