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Gotama Buddha

The last of the twenty-five BuddhasHe was a Sakyanson of Suddhodana,³ chief ruler of Kapilavatthu, and of Mahā Māyā, Suddhodana’s chief consort, and he belonged to the Gotama-gotta. Before his conception he was in the Tusita heaven, waiting for the due time for his birth in his last existence. Then, having made the “five investigations” (pañcavilolcanāni),he took leave of his companions and descended to earth.⁵ Many wondrous and marvellous events attended his conception and birth.⁶


» Conception of the BodhisattaPredictions of Greatness • Marriage to YasodharāThe Great Renunciation

» Meeting King BimbisāraFirst Teachers and Practice of AusteritiesBattle with Māra

» Teaching the Dhammacakka SuttaConversion of the Kassapa BrothersThe Buddha Returns to Kapilavatthu Anāthapiṇḍika Offers Jetavana • Teaching the Abhidhamma in TāvatiṃsaNinth Rains at KosambīTenth Rains Alone at PārileyyakaFamine at VerañjāDeath of SuppabuddhaTaming of Āḷavaka YakkhaConversion of Aṅgulimāla

» The Remaining YearsThe Last YearThe Buddha’s Last Journey • Cremation and Division of the Relics

» The Buddha’s PersonalityThe Buddha’s Physical SufferingThe Buddha’s Visitors

» Footnotes

Conception of the Bodhisatta

The conception takes place on the full-moon day of Āsāḷha, with the moon in Uttarāsāḷha, and Mahāmāyā has no relations with her husband. She has a marvellous dream in which the Bodhisatta, as a white elephant, enters her womb through her side. When the dream is mentioned to the brahmins, they foretell the birth of a son who will be either a universal monarch or a Buddha.

An earthquake takes place and thirty-two signs appear, presaging the birth of a great being. The first of these signs is a boundless, great light, flooding every corner of the ten thousand worlds; everyone beholds its glory, even the fires in all hells being extinguished. Ten months after the conception, in the month of Vesākha, Māyā wishes to visit her parents in Devadaha. On the way there from Kapilavatthu she passes the beautiful Lumbinī grove, in which she desires to wander; she goes to a great sāla-tree and seizes a branch in her hand; labour pains start immediately, and, when the courtiers retire, having drawn a curtain round her, even while standing, she is delivered of the child. It is the day of the full-moon of Visākha; four Mahābrahmas receive the babe in a golden net, and streams of water descend from the sky to wash him. The boy stands on the earth, takes seven steps northwards and utters his lion-roar, “I am the chief in the world.” On the same day seven other beings were born: the Bodhi-tree, Rāhula’s mother (Rāhulamātā, his future wife), the four Treasure-Troves (described at DA.i.284), his elephant, his horse Kanthaka, his charioteer Channa, and Kāludāyī. The babe is escorted back to Kapilavatthu on the day of his birth and his mother dies seven days later.

Predictions of Greatness

The sage (isi) Asita (or Kāḷadevala), meditating in the Himavā, learns from the Tāvatiṃsa gods of the birth of the Buddha, visits Suddhodana the same day and sees the boy, whom they both worship. Asita weeps for sorrow that he will not live to see the boy’s Buddhahood, but he instructs his nephew Nālaka (v.l. Naradatta) to prepare himself for that great day.⁷ On the fifth day after the birth is the ceremony of name-giving. One hundred and eight brahmins are invited to the festival at the palace; eight of them — Rāma, Dhaja, Lakkhaṇa, Mantī, Koṇḍañña, Bhoja, Suyāma, and Sudatta — are interpreters of bodily marks, and all except Koṇḍañña prophesy two possibilities for the boy; but Koṇḍañña, the youngest, says, quite decisively, that he will be a Buddha. The name given to the boy at this ceremony is not actually mentioned, but from other passages it is inferred that it was Siddhattha (q.v.)

Among other incidents recounted of the Buddha’s boyhood is that of his attaining the first jhāna under a jambu-tree. One day he is taken to the state ploughing of the king where Suddhodana himself, with his golden plough, ploughs with the farmers. The nurses, attracted by the festivities, leave the child under a jambu-tree. They return to find him seated, cross-legged, in a trance, the shadow of the tree remaining still, in order to protect him. The king is informed and, for the second time, does reverence to his son.⁸

The Bodhisatta is reported to have lived in the household for twenty-nine years a life of great luxury and excessive ease, surrounded by all imaginable comforts. He owns three palaces — Ramma, Suramma and Subha — for the three seasons.⁹

Marriage to Yasodharā

When the Bodhisatta is sixteen years old, Suddhodana sends messengers to the Sākyā asking that his son be allowed to seek a wife from among their daughters; but the Sākyā are reluctant to send them, for, they say, though the young man is hand-some, he knows no art; how, then, can he support a wife? When this is reported to the prince, he summons an assembly of the Sākyā and performs various feats, chief of these being twelve feats with a bow which needs the strength of one thousand men.¹⁰ The Sākyā are so impressed that each sends him a daughter, the total number so sent being forty thousand. The Bodhisatta appoints as his chief wife the daughter of Suppabuddha, who, later, comes to be called Rāhulamātā.¹¹

The Great Renunciation

According to the generally accepted account, Gotama is twenty-nine when the incidents occur which lead to final renunciation. Following the prophecy of the eight brahmins, his father had taken every precaution that his son should see no sign of old age, sickness or death. However, the gods decide that the time is come for the Enlightenment, and instil into Gotama’s heart a desire to go into the park. On the way, the gods put before him a man showing signs of extreme age, and the Bodhisatta returns, filled with desire for renunciation. The king, learning this, surrounds him with even greater attractions, but on two other days Gotama goes to the park and the gods put before him a sick man and a corpse.¹²

On the full-moon day of Āsāḷha, the day appointed for the Great Renunciation, Gotama sees a monk and hears from his charioteer praise of the ascetic life. Feeling very happy, he goes to the park to enjoy himself. Sakka sends Vissakamma himself to bathe and adorn him, and as Gotama returns to the city in all his majesty, he receives news of the birth of his son. Foreseeing in this news a bond, he decides to call the boy Rāhula (q.v.) Kisāgotamī (q.v.) sees Gotama on the way to the palace and, filled with longing for him, sings to him a song containing the word “nibbuta.” The significance of the word (extinguished, at peace) thrills him, and he sends her his priceless gold necklace which she, however, accepts as a token of love. Gotama enters the palace and sleeps. He wakes in the middle of the night ¹³ to find his female musicians sleeping in attitudes which fill him with disgust and with loathing for the worldly life, and he decides to leave it.

He leaves the city on his horse Kanthaka, with Channa clinging to its tail. The devas muffle the sound of the horse’s hoofs and of his neighing and open the city gates for Gotama to pass. Māra appears before Gotama and seeks to stay him with a promise that he shall be universal monarch within seven days. On his offer being refused, Māra threatens to shadow him always. Outside the city, at the spot where later was erected the Kanthakanivattana-cetiya, Gotama turns his horse round to take a last look at Kapilavatthu. It is said that the earth actually turned, to make it easy for him to do so. Then, accompanied by the gods, he rides thirty leagues through three kingdoms — those of the Sākyā, the Koliyā and the Mallā — and his horse crosses the river Anomā in one leap. On the other side, he gives all his ornaments to Channa, and with his sword cuts off hair and beard, throwing them up into the air, where Sakka takes them and enshrines them in the Cūḷāmaṇi-cetiya in Tāvatiṃsa. The Brahmā Ghaṭīkāra offers Gotama the eight requisites of a monk, which he accepts and adopts. He then sends Channa and Kanthaka back to his father, but Kanthaka, broken-hearted, dies on the spot and is reborn as Kanthaka-devaputta.¹⁴

Meeting King Bimbisāra

From Anomā the Bodhisatta goes to the mango-grove of Anupiya, and after spending seven days there walks to Rājagaha (a distance of thirty leagues) in one day, and there starts his alms rounds. Bimbisāra’s men, noticing him, report the matter to the king, who sends messengers to enquire who this ascetic is. The men follow Gotama to the foot of the Paṇḍava-pabbata, where he eats his meal, and they then go and report to the king. Bimbisāra visits Gotama, and, pleased with his hearing, offers him the sovereignty. On learning the nature of Gotama’s quest, he wins from him a promise to visit Rājagaha first after the Enlightenment.¹⁵

First Teachers and Practice of Austerities

Journeying from Rājagaha, Gotama in due course becomes a disciple of Āḷāra-Kālāma. Having learnt and practised all that Āḷāra has to teach, he finds it unsatisfying and joins Uddaka-Rāmaputta; but Uddaka’s doctrine leaves him still unconvinced and he abandons it. He then goes to Senānīgāma in Uruvelā and there, during six years, practises all manner of severe austerities, such as no man had previously undertaken. Once he falls fainting and a deva informs Suddhodana that Gotama is dead. However, Suddhodana, relying on the prophecy of Kāḷadevala, refuses to believe the news. Gotama’s mother, now born as a devaputta in Tāvatiṃsa, comes to him to encourage him. At Uruvelā, the group of five ascetics are his companions, but now, having realised the folly of extreme asceticism, he decides to abandon it, and starts again to take normal food; thereupon they leave him and go to Isipatana.¹⁶

Gotama’s desire for normal food is satisfied by an offering brought by Sujātā to the Ajapāla banyan tree under which he is seated. She had made a vow to the tree, and her wish having been granted, she takes her slave-girl, Puṇṇā, and goes to the tree prepared to fulfil her promise. They take Gotama to be the Tree-god, come in person to accept her offering of milk-rice; the offering is made in a golden bowl and he takes it joyfully. Five dreams ¹⁷ he had the night before convince Gotama that he will that day become the Buddha. It is the full-moon day of Visākha; he bathes at Suppatiṭṭha in the Nerañjarā, eats the food and launches the bowl up stream, where it sinks to the abode of the Nāga king, Kāḷa (Mahākāḷa).

