(24) Buddha's death in Kushinagara - Buddha on his final journey with his follower Ananda, ending his 80-year life.

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Introduction to Buddhism: The Life of Buddha (Shakyamuni Buddha) as Seen in Local Photographs] (24)
 Buddha's death in Kushinagara - Buddha embarks on his final journey with his follower Ananda, ending his 80-year life.

Now, I have told you about Buddha's life 23 times, and in this 24th installment, Buddha's life will finally come to an end.

What? Suddenly? Weren't we just last time watching the Buddha's rapid progress? Some of you may be thinking, "What?

However, the 45 years between Buddha's enlightenment and his death were actually not the most significant events in his life.

The term "eight-phase accomplishment" is used to describe Buddha's life, and it refers to the eight important events in Buddha's life.

Eight phases of the Way (Mathura Museum collection)

The eight are,

〇Goutosotsu (Buddha descending from heaven on a white elephant)
〇Nittai (entering the belly of the mother ma'ya)
〇Shuttai(birth of Buddha)
〇Shukke (renounced his country at age 29)
〇Gouma(Defeat the Devil)
〇 Zyoudou (Enlightenment at Buddhagaya at age 35)
〇Tenpourinn (first turn Dharma wheel at Sarnath)
〇Nyuunehan (died at the age of 80)

This is what it is called. That is right. At the age of 35, after completing his first Dharma wheel, the only important thing left for Buddha to do is to enter Nirvana at the age of 80.

This is why we are finally going to talk about Buddha's death, but of course, this does not mean that nothing happened during this period.

The events of the period include: the uproar over the split in the order caused by Devadatta's cousin; the tragedy at Rajigir when King Bimbisara was murdered by his son Ajatasattu; the ordination of the murderer Angulimala; the conversion of the prostitute Ambapalli; the birth of the ordained women's cult following the ordination of Mahapajapati, Buddha's adoptive mother; the destruction of Kapilavastu; the death of Sāriputta; the murder of Moggallāna; and many more. The destruction of Kapilavastu, and many more events are too numerous to detail.

This series of articles is only an [introduction to Buddhism]. The purpose of this series of articles has been to take a brief look at the life of the Buddha along with some local photographs. However, having said that, we have looked at the historical background of the Buddha in detail, and it seems that the time has come for me to put down my pen.

After attaining enlightenment at the age of 35, Buddha continued his missionary journey for 45 years. Although not mentioned in the Eightfold Path, there is no doubt that these 45 years of missionary work shaped the existence of Buddhism. It may not have been as dramatic as the eight-phase path, but these days of missionary work are what made Buddha the Buddha that he was. For more information on Buddha's daily teachings, please refer to the following book published by Iwanami Shoten.Buddha's Words of Truth, Words of Inspiration.will be the most accessible, and I would highly recommend it.

Buddha departing on his final journey from Mt.Ryouzyu

From here, we will finally talk briefly about Buddha's last journey.

Buddha's last trip to the capital of Magadha country, close to Rajigirryouzyusen.It started with

This mountain was a favorite place of the Buddha, who is known to have given many sermons to his disciples here. Later Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, such as the Lotus Sutra and the Sutra of Immeasurable Life, were also set here.

Incidentally, the name of this mountain, "Mt. Ryouju" comes from the fact that the rock near the top is shaped exactly like an eagle. The picture on the right shows that it does indeed look like an eagle.

At the age of 80, Buddha finished preaching here and set out on his final journey. Realizing that he had little time left to live, he and his follower Ananda set out for his hometown of Kapilavastu.

Buddha's Way

Buddha began his walk from Mt. Ryouju to his hometown Kapilavastu. Unfortunately, he could not reach his hometown and died in Kushinagara, just before Nepal. As shown in the map above, even today when roads are well maintained, it takes more than 7 hours by car, or more than 300 km. If it had been 2,500 years ago, when roads were not well maintained, the journey would have been far more arduous than today. An 80-year-old man, who was about to end his life, walked on his own feet.

Moreover, if you think about it, it is unimaginable that a person could have lived to be 80 years old 2,500 years ago. In modern Japan, it is no longer unusual for a person to be 80 years old, but in ancient India, where science and medicine had not yet been developed, this age is astonishing. If Buddha were alive today, he would have lived to be about 130 years old.

As Buddha goes about his daily life, he continues to say his final goodbyes to people everywhere he goes. I would like to introduce each of them in detail, but I would have to write many more articles if I started that.

If you are interested, please read "Buddha's Last Journey: The Great Parinippana Sutra" translated by Hajime Nakamura from Iwanami Shoten, which describes those events and preaching in detail.

I highly recommend this book because it succinctly explains Buddha's final journey and reads like a single story.

Budda suffers severe stomachache from Chunda the blacksmith's mushroom dish.

Despite his advanced age (80 years old), Buddha was in control of his body and proceeded peacefully. Toward the end of his journey, he arrived at the village of Parvar, just a short distance from Nepal.

Chunda, the son of a blacksmith who deeply respected Buddha, welcomed him and gave him a meal. Although he had put his heart and soul into cooking for the revered Buddha, Chunda's mushroom dish caused Buddha to suffer severe abdominal pain. The pain was so intense that it is described in "Buddha's Last Journey" as being so painful that red blood gushed out. However, Buddha endured it with his mental strength and left Chunda.

He then tells Ananda, "Let's go to Kushinagara," and they will be on their way to the final destination.

At this time, Buddha's stomach pain had already turned into a mortal illness, and he was in so much pain that he would normally have had difficulty even walking. In such a situation, Buddha continued to walk.

