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Sacred Pilgrimage

A sacred pilgrimage and spiritual center predating Lord Sakyamuni Buddha

Historians believe that great Hindu sage Kapila practiced penance and propounded Sankhya Darshan (an important oriental philosophy) here in ancient Kapilavastu. It is also the birthplaces of two earlier Buddhas (Krakuchhanda Buddha and Kanakamuni Buddha) before the advent of Lord Sakyamuni Buddha. Lord Sakyamuni Buddha visited Kapilavastu several times and preached five important suttas (sutras) at Kudan during his first visit to the kingdom after attaining the enlightenment.

The first nunnery, in the Buddhist history, was also established in Kapilavastu. Women from Sakya clan including Queen Prajapati Gautami (step-mother of Lord Sakymuni Buddha), Yasodhara (his wife) and other 500 Sakya women became the first nuns here in the Anceint Kapilavastu.

Pilgrimage to the area by Emperor Asoka in 3rd century BC, early Chinese travelers Fa-hsien and Hiuen Tsang (during 5th and 7th century AD respectively), and King Ripu Malla of western Nepal during 14th century AD signify the importance of the Ancient Kapilavastu as a center of pilgrimage from the ancient times till the medieval period. 

In Search of Wisdom and the Enlightenment of Prince Siddhartha as Buddha

Leaving the royal life behind, the prince entered into the world of penchant and uncertainty in order to seek the ultimate wisdom and moksha or release from the eternal cycle of birth and death. Barefooted and dressed like a mendicant, he wandered from place to place. He spent six years learning from the religious teachers and practiced austere fasting, holding breath for a long time and trying to tie the air into knots. Such self-mortification left him emaciated and enervated to the extent that at times he would fall senseless to the ground. By now Prince Siddhartha was known as Ascetic Gautama and he had five friends who supported him through his self-struggle. He strived to attain the apogee of self-realization with nadir of self- mortification. However, he got nothing out of it, the wisdom he sought remained subtle.

Now, the prince realized that self-mortification is not the way to moksha or release from the eternal cycle of sufferings. It dawned on him that the path of liberation was through the discipline of mind rather than starvation.

While the prince was meditating under the banyan tree on the bank of Niranjana river, a lady by the name of Sujata came to offer him rice pudding in a golden bowl. She had prepared the rice pudding, made from thick sweet milk with great respect and reverence. After having the lovely meal, the prince bathed in the Niranajana river. This was the last meal and bath he would have for seven weeks. But his five friends, who had been supporting him in his quest of wisdom, were disappointed as they thought the prince reneged from his higher pursuit and deserted him.

After the meal and bath the unfeigned prince went to Gaya and sat cross-legged under the banyan tree. He had a tenacious resolution that he would not leave this seat until the attainment of highest wisdom or supreme enlightenment that leads to the everlasting liberation from human sufferings.

It was full moon and according to the Buddhist scriptures, the ordeal of the prince during that auspicious night was divided into three parts. During the first part, the prince experienced intractable thoughts of craving, fear and attachment but unperturbed, he continued his meditation. Once the prince let these thoughts pass by he gained the power to recall events of his past lives.

In the second, the prince comprehended the impermanence of life and knowledge of death and rebirth of all living beings. In the third part of that night, the prince understood how to end human sufferings, old age and death. He also arrived at the three basic components of Dharma; the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path and the Middle Way. And, as the morning star rose in the sky, at the age of 35, Prince Siddhartha pierced the shell of ignorance and became the Enlightened One or Lord Sakyamuni Buddha, entering the living Nirvana ! The Enlightened One was in deep meditation under the Bodhi tree that transcended the experience of ordinary human being. And he saw the world as it was, not as it appeared to be. His mind and soul were so purified that six rays of different colors emanated from his body: blue, yellow, red, white, orange and the mixture of all five. Each of these five colors reflects probity of Lord Sakyamuni Buddha in the Buddhist flag; blue for peace and universal compassion, yellow for holiness, red for blessings of practice, white for purity, and orange for the wisdom.

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