Gotama spends the rest of the day in a sāla-grove and, in the evening, goes to the foot of the Bodhi-tree, accompanied by various divinities; there the grass-cutter Sotthiya gives him eight handfuls of grass; these, after investigation, Gotama spreads on the eastern side of the tree, where it becomes a seat fourteen hands long, on which he sits cross-legged, determined not to rise before attaining Enlightenment.¹⁸

Battle with Māra

Māra, lord of the world of passion, is determined to prevent this fulfilment, and attacks Gotama with all the strength at his command. His army extends twelve leagues to the front, right, and left of him, to the end of the Cakkavāḷa behind him, and nine leagues into the sky above him. Māra himself carries numerous weapons and rides the elephant Girimekhalā, one hundred and fifty leagues in height. At the sight of him all the divinities gathered at the Bodhi-tree to do honour to Gotama — the great Brahmā, Sakka, the Nāga-king Mahākāḷa — disappear in a flash, and Gotama is left alone with the ten perfections (pāramī), long practised by him, as his sole protection. All Māra’s attempts to frighten him by means of storms and terrifying apparitions fail, and, in the end, Māra hurls at him the Cakkāvudha. It remains as a canopy poised over Gotama. The very earth bears witness to Gotama’s fitness to be the Enlightened One, and Girimekhalā kneels before him. Māra is vanquished and flees headlong with his vast army. The various divinities who had fled at the approach of Māra now return to Gotama and exult in his triumph.¹⁹

Gotama spends that night in deep meditation. In the first watch he gains remembrance of his former existences; in the middle watch he attains the divine-eye (dibbacakkhu); in the last watch he contemplates the Law of Dependent Origination (Paṭiccasamuppāda). As he masters this, the earth trembles and, with the dawn, comes Enlightenment. He is now the supreme Buddha, and he breaks forth into a paean of joy (udāna).²⁰

For the first week the Buddha remains under the Bodhi-tree, meditating on the Law of Dependent Origination; the second week he spends at the Ajapālanigrodha, where the “HuṃhuṅkajātikaBrahmin accosts him ²¹ and where Māra’s daughters, Taṇhā (Craving), Aratī (Discontent) and Rāgā (Lust), appear before the Buddha and make a last attempt to shake his resolution;²² the third week he spends under the hood of the nāga-king Mucalinda;²³ the fourth week is spent in meditation under the Rājāyatana tree;²⁴ at the end of this period Tapassu and Bhallika (q.v.) take refuge in the Buddha and the Dhamma, though the Buddha does not give them any instruction.

Teaching the Dhammacakka Sutta

Doubts now assail the Buddha as to whether he shall proclaim to the world his doctrine, so recondite, so hard to understand. The Brahma Sahampati ²⁵ appears before him and assures him there are many prepared to listen to him and to profit by his teaching, and so entreats him to teach the Dhamma. The Buddha accedes to his request and, after consideration, decides to teach the Dhamma first to the group of five ascetics (pañcavaggiya) at Isipatana. On the way to Bārāṇasī he meets the Ājīvaka Upaka and tells him that he (the Buddha) is a conqueror (jina). On his arrival at Isipatana the five ascetics were, at first, reluctant to acknowledge his claim to be the Tathāgata, but they let themselves be won over and, on the full-moon day of Āsāḷha, the Buddha teaches to them the discourse that came to be known as the “Discourse on the Setting in Motion of the Wheel of the Dhamma” (Dhammacakkap­pavattana Sutta).²⁶ At the end of the discourse Koṇḍañña becomes a Stream-winner (sotāpanna) and they all become monks.

This discourse is followed five days later by the Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta, at the conclusion of which all five become Arahants. The following day the Buddha meets Yasa, whom he converts. Yasa’s father, who comes seeking him, is the first to take the threefold refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha.

Yasa becomes an Arahant and is ordained. The Buddha accepts a meal at his house, and Yasa’s mother and one of his former wives are the first two lay-women to become the Buddha’s disciples. Then four friends of Yasa and, afterwards, fifty more, enter the Order and become Arahants. There are now sixty Arahants besides the Buddha, and they are sent in different directions to teach the Dhamma. They return with many candidates for admission to the Order, and the Buddha, who up until now had ordained men with the “Come monk” (ehi bhikkhu) formula, now allows the monks themselves to perform the ceremony of ordination.²⁷

Conversion of the Kassapa Brothers

After spending the rainy season at Bārāṇasī,²⁸ the Buddha returns to Senānigāma in Uruvelā, on the way converting and ordaining the thirty Bhaddavaggiyā. At Uruvelā, after a long and protracted exercise of psychic powers, consisting in all of three thousand five hundred miracles, the Buddha wins over the three Kassapa brothers, the Tebhātika Jaṭilā, with their thousand followers, and ordains them. They become Arahants after listening to the Ādittapariyāya Sutta taught at Gayāsīsa; with these followers he visits Rājagaha, where King Seniya Bimbisāra comes to see him at the Laṭṭhivanuyyāna. The following day the Buddha and the monks visit the palace, preceded by Sakka disguised as a youth and singing the praises of the Buddha. After the meal, the king gifts Veḷuvana to the Buddha and the Order. The Buddha stays for two months at Rājagaha,²⁹ and it is during this time that Sāriputta and Moggallāna join the Order, through the instrumentality of Assaji.³⁰ The number of converts now rapidly increases and the people of Magadha, alarmed by the prospect of childlessness, widowhood, etc., blame the Buddha and his monks. The Buddha, however, refutes their charges.³¹

The account of the first twenty years of the Buddha’s ministry is summarised from various sources, chiefly from Thomas’s admirable account in his Life and Legend of the Buddha (pp.97 ff). The necessary references are to be found under the names mentioned.

The Buddha Returns to Kapilavatthu

On the full-moon day of Phagguna (February-March) the Buddha, accompanied by twenty thousand monks, sets out for Kapilavatthu ³² at the express request of his father, conveyed through Kāludāyī.³³ By slow stages he arrives at the city, where he stays at the Nigrodhārāma, and, in order to convince his proud kinsmen of his power, performs the Twin Miracle (Yamaka Pāṭihāriya) and then relates the Vessantara Jātaka. The next day, receiving no invitation to a meal, the Buddha begs in the streets of the city; this deeply grieves Suddhodana, but later, learning that it is the custom of all Buddhas, he becomes a Stream-winner and conducts the Buddha and his monks to meal at the palace. There all the women of the palace, excepting only Rāhulamātā, come and do reverence to the Buddha. Mahāpajāpatī becomes a Stream-winner and Suddhodana a Once-returner. The Buddha visits Rāhulamātā in her own apartments and utters her praises in the Candakinnara Jātaka. The following day the Buddha persuades his half-brother, Nanda, to come to the monastery, where he ordains him and, on the seventh day, he does the same with Rāhula. This is too great a blow for Suddhodana, and at his request the Buddha rules that no person shall be ordained without the consent of his parents. The next day the Buddha teaches Suddhodana, who becomes a Non-returner (anāgāmi). During the Buddha’s visit to Kapilavatthu, eighty thousand Sākyā join the Order, one from each family. With these he returns to Rājagaha, stopping on the way at Anupiya, where Anuruddha, Bhaddiya, Ānanda, Bhagu, Kimbila and Devadatta, together with their barber, Upāli, visit him and seek ordination.

