In this unit: After leaving the palace, Siddhartha was determined to discover the meaning of existence. He studied with the best teachers of the day, and lived the hard life of an ascetic. Yet he didn’t feel any closer to the Truth. The turning point came when he almost died of hunger. Soon after that, he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.
Living as a Monk
At the age of 29, Siddhartha began the homeless life of a monk. From Kapilavatthu, he walked south to the city of Rajagaha, the capital of the Magadha country. The king of this country was named Bimbisara.
The morning after Siddhartha arrived, he went to the city and obtained his meal for the day by going from house-to-house begging with an alms-bowl.
Searching for Teachers
Siddhartha wandered along the Ganges River looking for spiritual teachers. Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta were considered to be the best teachers in meditation at that time so Siddhartha went to study with them.
First he studied under Uddaka Ramaputta, then under Alara Kalama. Very soon he had learnt all they had to teach, but he had not learnt to end suffering. He said to himself, “I must find the truth on my own”.
Siddhartha remembered meditating under the rose-apple tree when he was a child. “I shall meditate as I did before. Perhaps that is the way to become enlightened.” From then on he began to eat daily.
Still seeking a way to understand the meaning of life, Siddhartha set out for Buddhagaya. Near a grove, he sat down under a huge Bodhi tree. Silently he vowed, “Even if my flesh and blood were to dry up, leaving only skin and bones, I will not leave this place until I find a way to end all sorrow.” He sat there for forty nine days. He was determined to discover the source of all pain and suffering in the world. Mara, the evil one, tried to scare him into giving up his quest. For instance, he hoped to lure Siddhartha into having selfish thoughts by sending visions of his very beautiful daughters. But the Buddha’s goodness protected him from such attacks.
During this period, Siddhartha was able to see things as they truly were. Now he had finally found the answer to suffering: “The cause of suffering is greed, selfishness and stupidity. If people get rid of these negative emotions, they will be happy.“
During a full-moon night in May, Siddhartha went into deep meditation. As the morning star appeared in the eastern sky, he became an enlightened one, a Buddha. He was thirty five years old.
When the Buddha stood up at last, he gazed at the tree in gratitude, to thank it for having given him shelter. From then on, the tree was known as the Bodhi tree, the tree of Enlightenment.
Now that you have
finished unit 3, why not see what you have learned by doing the unit 3 Quiz?