In the previous episodes, we learned how one hermit first smiled and then cried after meeting baby Siddharth (Buddha) and also about the early life of Gautama Buddha and about the great renunciation of Lord Buddha.
In this episode, we would learn about the Buddha’s journey in search of truth.
Prince Siddhattha, also known as the Buddha, left his royal life behind to become a monk. He journeyed to the kingdom of Magadha and settled in a mango orchard near the village of Anupriyā for a week. Prince Siddhattha had never seen, let alone eaten, such dry and tasteless food as he received on his first alms round. He ate the food with fortitude.
The king of Magadha saw the monk from his balcony and felt that this monk was not an ordinary person and decided to go and meet the young recluse. The king saluted the recluse and asked him, ‘You seem to be a youth from the noble class. Who are you?’
The young recluse said that he was the son of the king from a republic in Kosala from the Himalayan Tarai region. He belonged to the Sun Dynasty and was Sakyan by birth. King Bimbisara at once understood that the recluse was the son of the Sakyan king, Suddhodana, from the Kosala Empire.
He said that he had become a monk because he wanted to experience the truth which is beyond all realms. He was determined to attain this goal. Therefore he could not accept King Bimbisara’s offer. King Bimbisara was greatly impressed by the strength of his resolution. He requested the monk to come to Rajagaha to give him a discourse once he attained enlightenment. The ascetic prince agreed and proceeded on his way.
He then set out to learn meditation from a teacher named Alara Kalama, who taught that the soul could be freed from material limitations. However, this did not satisfy the prince and he went to study under another teacher named Uddaka Ramputta. After learning the seventh jhāna (dhyāna, concentration, absorption) in Alara Kalama’s meditation center, the ascetic prince proceeded to the meditation center of Uddaka Ramputta where he learned the eighth jhāna within a very short period.
The eighth jhāna is the highest concentration and leads to a formless state of existence, known as arūpa Brahma Loka. Taking birth in the arūpa Brahma Loka enables one to live a long life of thousands of eons (Kalpas). But this state is not immortal. Even though it is the highest, it is still a mortal existence. It is the territory of Mara and it is not free from his clutches. The cycle of life and death is still here.
So the prince realized that even this state was not true enlightenment and set out to find a way to truly understand the truth and attain enlightenment.
The Bodhisatta, also known as the Buddha, set out to find a way to understand the truth and attain enlightenment. He wanted to find the permanent, eternal, deathless and immortal state that is beyond all existence. He wanted to find the way out of all misery, the misery of life and death. He traveled to Uruvela, which was a suitable place for meditation.
He was joined by five ascetics, one of whom was Kondañña, an astrologer-palmist who predicted he would become a Buddha. The Bodhisatta engaged in fasting and meditation, subjecting himself to various forms of rigorous austerities and discipline for six years. However, he became so weak that he fell unconscious and had to change his approach and follow a middle path. He found the way to his enlightenment was clearer after this change. He later met with a woman named Sujata who offered him porridge, which helped him regain his strength.
In the next episode, we would learn about Sujata porridge.