Why the Buddha Suffered

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[11. Backache]

In the eleventh enquiry, called backache, we hear how he had pain in the back.

In the past, it seems, the Buddha-to-be was reborn in a householder's family and although he was somewhat short by nature he was endowed with great strength. At that time there was one wrestling-contest champion in the villages, towns and royal cities in the whole of the Rose-Apple Island who, after throwing men in a wrestling contest, achieved success, and by and by having arrived at the Buddha-to-be's residential town, and throwing people there, he got ready to leave.

Then the Buddha-to-be thinking: “Having achieved success in this my place of residence, he is going”, came right there to the town centre, and slapping his arms, This rare verb may means clapping his hands, but it occurs in other places in connection with wrestling, and may have been a way of brandishing one's strength.1 said: “Come, after fighting with me, you can go.” After laughing: “I have thrown huge men! This dwarf, who is short by nature, is not able to fight even with one of my hands,” and slapping his arms and roaring he came on.

They both grabbed each other by the arm, and the Buddha-to-be after lifting him and swirling him around in the sky, throwing him on the floor, threw him again, breaking his back-bone. All the town dwellers made acclamation, and after slapping their arms, they honoured the Buddha-to-be with clothes, decorations and so on.

The Buddha-to-be, after laying that wrestler straight, and straightening his back-bone, dismissed him saying: “Go from here, and henceforth do not behave in this way.”

Through that deed and its result, after undergoing suffering in his body, head and so on, in rebirth after rebirth, in this his last state of existence, when he became a Buddha he also suffered with pain in the back.

Therefore sometimes when his back pain arose he said to Sāriputta and Moggallāna: “Please teach the Doctrine,” and preparing his robe he lay down: the Buddha was surely not free from the connection with that deed.

So this was said:

Once while I was wrestling I badly injured another wrestler;
Through that deed and through its result I suffered a pain in my back.