Author Topic: 12 traditional turning points in the Buddha's life  (Read 11140 times)

Jessie Fong

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12 traditional turning points in the Buddha's life
« on: January 27, 2013, 12:52:31 PM »

1. His Promise to Take Birth in the Human Realm

Before the Buddha was born into this world as Shakyamuni, he was a bodhisattva in the Tushita heaven (home of the contented gods). His name there was Shvetaketu ("White Banner"). From here he witnessed the dark ages engulfing the human realm, leading to its spiritual impoverishment. Moved to compassion like a true bodhisattva, he vowed to manifest himself in the sentient world and relieve people from their sufferings.

2. Queen Maya's Dream
The bodhisattva's descent from the Tushita heaven occurred as a dream to Mayadevi. In this dream, a white elephant approached and touched her right side with its trunk. Through this symbolic act, the bodhisattva entered the womb of Mayadevi and impregnated her.

3. Birth of the Buddha
ccording to legend, Buddha was born from the right side of his mother. Immediately upon his birth, he stood up and took seven steps, and wherever his feet touched the earth lotuses sprang up. Raising his hand he said: "Worlds above, worlds below, there's no one in the world like me."

4. A Youth Dedicated to the Mastery of Learning and Athletics
As the son of the king, Siddhartha was provided with the finest upbringing. His life had ample quantities of both opportunity and security. He received the finest education and mastered all lessons taught to him. In his younger years, he excelled in sports and other contests of skill. The vigorous training befitted the grooming of a future monarch. He was said to particularly excel on the horse and with the bow.

5. The Skillful Conduct of Worldly Affairs
Narrative paintings depict him at court, consulting his experienced father in the skilful conduct of material affairs.

6. The Four Encounters
Having been warned by the court astrologers that his son may well give it all up and choose the path of meditation, Buddha's father tried his best to shield him from the harsh realities of life.

7. The Renunciation of Worldly Life
Having made the decision, Siddhartha requested his father to allow him to proceed in his quest for truth.

8. The Six Years of Austerities

Wandering in his search for enlightenment, Buddha came to a pleasant hermitage by a lovely stream, where, for six years, he joined five mendicants in a way of discipline based on progressively severe fasting. He ate a single grain of rice for each of the first two years, drank a single drop of water for each of the second two years, and took nothing at all during the last two. Consequently, his bones stuck out like a row of spindles, and when he touched his stomach, he could almost feel his spine. His hair fell out and his skin became withered.

9. The Defeat of Mara
Hearing this solemn vow, Mara, the Buddhist manifestation of death and desire, felt threatened. Mara's power over sentient beings originated from their attachment to sensuous pleasures and the consequent fear of death which lead to intense suffering. Enlightenment would free Siddhartha from Mara's control and provide an opportunity for others to free themselves also by emulating him.

10. The Proclamation of the Teachings
Having gained enlightenment, Gautama came to be called Shakyamuni, or the silent lion, indicating the explosive potential he carried within himself. He first went up to Sarnath near Varanasi where he met the five disciples with whom he had previously traversed the path of asceticism. Though they had deserted him after their failed experiment, the unearthly glow from his body now attracted them. Hearing his discourse, they became his first followers.

11. The Descent from the Trayatrimsa Heaven
Queen Maya, after her death, was said to have been reborn in the Trayatrimsa heaven. Having attained enlightenment, Buddha decided to ascend to the Trayatrimsa heaven, literally the heaven of thirty-three gods, to visit his mother. The name 'thirty-three' derives from the fact that it is the residence of the 33 gods of Hinduism, an ancient notion, having roots in Vedic thought. With three strides Buddha reached the heaven, where he preached before the divine congregation, including his mother, for several months.

12. The Passage into Parinirvana

Traveling great distances to disseminate his teachings, Buddha finally reached the city of Kushinagara, where he asked his disciples to spread a couch for him in a grove. He lay there, reclining on his right side, facing west, with his head supported by his hand.

Shakyamuni realized clearly that death was approaching. Towards midnight of the same day, the event known in Buddhist terminology as the Parinirvana, or "Final Nirvana," took place. It was a full-moon night and also his eightieth birthday. The Enlightened One passed through progressively higher planes of meditation until he attained entry into Parinirvana.


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Re: 12 traditional turning points in the Buddha's life
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2013, 10:14:32 AM »
Wow! Thank you Jessie for the wonderful and clear bio of the Buddha. I didint know some of it and was delighted to know more from this post. From having a luxurious life as a prince to an emaciated practitioner and all the obstacles that He went through is always awe-inspiring! The perseverance He has showed me how much I am wasting my lives in samsara. Nevertheless,  I am sure all of us aspire to be like Him!

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Re: 12 traditional turning points in the Buddha's life
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2013, 05:48:33 PM »
Thanks Jessie for this 'sweet and short' life story of Buddha. One of the most important turning point for Buddha was none other than the sixth in your list i.e. 'The Four Encounters' or more popularly referred to as 'The Four Sights'. These encounters were the reason prompted Buddha-to-be young prince Siddharta Gautama to take that most significant 'step' of mankind; to leave his luxury life in palace and thus led him to take the path of becoming Buddha.

