1

Subject sounds simple, but let me explain why I'm asking. So Gautama joined the ascetic lifestyle and lived it to the most extreme. Then it dawned on him that he would eventually die never finding out the cause/solution to suffering.

Accounts I've seen then vary: He then got up and went begging in a village, other accounts say a farm boy with cattle found him and offered him food, and then there's that story of Sujata with the rice milk which Siddhartha accepted. Going a little further on the last account, he divided the rice milk into 49 potions for the next 49 days, after which he got up and went to the Bodhi Tree where he attained enlightenment. Usually the different stories I read have one or a mix of these events.

Now here's where I'm confused. By this point, the Future Buddha had tried extreme mortification, realized that wasn't working, returned to eating to sustain his life, went under the Bodhi Tree, then makes the vow to not leave again until he finds the answer, EVEN til his body is dried and shriveled. How does the Middle Way operate in this part of the story? Isn't he just returning to that previous practice he renounced? What am I missing here?

I suppose my analysis of Buddha's life is probably disorganized, but there are certain events and the order in which I find them that I cannot reconcile and make sense in my mind. If anyone can better explain to me this, that would be most appreciated.

PS I've asked this elsewhere, and am getting some help, I'm just expanding the search.

3

By this point, the Future Buddha had tried extreme mortification, realized that wasn't working, returned to eating to sustain his life, went under the Bodhi Tree, then makes the vow to not leave again until he finds the answer, EVEN til his body is dried and shriveled.

The ascetic practices he did were the methods he thought would lead to some spiritual attainment. He thought that not eating and making his body weak could have some benefit.

Going to the Bodhi tree and not leaving is not a method. He didn't think that the act of not leaving the shades of a certain tree was a particularly interesting practice on its own merit.

The vow is interpreted not as asceticism, but as resolution or commitment. Whether he really meant that he would die under the tree we can't tell, but by the time he took food, it's clear that he was giving up the idea of trying to inflict pain in his body as a means to spiritual progress. Finally, it's clear that the practices he undertook under the tree were not ascetic in nature.

  • I see, so if I understand correctly, Buddha did not commit to sitting under the tree until he attained, but he did in fact leave occasionally when necessary? – Pattidharma Apr 13 '17 at 21:14
  • @Pattidharma in the suttas, he says he selected that location understanding it was next to a village were he could get alms. – Thiago Apr 14 '17 at 2:25
  • That makes sense to me, I'm in the process of concluding that I've been in times past listening to somewhat more fanciful accounts of the Buddha. – Pattidharma Apr 15 '17 at 16:36
1

The story you're recounting comes from the Jataka tales.

I think some of these tales may be exaggerated or fanciful -- see Does Theravada Buddhism accept Jataka Stories? -- or metaphorical (e.g. as Thiago wrote the "vow" implies resolve, not ascetism).

What may be a more reliable (and less supernatural) account is in the Ariyapariyesana Sutta (MN 26), which for example I mention in this answer and based on which I concluded "no asceticism".

"No asceticism" is consistent with SN 56.11, when the Buddha taught the doctrine of the "middle way".

  • So Buddha did not starve himself again but did eat and took care of his body after realizing his previous practice wasn't working? – Pattidharma Apr 13 '17 at 21:19
  • I think so: according to MN 26, he decided that Uruvela was a good place for exertion partly because it had "villages for alms-going" nearby. – ChrisW Apr 13 '17 at 21:26
  • And MN 36 describes his reaching enlightenment, "when I had taken solid food and regained strength". – ChrisW Apr 13 '17 at 23:23
1

No. The Buddha did not return to asceticism or ever recommend asceticism to his monks.

The phrase you are citing is found in many suttas & refers to the arousal of energy.

Āraddhavīriyo viharati: ‘kāmaṃ taco ca nhāru ca aṭṭhi ca avasissatu, sarīre upassussatu maṃsalohitaṃ; yaṃ taṃ purisathāmena purisavīriyena purisa­pa­rakka­mena pattabbaṃ, na taṃ apāpuṇitvā vīriyassa saṇṭhānaṃ bhavissatī’ ti

Here, a bhikkhu.. has aroused energy thus: ‘Willingly, let only my skin, sinews and bones remain, and let the flesh and blood dry up in my body, but I will not relax my energy so long as I have not attained what can be attained by manly strength, energy and exertion.’

AN 8.13; SN 12.22; SN 21.3

  • 1
    That "manly strength" is Vīrya. – ChrisW Apr 13 '17 at 20:42
  • So if I understand correctly, check me here, whenever I'm reading certain story versions of the Buddha, am watching a documentary or movie about the Buddha, and I find him making this vow, the vow is being imposed on him by the "creative license" of others? – Pattidharma Apr 15 '17 at 16:32
0

The Buddha advocates a life of mild, in the middle, asceticism but that doesn't mean a practitioner can't practice in an extreme way when it is deemed appropriate to do so when the practitioner knows well the middle way foundation.

