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Chapter 1.2

RLG206H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1.2: 6 Years, Mahapajapati Gotami, Bimbisara

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Christoph Emmrich

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.A Royal Pilgrimage Retraces the Life of the Buddha
Page 4-7
According to Buddhist legend, one of the greatest builders and worshippers of stupas and caityas was King Asoka
o King Asoka ruled as an emperor of all of India in the 3rd century B.C.E
o Most important monarch in the history of Buddhism
An inscription on a pillar tells us that Asoka personally visited Lumbini
o Lumbini = the place of Buddha’s birth
o The pillar still stands today
According to Sanskrit legend, Asoka built no less than 84,000 stupas all over India to enshrine the bodily relics of the
Buddha, which we collected and redistributed throughout his kingdom
For centuries, many pilgrimage sites in India and the beyond were thought to be centered on the monuments that Asoka
In the following legend (from the 2nd century), Asoka is portrayed as accompanying the Buddhist elder Upagupta
o Upagupta acts as Asoka’s guide on a tour to Lumbini and other 30 sites associated with events in the life of the
o King Asoka than prostrated himself in front of the elder Upagupta and said, “It is my desire to venerate the
places where the Blessed Buddha lived, and to mark them with signs as a favor for people in the future”
o Upagupta first took King Asoka to the Lumbini Wood.
o Upagupta said, “The Blessed One was born… This is the first of the caityas of the Buddha whose vision is
unsurpassed. Here, as soon as he was born, he took 7 steps, and looked upon the earth in 4 direction and uttered
these words, ‘this is my last birth, my last sojourn in a womb’”
o King Asoka gave 100,000 pieces of gold to the birthplace of the Buddha, built a caityas there, and went on
o Upagupta then took King Asoka to Kapilavastu
o Upagupta said as he stretched out his right hand, “In this place, the bodhisattva was brought to his father, King
Suddhodana, and when he saw that his son’s handsome body was adorned with the 32 marks of the Great Man,
the king protracted himself fully at the feet
o Ancestral temple of the Sakya Tribe Soon after the bodhisattva was born, he was brought here so that he could
venerate the clan deities. All the statues of the deities fell at the bodhisattva’s feet, and King Suddhodana
declared that his son was a god even for the deities. This is why he gave his son the name Devatideva (Gods
beyond Gods)
o Bodhisattva was shown to the Brahmins (who were learned readers of bodily signs)
o Sage Asita predicted that he would become a Buddha in this world
o He was brought up by his aunt Mahaprajapati
o In the bodhisattva gymnasium, he trained in the arts appropriate to his lineage
Riding an elephant and a horse
Driving a chariot
Handling a bow
Grasping a javelin
Using an elephant goad
o The bodhisattva had 60,000 wives
o When the bodhisattva saw an old man, a sick man, and a corpse, the bodhisattva went out to the woods and sat
down in the shade of the jambu tree. He rid himself of evil and demeritorious inclinations, and achieved the
first level of trance. When it was afternoon, the lengthening shadow of other trees slanted towards the east,
except for the shadow of the jambu tree, which did not leave the body of the bodhisattva. Seeing this, King
Suddhodana prostrated himself in front of his son again
o Through the gate surrounded by 100,000 gods, the bodhisattva left Kapilavastu at midnight. He gave his horse
and ornaments to his groom Chandaka
o In the forest of Asceticism The bodhisattva met the hunter. He gave him his clothes of Benares silk in exchange
for a yellow robe
o King Bimbisara offered the bodhisattva half of his kingdom
o The Bodhisattva practiced extreme asceticism for 6 years, and then gave it up when he realized that this was
not the path to the highest knowledge
o Foot of the Bodhi Tree In this place, the bodhisattva used his loving kindness to defeat the forces of Mara, and
then realized complete unsurpassed enlightenment
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