Here are the detail accounts of each of the encounters or the 'sights':

The First Sight

One day, Siddhartha left the village in a chariot with a chariot driver. They came upon a rather decrepit, old man. Siddhartha was shocked at this sight. He asked the chariot driver who the man was and what was wrong with him. The driver explained the man was simply old and that all people experience old age in one form or another. This man was the first sight. Upset about what he saw, Siddhartha and his driver went back to their village.

The Second Sight

The next day, again, Siddhartha set out with the chariot driver, headed out of the village toward the city. They came upon a man who was sick and covered with sores, the second sight. Once again, Siddhartha questioned the chariot driver. The chariot driver explained the man is sick and that everyone can become diseased or sick at any time. Siddhartha became so deeply shaken that he and the driver return home right away.

The Third Sight

On the next trip out of the city on the third day, Siddhartha noticed a funeral procession, which is the third sight. He thought it was a parade but observed the participants looking sad and unhappy, as if they were suffering. Of course, he asked the chariot driver what was happening. The driver said that a person died and that all living beings will eventually die. Siddhartha went back to the village, devastated by what he had just learned about death, unhappiness, and suffering.

Dwelling on the pain and misery he observed, Siddhartha pondered. How could anyone ever live happily with all the sickness, death, and misery in the world? Furthermore, he wondered why anyone would want to be born or want others to be born into such a weary existence.

The Fourth Sight

On the fourth day, Siddhartha encountered a poor man (the fourth sight) who wandered the countryside without a home or material things. Siddhartha noticed the man looked quite peaceful and serene. The chariot driver described how the poor man abandoned a worldly life for a more tranquil existence. Siddhartha liked this idea. He pledged to live the rest of his life roaming in hopes of encountering wise men who could help him discover ways to end pain and misery. He also vowed to discover the true meaning of life. The next night, for one last time, Siddhartha looked at his wife and young son as they slept. Then he left on his quest for life's meaning and to discover how to end misery and pain.

These four sights, then, facilitated Siddhartha's "Great Departure"-his exit from living a worldly life. And so began Siddhartha's 50 years of Buddhist teaching and searching for truth, motivated by The Four Sights.


Jessie Fong

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Re: 12 traditional turning points in the Buddha's life
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2013, 06:01:10 PM »
The Great Departure

When Prince Siddhartha reached the age of thirty, it was imminent that his final decision of departure was now.  However, his father King Shuddhodhana took steps to prevent the prince from leaving the palace as he was getting to enthrone him as successor and heir.

The Prince went to bid farewell to his wife and newly born son.  Accompanied by his charioteer Chandaka they set forth on horseback. 

How did they manage to escape the guards of the palace?


DS Star

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Re: 12 traditional turning points in the Buddha's life
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2013, 10:33:46 PM »
How did they manage to escape the guards of the palace?

Exactly how?

Considering the very tight security and strong walls built by the King Suddhodana to prevent his son, the Bodhisattva Prince Siddharta from escaping the palace.

"So they encircled the city of Kapilavastu with seven walls and seven moats, and iron doors were put in each city gate. Very loud bells were attached to the doors, so that whenever the doors were opened, they could be heard up to a distance of a league around. They saw to it that the bodhisattva, in his palace, was constantly attended to by entrancingly beautiful women who danced, sang, and played instruments. Royal ministers, commanding armed men and riders, were posted outside on the walls, and they patrolled everywhere, keeping watch all around. Five hundred men were likewise stationed at the door to the bodhisattva's harem and ordered to sound the alarm in King Suddhodana's quarters
were that door to be opened." 

There are different versions of how the Bodhisattva escaped the tightly guarded palace, some very simple and others more elaborate. This version is the most interesting one:

"Now Indra, Brahma, and the other gods, knowing the thoughts of the bodhisattva, approached him and said: ... "Get up, get up, well-minded one! Leave this place and set out onto the world!
Upon reaching omniscience, you will save all beings."

The bodhisattva replied: "Do you not see, lndra? I am trapped in a net like the king of beasts. The city of Kapila is completely surrounded by a great many troops, with lots of horses, elephants, chariots, and very capable men bearing bows, swords, and scimitars ... "

Indra said: "Good sir, recall your former vow, and the past Buddha Dipa,ara's prediction, that having abandoned this world that is afflicted by suffering, you would wander forth from your home. We gods will arrange it so that you will be able to dwell in the forest this very day, free from all hindrances."

Hearing this, the bodhisattva was very pleased. Then Indra, Lord of the gods and causer of sleepiness, gave orders to Pancika, the great yaks?a general: "My friend, bring on sleep, and he bodhisattva will come down from his palace!" So he brought on sleep, and the bodhisattva came out.

Then, as had been prearranged by Indra, the bodhisattva came across his attendant Chandaka, and saw that Chandaka had succumbed to a deep sleep. With some effort, he managed to rouse him and spoke to him this verse:

"Ho! Chanda! Get up, and from the stable,
quickly fetch me Kanthaka,
that jewel of a horse;
I am determined to set out for the forest of asceticism
which previous Buddhas enjoyed
and which brings satisfaction to sages .... "

Then the bodhisattva, seeing that the king of horses, Kanthaka, stood ready, ... mounted him, and with Chandaka holding on behind, he flew up into the air. This was out of the bodhisattva's bodhisattva-power, as well as out of the divine power of the gods..."