According to tradition, the
historical Buddha lived from 563 to 483 B.C., although scholars postulate that he may have
lived as much as a century later. He was born to the rulers of the Shakya clan,
hence his appellation Shakyamuni, which means “sage of the Shakya clan.” The
legends that grew up around him hold that both his conception and birth were
miraculous. His mother, Maya, conceived him when she dreamed that a white elephant entered her right side. She gave birth to him in a standing position
while grasping a tree in a garden. The child emerged from Maya’s right side
fully formed and proceeded to take seven steps. Once back in the palace, he was
presented to an astrologer who predicted that he would become either a great
king or a great religious teacher, and he was given the name Siddhartha (“He
who achieves His Goal”). His father, evidently thinking that any contact with
unpleasantness might prompt Siddhartha to seek a life of renunciation as a
religious teacher, and not wanting to lose his son to such a future, protected
him from the realities of life.
34" Large Superfine Shakyamuni Buddha from Nepal
It would be unjustified to speak of Shakyamuni and
not talk about the famed twelve deeds. The twelve deeds are the twelve major
activities of Lord Buddha. To understand clearly, the deeds can be divided into
three important phases:
These have been elaborated below as the twelve
1. Descending from Tushita Heaven
2. Entering into his mother's womb
3. Birth in the garden of Lumbini
4. Training in the sciences
5. Achievement in sports competition
6. Enjoying the palace and marriage
7. Renouncing the life of a prince
8. Practicing austerity for six years, then renouncing
9. Obtaining victory over the Maras
10. Enlightenment under the
11. Turning the wheel of
12. And passing into
Different Buddhist traditions have different
understandings of the extraordinary activities of the Buddha. As the
Mahayana tradition, Lord Buddha came to the world as a tenth-bhumi bodhisattva.
He made the final transition to perfection, the eleventh bhumi, and complete
The Twelve Deeds of the Buddha, explained as
Before coming to Earth, Buddha was believed to
be preaching to the gods in the heavenly realm of Tushita. This realm is where
the fortunate beings receive precious dharma teachings and practices.
His spiritual aspiration and accumulation of
spiritual merit from his countless previous lives finally came to complete
fruition when he attended Buddhahood.
Wooden Lord Shakyamuni Buddha
As time passed by, Buddhas of the ten directions
inspired him for his final step of Buddhahood to benefit all sentient
beings. It was heard in the form of music in the sky. This
was the sound of the original prophecy made by Buddha Dipamkara that
he would become Shakyamuni Buddha.
Perfection of Wisdom Sutra in Eight Thousand Lines,
Shakyamuni Buddha said:
"So it is, O
Gods! So do I, when I met a Tathagata, Dipamkara, in the bazaar of
Dipavati, the royal city, possess the fullness of this perfection of
wisdom, so Dipamkara, a Tathagata, predicted one day I am to
be fully enlightened, and said to me, "You, young Brahmin,
in this future period, after incalculable aeons, become a Tathagata, Shakyamuni
by name, endowed with knowledge and virtue, Well-Gone, a world-knower,
unsurpassed, tamer of beings to be tamed, teacher of gods and people, a
Buddha, a Blessed Lord!"
Lord Buddha was reigning in Tushita Heaven as
a spiritual leader. So, he passed over his spiritual responsibility
to Maitreya Bodhisattva and prophesied him to be the future Buddha. He
then descended to earth from the heavenly realm. This took place with the
five specific observations on location, caste, father, mother, and Time. When
all the five aspects were appropriate, he came down to the world and entered
into the mother's womb. While the mother was dreaming of a white baby elephant
with six tusks, Buddha entered her womb.
The pregnancy was a pleasant experience for his
mother. Her mind was filled with tremendous joy. Buddha spent
ten months in the womb as a symbolic representation of completing the
tenth-bhumi level of a bodhisattva. And finally, his mother traveled from the
palace toward her parent's home to give birth. On the way, she stopped in a
forest in Lumbini and spontaneously placed her hand on the branch of
a tree. And when the time was right, Buddha miraculously came
out from under her right arm without causing her any discomfort.
(Made in Nepal) Shakyamuni Buddha Seated on Elephant Throne
As soon as Buddha was born, gods and heavenly
beings offered him special baths. He took seven steps in each of the four
directions. With each step, a natural lotus flower arose.
