Life of the Buddha

Electronically Distributed by BuddhaNet

(Part One) 17. The Sun of Enlightenment Shines

The Buddha had withstood the worst attacks of Mara. Finally, the Evil One retreated and the terrible storm he had raised died away. Now the mind of the Blessed One relaxed into peace. The great darkness faded away and the full moon and stars reappeared again.

The Lord passed into a deep meditation, passing beyond the limits of ordinary human understanding, seeing the world as it is, and not as it appears to be. Like an eagle soaring effortlessly toward the sun, his mind moved swiftly onward and upward.

He saw his past lives and all his former births, with their good and evil deeds, with their gains and losses. As his mind soared upwards he saw the round of birth and death of all mankind. He saw beings born repeatedly and dying according to their karma.

Those who do good actions have heavenly births. Though these lives last longer than those on earth they also end in death, as they are also subject to the law of impermanence. Those who were suffering in the hell realms would also continue in the round of rebirths. So all beings (except Buddhas) are caught in the same round of existence, due to ignorance.

As his vision became even clearer, he saw the so-called soul of man, which man claims as his own, broken up into parts and laid before him like the unwoven threads of a garment. He saw the cause of the chain of existence — ignorance. The ignorant person, who clings to things that are worthless and transient, creates in him or herself more and more dangerous illusions. But when desire dies, illusions end, and ignorance vanishes like the night. Then the sun of enlightenment shines.

And having understood the world as it is, the Buddha was perfected in wisdom, never to be born again. Craving and destructive desire had been completely eradicated — as a fire goes out for lack of fuel.

Bathed in the brilliant light of all wisdom and truth sat the Buddha, the Perfect One. And all about him the world lay calm and bright and a soft breeze lifted the leaves of the bodhi tree.

Filled with compassion, the Lord sat beneath the tree in deep contemplation of the Dharma, residing in the perfect peace of nirvana.

At the dawn after his enlightenment the Buddha uttered this verse:

“Thro’ many a birth in samsara wandered
Seeking, but not finding, the builder of this house.
Sorrowful is repeated birth.
House builder, thou art seen.
Thou shalt build no house again.
All thy rafters are broken; thy ridgepole is shattered.
The mind attains the unconditioned.
Achieved is the end of craving.”