There are core teachings of the Buddha's that he repeated many times in many different ways. Look to those core teachings to discern for yourself what is the real teaching when the teachings are seeming ambiguous and possibly corrupted.

  • 1
    But what did he do? He started extreme, found it didn't work, began eating and being healthy, then after going to the Bodhi Tree, vowed to not leave until he attained his answer. To me this sounds inconsistent, so I'm trying to figure this out. – Pattidharma Apr 13 '17 at 18:02
  • @Pattidharma There are core teachings of the Buddha's that he repeated many times in many different ways. Look to those core teachings to discern for yourself what is the real teaching when the teachings are seeming ambiguous and possibly corrupted. – Lowbrow Apr 13 '17 at 18:23
  • 2
    (sigh) I'm not in this post examining teachings so much rather I'm trying to plot out the course of events. I think you misunderstood the point of the question. Thank you however for your replies. – Pattidharma Apr 13 '17 at 18:57
  • @Pattidharma I am saying anyone who says they know, they can't really know the exact order of events at all but they can discern what is most likely to be the truth, from understanding the core teachings. You want to know what someone else discerns or what you discern? I am just saying :) – Lowbrow Apr 14 '17 at 1:55
  • @Pattidharma (sigh) Come to McBuddha's were we make the answers your way!,(sigh) oh the pain of raw truth! (Sigh) nothing fake going on here! Are you thanking me as a formality or are you actually being genuine? – Lowbrow Apr 14 '17 at 13:08
0

There was a conflict with (Buddha's brother in Law(?) or cousin) Devadatta (see the Devadatta-suttas). Devadatta tried to become chief of the sangha instead of the aged Buddha; and to collect adherents/followers he claimed 5 (?) stronger ascetic rules. Because there was this conflict at all, thus the Buddha must have had milder ascetic rules and according to the transmission in the suttas, he had refuted that radicaler asceticism rules (but allowed them as individual training). So I would put the answer to your question

Did Buddha Return to Extreme Asceticism?

saying no .
Which does not mean that he wouldn't have left the leading disciple Mahakassapa in peace when this old man went aside into the forests to stay alone and feasting as he wished (see the nice Gosinga-forest sutta). He allowed a spectrum of behaves - as long as that specific behave leaded to emancipation, liberation and ceasing of dukkha.

0

These different descriptions, depended on what level you are able to understand, are all correct, or valid. The abstaining from food to starve like only a pair of skeleton - the practice of White Skeleton visualization, they have intrinsic meanings. The consumption of rice-milk - the Great Ch'an Patriarch Huineng said it's in fact the Milk of Vairocana. The full practice of White Skeleton kept in one of the Chinese Sutras translated by Kumarjiva has similar analogy. Vowed to sit under the Bodhi tree until enlightened else never rose from the seat, indicates but his determination, not a self-torture. I don't see there is anything what you termed Extreme Asceticism before or after.

Now in the Tibetan tradition, there is part of similar progress of Milarepa's practice. He dwelt in the mountain years (7 years?) without clothes and foods, eating only nettle leaves. On the verge of dying he opened his teacher's sealed bag, in it held the last words of his deceased teacher only can be read at emergency, it said "good food is the key (to pass the final stage)".

Abstain from food is not (aimed to do) a self-torture or to weaken the body, what's the use these to enlightenment by inflicting pain on oneself and with a weak body + bad health?? It's a practice, it's part of the whole enlightenment process. I don't think it's simple to explain here with so many terms and concepts not available in general understanding.

I've never read anywhere about 49 potions for the next 49 days or He then got up and went begging in a village, are you sure this is correct and authentic? There are too many incorrect stories floating in the internet, I suggest you read the original Sutras if possible, not too rely on those articles written by some who-know-whom.

  • For the begging I was talking about, I didn't have the source at the time, but ChrisW knew I was refering to according to MN 26 when Buddha decided to go to Uruvela near alms giving villages. – Pattidharma Apr 18 '17 at 1:08
  • As for the 49 deal, I can't exactly recall where I got that. I know there's a tale of Sujata and the rice milk, probably more legend/fable, Buddha did meditate for 49 days after, so maybe redactions to the accounts were made, but again I CANNOT SAY. You'd know better I feel. – Pattidharma Apr 18 '17 at 1:08
  • 49 deals/days, the potion is not important, the number 49 is important. A significant cycle of this world is 7, and it's multiple. (Smaller cycle is 3). What caught your attention is what you need to know at this moment however, to learn knowledge advancing one's practice, it's more useful to look for the deeper meanings, instead of stuck at if Buddha was doing it according/against his own principles ;) – Mishu 米殊 Apr 18 '17 at 8:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.