Anāthapiṇḍika Offers Jetavana

On his return to Rājagaha ³⁴ the Buddha resides in the Sītavana. There Sudatta, later known as Anāthapiṇḍika, visits him, is converted, and invites him to Sāvatthi. The Buddha accepts the invitation and journeys through Vesāli to Sāvatthi, there to pass the Rains Retreat (vassa).³⁵ Anāthapiṇḍika gifts Jetavana, provided with every necessity, for the residence of the Buddha and his monks. Probably to this period belongs the conversion of Migāra, father-in-law of Visākhā, and the construction, by Visākhā, of the Pubbārāma at Sāvatthi. The Buddha spends the fourth Rains at Veḷuvana, where he converts Uggasena.³⁶ In the fifth year Suddhodana dies, having realised Arahantship, and the Buddha flies through the air, from the Kūṭāgārasālā in Vesāli where he was staying, to teach his father on his death-bed. According to one account ³⁷ it is at this time that the quarrel breaks out between the Sākyā and the Koliyā regarding the irrigation waters of the river Rohiṇī. The Buddha persuades them to make peace, and takes up his abode in the Nigrodhārāma. Mahā­pajāpatī Gotamī, with other Sakyan women, visits him there and asks that women may be allowed to join the Order. Three times the request is made, three times refused, the Buddha then returning to Vesāli. The women cut off their hair, don yellow robes and follow him there. Ānanda intercedes on their behalf and their request is granted.³⁸

Teaching the Abhidhamma in Tāvatiṃsa

In the sixth year the Buddha again performs the Twin Miracle this time at the foot of the Gandamba tree in Sāvatthi. Prior to this, the Buddha had forbidden any display of psychic powers, but makes an exception in his own case.³⁹ He spends the Rains at Maṅkulapabbata. After the performance of the miracle he follows the custom of all Buddhas and ascends to Tāvatiṃsa in three strides to teach the Abhidhamma to his mother who is born there as a deva, and there he keeps the seventh Rains. The multitude, gathered at Sāvatthi, refuse to go away until they have seen him. For three months, therefore, Mahā-Moggallāna expounds the Dhamma to them, while Cūḷa-Anāthapiṇḍika provides them with food. During the teaching of the Abhidhamma, Sāriputta visits the Buddha daily and learns from him all that has been recited the previous day. At the end of the Rains, the Buddha descends a jewelled staircase and comes to earth at Saṅkassa, thirty leagues from Sāvatthi.⁴⁰ It was about this time, when the Buddha’s fame was at its height, that the notorious Ciñca­māṇavikā was persuaded by members of some hostile sect to bring a vile accusation against the Buddha. A similar story, told in connection with a female wanderer (paribbājikā) named Sundarī, probably refers to a later date.

The eighth year the Buddha spends in the country of the Bhaggā and there, while residing in Bhesakalāvana near Suṃsumāragiri, he meets Nakulapitā and his wife, who had been his parents in five hundred former births.⁴¹

Ninth Rains at Kosambī

In the ninth year the Buddha is at Kosambī. While on a visit to the Kuru country he is offered in marriage Māgaṇḍiyā, the beautiful daughter of the brahmin Māgaṇḍiya. The refusal of the offer, accompanied by insulting remarks about physical beauty, arouses the enmity of Māgaṇḍiyā who, thenceforward, cherishes hatred against the Buddha.⁴²

Tenth Rains Alone at Pārileyyaka

In the tenth year there arises among the monks at Kosambī a schism, which threatens the very existence of the Order. The Buddha, failing in his attempts to reconcile the disputants, retires in disgust to the Pārileyyaka forest, passing on his way through Bālakaloṇakāragāma and Pācīnavaṃsadāya. In the forest he is protected and waited upon by a friendly elephant who has left the herd. The Buddha spends the rainy season there and returns to Sāvatthi. By this time the Kosambī monks have recovered their senses and ask the Buddha’s forgiveness. This is granted and the dispute settled.⁴³

Famine at Verañjā

In the eleventh year the Buddha resides at the brahmin village of Ekanālā and converts Kasi-Bhāradvāja.⁴⁴ The twelfth year he spends at Verañjā, keeping the Rains there at the request of the brahmin Verañja. However, Verañja forgets his obligations; there is a famine, and five hundred horse-merchants supply the monks with food. Mahā-Moggallāna’s offer to obtain food by means of psychic power is discouraged.⁴⁵ The thirteenth Retreat is kept at Cālikapabbata, where Meghiya is the Buddha’s personal attendant.⁴⁶ The fourteenth year is spent at Sāvatthi, and there Rāhula receives the higher ordination (upasampadā) as a bhikkhu.

Death of Suppabuddha

In the fifteenth year the Buddha revisits Kapilavatthu, and there his father-in-law, Suppabuddha, in a drunken fit, refuses to let the Buddha pass through the streets. Seven days later he is swallowed up by the earth at the foot of his palace.⁴⁷

Taming of Āḷavaka Yakkha

The chief event of the sixteenth year, which the Buddha spent at Āḷavī, is the conversion of the yakkha Āḷavaka. In the seventeenth year the Buddha is back at Sāvatthi, but he visits Āḷavī again out of compassion for a poor farmer who becomes a Stream-winner after hearing him teach.⁴⁸ He spends the rainy season at Rājagaha. In the next year he again comes to Āḷavī from Jetavana for the sake of a poor weaver’s daughter (s.v. Pesakāradhītuvatthu). She had heard him teach, three years earlier, on the desirability of meditating upon death. She alone gave heed to his admonition and, when the Buddha knows of her imminent death, he journeys thirty leagues to teach her and establish her in the fruition of Stream-winning.⁴⁹

Conversion of Aṅgulimāla

The Retreat of this year and also that of the nineteenth are spent at Cālikapabbata. In the twentieth year takes place the miraculous conversion of the robber Aṅgulimāla. He becomes an Arahant and dies shortly after. It is in the same year that Ānanda is appointed permanent attendant on the Buddha, a position which he holds to the end of the Buddha’s life, twenty-five years later.⁵⁰ The twentieth Retreat is spent at Rājagaha.

The Remaining Years

With our present knowledge it is impossible to evolve any kind of chronology for the remaining twenty-five years of the Buddha’s life. The Commentaries state ⁵¹ that they were spent at Sāvatthi in the monasteries of Jetavana and Pubbārāma.

This, probably, only implies that the Rains Retreats were kept there and that they were made the head-quarters of the Buddha. From there, during the dry season, he went every year on tour in various districts. Among the places visited by him during these tours are the following:⁵² Aggālava-cetiya, Ambalaṭṭhikā, Ambapālivana, Ambasaṇḍā, Andhakavinda, Anotatta, Āpaṇa, Assapura, Bahuputtaka-cetiya, Beḷuva, Bhaddavatī, Bhaddiya (Jātiyāvana), Bhaganagara (Ānanda-cetiya), Campā (Gaggarā), Cañcalikappa, Cāpāla-cetiya, Cātumā, Cetiyagiri in Vesāli, Dakkhiṇāgiri, Daṇḍakappaka, Desaka in the Sumbha country, Devadaha, Ekanālā, Gosiṅgasālavanadāya, Gotama-cetiya, Haliddavasana, and the region of Himavā, Hatthigāma, Icchānaṅgala, Jīvakambavana (in Rājagaha), Kajaṅgalā (Mukheluvana), Kakkarapatta, Kalandakanivāpa (near Bārāṇasī), Kammāsadhamma, Kesaputta, Khāṇumata, Khomadussa, Kimbilā, Kīṭāgiri, Kosambī (Ghositārāma and Badarikārāma), Koṭigāma, Kuṇḍadhānavana (near Kuṇḍakoli), Laṭṭhivana, Manasākata, Maṇinālaka-cetiya, Mātulā, Medāḷupa (Metaḷumpa), Mithilā (Maghādeva mango-grove), Moranivāpa, Nagaraka, Nagaravinda, Naḷakapāna (Palāsavana), Nāḷandā (Pāvārika mango-grove), Ñātika (Giñjakāvasatha), Opāsāda, Pañcasālā, Pāṭikārāma, Rammaka’s hermitage, Sajjanela, Sāketa (Añjanavana), Sakkara, Sālā, Salaḷāgāra in Sāvatthi, Sālavatikā, Sāmagāma, Saṅkavā (Paṅkadhā), Sārandada-cetiya, Sattamba-cetiya, Setavyā, Silāvatī, Sīsapāvana, Sītavana, Sūkarakhatalena, Tapodārāma, the Brahma world, Thullakoṭṭhita, Tindukkhāņu-paribbājakārāma, Todeyya, Udena-cetiya, Ugganagara, Ujuññā (Kaṇṇakatthala deer-park), Ukkacelā, Ukkaṭṭhā (Subhagavana), Ulumpa, Uruvelakappa, Uttara in Koliya, Uttarakā, Uttarakuru, Vedhañña-ambavana, Veḷudvāra, Venāgapura, Verañjā, Vesāli (also various shrines there), and Videha.