The time of Buddha's birth coincided with the
rising of a special star named Gyal. Buddha pointed his finger up toward
the sky and said, "I am the supreme being in the world."
At that exact moment, all kinds of flowers
blossomed, Earth shook gently, and the sky was lit up in a golden color. According
to the Tibetan history book The Blue Annals, the Emperor of
China and his attendants were looking at the West exactly at the same time.
They saw an unusual, golden color in the sky. The amazed Emperor consulted with
a wise man about the incident. And he indicated that a perfect being was born
there in the West. The sky's golden color was the aura of that perfect
being. The same book mentions, this event occurred in the Year of the
Buddha's father consulted an ascetic wise man who
told him, "This child is a remarkable child. If the child
renounces the kingdom, he will become a buddha. And if he remains in the royal
kingdom, he will rule the world." Buddha's father did not know
what it means to be Buddha. But he hoped his son would become the ruler of the
world. Seven days after his birth, her mother passed away. He was nursed
by thirty-two surrogate mothers.
Buddha studied many subjects such as the arts,
letters, and science with many teachers. He surpassed all of them.
One day his father consulted his advisors regarding his marriage.
They recommended that he marry one of the Shakya clan. However, Buddha
stated that he was going to marry a very special woman. She was the one who was
free from the five defects and possessed the eight qualities. The
father was concerned that he might not be able to find such women.
Still, he sent a search party to look for a woman, they finally found one. She
was the daughter of a skilled archer.
47" Large Shakyamuni Buddha from Nepal
But when Buddha's father asked for her hand, the
daughter's father refused. He said, "My
daughter shall marry someone with talent in archery, and since your
son is a royal prince who has no such skill, the marriage will not work."
The king was very disappointed at this refusal and told Buddha what had
happened. Buddha assured him there was no problem; he would compete with
everybody in all areas of sports. Hearing him speak with such confidence,
his father was very proud and he organized a huge competition to take place.
Buddha competed in every sport and was victorious
in them all. Archery was the final event. All the skilled archers placed their
targets at a certain distance. The daughter's father placed his target farther
than anyone. Then it was Buddha's turn and he placed his target even farther
away. It was right in front of a line of nine sandalwood trees. When he
shot his arrow it hit the target, penetrating through all nine sandalwood
trees, and disappeared into the ground. Springwater came out of that spot
in the ground and became a small pond.
Buddha then married her as a skillful means to
silence those heretics who might accuse him of being a eunuch. His wife later
gave birth to a son. Buddha dwelled in the royal palace and enjoyed marriage
and his life as a prince. Celestial sound in the form of music reminded him to
completely abandon ordinary life. He understood it to be the result of his
former resolve to seek enlightenment. As a consequence, Buddha went outside the
palace and saw the suffering of birth, old age, illness, and
death. Finally, he saw a peaceful monk meditating, and he said, "That's
what I want to be".
Two Feet High Shakyamuni Buddha From Nepal
12" Shakyamuni Buddha from Nepal
In Bodhgaya, Indra incarnated as the grass
merchant Svastika. Buddha took some grass from him and prepared a mat for
himself. He sat on the mat at the foot of the bodhi tree. He promised to sit
there steadfastly until reaching complete enlightenment. At
dusk, he entered into a meditative absorption. This stage was
called "destruction of the forces of Maras."
His power of meditation reached everywhere. The
king of the Maras came in the form of a messenger and told him,
"The town of Kapilavastu has been
captured by Devadatta and the palace has been ransacked. All the
Shakya's were murdered. What are you doing here?"
Buddha answered, "I'm here in
order to attain perfect enlightenment."
Mara replied, "In order
to attain perfect enlightenment, you must have an enormous
accumulation of merit. You, a prince who just enjoys the royal life,
how can you attain such an accumulation?"
Buddha said, "You know, you
have merely done some ritual prayers and practices. And because of
that you've been born as a powerful Mara in the god realm. I have accumulated
two types of merit for countless numbers of eons. Why wouldn't I become a
perfect, enlightened being?"
Mara responded, “If that is so then, there
has to be a witness to such accomplishment. Where is your witness?"
And the Buddha touched his hand to the
ground: "The earth is my witness."
