1. The Birth of the Bodhisatta.

 On a full-moon day in the month of May (Visakha) 2600 years ago was born a Prince named Siddhattha. His birth took place at Lumbini (modern Rumindei in Nepal), where his mother Mahamaya, the chief queen consort of King Suddhodana of Kapilavatthu, rested with her royal retinue, on her way to her parental home in Devadaha. In the picture Queen Mahamaya stands under a flowering sala tree holding on to one of its branches.

 

 2. Life as a Prince.

Manifold was the variety of all the sensuous delights within the palace, the music and song that filled the palace halls by night and day; the beauty and grace of its dancing girls; the fragrance of subtle perfumes; the finest silks and priceless gems for jewellery and adornment; and rare delicacies and foods for the royal table. And yet, day after day, seated amidst all this luxury the Prince remains unmoved. Ever in thoughtful mood, with a far-away look in his beautiful eyes he muses on the fleeting nature of life's so called pleasures and its doubtful delights.

 

 3. The realities of life.

All King Suddhodana's efforts to protect his son from the four sights of old-age, disease, death and a recluse are of no avail. On a certain occasion, on his way to the royal pleasure gardens the Prince is confronted by each one of these very sights, and is filled with doubts and deep misgiving. Soon after this he meets a wandering ascetic, impressed by the sombre garb and quiet demeanour of the homeless recluse the Prince looks long and hard at him, and then, makes up his mind to leave the palace for a life of homelessness.

 

4. The Great going forth.

On the day of the Esala full-moon (July) the Crown Prince receives the news brought from the palace, of the birth of a son to his wife, the beautiful Princess Yasodhara. Alarmed at this fresh development, this new fetter to bind him closer to the world, the Prince decides to leave the palace that very night. For the sake of his father, his queen, his son, for the sake of all mankind, he would leave the world to seek a way to save the world from all suffering. This is the Great Renunciation.

 

 5. Experiment with Asceticism.

For six long years the ascetic Gotama, as Prince Siddhattha was now known, wanders along the highways and byways of India. He goes to Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta two of its greatest religious teachers, who teach him everything from their store of knowledge and wisdom. But the ascetic Gotama is not satisfied, for their teachings do not lead to the cessation of suffering. With unrelenting energy he undergoes rigorous ascetic discipline, both bodily and mental, seeking a way to the cessation of suffering through further suffering. In the end he becomes lean and emanciated and a mere skeleton.

 

 6. Enlightenment.

Discarding both extremes of luxurious living and self mortification, the Bodhisatta Prince chooses the Middle Path of moderation based on the practice of virtue (sila), concentration of the mind (samadhi), and the intensive analysis of all psycho-physical phenomena that finally leads to full understanding of things as they really are (panna). Seated under the Bodhi-tree at Buddhagaya he attains Samma Smabodhi and becomes the Supreme Buddha.

 

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