The Last Year

There is a more or less continuous account of the last year of the Buddha’s life. This is contained in three suttas: the Mahāparinibbāna, the Mahā Sudassana and the Janavasabha Sutta. These are not separate discourses but are intimately connected with each other. The only event prior to the incidents recounted in these suttas, which can be fixed with any certainty, is the death of the Buddha’s pious patron and supporter, Bimbisāra, which took place eight years before the Buddha’s final passing away (parinibbāna).⁵³ It was at this time that Devadatta tried to obtain for himself a post of supremacy in the Order, and, failing in this effort, became the open enemy of the Buddha.⁵⁴ Enlisting the support of Ajātasattu, he tried in many ways to kill the Buddha. Royal archers were bribed to shoot the Buddha, but they were won over by his personality and confessed their intentions. Then Devadatta hurled a great rock down from Vultures’ Peak (Gijjhakūṭa) on to the Buddha as he was walking in the shade of the hill; the hurtling rock was stopped by two peaks, but splinters struck the Buddha’s foot and caused blood to flow; he suffered great pain and had to be taken to the Maddakucchi garden, where his injuries were dressed by the physician Jīvaka.⁵⁵ The monks wished to provide a guard, but the Buddha reminded them that no man had the power to deprive a Tathāgata of his life.

Devadatta next bribed the royal elephant keepers to let loose a fierce elephant, Nāḷāgiri, intoxicated with toddy, on the road along which the Buddha would go, begging for alms. The Buddha was warned of this but disregarded the warning, and when the elephant appeared, Ānanda, against the strict orders of the Buddha, threw himself in its path, and only by an exercise of iddhi-power, including the folding up of the earth, could the Buddha come ahead of him. As the elephant approached, the Buddha addressed it, pervading it with his boundless love, until it became quite gentle.⁵⁶

These attempts to encompass the Buddha’s death having failed, Devadatta, with three others, decides to create a schism in the Order and asks the Buddha that five rules should be laid down, whereby the monks would be compelled to lead a far more austere life than hitherto. When this request is refused, Devadatta persuades five hundred recently ordained monks to leave Vesāli with him and take up their residence at Gayāsīsa, where he would set up an organisation similar to that of the Buddha. However, at the Buddha’s request, Sāriputta and Moggallāna visit the renegade monks; Sāriputta teaches them and they are persuaded to return. When Devadatta discovers this, he vomits hot blood and lies ill for nine months. When his end approaches, he wishes to see the Buddha, but he dies on the way to Jetavana — to where he is being conveyed in a litter — and is born in Avīci.⁵⁷

The Buddha’s Last Journey

From Vultures’ Peak, near Rājagaha, the Buddha starts on his last journey. Just before his departure he is visited by Vassakāra, and the talk is of the Vajjī ; the Buddha teaches Vassakāra and the monks on the conditions that lead to prosperity. The Buddha proceeds with a large concourse of monks to Ambalaṭṭhikā and thence to Nāḷandā, where Sāriputta utters his lion-roar (sīhanāda) regarding his faith in the Buddha. The Buddha then goes to Pāṭaligāma, where he talks to the villagers on the evil consequences of immorality and the advantages of morality. He utters a prophecy regarding the future greatness of Pāṭaliputta and then, leaving by the Gotamadvāra, he crosses the river Gaṅgā at Gotamatittha. He proceeds to Koṭigāma and thence to Ñātika, where he gives to Ānanda the formula of the “Mirror of the Dhamma” (Dhammādāsa), whereby the rebirth of disciples could be ascertained. From Ñātika he goes to Vesāli, staying in the park of the courtesan Ambapālī. The following day he accepts a meal from Ambapālī, refusing a similar offer from the Licchavī; Ambapālī makes a gift of her park to the Buddha and his monks. The Buddha journeys on to Beḷuva, where he spends the rainy season, his monks remaining in Vesāli. At Beḷuva he falls dangerously ill but, with great determination, fights against his sickness. He tells Ānanda that his mission is finished, that when he is dead the Order must maintain itself, taking the Dhamma alone as its refuge, and he concludes by propounding the four subjects of mindfulness.⁵⁸ The next day he begs in Vesāli and, with Ānanda, visits the Cāpāla-cetiya. There he gives to Ānanda the opportunity of asking him to live until the end of the world-cycle, but Ānanda fails to take the hint. Soon afterwards Māra visits the Buddha and obtains the assurance that the Buddha’s parinibbāna will take place in three months. There is an earthquake, and, in answer to Ānanda’s questions, the Buddha explains to him the eight causes of earthquakes. This is followed by lists of the eight assemblies, the eight stages of mastery and the eight stages of release. The Buddha then repeats to Ānanda his conversation with Māra, and Ānanda now makes his request to the Buddha to prolong his life, but is told that it is now too late; several opportunities he has had, of which he has failed to avail himself. The monks are assembled in Vesāli, in the Service Hall, and the Buddha exhorts them to practise the doctrines he has taught, in order that the religious life may last long. He then announces his impending death.

The next day, returning from Vesāli, he looks round at the city for the last time and goes on to Bhaṇḍagāma.⁵⁹ There he teaches the four things, the comprehension of which, destroys rebirth — noble conduct, earnestness in meditation, wisdom, and freedom.

He then passes through the villages of Hatthigāma, Ambagāma and Jambugāma, and stays at Bhoganagara at the Ānanda-cetiya. There he addresses the monks on the Four Great Authorities (Mahāpadesā), by reference to which the true doctrine may be determined.⁶⁰ From Bhoganagara the Buddha goes to Pāvā and stays in the mango-grove of Cunda, the smith. Cunda serves him with a meal that includes tender pork (sūkaramaddava).⁶¹ The Buddha alone partakes of the tender pork, the remains being buried. This is the Buddha’s last meal; sharp sickness arises in him, with flow of blood and violent, deadly pains, but the Buddha controls them and sets out for Kusinārā. On the way he has to sit down at the foot of a tree. Ānanda fetches him water to drink from the stream Kakuṭṭhā, over which five hundred carts had just passed; but, through the power of the Buddha, the water is quite clear. Here the Buddha is visited by Pukkusa, the Malla, who is converted and presents the Buddha with a pair of gold-coloured robes. The Buddha puts them on and Ānanda notices the marvellous brightness and clearness of the Buddha’s body. The Buddha tells him that the body of a Buddha takes on this hue on the night before his Enlightenment and on the night of his passing away, and that he will die that night at Kusinārā. He goes to the Kakuṭṭhā, bathes and drinks there and rests in a mango-grove. There he instructs Ānanda that steps must be taken to dispel any remorse that Cunda may feel regarding the meal he gave to the Buddha.

From Kakuṭṭhā the Buddha crosses the Hiraññavatī to the Upavattana sāla-grove in Kusinārā. There Ānanda prepares for him a bed with the head to the north. All the trees break forth into blossom and flowers cover the body of the Buddha. Divine mandārava-flowers and sandalwood powder fall from the sky, and divine music and singing sound through the air. However, the Buddha says that the greater honour to him would be to follow his teachings.

The gods of the ten thousand world systems assemble to pay their last homage to the Buddha, and Upavāṇa, who stands fanning him, is asked to move away as he obstructs their view.

Ānanda asks for instruction on several points, including how the funeral rites should be performed; he then goes out and abandons himself to a fit of weeping; the Buddha sends for him, consoles him and speaks his praises. Ānanda tries to persuade the Buddha not to die in a wattle-and-daub village, such as is Kusinārā, but the Buddha tells him how it was once the mighty Kusāvatī, capital of Mahāsudassana.

The Mallā of Kusinārā are informed that the Buddha will pass away in the third watch of the night, and they come with their families to pay their respects. The ascetic Subhadda comes to see the Buddha and is refused admission by Ānanda, but the Buddha, overhearing, calls him in and converts him. Several minor rules of discipline are delivered, including the order for the excommunication of Channa. The Buddha finally asks the assembled monks to speak out any doubts they may have. All are silent and Ānanda expresses his astonishment, but the Buddha tells him it is natural that the monks should have no doubts. Then, addressing the monks for the last time, he admonishes them in these words: “Decay is inherent in all component things; work out your salvation with diligence.” These were the Buddha’s last words. Ascending and descending through various stages of absorption, he attains parinibbāna. There is a great earthquake and terrifying thunder, and the Brahmā Sahampati, Sakka king of the gods, Anuruddha and Ānanda utter stanzas, each proclaiming the feeling uppermost in his mind. It is the full-moon day of the month of Vesākha (q.v.) and the Buddha is in his eightieth year.

Cremation and Division of the Relics

The next day Ānanda informs the Mallā of Kusinārā of the Buddha’s death, and for seven days they hold a great celebration. On the seventh day, following Ānanda’s instructions, they prepare the body for cremation, taking it in procession by the eastern gate to the Makuṭabandhana shrine, thus altering their proposed route, in order to satisfy the wishes of the gods, as communicated to them by Anuruddha. The whole town is covered knee-deep with mandārava-flowers, which fall from the sky. When, however, four of the chief Mallā try to light the pyre, their attempt is unsuccessful and they must wait until Mahā-Kassapa, coming with a company of five hundred monks, has paid homage to it. The Commentaries ⁶² add that Mahā-Kassapa greatly desired that the Buddha’s feet should rest on his head when he worshipped the pyre. The wish was granted: the feet appeared through the pyre, and when Kassapa had worshipped them, the pyre closed together. The pyre burns completely away, leaving no cinders nor soot. Streams of water fall from the sky to extinguish it and the Mallā pour on it scented water. They then place a fence of spears around it and continue their celebrations for seven days. At the end of that period there appear several claimants for the Buddha’s relics: Ajātasattu, the Licchavī of Vesāli, the Sākyā of Kapilavatthu, the Bulī of Allakappa, the Koliyā of Rāmagāma, a brahmin of Veṭhadīpa and the Mallā of Pāvā. However, the Mallā of Kusinārā refusing to share the relics with the others, there is a danger of war. Then the brahmin Doṇa counsels concord and divides the relics into eight equal parts for the eight claimants. Doṇa takes for himself the measuring vessel and the Moriyā of Pipphalivana, who arrive late, carry off the ashes. Thūpas were built over these remains and feasts held in honour of the Buddha.⁶³

It is said ⁶⁴ that just before the Buddha’s Teaching (sāsana) disappears completely from the world, all the relics will gather together at the Mahā-cetiya, and travelling from there to Nāgadīpa and the Ratana-cetiya, assemble at the Mahābodhi, together with the relics from other parts. There they will reform the Buddha’s golden hued body, emitting the six-coloured aura. The body will then catch fire and completely disappear, amid the lamentations of the ten thousand world-systems. The Ceylon Chronicles ⁶⁵ record that the Buddha visited the Island on three separate occasions.

The Buddha’s Personality

Very little information as to the personality of the Buddha is available. We are told that he was golden-hued,⁶⁶ that his voice had the eight qualities of the Brahmassāra ⁶⁷ — fluency, intelligibility, sweetness, audibility, continuity, distinctness, depth and resonance — that he had a fascinating personality — he was described by his opponents as seductive ⁶⁸ — that he was handsome, perfect alike in complexion and stature and noble of presence.⁶⁹ He had a unique reputation as a teacher and trainer of the human heart. He was endowed with the thirty-two marks of a Great Man (Mahāpurisa).⁷⁰ There is a legend that Mahā-Kassapa, though slightly shorter, resembled the Buddha in appearance.

Attempts made, however, to measure the Buddha always failed; two such attempts are generally mentioned — one by a brahmin of Rājagaha and the other by Rāhu, chief of the Asurā.⁷¹ The Buddha had the physical strength of many millions of elephants,⁷² but his strength quickly ebbed away after his last meal and he had to stop at twenty-five places while travelling three quarters of a league from Pāvā to Kusināra.⁷³

Mention is often made of the Buddha’s love of quiet and peace, and even the heretics respected his wishes in this matter, silencing their discussions at his approach.⁷⁴ Examples are given of the Buddha refusing to allow noisy monks to live near him.⁷⁵ He loved solitude and often spent long periods away from the haunts of men, allowing only one monk to bring him his meals;⁷⁶ but this very love of solitude was sometimes brought against him. By conversation with whom does he attain to lucidity in wisdom? they asked. His insight, they said, was ruined by his habit of seclusion.⁷⁷ According to one account,⁷⁸ it was his practice to spend part of the day in seclusion, but he was always ready to see anyone who urgently desired his spiritual counsel.⁷⁹

In the Mahāgovinda Sutta ⁸⁰ Sakka is represented as having uttered “eight true praises” of the Buddha. Perhaps the most predominant characteristics of the Buddha were his boundless love and his eagerness to help all who sought him. His fondness for children is seen in such stories as those of the two boys named Sopāka, of Kumāra-Kassapa, of Cūḷapanthaka and Dabba-Mallaputta and also of the novices Paṇḍita and Sukha. His kindness to animals appears, for instance, in the introductory story of the Maccha Jātaka and his interference on behalf of Udena’s aged elephant, Bhaddavatikā (q.v.) The Buddha was extremely devoted to his disciples and encouraged them in every way in their difficult life. The Thera° and Therīgāthā are full of stories indicating that he watched, with great care, the spiritual growth and development of his disciples, understood their problems and was ready with timely interference to help them to win their aims. Such incidents as those mentioned in the Bhaddāli Sutta,⁸¹ the introduction to the Tittha Jātaka and the Kañcanakkhandha Jātaka, seem to indicate that he took a personal and abiding interest in all who came under him. It was his unvarying custom to greet with a smile all those who visited him, inquiring after their welfare and thus putting them at their ease.⁸² When anyone sought permission to question him, he made no conditions as to the topic of discussion (sabbaññu­pavāraṇa).⁸³ When the Buddha himself asked a question of any of his interrogators, they could not remain silent, but were bound to answer; a yakkha called Vajirapāṇi was always present to frighten those who did not wish to do so.⁸⁴

The Buddha was not over-anxious to get converts, and when his visitors declared themselves his followers he would urge them to take time to consider the matter — e.g., in the case of Acela-Kassapa and Upāli-gahapati.

When he was staying in a monastery, he paid daily visits to the sick-ward to talk to the inmates and to comfort them.⁸⁵ The charming story of Pūṭigatta Tissa shows that he sometimes attended on the sick himself, thus setting an example to his followers. In return for his devotion, his disciples adored him, but even among those who immediately surrounded him there were a few who refused to obey him implicitly — e.g., Lāḷudāyī, the companions of Assaji and Punabbasuka, the Chabbaggiyā, the Sattarasavaggiyā and others, not to mention Devadatta and his associates.

The Buddha seems to have shown a special regard for Sāriputta, Ānanda and Mahā-Kassapa among the monks, and for Anāthapiṇḍika, Mallikā, Visākhā, Bimbisāra, and Pasenadi among the laity. He seems to have been secretly amused by the very human qualities of Pasenadi and by his failure to appreciate the real superiority of Mallikā, his wife.

The Buddha always declared that he was among the happy ones of this earth, that he was far happier, for instance, than Bimbisāra,⁸⁶ and he remained unmoved by opposition or abuse, e.g., in the case of the organised conspiracy of Māgaṇḍiyā.⁸⁷

The Buddha’s Physical Suffering

The Milindapañha ⁸⁸ mentions several illnesses of the Buddha: the injury to his foot has already been referred to; once when the humours of his body were disturbed Jīvaka administered a purge;⁸⁹ on another occasion he suffered from some stomach trouble which was cured by hot water, or, according to some, by hot gruel.⁹⁰ The Dhammapada Commentary ⁹¹ mentions another disorder of the humours cured by hot water obtained from the brahmin Devahita, through Upavāṇa. The Commentaries mention that he suffered, in his old age, from constant backache, owing to the severe austerities practised by him during the six years preceding his Enlightenment, and the unsuitable meals taken during that period were responsible for a dyspepsia that persisted throughout the rest of his life,⁹² culminating in his last serious illness of dysentery.⁹³

The Apadāna ⁹⁴ contains a set of verses called “Pubbakammapiloti Buddha Apadānaṃ;” these verses mention certain acts done by the Buddha in the past, which resulted in his having to suffer in various ways in his last birth. He was once a drunkard named Munāḷi and he abused the Pacceka Buddha Surabhi. On another occasion he was a learned brahmin, teacher of five hundred pupils. One day, seeing the Pacceka Buddha Isigaṇa, he spoke ill of him to his pupils, calling him “sensualist.” The result of this act was the calumny against him by Sundarikā in this life.

