1. The methods of his practice were unbelievably rigorous. He spurred himself on with the thought that “no ascetic in the past, none in the present, and none in the future, ever has practiced or ever will practice more earnestly than I do.”
Still, the prince could not realize his goal, After six years in the forest he gave up the practice of asceticism. He went bathing in the river and accepted a blow of milk (kheer) from the hand of Sujata, a maiden, who lived in the neighboring village, the five companions who had lived with the Prince during the six years of his ascetic practice were shocked that he should he should receive milk from the hand of maiden; the thought him degraded and left him.
Thus the Prince was left alone, He was still weak, but at the risk of losing his life he attempted yet another period of meditation, saying to himself, “Blood may become exhausted, flesh may decay, bones may fall apart, but I will never leave this place until I find the way to Enlightenment.”
It was an intense and incomparable struggle for him, He was desperate and filled with confusing thoughts, Dark shadows overhung his spirit, and he was beleaguered by all lures of the devils. Carefully and patiently he examined them one by one and rejected them all. It was a hard struggle indeed, making his blood run thin, his flesh fall away, and his bones crack.
But when the morning star appeared in the eastern sky, the struggle was over and the Prince’s mind was as clear and bright as the breaking day. He had, at last, found the path to Enlightenment. It was December eighth, when the Prince become a Buddha at thirty-five years of age.
2. From this time on the Prince was known by different names; Enlightened One, Tathagata; some spoke of him as Shakyamuni, the Sage of the Shakya clan; other called him the World-honored One.
He went first to Mrigadava in Varanasi where the five mendicants who had lived with him during the six years of his ascetic life were staying. At first, they shunned in him, but after they had talked with him, they believed in him and became his first followers. He then went to the Rajagriha Castle and won over king Bimbisara who had always been his friend. From there he went about the country living on alms and teaching men to accept his way of life.
Men responded to him as the thirsty seek water and the hungry food. Two great disciples, Sariputra and Maudgalyayana, and their two thousand followers came to him.
At first, the Buddha’s father, King Shuddhodana, still inwardly suffering because of his son’s decision to leave the palace, remained aloof, but then become his faithful, and Princess Yashodhara, His wife, and all the member of the Shakya clan began to follow him, Multitudes of others also become his devoted and faithfulnfollowers.
3. For forty-five years the Buddha went about the country preaching and persuading men to follow his way of life. But when he was eighty, at Vaisali and on his way from Rajagriha to Shravasti, he becomes ill and predicted that after three months he would enter Nirvana. Still, he journeyed on until he reached Pava where he fell seriously ill from some food offered by Chunda, a blacksmith. Eventually, in spite of great pain and weakness, he reached the forest that bordered Kusinagar.
Lying between two large sala trees, he continued teaching his disciples until his last moment. Thus he entered into perfect tranquillity after he had completed his work as the world’s greatest teacher.
4. Under the guidance of Ananda, the Buddha’s favorite disciple, the body was cremated by his friends in Kusinagar.
Seven neighboring rules, as well as King Ajatasatru, demanded that the relics be divided among them. The people of Kusinagar at first refused and the dispute even threatened to end in war; but under the advice of a wise man named Drona, the crisis passed and relics were divided among the eight great countries. The ashes of the funeral pyre and the earthen jar that contained the relics were also given to two other rules to be likewise honored. Thus ten great towers commemorating the Buddha were built to enshrine his relics and ashes.
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