THE BEGINNINGS OF
32.1 Another Great Bodhimanda - Jetavanna
When the Buddha returned to
Rajagaha, a wealthy merchant of Savatthi called Anathapindika came
to see him. Being converted, he bought the land from Prince Jeta with
as much gold as would cover the ground and built houses for the Buddha
and his order. The place was well-known to be Jetavanna Grove.
The Bamboo Grove in Rajagaha, the capital of Magadha and the Jetavanna
Grove in Savatthi, the capital of Kosala were the two important Bodhimandala,
where Shakyamuni Buddha spoke of many sutras. Both places were large
and located at the two new cultural centres along the Ganges in India.
Thereafter, Shakyamuni preached actively around 600 km between the
During his 45 years of preaching, except the 4-month raining season in each
year, Shakyamuni used to travel from cities to cities, countries to
countries to disseminate the Buddhist Dharma with his disciples.
32.2 Peaceful and harmonized development of
For 45 years the Buddha moved from place to place in north-eastern part of
India. As the Order expanded and the preaching continued, none was refused.
In our history nearly all the founders
of most religions had been inevitably suppressed by others especially
the ruling power. Buddhism is perhaps the only exception. Shakyamuni
Buddha never came across the suppression in his life. It was because
the Indian people loved peace and the Buddha's teaching was no extremes
- the Middle Way. Apart from the debate in doctrines, Buddhism had
no bloody struggles and violent disputes with other religions. Shakyamuni
never looked down upon other religions. He asked his disciples who
used to be the worshippers of other religions, to respect their original
religions too. It has always been the traditional spirit in Buddhism.
However, it was recorded in history that the Buddha were calumniated
by other religious groups twice. Both of them accused the Buddha of
having sexual misconduct. The fraud was easily seen through by the
Buddha, causing insignificant adverse effect in the development of
Buddhism. On the contrary, the threat came from the internal split
of the Sangha Order, started by one of Buddha's disciples, Devadatta.
32.3 The Split of Sangha Order
As the Buddhist teaching stressed on democracy and freedom, it can be easily
manipulated and misinterpreted by others to create crisis and confusion. The
rapid growth of the Buddhist order was another reason to give rise to the
split of the Sangha Order.
Devadatta, the cousin of the Buddha, became disciple of Shakyamuni when
Shakyamuni once returned to his mother country. However, for years, Devadatta
was not well-respected and unable to one of Sangha leaders or chief disciples.
With the support of Ajatasattu,
the son of King Bimblisara, Devadatta managed to cause a split in
the Sangha, and requested the Buddha to transfer the power to him.
The Buddha told him that the disciples followed his teaching, not
followed his own person. Having failed to acquire the power, Devadatta
plotted to kill the Buddha. He failed again.
He then persuaded a number of Bhikhus to leave. The Buddha sent
Moggallana and Sariputta to preach to them, and they returned to the
Order. Later Devadatta repented and was received into the Order again.
32.4 Woman admitted to the Order
Although the Buddha said that women would understand his highest
teaching, he did not want to create an Order of Bhiksuni, because
he knew it would materially shorten the "dwelling" life of the Buddhist
religion. But later on, he agreed to admit the women to the Order.
After King Suddodana (Shakyamuni's father) died, Mahapajapati (Shakyamuni's
step mother) cut off her hair, and came to see Shakyamuni Buddha in
the yellow robes of the Order. Again, the Buddha refused. Through
the insistence of Ananda, Mahaprajapati eventually gained admission
and became the first Bhiksuni in the Order. As the Buddha said, the
Order of Bhiksuni had not continued in the same way as the Sangha,
thus it was established under more strict rules.
32.5 The death of Shakyamuni
In the last retreat, the Buddha
was ill. Ananda was alarmed and expressed his hope that the Buddha
would not die until he had established the system of the Order. However,
the Buddha reiterated that one should take refuge to oneself, not
to any external one, and take refuge to the Dharma too.
The Buddha recovered from his illness. However he told Ananda that within
three months he would pass away.
Thereafter, the Buddha went to Pava Village in Mallas and stayed at the Mango
Grove of Cunda, who prepared a special meal for the Buddha.
It is sometimes said that the Buddha died because of the indigestion of eating,
Sukara-maddava (literally means pig's flesh). Having eaten the meal,
the Buddha urged Ananda to go to Sala Grove in a village called Kusinara.
The Buddha lay down peacefully on his right side with two legs one
on the top of the other. The Buddha comforted Ananda and said, Nothing
in the world is permanent. Work out your own salvation with diligence.
During the last moments of the Buddha's life, Subhadra, a Brahman
of age 120, came and requested the Buddha to break up his doubt. He
was the last disciple to be converted by the Buddha. That evening,
the Buddha entered Nirvana.
32.6 The Cremation and Relics
The Buddha passed away at the age of eighty. There was to be no more birth
or death for him. The physical body of Shakyamuni Buddha was cremated
with all the pomp and ceremony due to royalty. His relics were divided,
it was said, into ten parts, and given to the places where the Buddha
had lived and died. Stupas were erected over them for people to respect
Relics lead to pilgrimages in which people follow the footsteps of Shakyamuni
Buddha to liberate from sufferings and attain eternal happiness.