In another life he reviled a disciple of a Buddha, named Nanda; for this he suffered in hell for twelve thousand years and, in his last life, was slandered by Ciñcamāṇavikā. Once, greedy for wealth, he killed his step-brothers, hurling them down a precipice; as a result, Devadatta attempted to kill him by hurling down a rock. Once, as a boy, while playing on the highway, he saw a Pacceka Buddha and threw a stone at him, and as a result, was shot at by Devadatta’s hired archers. In another life he was a mahout, and seeing a Pacceka Buddha on the road, drove his elephant against him; hence the attack by Nāḷāgiri. Once, as a king, he sentenced seventy persons to death, the reward for which he reaped when a splinter pierced his foot. Because once, as a fisherman’s son, he took delight in watching fish being caught, he suffered from a grievous headache when Viḍūḍabha slaughtered the Sākyā. In the time of Phussa Buddha he asked the monks to eat barley instead of rice and, as a result, had to eat barley for three months at Verañjā.⁹⁵ Because he once killed a wrestler, he suffered from cramp in the back. Once, when a physician, he caused discomfort to a merchant by purging him, hence his last illness of dysentery. As Jotipāla, he spoke disparagingly of the Enlightenment of Kassapa Buddha, and in consequence had to spend six years following various paths before becoming the Buddha. He was one of the most short-lived Buddhas, but because of those six years his dispensation will last longer.⁹⁶

The Buddha was generally addressed by his own disciples as the Blessed One (Bhagavā). He spoke of himself as the Tathāgata, while non-Buddhists referred to him as Gotama or Mahāsamaṇa. Other names used are Mahāmuṇi, Sakyamuṇi, Jina, Sakka,⁹⁷ and Brahma,⁹⁸ also Yakkha (q.v.)

The Aṅguttaranikāya ⁹⁹ gives a list of the Buddha’s most eminent disciples, both among members of the Order and among the laity. Each one in the list is mentioned as having possessed pre-eminence in some particular respect.

The Buddha’s Visitors

Among those who visited the Buddha for discussion or had interviews with him or received instruction and guidance direct from him, the following may be included in addition to those already mentioned:¹⁰⁰

Abhayā, Abhaya-rājakumāra, Abhibhūta, Abhiñjaka, Abhirūpa-Nandā, Acela-Kassapa, Aggidatta, Ajātasattu, Ajita the Licchavi general, Ajita the Paribbājaka, Ākotaka, Āmagandha, Ambaṭṭha, Anitthigandhakumāra, Aṅkura, Annabhāra, Anurāddha, Anuruddha, Ariya the fisherman, Asama, Asibandhaputta, Assaji, Assalāyana, Attadattha, Bāhiya-Dārucīriya, Bāhuna, Bahuputtikā, Baka-brahmā, Bāvarī and his sixteen disciples, Belaṭṭhakāni, Bhadda, Bhaddā-Kuṇḍakakesī, Bhaddāli, Bhaddiya the Licchavi, Bhaggava, Bhagu, several by the name of Bhāradvāja (Akkosaka°, Aggika°, Asurinda°, Ahimsaka°, Kāsi*, Jaṭā°, Navakammika°, Bilaṅgika°, Suddhika°, Sundarika°), Bhāradvāja, friend of Vāseṭṭha, Bhāradvāja, husband of Dhanañjāni, Bhesika the barber, Bhumiya, Bhuñjati, Biḷālapādaka, Bojjhā, Brahmāyu, Candābha, Candana, Candimā (Candimasa), Caṅkī, Chattapāṇī, Citta-Hatthasārīputta, Cūḷa-Dhanuggaha, Cūḷa-Subhaddhā, Cunda, Cunda-Samanuddesa, Cundī, Dāmalī, Daṇḍapaṇī, Dāsaka, Dhammadinna, Dhammārāma, Dhammika the brahmin, Dhammika-upāsaka, Dīgha the deva, Dīghajānu, Dīghalaṭṭhi, Dīghanakha, Dīghata-passī, Dīghāvu, Dona, Dummukha, Eraka, Esakārī, Gaṇaka-Moggallāna, Gavampati, Gotama Thera, Guttā, Hatthaka Āḷavaka, Hatthaka-devaputta, Hemavata, Jāliya, Jambuka, Jambukhādaka, Janapada-Kalyāni-Nandā, Janavasabha, Jantu, Jāṇussoṇi, Jenta, Jīvaka-Komārabhacca, Jotikagahapati, Kakudha, Kalārakkhattiya, Kāligodhā, Kāmada, Kāna, Kāṇamātā, Kandaraka, Kāpaṭhika, Kapila the fisherman, Kappa, Kappatakura, Kāranapāli, Kassapa the deva, Kātiyāna, Keṇiya the Jaṭila, Kesi the horse trainer, Kevaḍḍha, Khadiravaniya-Revata, Khānu-Koṇḍañña, Khema the deva, Khemā, Kimbila, Kisāgotami, Kokālika, Kokanadā, Kukkuṭamitta the hunter, Kulla, Kuṇḍadhāna, Kuṇḍaliya, Kūṭadanta, Lājā the goddess, Lakuṇṭaka-Bhaddiya, Lohicca, Lomasakaṅgiya, Macchari-Kosiya, Māgaṇḍiya the paribbājaka, Māgaṇḍiya the brahmin, Māgha, Mahā-Cunda, Mahādhana, Mahā-Kappina, Mahā-Kassapa, Mahā-Koṭṭhika, Mahāli (Oṭṭhaddha), Mahā-Moggallāna, Mahānāma, Māluṅkyāputta, Mānatthaddha, Māṇava-Gāmiya, Mandissa, Manibhadda, Mātuposaka, Meṇḍaka of Bhaddiya, Migajāla, Migasira, Moliya-Phagguna, Moliya-Sīvaka, Nāgita, Nālakatāpasa, Nālijangha, Nanda the herdsman, Nanda Thera, Nandana, Nandivisāla, Nandiya the Sakyan, Nandiya-paribbājaka, Nhātakamunī, Nigamavāsi-Tissa, Nigrodha, Ninka, Nīta, Paccanīkasāta, Pahārāda the asura, Pañcālacaṇḍa, Pañcasikha, Pārāpariya, Pasenadi, King of Kosala, Paṭācārā, Pāṭaliya, Pessa the elephant trainer, Phagguna, Pilinda-Vaccha, Pilotika, Piṅgala-Kaccha, Piṅgiyānī, Pokkharasāti, Potaliya, Poṭhila, Poṭṭhapāda, Puṇṇa, Puṇṇā, Puṇṇa-Koliyaputta, Puṇṇa-Mantānīputta, Puṇṇiya, Rādha, Rāhula, Rāsiya, Raṭṭhapāla, Rohiṇī, Rohitassa, Roja the Malla, Rūpānandā, Saccaka, Sajjha, Sakka, Sakuludāyi, Samiddhi, Sanaṅkumāra, Sandha, Sandhāna, Saṅgārava (two), Saṅgharakkhita (Bhāgineyya°), Saṅkicca, Santati, Sānu, Sarabha, Sarabhaṅga, Sātāgira, Sātāli, Sāti, Satullapa-devā, Sela, Seniya, Seri, Sigāla, Sīha the general, Sikhā-Moggallāna, Sirimā, Siva, Sīvali, Soṇā, Sonadanda, Soṇa-Kolivisa, Soṇa-Kutikaṇṇa, Sopāka (two), Subhā (two nuns), Subha Todeyyaputta, Subhūti, Subrahmā, Suciloma, Sudatta, Sujātā, daughter-in-law of Anāthapiṇḍika, Sukhā, Sumana the novice, Sumanā the sister of Pasenadi, Sunakkhatta, Sundara-Samudda, Sundarī-Nandā, Sunīta, Suppabuddha the leper, Suppa-vāsā, Surādha, Suriya, Susima, Tālaputa, Tāyana, the Kālāmas, the monk Ariṭṭha, the two daughters of Pajjuna, the yakkhas Āḷavaka and Indaka, Thulla-Tissa, Tikaṇṇa, Timbaruka, Tissa of Roruva, Tissa, cousin of the Buddha, Tissa, friend of Metteyya, Tudu-brahmā, Ubbirī, Ugga of Vesāli, Ugga the minister, Uggaha, Uggata-Sarīra, Ujjaya, Unnābha, Upāligahapati, UpĀsāḷha, Upasena, Upavāna, Uttarā the aged nun, Uttara the Nāga king, Uttarā, daughter of Puṇṇa, Uttara, pupil of Brahmāyu, Uttara, pupil of Pārasariya, Uttara-devaputta, Uttiya, Udaya and Udāyi the brahmins, Vaḍḍha the Licchavi, Vaḍḍhamāna, Vajjiyamāhita, Vakkali, Vaṅgisa, Vappa, Varadhara, Vāraṇa, Vāseṭṭha, friend of Bhāradvāja, Vāseṭṭha-upāsaka, Vassakāra, Vatambari, Vekhanasa, Veṇḍu, Vīrā, Visākha Pañcalaputta, Visākhā, and Yasoja.

See also Buddha and Bodhisatta.

