An insightful event from Shakyamuni's Life Right Before His Enlightenment
Before reaching the enlightenment, Shakyamuni Buddha (then known as Siddartha Gautam) focused all of his formidable powers of concentration to deeply observe his own body. That was the very time, he realized that each cell of his body was like a water drop endlessly flowing: Birth, Existence and Death. He couldnot find a thing on his body that was immune to changes. The river of his body intermingled with the river of the thoughts or feelings.
Feelings were too, flowing like a river in a process of birth, existence and death. These feelings were pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. Yet, they were all impermanent. Just like the cells of the body, they have a tendency to appear and disappear. With his great concentration, he then realized that the river of perceptions flows alongside the river of body and feelings.
If one’s perception were accurate, reality revealed itself in ease but with the erroneous perception, reality would be veiled.
People suffer from endless sufferings because of their erroneous perception.
- Which is to believe that Impermanent is Permanent!
- That which is without self is contains self
- Than which has no birth and death has birth and death!
Also, Gautama then himself became aware of the mental states which were the sources of sufferings:
Fear, Anger, Hatred, Arrogance, Jealousy, Greed and Ignorance.
He understood that these negative mental states were the results of ignorance which is the exact opposite of mindfulness.
It was then, he realized “The key of liberation would be to breakthrough ignorance and to enter deeply into the heart of reality and attain a direct experience of it.”
Gautama’s previous ways of eradicating fear, anger and pain did not work because those efforts only suppressed such feelings. But by now, he understood that the root cause was Ignorance. The only way to get rid of these mental obstruction was through liberation. This was his own insights from his deep concentration.
Significance of Bodhi Tree in Shakyamuni's Life
One day, he was looking at a Pippala (Bodhi) leaf imprinted against the blue sky, blowing back and forth with the wind. Even though we ordinarily think that a leaf is born in spring time, only Gautama could see that the leaf had been there since long time. It was there in sunlight, in rain, the clouds, tree. He could see that leaf had never been born and he too have never been born. They had simply manifested and were incapable of ever dying. With this insight, the idea of birth and death, appearing and disappearing all dissolved, as the true face of leaf and his own true nature were revealed.
Neither his body nor the leaf possessed the permanent self or an independent existence. He discovered the principles of interdependence non-self as the key to liberation. He said to himself:
“To accept life is to accept impermanence and emptiness of self. The source of suffering is a false belief in permanence and the existence of separate selves. There is neither birth nor death, production nor destruction, one nor many, inner nor outer, large nor small. All such concepts are wrong distinctions created by own intellects."
Many nights in row, Gautama meditated beneath the same Bodhi Tree, shining in the light of his awareness of his body, mind and all the universe. This great Bodhi tree was his great companion in practice.
And eventually one early evening, while meditating, Gautama had a deep feeling that he would attain the Great Awakening that very night. He had many strange but profound dreams following nights. One night he had dreamt of a great lotus growing from his navel and floated up to touch the clouds. Similarly, there were dreams of countless birds, of all the colors flocking towards him. All these dreams seemed to announce that the Great Awakening was nearby.
Early that evening, he did walking meditation, waded into the river and took a bath. And he returned to his seat underneath the Bodhi Tree.
He sat down in a lotus posture, with his eyes lightly closed and turned his awareness into his breath as the door to Enlightenment was about to be open. And he was about to attain the greatest liberation one has ever experienced, the ultimate Buddhahood.
This exclusive thangka of Shakyamuni Buddha was painted in Enlightenment Studio with this specific event in vision.
Using the subtle tones of natural stone colors, there is a significant portrayal of the Pippala (bodhi Tree and leaves) underneath where Shakyamuni is seated in a deep concentration.
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Source: Old path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh