Message Boards Message Boards

Insight and Wisdom

Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?

Toggle
In various lectures one hears the same account of Siddhartha's enlightenment under the bodhi tree: that begins with him sitting down and vowing to meditate till he gets to the reason of human suffering, followed by attempts by Mara to seduce him and then to attack him, and finally Siddhartha getting to the realization that attachment is at the core of suffering, etc. That has become the "official" story of Siddhartha becoming the Buddha. It is also visually portrayed in "The Little Buddha" movie from '93.

So my question is: where exactly is this story told in Buddhist scriptures? Is there any written account of it in any of the canons? If yes, where exactly?

RE: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
Answer
5/2/18 5:28 PM as a reply to empty.

RE: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
Answer
5/2/18 11:32 PM as a reply to Billy.
Sorry to hijack this thread, but I had a question. I feel like I've read this story several times over the years, but when I read it tonight I was confused by the order of the story. Can anyone shed some light on the below timeline described in the link?

(Did he really learn jhanas 1-7 and 8 from Alara and Uddaka? Or did he learn some other methods to enter directly into the last two formless realms? The way I read it, it seems like he hasn’t been in jhana since childhood and revisits these states only after he leaves Alara/Uddaka, becomes an ascetic, and renounces asceticism. Also, it doesn't explicitly mention the term jhana in the story until after he renounces asceticism, although I understand that the formless realms may not have been considered "jhanas" at the time.)

1. Leaves home and becomes homeless
2. Goes to Alara Kalama and learns the dimension of nothingness
3. Leaves after realizing this does not end suffering
4. Goes to Uddaka Ramaputta and learns the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception
5. Leaves after realizing this does not end suffering
6. Wanders in the countryside / the three similes
7. Practices with great striving, persistence, and asceticism but to no avail
8. Recalls accidentally getting into first jhana as a child and realizes this is the path to awakening
9. Abandons asceticism and regains his strength
10. Enters into jhanas 1 through 4
11. Remembers his past lives
12. Gains knowledge of the passing away and reappearance of beings according to their karma
13. Gains knowledge of the origination and cessation of suffering (becomes enlightened)

RE: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
Answer
5/3/18 7:35 AM as a reply to Jhana Baptist.
Good point, Jhana Baptist. I’ve also been confused by the order.

According to orthodoxy, he mastered the 7 jhanas under the first teacher, mastered one more under the second teacher, became disillusioned and did some ascetic practices, then had the memory of entering jhana as a child and realised the bliss of jhana is the way to go. The specific point I’ve always found confusing is, since he was clearly a master of the jhanas by this stage, and therefore should have fully understood their power and value possibly better than almost anyone (since both teachers offered him their positions), why did this rather basic realisation come to him so much later?!

It’s just one of many stumbling points I find in the Pali Canon and the traditional telling of his story. Frankly, it just highlights how important it is to take with a grain of salt that every single word in the entire canon is the word of the man himself or those who were there, and that it cannot possibly contain some contradictions, later alterations, or straight-up misrepresentations.

RE: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
Answer
5/5/18 2:42 AM as a reply to Peter S.
I think it's explained in the sutta actually where he says "I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation". I understand by this that he was applying insight to the pure concentration of the jhanas, so that's what was the important further step.

Conal

RE: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
Answer
5/5/18 5:38 AM as a reply to Conal.
Well said Conal.

RE: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
Answer
5/5/18 8:32 AM as a reply to Conal.
That's what I thought at first too, Conal. Then I noticed that he might be describing the jhanic factors of vitakka/vicara (applied thought/sustained thought) and how they fall off as one shifts up into 2nd jhana. The "evaluation" component could be read as the effort put into constantly making sure he is with the object of meditation (e.g. the breath) and that the jhanic factors are well balanced to counter the hindrances, and not necessarily an investigation into the 3 characterics. This effort of evaluation also falls off with entry into the 2nd jhana, as the state becomes somewhat self-sustaining ("internal assurance" as he puts it). It just seems like a sort of low-key/general description of what happens with the jhanic factors as he progresses through the jhanas:

"So when I had taken solid food and regained strength, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities, I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain. With the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, I entered & remained in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain. With the fading of rapture I remained equanimous, mindful, & alert, and sensed pleasure with the body. I entered & remained in the third jhana, of which the noble ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.' But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain. With the abandoning of pleasure & pain — as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress — I entered & remained in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. But the pleasant feeling that arose in this way did not invade my mind or remain."

RE: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
Answer
5/5/18 8:38 AM as a reply to empty.
Actually the version where Mara tempts the Buddha under the tree may be a commentarial version. I don't think it's in the sutta.

When the Buddha gives the account of his awakening in the suttas, he doesn't mention Mara (although Mara is mentioned in other contexts later after his awakening during his teaching career). He mentions only rising up the 4 jhanas, recollecting past lives, seeing the passing away and re-arising of beings in accordance with their kamma, and then awakening to the 4 Noble Truths.

RE: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
Answer
5/6/18 2:27 AM as a reply to Jhana Baptist.
Hi Jhana,

Yes, you may be right but he uses the "directed thought" language when describing how he attained the three knowledges.  In particular when describing the cessation of mental fermentations, so it seems to me that it was this approach when combined with the jhanic atainments that led to his enlightenment.

Conal

RE: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
Answer
5/6/18 5:57 AM as a reply to Jhana Baptist.
I guess my reply up thread was off. Anyway, my sense is that the buddha simply wasn't as interested in the higher jhanas as >the answer< by this time in his practice and rather he established the first four jhanas as a basis for insight.

RE: Buddha's enlightenment process in the scriptures?
Answer
5/6/18 6:29 AM as a reply to empty.