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澳 洲 湛 山 寺


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Buddha's Life Story


The Birth

Queen Maha Maya, chief queen consort of King Suddhodana of Kapilavatthu, had a dream where she envisioned a white elephant piercing her right side. Ten months later, on the full moon day of May, in the year 623 B.C., Prince Siddhartha was born in the Lumbini Park at Kapilavatthu, on the Indian borders of present Nepal where the Queen was on her way to her parental home in Devadaha. The prince, born perfectly clean, stood on his feet then took seven steps to the north. With each step a lotus flower sprang from the ground. He then proclaimed: "I alone am the World-Honored One." He pointed up with one hand and down with the other, to indicate he would unite heaven and earth. Eight Brahmin priests were called to read the auspicious signs and foretell the future of the child. Seven of them raised a hand with two fingers - indicating that he would either be a great world ruler or a Buddha. The youngest priest raised only one finger. This was Kondanna who later became one of the five ascetics.

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Young Siddhartha’s Compassion towards all living beings

One day Young Prince Siddhartha was walking in the woods with his cousin Devadatta, who had brought his bow and arrows with him. Suddenly, Devadatta saw a swan flying and shot the swan down. Both boys ran to get the bird. Siddhartha reached the swan's injured body first and found, to his surprise, that it was still alive. He gently pulled out the arrow from the wing then used some leaves to stop the bleeding. When Devadatta came to claim the swan, Prince Siddhartha refused to give it to him. Devadatta was very angry to see his cousin keeping the swan away from him. After much quarrelling, Siddhartha suggested, "Let us go to the court of the Sage and ask him who really owns the swan." Devadatta agreed, so off they went to the court of the Sage. The Sage, hearing both boys' version of the story, said, "A life certainly must belong to he who tries to save it, a life cannot belong to one who is only trying to destroy it. The wounded swan by right belongs to Siddhartha."

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Young Prince Siddhartha

As the young prince matured, his father became ever more concerned that his son would abandon palace life. To distract and bind him to worldly life, the King built extensive pleasure gardens, surrounding him with every luxury and delight imaginable. The King ordered that Siddhattha was never to lay eyes on anyone seriously ill, very old, dying, or on a wandering holy man. He ordered a high wall to be built round the palace, including the pleasure garden. Thus, Siddhattha was kept confined in his golden cage. The Prince was given to introspection and his inquisitive nature led him to ask many questions. Though surrounded by luxury, eventually the pleasures of the royal household somehow seemed tasteless, fleeting and superficial. Trapped in a circumscribed world of idleness and pleasure-seeking, his intuition told him there was a dark side to life. Bored, restless and preoccupied with these feelings, he pondered what lay beyond the palace walls.

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The Great Departure

At the age of 29, Prince Siddhartha encountered the sight of an old man while out of the palace. Disturbed by this, when told that all people would eventually grow old by his charioteer Channa, the prince went on further trips where he encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse and an ascetic. Despite having all the luxuries any man who ever ask for, a beautiful wife, newborn son and a promise to rule the Kingdom, Siddhartha reflected, "Why do I, being subject to birth, decay, disease, death, sorrow and impurities, thus search after things of like nature. How, if I, who am subject to things of such nature, realize their disadvantages and seek after the unattained unsurpassed, perfect security which is Nibbana!" "Cramped and confined is household life, a den of dust, but the life of the homeless one is as the open air of heaven! Hard is it for him who bides at home to live out as it should be lived the Holy Life in all its perfection, in all its purity." Thus, in the silence of the night, Prince Siddhartha mounted his horse while the whole palace was in a deep sleep. Accompanied by Channa, he left the palace and the city of Kapilavatthu.

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The Great Renunciation

Once across the River Anoma, Prince Siddhattha cut off his hair, gave his regal finery to Channa and swapped his royal clothes for beggar’s clothes. Then he told Channa to take the horse, Kanthaka back to the palace. At first, both Channa and Kanthaka refused to go back, but Siddhartha insisted that he had to go on alone. With tears rolling down his face, Kanthaka watched as the prince walked out of sight.

