“With the bow of meditative concentration I will fire the arrow of wisdom and kill the tiger of ignorance in living beings” Prince Siddhartha
Born to Queen Mayadevi and King Shuddhodana in 624 BC, the boy who would become the founder of the Buddhist tradition was named Siddhartha.
Prior to his birth, the Queen dreamed she was visited by a white elephant, who descended from heaven and entered her womb. This very night, the elephant told her, she had conceived a son who would be born a pure and powerful being, born of the Tushita Heaven, the Pure Land of Buddha Maitieya. When his birth came, the Queen experienced no pain, but rather had a vision. She saw herself standing, holding a tree branch in her right hand, while the gods Indra and Brahma took the child from her side.
The King was overjoyed at the birth of his son, and soon invited a Brahmin Seer to predict the prince’s future. It was said the Prince would be met with two choices. He could become a chakravatin king, a ruler of the world…or the Prince would become a fully enlightened Buddha.
In an effort to one day name him King, the prince was raised lavishly. No desire would be left unfulfilled, every material longing would be bestowed upon him. His father did his best to protect the young prince from the harshness of reality. Despite these efforts, however, Siddhartha would often visit the capital city of his father’s kingdom. It was here that he would first witness the cruelty and harshness of human suffering. He realized, no matter the station or the upbringing, no living being can be exempt from this affliction. Birth, sickness, aging, death…all are subject to such things. Upon this realization, he came to understand, through his belief in reincarnation, that suffering is endless, that we are trapped within a vicious cycle. Overcome with compassion, he made the decision to leave his royal trappings for the solitude of the forest. In the quiet, with nature, he would be able to engage in profound meditation, where enlightenment could be obtained.
The King was, of course, not happy with such decisions. In an effort to persuade his son to stay, he sought out a suitable bride for his prince. By this time, Siddhartha had already come to the conclusion that objects of attachment could only lead to more suffering. He maintained his decision to leave the palace, but in an effort to honor his father and the people of the kingdom, he did agree to the marriage arrangement.
In spite of the lavish lifestyle bestowed upon him by his royal family, a 29-year-old Siddhartha would come to use his powers to throw the palace guards into a deep sleep, allowing him quiet escape into the night, where he would find an ideal spot on meditation, not far from Bodh Gaya near India.
For six years it was here the young prince would remain. His training was in the practice of “space-like concentration”, knowing this was the next step on his path to enlightenment. Feeling he was close to obtaining his goal, he rose to travel to Bodh Gaya, where he would come to sit beneath the infamous Bodhi Tree. Taking his meditative posture, he vowed not to rise until he had obtained perfect enlightenment.
During this time, Devaputra Mara, chief of all demons, tried to disturb Siddhartha’s meditations, first through fear, then through worldly temptation. His attempts were in vain. By maintaining his concentration in spite of the attacks, Siddhartha was able to overcome the demon, ultimately defeating all demons of this world. It is this victory that would have him come to be known as a “Conqueror Buddha”.
Siddhartha continued his meditation throughout the night. At dawn, he attained the varja-like concentration, known as the very last mind of a limited being. By reaching this point in his journey, Siddhartha was able to remove the stubborn veils of ignorance from his mind and in that freedom from ignorance, full enlightenment was achieved, and our Prince became a Buddha.
“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” Buddha