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Why the Buddha Suffered
from The Explanation of the Traditions about the Buddha
...having finished the account of the wholesome traditions in the Traditions about the Buddha now we need to lay out the account of the unwholesome actions with an enquiry into his deeds.
Austerities These verses enumerate twelve ways in which the Buddha suffered, as a kind of tabulation of the stories to come. 1 and slander, and once again more slander,
Slander, pierced by a rock, and the suffering through a splinter.
Nāḷāgiri, cut with a sword, headache, eating barley,
Backache, dysentry – these occurred through unwholesome deeds in the past.
[1. The Austerities]
Herein, in the first enquiry, called austerities, we hear about the reason for six years of austerities.
In the past, at the time of the Perfect Buddha Kassapa, the Buddha-to-be was a brahmin student named Jotipāla. Because of being born as a brahmin he was not satisfied with the Dispensation of that Gracious One, with this outcome through the connection of deeds: having heard it said “The Gracious Kassapa”, he said: “Where is this shaveling ascetic's Awakening? Awakening is supremely rare!”
The outcome of that deed was that for countless hundreds of lives he underwent suffering in Naraka hell. After having received the prediction from that Gracious One, The Buddha-to-be as Jotipāla had later ordained under the Buddha Kassapa, who then confirmed that he would become a Buddha himself at a later date.2 he wasted away in the transmigration of births because of that deed. But in the end he attained his existence as Vessantara, His last earthly existence before the birth as Siddhattha, for which see the final Jātaka (Jā. 547).3 and after falling away from that, he re-arose in the Tusita realm.
When the gods requested him to be reborn, after falling away from there, he arose in the Sakya family. He came to full maturity of knowledge, gave up the sovereignty over the whole of the Rose-Apple Island, cut his top-knot with a well-sharpened sword on the bank of the river Anoma, which was then taken by a Brahmā god using his psychic power until the end of the aeon, and he took the requisites placed in the lotus calyx and went forth.
Being unripe as yet for insight and knowledge and wisdom because of not knowing what is the path and what is not the path to Buddhahood, because of eating only one type of food, one lump of food, from one person only, on one path only, at one sitting only, These are all different types of austerities: taking only one type of food, like beans; or only one lump or food, like one bean; or from only one person, no matter how little they give; or from only one path, instead of going along as many as needed; or eating only at one sitting, not taking anymore for the day after rising from the seat, etc.4 for six years in the Uruvelā country his body, with its bones, skin, sinews and the rest, being without flesh and blood, became like a dead person. His striving should be understood as it is recorded in the Discourse on the Great Traditions, DN 14, which hardly touches on the subject of the striving, but with the process of Awakening; ChS, Thai: Padhānasutte, and identifies it with Suttanipāta, 3.2, but that also deals not so much with the striving as with the fight with Māra. Perhaps a better reference would have been to MN 26, Ariyapariyesanasuttaṁ, which does deal in detail with the striving.5 and so with great energy he performed his austerities.
After realising that austerity is not the Path to Complete Awakening, and partaking of fine food in the villages, towns and capital cities, However, in the tradition it is only said that he partook of the food provided by Sujāta, and there is no mention of his traveling around the country, as this implies, partaking of fine food.6 he satisfied his faculties and the thirty-two signs of the Great Man appeared, and after approaching the area near the Bodhi Tree, and defeating the five Māras, Māra as a god (devaputtamāra); Māra as defilements (kilesammāra); Māra as the constituent parts (khandhamāra); Māra as (wholesome and unwholesome) deeds (kammamāra); and Māra as death (maccumāra).7 he became the Buddha.
As Jotipāla I spoke to the Buddha Kassapa, saying:
“Where is this shavelings' Awakening? Awakening is supremely rare!”
Through that deed and its result I practiced many austerities
For six years at Uruvelā, and then attained to Awakening.
I did not attain the supreme Awakening through this path of pain,
I sought along the wrong path being obstructed by a past deed.
With merit and demerit destroyed, abstaining from all torment,
Griefless, without despair, I will be released, without pollutants.
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last updated: February 2012