Life of the Buddha

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(Part Two) 31. The Buddha’s Last Words

After the conversion of Subhadda, the Buddha spoke again to Venerable Ananda. “It may be, Ananda, that some of you will say, ‘without the Buddha, the Sublime Teacher, there is no teacher for us’. No, Ananda, you should not think in this way. Whatever doctrine and discipline taught and made known by me will be your teacher when I am gone.”

Then the Buddha, addressing the other monks said, “If any amongst you has any doubts as to the Buddha, the teaching, or the order of monks, ask me now so that afterwards you may have no cause to regret that you did not ask me while I was still with you.”

But at these words, none of the monks said anything. None had any questions, and all of them were silent. For the second and third time the Buddha addressed the monks in this way. And for the second and third time, all the monks were silent.
The Buddha said, “Perhaps it may be out of respect for the teacher, that you do not question me. Let a friend, O disciples, tell it to another friend.” Still the disciples remained silent.

Then Venerable Ananda spoke to the Buddha, “It is wonderful. It is marvellous, Lord! I do believe that in all this great company of monks there is not a single one who has doubts or questions about the Buddha, the teaching or the order of monks, or the path and the method of training and conduct.”

“With you, Ananda,” said the Buddha, “this may be a matter of faith and belief. But, Ananda, I know that not one single monk gathered here has any doubt or question about these things. Of all the 500 monks here, Ananda, he who is the most backward is a sotapanna, not subject to fall back to a lower state of existence, but is certain and destined for enlightenment.”

Then the Buddha addressed all the monks once more, and these were the very last words he spoke:

“Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.”

Then the Buddha lapsed into the jhana stages, or meditative absorptions. Going from level to level, one after the other, ever deeper and deeper. Then he came out of the meditative absorption for the last time and passed into nirvana, leaving nothing whatever behind that can cause rebirth again in this or any other world.

The passing away, or the final nirvana of the Buddha, occurred in 543 BC on a full-moon day in the month of May, known in the Indian calendar as Vesak.