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Jun 23rd
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Home History General The Buddha's Life - Right Reasoning

The Buddha's Life - Right Reasoning

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Article Index
The Buddha's Life
Noble and Ignoble Quests
Renunciation of Worldly Life
Meeting Alara, the Great Ascetic
Meeting the Sage Udaka
Practising Extreme Austerities
Mara's Persuasion
Right Reasoning
The Enlightenment
Giving First Sermon
Meeting with Upaka
Group of Five Monks
All Pages

Right Reasoning

After leading the life of extreme self-mortification for six years without any beneficial results, the Bodhisatta began to reason thus:

"Whatever ascetics or brahmins in the past had felt painful, racking, piercing feelings through practising self-torture, it may equal this, my suffering, not exceed it."

"Wherever ascetics or brahmins in the future will feel painful, racking, piercing feelings through the practice of self-torture, it may equal this, my suffering, not exceed it; whatever ascetics or brahmins in the present feel painful, racking, piercing feelings through the practice of self-torture, it may equal this, my suffering, not exceed it. But, by this gruelling asceticism I have not attained any distinction higher than the ordinary human achievement; I have not gained the Noble One's knowledge and vision which could uproot defilements. Might there by another way to Enlightenment apart from this path of torture and mortification?"

Then the Bodhisatta thought of the time when, as an infant, he sat alone under the shade of a rose-apple tree, entered and absorbed in the first jhanic stage of meditation while his royal father, King Suddhodhana, was busily engaged in ceremonial ploughing of the fields nearby. He wondered whether this first jhanic method would be the right way to the Truth!


The Bodhisatta was born on the full moon of Kason (April). It appeared that the royal ploughing ceremony was held sometime in Nayon or Waso (May or June) a month or two later. The infant child was laid down on a couch of magnificent clothes under the shade of a rose-apple tree. An enclosure was then formed by setting up curtains round the temporary nursery with royal attendants respectfully watching over the royal infant. As the royal ploughing ceremony progressed in magnificent pomp and splendour, with the king himself partaking in the festivities, the royal attendants were drawn to the splendid scene of activities going on in the nearby fields. Thinking that the royal infant had fallen asleep, they left him lying secure in the enclosure and went away to enjoy themselves in the festivities. The infant Bodhisatta, on looking around and not seeing any attendant, rolled up from the couch and remained seated with his legs crossed. By virtue of habit-forming practices through many lives, he instinctively started contemplating on the incoming, outgoing breath. He was soon established in the first jhanic absorption characterised by five features, namely, thought conception, discursive thinking, rapture, joy and concentration.

The attendants had been gone for some time now. Lost in the festivities of the occasion, they were delayed in returning. When they returned, the shadows thrown by the trees had moved with the passage of time, but the shade of the rose-apple tree under which the infant was left lying was found to have remained steadfast on the same spot. The infant Bodhisatta was sitting motionless on the couch. King Suddhodana, when informed, was struck by the spectacle of the unmoving shadow of the rose-apple tree and the still, sitting posture of the child. In great awe, he made obeisance to his son.

The Bodhisatta recalled the experience of absorption in the respiration jhana he had gained in childhood and he thought,

"Might that be the way to Truth?"

Following up on that memory, there came the recognition that respiration jhana practice was indeed the right way to Enlightenment.

The jhanic experiences were so pleasurable that the Bodhisatta thought to himself:

"Am I afraid of (trying for) the pleasures of jhana ?" Then he thought: "No, I am not afraid of (trying for) such pleasures."


Then it occurred to the Bodhisatta:

"It is not possible to attain the jhanic absorption with a body so emaciated. What if I take some solid food I used to take? Thus nourished and strengthened in body, I'll be able to work for the jhanic state."

Seeing him partaking of solid food, the group of five ascetics misunderstood his action. They were formerly royal astrologers and counsellors who had predicted, at the time of his birth, that he would become an Enlightened Noble One, a Buddha.

There were eight royal astrologers at the court then. When asked to predict what the future held for the royal infant, three of them raised two fingers each and made double pronouncements that the infant would grow up to be a Universal Monarch or an Omniscient Buddha. The remaining five raised only one finger each to give a single interpretation that the child would most undoubtedly become a Buddha.

According to the Mula Pannasa Commentary (Vol.2, p.92), these five court astrologers forsook the world before they got enchained to the household life and took to the forest to lead a holy life, but the Buddhavamsa Commentary and some other texts stated that seven astrologers raised two fingers each giving double interpretations while the youngest Brahmin, who would in time become the Venerable Kondanna, raised only one finger and made the definite prediction that the child was a future Buddha.

This young Brahmin, together with the sons of four other Brahmins, had gone forth from the world and banded together to form 'The Group of Five Ascetics' , awaiting the Great Renunciation of the Bodhisatta. When news reached them later that the Bodhisatta was practising extreme austerities in the Uruvela Grove, they journeyed there and became his attendants, hoping 'when he has achieved Supreme Knowledge, he will share it with us. We will be the first to hear the message.'

When the five ascetics saw the Bodhisatta partaking solid food, they misunderstood his action and become disappointed. They thought:

"If living on a handful of pea soup had not led him to higher knowledge, how could he expect to attain that by eating solid food again?"

They misjudged him; thinking that he had abandoned the struggle and reverted back to the luxurious way of life to gain riches and personal glory. Thus, they left him in disgust and went to stay in the deer sanctuary in the township of Benares.


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The Dhammapada

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