Other Gotamas


¹ No comprehensive account of Gotama Buddha is as yet possible. The details given in this article are those generally accepted by orthodox Theravādins and contained in their books, chiefly the Pāḷi Commentaries, more especially the Nidānakathā of the Jātaka and the Buddhavaṃsa Commentary. Biographical details are also found in the Mahā Vagga and the Cūḷavagga of the Vinaya Piṭaka, the Buddhavaṃsa and in various scattered passages of the Nikāyas of the Sutta Piṭaka. References to these are given where considered useful. Controversy exists with regard to many of the matters mentioned; for discussion of the varying views regarding these, reference should be made to the works of Oldenberg, Rhys Davids (both Professor and Mrs. Rhys Davids), Kern, E.J. Thomas and other scholars. Further particulars of persons and places mentioned can be obtained by reference to the articles under the respective names.

² The Sākyā were evidently subjects of the Kosala king; the Buddha calls himself a Kosalan, M.ii.124

³ All Pāḷi Commentaries and Sanskrit works represent the Buddha as the son of a king, descendant of a long line of famous ancestors

See Buddha

According to the Lalitavistara he appointed the Bodhisatta Maitreya as king of Tusita in his place.

Given in the Acchariyabbhutadhamma Sutta, M.iii.118 f; also D.ii.12 f. A more detailed account is found in J.i.47 ff; both the Lai. and the Mtu.ii.14 ff differ as to the details given here of the conception and the birth.

For details see s.v. Asīta.

J.i.57 f; MA.i.466 f; the incident is alluded to in the Mahā Saccaka Sutta (M.i.246); the corresponding incident recounted in Mtu. (ii.45 f ) takes place in a park, and the details differ completely. The Lai. has two versions, one in prose and one in verse and both resemble the Mtu; but in these the Buddha is represented as being much older. The Divy (391) and the Tibetan versions (e.g., Rockhill, p.22) put the incident very much later in the Buddha’s life. Other incidents are given in Lai. and Mtu.

Mention is made of his luxurious life in A.i.145; also in M.i.504; further details are given in AA.i.378 f; J.i.58. See also Mtu.ii.115; cf. Vin.i.15; D.ii.21.

¹⁰ The feats with the bow are described in the Sarabhaṅga Jātaka, J.v.129 f ).

¹¹ She is known under various names: Bhaddakaccā (or Kaccānā), Yasodharā. Bimbā, Bimbasundarī and Gopā. For a discussion see Rāhulamātā.

¹² According to some accounts, e.g. that of the reciters of the long discourses (Dīghabhāṇaka), the four omens were all seen on the same day, J.i.59)

¹³ In some versions the Renunciation takes place seven days after the birth of Rāhula, J.i.62). He orders Chaṇṇa to saddle Kanthaka, and enters his wife’s room for a last look at her and their son.

¹⁴ The account given here is taken mainly from the Nidānakathā (J.i.59 ff) and evidently embodies later tradition; cp. D.ii.21 ff. From passages found in the Piṭakas (e.g., A.i.145; M.i.163, 240; M.ii.212 f ) it would appear that the events leading up to the Renunciation were not so dramatic as given here, the process being more gradual. I do not, however, agree with Thomas (op.cit., 58) that, according to these accounts, the Bodhisatta left the world when “quite a boy.” I think the word “dahara” is used merely to indicate “the prime of youth,” and not necessarily “boyhood.” The description of the Renunciation in the Lal. is very much more elaborate and adds numerous incidents, no account of which is found in the Pāḷi.

¹⁵ This incident is also mentioned in the Pabbajjā Sutta (SN.vv.405‑24), but there it is the king who first sees Gotama. It is significant that, when asked his identity, Gotama does not say he is a king’s son. The Pāḷi version of the sutta contains nothing of Gotama’s promise to visit Rājagaha, but the Mtu. version (ii.198‑200), which places the visit later, has two verses, one of which contains the request and the other the acceptance; and the SNA. (ii.385 f ), too, mentions the promise and tells that Bimbisāra was informed of the prophecy concerning Gotama. There is another version of the Mtu. (ii.117‑20) which says that Gotama went straight to Vaisāli after leaving home, joining Āḷāra, and later visited Uddaka at Rājagaha. Here no mention is made of Bimbisāra. We are told in the Mhv. (ii.25 ff) that Bimbisāra and Gotama (Siddhattha) had been playmates, Bimbisāra being the younger by five years. Bimbisāra’s father (Bhātī) and Suddhodana were friends.

¹⁶ J.i.66 f. The Therīgāthā Commentary (p.2) mentions another teacher of Gotama, named Bhaggava, whom Gotama visited before Āḷāra. Lal. (330 [264]) contains a very elaborate account of Gotama’s visits to teachers; he goes first to two brahmin women, Sākī and Padmā, then to Raivata and Rajaka, son of Trimandika, and finally (as far as this chapter is concerned) to Ālāra at Vaisāli. A poem containing an account of the meeting of Gotama with Bimbisāra is inserted into this account. The next chapter tells of Uddaka. An account of Gotama’s visits to teachers and of the details of his austerities is also given in the Mahā Saccaka Sutta, already referred to (M.i.240 ff); the Mahā Sīhanāda Sutta (M.i.77 ff) contains a long and detailed account of his extreme asceticism. See also M.i.163 ff; ii.93 f.

¹⁷ The dreams are recounted in A.iii.240 and in Mtu.ii.136 f.

¹⁸ J.i.69. The Piṭakas say nothing of Sujātā’s offering or of Sotthiya’s gift. Lal. (334‑7 [267‑70]) mentions ten girls in all who provide him with food during his austerities. Divy (392) mentions two, Nandā and Nandabalā.

¹⁹ The whole story of the contest with Māra is, obviously, a mythological development. It is significant that in the Majjhimanikāya passages referred to earlier there is no mention of Māra, of a temptation, or even of a Bodhi-tree; but see D.ii.4 and Thomas (op.cit., n.1). According to the Kāliṅgabodhi Jātaka, which, very probably, embodies an old tradition, the bodhi-tree was worshipped even in the Buddha’s life-time. The Māra legend is, however, to be found in the Canonical Padhāna Sutta of the Suttanipāta. This perhaps contains the first suggestion of the legend. For a discussion see Māra.

²⁰ There is great doubt as to which were these Udāna verses. The Nidānakathā and the Commentaries generally quote two verses (153, 154) included in the Dhammapada collection (Anekajāti saṃsāraṃ, etc.) The Vinaya (i.2) quotes three different verses (as does also DhsA.17), and says that one verse was repeated at the end of each watch, all the watches being occupied with meditation on the Law of Dependent Origination. Mtu. (ii.286) gives a completely different Udāna, and in another place (ii.416) mentions a different verse as the first Udāna. The Tibetan Vinaya is, again, quite different (Rockhill, p.33). For a discussion see Thomas, op.cit., 75 ff.

²¹ Māra now comes again and asks the Buddha to die at once; D.ii.112.

²² J.i.78; S.i.124; Lal.490 (378). ²³ Vin.i.3.

²⁴ This is the Vinaya account (Vin.i.1 ff); but the Jātaka (i.77 ff, extends this period to seven weeks, the additional weeks being inserted between the first and second. The Buddha spends one week each at the Animisa-cetiya, the Ratanacaṅkama and the Ratanaghara, and this last is where he thinks out the Abhidhamma Piṭaka.

²⁵ According to J.i.81, with the gods of the thousand worlds, including Sakka, Suyāma, Santusita, Sunimmita, Vasavatti, etc.

²⁶ Vin.i.4 ff; M.i.118 ff; cp. D.ii.36 ff. Regarding the claim of this sutta to be the Buddha’s first discourse, see Thomas, op.cit., p.86; see also Pañcavaggiyā.

²⁷ Vin.i.15 ff; J.i.81 f

²⁸ About this time Māra twice tries to tempt the Buddha, once after he had sent the disciples out to teach and once after the Rains, S.i.105, 111; Vin.i.21, 22.

²⁹ BuA.4. It was probably during this year, at the beginning of the rainy season, that the Buddha visited Vesāli at the request of the Licchavī, conveyed through Mahāli. The city was suffering from pestilence and famine. The Buddha went, taught the Ratana Sutta and dispelled all dangers (DhA.iii.436 ff).

³⁰ Vin.i.23 ff. ³¹ Vin.i.42 f.

³² The account of the first twenty years of the Buddha’s ministry is summarised from various sources, chiefly from Thomas’s admirable account in his Life and Legend of the Buddha (pp 97 ff). The necessary references are to be found under the names mentioned.

³³ This visit is not mentioned in the Canon; but see Thag.527‑36; AA.i.107, 167; J.i.87; DhA.i.96 f; ThagA.i.997 ff).

³⁴ J.i.92, the story is also told at Vin.ii.154, but no date is indicated.

³⁵ Vin.ii.158; but see BuA.3, where the Buddha is mentioned as having spent the Rains in Rājagaha.

³⁶ DhA.iv.59 f.

³⁷ AA.i.186; SNA.i.357; ThigA.141; details of the quarrel are given in J.v.412 ff.

