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  • Thong Tri Temple

The Story of Buddha: The Middle Way (6)

Updated: May 30, 2022

September 27, 2020 | Equanimity {Upekṣā}


After leaving the palace, Siddhartha went from place to place in search of a master who had attained enlightenment. However, wherever he went, he simply could not find the liberation he was looking for.


The first distinguished ascetic he encountered was Alara Kalama. This teacher possessed the qualities of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom, and had realized a doctrine known as the sphere of nothingness, an advanced stage of concentration. Siddhartha was soon able to realize this same doctrine through his own wisdom and intuitive knowledge. Alara Kalama rejoiced in his student’s attainment of this doctrine and asked him to lead their spiritual community together on the same level as himself. Although Siddhartha was honored, he was not satisfied with a doctrine that only led to a high degree of mental concentration, but did not lead to “revulsion, detachment, cessation (of suffering), tranquility, knowledge, awakening, and Nibbana.”


Siddhartha politely took his leave from Alara Kalama and soon met Uddaka Ramaputta, another venerable ascetic who was more competent than the former. It was not long before Siddhartha mastered the final stage of this teacher’s doctrine, the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. Uddaka Ramaputta was delighted by his pupil’s success and elevated him even further than Alara Kalama had by asking Siddhartha to take full charge of all the ascetics under him with the illustrious teacher acting as a disciple as well.


Siddhartha declined because he still felt that he had not attained the Highest Truth, but he realized that it could not be attained with the help of others. It is to be found within oneself.


After taking leave of Uddaka Ramaputta, Siddhartha found a pleasant spot in the forest grove near a river, which seemed ideal for his meditation. A group of five mendicants joined him as he embarked on a life of ascetic techniques including breath control, fasting, and mind control. The bulk of his body was greatly reduced by this self-torture. His fat, flesh, and blood had all gone, and only skin and bone remained. One day, Siddhartha became exhausted and collapsed to the ground in a dead faint. A shepherdess who happened to pass there gave him milk to drink. He recovered his body strength slowly.


Siddhartha realized that Enlightenment could not be gained with an utterly exhausted body. He would have certainly died had he not realized the futility of self-mortification, and decided to practice moderation or the Middle Way. Siddhartha abandoned this painful extreme just as he had abandoned the extremes of self-indulgence at the palace. At this time, the five mendicants left Siddhartha, because they thought that with this change in philosophy, he had turned away from the holy life.


Well enough to fight in the last battle against the darkness of ignorance and desire, and bringing the light of enlightenment, Siddhartha came to sit in Samadhi under a Bodhi tree at Gaya and vowed, “I will not leave this place until I find a way to end all suffering.”


To be continued...


May you all be free from suffering and all the causes of suffering!


Namo Shakyamuni Buddha.


References:

“Chơn Lý,” Tác Giả Đức Tổ Sư Minh Đăng Quang (Language in Vietnamese)

“Phật Học Phổ Thông,” Tác Giả Hòa Thượng Thích Thiện Hoa (Language in Vietnamese)

“The Seeker’s Glossary of BUDDHISM,” Edited by the Van Hien-Study Group, Sutra Translation Committee of the United States & Canada

“A Simple Path – Basic Buddhist Teachings,” by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

“The Buddha and His Teachings,” by Venerable Narada Mahathera (Sri Lanka 1970), Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc.

"Kinh Tụng Hằng Ngày," Biên Soạn Thượng Tọa Thích Nhật Từ (Language Vietnamese)



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