As soon as he said that, the Goddess Earth, gold in
color, rose halfway out of the ground. She hold a handful of minuscule
She then told Mara, "I could
count each and every one of the particles in my hand, but I could not
count how many times this great being has sacrificed his head and limbs for the
benefit of others. It is certainly the time for him to become a
completely enlightened being." So saying- she disappeared. Mara was
upset, and he went back and brought a whole army to attack Buddha. Buddha was a
now completely realized being, none of the attacks affect him. Not even the
slightest trace of hate existed in him. With his enormous power of compassion,
all the weapons were transformed into flowers. All the horrific
sounds came in the form of music.
Again Mara tried to seduce Buddha by appearing in
the form of seven beautiful women. Since Buddha had overcome all desire, Mara
was not able to cause even the tiniest special of desire to arise in him. Those
beautiful females all transformed into seven hags and made confessions before
him. Buddha forgave them all. At midnight it was time for him to enter
into meditation, and at dawn Buddha became a perfect, enlightened being. At
that moment, the earth gently shook again and a lunar eclipse
occurred. It was the full moon day of Vaisakha, the fourth month of the lunar calendar.
Immediately after his enlightenment, Buddha began
to preach but nobody understood. The time was not right, as nobody could hear
his teaching. He decided to go into silence for seven weeks. After seven
weeks, Brahma and Indra made a special request that Buddha should teach. Brahma
offered Buddha a thousand-spoked golden wheel. Indra offered a special white
conch shell that spiraled clockwise.
Buddha then saw that it was time to turn the wheel
of dharma. At that exact moment, the sound of Buddha's preaching were
heard on the entire universe. Buddha walked toward Varanasi. He knew
that because of aspiration prayers and virtuous karma coming together, his five
followers were his first disciples. But they were disappointed
by Buddha earlier. So, they decided to ignore him. But as Buddha
approached them, they couldn't help but go to receive him. Once they had
received him, they couldn't help but bow to him and ask for teaching.
Together with the five disciples, eighty thousand
gods came to Buddha's teaching. He gave the first sermon, which was
on the Four Noble Truths. Upon hearing the teaching three times,
all five disciples became Arhats. This was the first turning of the wheel
14" Wooden Lord Shakyamuni Buddha
The second turning of the wheel of dharma
was on the doctrine of emptiness. It took place on Vulture Peak Mountain
in Rajgir. Among the disciples were five thousand Arhats, five
hundred fully ordained nuns, and lay practitioners. There were also
celestial beings such as gods, and Gandharvas.
The third turning of the
wheel was primarily on the tantric doctrines. There
were numerous sutra teachings included in these sermons as well.
There were great Bodhisattvas, monks, gods, nagas, and other fortunate beings.
Buddha was thirty-five when he attained enlightenment.
And altogether he taught for forty-five years. At 80 years of age, he knew
that his time here on earth was coming to an end. He said to Ananda, “If
there are those who wish to truly practice, I would live for eons and
Buddha repeated that three times. But because of
the influence of Maras, Ananda was unable to hear. So he never made the
requests for Buddha to live a long life. Buddha could see that there was
nothing more he could do. Then an emanation of Mara appeared and requested
him to leave. Buddha promised to leave in three months. During this time, he
tamed and benefitted sentient beings. Then he went to Kushinagar. There he told
his fellow disciples to look at this perfect form of a Tathagata. "It
is as rare as the Udumbara flower"
He told them that all composite phenomena are
subject to decay. Even the perfect body of Buddha passes into Nirvana. He lay
down in the posture of a sleeping lion. At that very moment, the entire
universe system shook once again. For seven days, offerings were made
by gods and men. His body was prepared for cremation by his
fellow disciples. I t spontaneously burned and innumerable round
relics appeared. Those relics were divided into eight portions
and distributed to eight regions to be put into stupas.
33" Superfine Large Shakyamuni Buddha From Nepal
Those who lived at the time of the Buddha were so
fortunate. Usually, just by hearing Buddha's teachings,
they were liberated. He cannot be compared to any historical
human. The extraordinariness of Buddha is only really understood
by enlightened beings.
In the Vajrayana tradition, Buddha was already a
completely enlightened being when he came to the world. The tantric definition
is quite for ordinary beings to understand.
Buddhist Fasting Practice: The Nyungne Method of
Thousand Armed Chenrezig by Wangchen Rinpoche. Accessed at: https://silo.pub/buddhist-fasting-practice-the-nyungne-method-of-thousand-armed-chenrezig.html
Snellgrove, David L.,
Image of the Buddha. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1978.
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