³⁸ Vin.ii.253 ff; A.iv.274 f; for details see Mahāpajāpati Gotamī.

³⁹ DhA.iii.199 f; J.iv.265, etc.

⁴⁰ See Devārohaṇa.

⁴¹ A.A.i.217. The same is told of another old couple in Sāketa. See the Sāketa Jātaka. The Buddha evidently stayed again at Suṃsumāragiri many years later. It was during his second visit that Bodhirājakumāra (q.v.) invited him to a meal at his new palace in order that the Buddha might consecrate the building by his presence.

⁴² SN., pp.163 ff; SNA.ii.542 ff; DhA.i.199 ff Thomas (op.cit., 109) assigns the Māgandiyā incident to the ninth year. I am not sure if this is correct, for the Commentaries say the Buddha was then living at Sāvatthi.

⁴³ Vin.i.337 ff; J.iii.486 f; DhA.i.44 ff; but see Ud.iv.5; s.v. Pārileyyaka.

⁴⁴ SN., p.12 f; S.i.172 f. ⁴⁵ Vin.iii.1 ff; J.iii.494 f; DhA.ii.153.

⁴⁶ A.iv.354; Ud.iv.1. ⁴⁷ DhA.iii.44. ⁴⁸ DhA.iii.262 ff. ⁴⁹ DhA.iii.170 ff

⁵⁰ For details see Ānanda.

⁵¹ e.g., BuA.3; SNA. p.336 f, says that when the Buddha was at Sāvatthi, he spent the day at the Migāramātupāsāda in the Pubbārāma, and the night at Jetavana or vice versa.

⁵² For details of these visits see each separate entry.

⁵³ Mhv.ii.32

⁵⁴ Devadatta’s desire to deprive the Buddha of the leadership of the Saṅgha seems to have been conceived by him, according to the Vinaya account (Vin.ii.184), almost immediately after he joined the Order, and the Buddha was warned of this by the devaputta Kakudha. This account lends point to the statement contained especially in the Northern books, that even in their lay life Devadatta had always been Gotama’s rival.

⁵⁵ S.i.27.

⁵⁶ This incident, with great wealth of detail, is related in several places — e.g., in J.v.333 ff.

⁵⁷ For further details and for references see Devadatta. ⁵⁸ D.ii.100.

⁵⁹ According to the Commentaries (e.g., DA.ii.549), after the rainy season spent at Beḷuva, the Buddha goes back to Jetavana, where he is visited by Sāriputta, who is preparing for his own parinibbāna at Nālakagāma. From Jetavana the Buddha went to Rājagaha, where Mahā-Moggallāna died. Thence he proceeded to Ukkacelā, where he spoke in praise of the two chief disciples. From Ukkacelā he proceeded to Vesāli and thence to Bhaṇḍagāma. Rāhula, too, predeceased the Buddha (DA.ii.549).

⁶⁰ Cf. A.ii.167 ff

⁶¹ There is much dispute concerning this word. See Thomas, op.cit., 149, n.3.

⁶² The concluding passage of the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (D.ii.167) states that the Buddha’s relics were eight measures, seven of which were honoured in Jambudīpa and the remaining one in the Nāga realm in Rāmagāma. One tooth was in heaven, one in Gandhāra, a third in Kāliṅga (later taken to Sri Lanka), and a fourth in the Nāga world. Ajātasattu’s share was deposited in a thūpa and forgotten. It was later discovered by Asoka (with the help of Sakka) and distributed among his eighty-four thousand monasteries. Asoka also recorded the finding of all the other relics except those deposited in Rāmagāma. These were later deposited in the Mahācetiya at Anurādhapura (Mhv.xxxi.17 ff). Other relics are also mentioned, such as the Buddha’s collar-bone, his almsbowl, etc. (Mhv.xvii.9 ff; Mhv.i.37, etc.)

⁶³ E.g., DA.ii.603. ⁶⁴ E.g., DA.iii.899

⁶⁵ Mhv.i.12 ff; Dpv.i.45 ff; ii.1 ff etc. The first was while he was dwelling at Uruvelā, awaiting the moment for the conversion of the Tebhātika Jaṭila, in the ninth month after the Enlightenment, on the full-moon day of Phussa (Dec–Jan). He came to the Mahānāga garden, and stood in the air over an assembly of yakkhas then being held. He struck terror into their hearts and, at his suggestion, they left Sri Lanka and went in a body to Giridīpa, hard by. The Buddha gave a handful of his hair to the deva Mahāsumana of the Samantakūṭa mountain, who built a thūpa which was later enlarged into the Mahiyaṅgana Thūpa. The Buddha again visited Sri Lanka in the fifth year, on the new-moon day of Citta (March-April), to check an imminent battle between two Nāga chiefs in Nāgadīpa; the combatants were Mahodara and Cūḷodara, uncle and nephew, and the object of the quarrel was a gem-set throne. The Buddha appeared before them, accompanied by the deva Samiddhi-Sumana, carrying a Rājāyatana tree from Jetavana, settled their quarrel and received, as a gift, the throne, the cause of the trouble. He left behind him both the throne and the Rājāyatana tree for the worship of the Nāgās and accepted an invitation from the Nāga king, Maṇi-akkhika of Kalyāni, to pay another visit to Sri Lanka. Three years later Maṇi-akkhika repeated the invitation and the Buddha came to Kalyāṇi with five hundred monks, on the second day of Vesākha. Having taught the Nāgā, he went to Samantakūṭa, on the summit of which mountain he left the imprint of his foot (Legend has it that other footprints were left by the Buddha, on the bank of the river Nammadā, on the Saccabaddha mountain and in Yonakapura). He then stayed at Dīghavāpi and from there visited Mahāmeghavana, where he consecrated various spots by virtue of his presence, and proceeded to the site of the later Silācetiya. From there he returned to Jetavana.

The Burmese claim that the Buddha visited their land and went to the Lohitacandana-vihāra, presented by the brothers Mahāpuṇṇa and Cūḷapuṇṇa of Vānijagāma (Ind. Antiq.xxii., and Sās.36 f )

⁶⁶ E.g., Sp.iii.689.

⁶⁷ E.g., D.ii.211; M.ii.166 f. It is said that while an ordinary person spoke one word, Ānanda could speak eight; but the Buddha could speak sixteen to the eight of Ānanda, MA.i.283.

⁶⁸ E.g., M.i.269, 275. ⁶⁹ E.g., M.ii.167. ⁷⁰ For details of these, see Buddha.

⁷¹ DA.i.284 f. ⁷² E.g., VibhA.397. ⁷³ DA.ii.573.

⁷⁴ E.g., D.i.178 f; iii.39; his disciples had a similar reputation, e.g., D.iii.37.

⁷⁵ E.g., M.i.456; see also M.ii.122, where a monk was jogged by his neighbour because he coughed when the Buddha was speaking.

⁷⁶ E.g., S.v.12, 320. ⁷⁷ D.iii.38. ⁷⁸ A.i.181. ⁷⁹ E.g., A.iv.438. ⁸⁰ D.ii.222 f.

⁸¹ M.i.445. ⁸² Vin.i.313. ⁸³ E.g., M.i.230. ⁸⁴ E.g., M.i.231.

⁸⁵ See, e.g., Kuṭāgārasālā. ⁸⁶ E.g., M.i.94. ⁸⁷ DhA.iv.1 f. ⁸⁸ Mil.134.

⁸⁹ Vin.i.279. ⁹⁰ Vin.i.210 f; Thag.185.

⁹¹ DhA.iv.232; ThagA.i.311 f. ⁹² SA.i.200.

⁹³ MA.i.465; DA.iii.974; see also D.iii.209, when he was teaching the Mallā of Pāvā.

⁹⁴ Ap.i.299 f.

⁹⁵ According to the Dhammapada Commentary (DhA.iii.257), the Buddha actually had to starve one day at Pañcasālā, because none of the inhabitants were willing to give him alms.

⁹⁶ Sp.i.190 f. ⁹⁷ E.g., Sn.vs.345. ⁹⁸ Sn.vs.91; SnA.ii.418. ⁹⁹ A.i.23 ff.

¹⁰⁰ This list does not pretend to be complete; some of the names have already been mentioned in this monograph in various connections.

Finding Footnote References

Mahāparinibbāna Sutta: Dīghanikāya, D.ii.169

References in the notes are to the Pāḷi texts of the PTS. In the translations, these are usually printed in the headers near the spine, or in square brackets in the body of the text, thus it would be iii 163 in the spine or [163] in the text. References to the Commentaries are usually suffixed with A for Aṭṭhakathā (DA, MA, SNA, etc.) but references to the Jātaka Commentary are given as J, not JA, which would normally be used, as that is reserved for the Journal Asiatic.