Friday, April 9, 2010

Siddhartha’s first journey to Rajgriha

Siddhartha disturbed by the agony caused by life, age, sickness and death left his palace in the middle of the night to seek truth about life and to get past the stress of life. Shramanic traditions were a popular ritual those days which emancipated from the cycle of birth and death and thus following is those rites and rituals he began his ascetic life, he left the comfort of a princely life and abandoned the privileges of married life; once out of his palace, he cut his hair and exchanged his royal clothing with that of a huntsman he met on the road.

He was in search of a teacher who can guide him on his path of understanding the meaning of life. He traveled south from Kapilavastu; completing various legs of his journey in search of a teacher. He stopped at Vaishali and acquired teachings from Arada Kalama and then continuing south he reached Rajgriha the capital of Magadha and the centre of social fermentation and Shramana movement.

In Rajgriha, he chose the foothills of Pandava hill to actively pursue solitary meditation. Siddhartha, now an ascetic had left the glitters of the princely state behind but the beauty and grace of his Shakyan heritage couldn’t leave him. His radiant and elegant mannerisms gathered much attention and during his alms round into the city people were curiously attracted to his conspicuous radiant looks. It was tough for a royal blood to hide away in forest for very long and by word of mouth the news of his presence in the area reached king Bimbisara. Bimbisara was very impressed with his stately presence and the calm and composed manners; he had the virtuous combination of royal inheritance and the dedication to follow the path to his destiny, and that made him irresistible for anybody operating in any capacity whether it was a king or a monk. Bimbisara did everything in his power to keep Siddhartha in his state, he offered to fight for him or even offered half his kingdom, but Siddhartha eloquently declined each offer explaining that these are the very things that he wants to break free from in his search for cure from the miseries of life.

His response is now preserved as the Pabbajjā Sutta (the going forth) (SN.vs.405 24)

"Straight ahead, your majesty,

By the foothills of the Himalayas, is a country consummate in energy & wealth,

Inhabited by Kosalans: Solar by clan, Sakyans by birth

From that lineage I have gone forth, but not in search of sensual pleasures

Seeing the danger in sensual pleasures

— And renunciation as rest —

I go to strive. That's where my heart delights."

Bimbisara being a man of virtue and wisdom himself knew the conviction in Siddhartha’s words and so he didn’t try to persuade him any further but managed to secure a promise that once Siddhartha is well on his way on the path of enlightenment, he would come back to Magadha and visit with him. (SNA.ii.386)

Siddhartha continued to live in Rajgriha for the following few months while learning from Rudraka. He was a very sharp student and a keen learner and very soon he mastered the doctrine that Rudraka was preaching. Rudraka was a teacher based in Rajgriha and had about 700 disciples; once he realized the potential of his brightest student he offered him the leadership of the group but Siddhartha found these teachings very transitory and the leadership of the group before actually achieving his goal too limiting. So, he bid farewell to Rudraka and continued on his journey in search of the path to enlightenment and with him left five of his important disciples. They must have seen the limitation of Rudraka’s teachings and felt that Siddhartha would eventually figure it out and thus began the series of followers of Siddhartha even before he attained Buddhahood and the number of followers of his teachings hasn’t stopped growing even millennia after his Mahaparinirvana.

Next Post: Siddhartha returns after becoming Buddha


Branko said...

Dear sir, at the page:

of your blog, the link "Pandava hill":

is broken


Deepak Anand said...

Thanks for pointing it out, the link is now restored to the area map.