15/11/2007 @ 04:01
The Song of the Lute
One evening, a group of young girls on their way home passed by Gautama who was sitting in meditation. They were playing the lute, a musical instrument, and singing. He thought, “When the string of the lute is loose, its sound won’t carry. When the string is too tight, it breaks. When the strings are neither too loose nor too tight, the music is beautiful. A loose string means a life of pleasure. A tight string means a life of self-torture. I’m pulling my strings too tightly. I cannot find the Way of Truth living a life of luxury or with my body so weak.” Thus, he decided to give up self-torture.
Soon after, while bathing in the river, Gautama was so weak that he fainted and fell. Sujata, a young village girl who lived by the river, saw him and brought him a bowl of rice and milk. “Eat this,” she said. “It will give you strength.”
Gautama smiled, “If you had not given me food, I would have died without finding the true way to happiness.” After the meal, he immediately felt stronger and continued his meditation.
When his five companions saw him eat, they were disgusted and said, “Gautama has gone back to an easy life.” With that, they left him.
Gautama 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. Once again, his golden skin glowed with health.
The long struggle
Still seeking a way to understand the truth of life, Gautama se out for Buddhagaya (near Gaya in modern Bihar). Near a grove, he found a huge tree. A young grass cutter walked by and offered him a bundle of grass. He made a seat of the grass at the foot of the Bodhi tree. Then he walked around the tree three times and sat down facing east.
Silently Gautama vowed, “Even if my flesh and blood were to dry up, leaving only sin and bones, I will not leave this place until I find a way to end all sorrow.” He sat under the Bodhi tree 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. First Mara sent rain, hail and wind that lasted for days. Gautama was not moved.
Next, Mara tried to lure Gautama into having selfish thoughts. He sent visions of his very beautiful daughters who danced and sang before Siddhartha. They were hoping to remind him of the pleasures of palace life and entice him to return. Gautama was not moved.
When this did not work, Mara sent his fierce demon armies. The sight of them turned Siddhartha’s blood and cracked his bones. Still he did not move. As the demons’ weapons got close to Siddhartha, they turned into soft petals that floated to the ground. The demons threw bolts of lightning and flaming rocks at his silent figure, but they were deflected by a shield of light. Mara urged his armies on, but the Buddha’s virtuous protected him from all their attacks.
Victory at last
During this struggle that happened in his mind, Gautama 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, they will be happy.”
Mara visited Gautama one last time, still trying to confuse him. He asked Gautama, “How can you prove that you are worthy to become an Enlightened One? What are your virtuous deeds? Who is your witness?”
Calmly the seated Gautama touched the earth with his right hand. The Earth Deity thundered, “I am his witness!” Defeated, Mara fled.
During the full-moon night in May, Gautama went into deep meditation. As the morning star appeared in the eastern sky, he became an Enlightened One, a Buddha.
He was no longer Siddhartha Gautama the Prince. He looked the same, yet one could see about him the signs of a Perfect One. His body glowed with golden light and emitted the colours of the rainbow. The heavens rained down perfumed blossoms and the earth trembled.
He was thirty-five years old. From now on he would be known as the Buddha, the Enlightened One. He realized that all beings could do what he had done. He exclaimed, “How wonderful! All beings can become Buddhas.”
Under the Bodhi Tree
The Buddha remained in deep meditation below the tree because he was free at last. The he stood up and 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.
collect by Sakya Hanh Tri