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When news of Prince Siddhattha's renunciation was spread around Kapilavatthu, five of his friends renounced lay life and became wandering monks. Siddhartha sought guidance from two distinguished ascetics, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, gaining the final stage of rarified mental concentration. Yet, upon returning to normal consciousness, the end of suffering continued to elude Siddhartha. Realizing that the highest truth is only found within oneself, Siddhartha thanked his teachers then departed alone. Wandering to the shore of the River Neranjara, near the town of Gaya, he was reunited with his five companions and all settled there to undertake austerities. Siddhartha attempted the most extreme forms of self-torture, experimenting with every form of ascetic practice known in his day.

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The Great Offering

Six long and arduous years had passed - years of commitment to the traditional practices of painful self-mortification thought to be indispensable for deliverance from the round of rebirth. Yet, he was no closer to his goal. Siddhartha reduced his eating more and more until he ate nothing at all. By this stage, Siddhartha became very ill. A village girl named Sujata offered Siddharta some warm goat’s milk. Soon Siddhartha regained consciousness. Although abandoned by his five disciples who continued to practice asceticism, Sidhhartha realised that the way to enlightenment was not asceticism but the Middle Way- a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.

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The Enlightenment

Sitting under the Bodhi tree, Siddhartha vowed never to arise until he had found the Truth. As he meditated, Siddhartha let go of all outside disturbances, and memories of pleasures from the past. He let go of all worldly thoughts and turned his mind to finding the ultimate truth about life. He asked himself: “How does suffering start? How can one be free from suffering?” At first many distracting images appeared in his mind. But finally his mind became very calm, like a pond of still water. In the calm of deep meditation, Siddhartha concentrated on how his own life had began. First, Siddhartha remembered his previous lives. Next, he saw how beings were reborn according to the law of cause and effect. He saw that good deeds lead away from suffering to peace and happiness and that bad deeds lead to more suffering. Then he saw that the origin of suffering was our attachment. On the full moon of May in his 35th year, Siddhartha became the Buddha, the Supreme Enlightened One. (Deeper understanding of Enlightenment requires further study and practice).

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Buddha’s teachings

Having realised the Four Noble Truths - the Noble Truth of Suffering; the Cause of Suffering; the Cessation of Suffering; and the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering, the Buddha now decides to teach them to the five ascetics who had earlier served him at Uruvela, in Buddhagaya. The first discourse of the Buddha given to these monks is considered as "The Setting of the Wheel of Truth in Motion." The Buddha opened the teaching-session by exhorting beings to avoid the extremes of both self-indulgence and self-torture. Neither way leads to balance, to spiritual insight and perfection. The path of the Middle Way, of self-correction, when cultivated correctly and completely, will surely lead to the end of life's pain and frustration, to complete Enlightenment. This was His instruction to His five companions. As time went on, after gathering sixty enlightened arhat-monks, The Buddha addressed the monks: "Go forth, monks, and teach the Truth which leads to the end of dissatisfaction and to Perfect Peace and Freedom. Teach the Truth which is glorious in the beginning, glorious in the middle and glorious in the end. Go forth for the good of all beings. There are some whose eyes are not obscured by dust. Teach them. They will understand."

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The Monkey's gift of fruit

After staying at the Eastern Bamboo Grove for a while, the Buddha felt the need for a period of complete solitude and so he went to the forest near the village of Parileyya. The forest was a well-known haunt for wild animals and few people went there, and the Buddha was prepared to go without food in order to be completely alone for a while. He settled down at the foot of a beautiful sal tree and spent his time meditating. Even animals who encountered the Buddha recognised him as the Blessed One. A huge bull elephant appeared and placed the water it was holding in its trunk in the Buddha's bowl. A monkey also would pick fruit and each day bring it to the Buddha. With the help of these animals, he was able to spend time without having any contact with people.

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The Maha Parinirvana

After practicing for 49 years after His Enlightenment, the Buddha became physically ill so that he could teach those born into samsara about the suffering of impermanence to encourage them to strive for Nirvana. In His final moments, the Buddha gave His disciples a last chance to ask any questions. He asked them if any of them still had doubts about the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. But none of them had any doubts about the Triple Gem. With infinite compassion and wisdom, the Buddha’s final words were: “Monks, this is the last time for me to talk to you. All composite things pass away. Strive for your own liberation with diligence." The Buddha then entered into meditation, deeper and deeper, until his mind was purely balanced and steadily focused. He then passed away. Thus, the Buddha, the Blessed One, attained that final freedom known as Parinirvana.

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