But as expected, Buddha reaches his limit.

Now, O Ananda," he said. Fold up your outer garment and lay it out for me. I am tired. I want to sit."

I am tired."You can feel Buddha's humanity in his words, "I am a human being. And moreover,

He said, "Now, Ananda, bring me water. Bring me water. I am thirsty. I want to drink.

and ask Ananda for help.

It is a very sad exchange that conveys the debilitating state of Buddha as his life comes to an end. The great and healthy teacher will soon pass away. Ananda must have felt this keenly as he took care of Buddha.

After a short rest to regain his strength, Buddha used his last strength to go to Kushinagara, the place of his death.

Death at Kushinagara

Current Kushinagara

Was Buddha prepared for this place to be his final resting place? He tells Ananda the following.

Now, Ananda," he said, "prepare for me a floor between two sāra trees. Prepare for me a floor between two sara trees, with their heads to the north. O Ananda, I am tired. I am tired. I want to lie down.

This is where the common Japanese term "north pillow" comes from. Buddha then lay down with his right side down.

Then the sara tree blossomed and was in full bloom. The blossoms fell and began to dance on Buddha in the form of a snowstorm. Seeing this, Buddha finally prepared for his last moment.

He gave various sermons to Ananda, who was upset at the thought of his master's end. These included the virtues of making pilgrimages to Buddha's holy places, the cremation of Buddha, and the visitation of the stupa containing his remains, as well as specific instructions on how the Order should conduct itself after his death.

Still, Ananda's grief would not subside. He left Buddha's side and wept. He cried, "Oh, I am a man who still has much to learn and much to do, but my teacher, who has compassion on me, has passed away. But my teacher, who has compassion on me, has passed away..."

To comfort him, Buddha called him back and spoke to him.

Stop, O Ananda. Do not grieve. Do not mourn. Do not grieve, do not mourn, do not lament. I have already taught you this. That even from all that is loved and liked there is separation, falling away, and becoming different. How is it possible for something that arises, exists, is made, and is to be destroyed, not to be destroyed?

O Ananda, you have served me well for a long time. Make every effort to practice. Then you too will quickly become spotless."

Yes, it is. Buddha's teaching is "All things are impermanent. Everything is in transition. When we meet someone, we must part. No matter how important a person is to you, one day you will have to part ways with him or her. Buddha's teachings are also such strict teachings. And it is you, Ananda, who has been listening to them closest to the Buddha. Therefore, do not be sad. This is the truth. Buddha tells us to calm our minds, but I am not sure that I can do that either. I am sure that I will grieve as much as Ananda.

Buddha thus showed compassion for Ananda's grief, even though his own death was imminent. And so it was with Chunda, the blacksmith's son.

Buddha was worried that Chunda would later be blamed by others for Buddha's death because of you. So he instructed Ananda as follows.

Say the following to Chunda: "My friend, you have provided the last meal for a practitioner. "My friend, you have given the last meal to a practitioner who has completed his ascetic practice. That is a great merit. Rest assured, Buddha will enter the world of nirvana because of your meal. Buddha will enter the world of perfect nirvana because of your meal. It is a great virtue. Buddha told me that you will surely have a good reward.

This episode shows that Buddha was a compassionate person until the very end.

Finally, the final moment arrives.

Buddha breathed his last breath with the following words as his dying words.

Now, monks. "Now, monks, I say to you, 'All events will pass. Complete your practice without slacking off."

Everything is in transition. That's why you should practice. Don't be pessimistic that everything will disappear anyway,for this reasonBuddha said at the end of his life, "Live with diligence. I feel that the context of "therefore" is very meaningful to us who live in this world of impermanence.

Cremation of Buddha

Buddha's body was to be performed according to Brahmin rituals, as per his instructions before his death.

The cremation was actually conducted by the Malla people of Kushinagara. They took Buddha's body to the royal coronation site, where he was cremated.

The place where Buddha was supposedly cremated still remains. This mound was built to commemorate it. It is located right next to the river, so it is no wonder that it was used as a cremation site.

Now, after the cremation, only Buddha's remains remain, but here is a problem.

Kings of many countries began to seek the remains of Buddha.

Buddha's death sent shock waves throughout India, and the news spread quickly. The news spread quickly, and the Mallahs who had performed the cremation requested that the remains be distributed among the nations.

However, the Malla people protested, saying, "We cannot do that because Buddha died here and we were in charge of the cremation. The Maras, on the other hand, protested, saying, "I am of the same royal class as Buddha, and I have the right to receive his ashes. The opposition escalated to the point where they were on the verge of war, saying, "If you don't give us the remains, we will send in the army! Tensions rose to the brink of war. A war was about to break out over the remains of Buddha, who preached peace.

Then, in the nick of time, a savior appears. A Brahmin appeared and proposed that the remains be divided fairly into eight parts. Through his mediation, the nations relented, and each brought back Buddha's remains.

As for Buddha's remains, who will manage them is a major issue, since Buddha himself preached the merits of his faith. Furthermore, it is a sign of overwhelming authority to manage the remains of a great religious figure. This is why there was a dispute over Buddha's remains.

Incidentally, you may be thinking, "In India, they don't make graves because they throw the remains into the river after cremation." However, such a custom did not exist at the time of Buddha's reign. The custom of scattering ashes in the Ganges River and other places is said to have gradually emerged in the post-Vedic period after the 4th century BC. It is said that at that time, people buried the ashes and made a tomb there with a bun-shaped mound of earth, or placed stones or bricks for memorial services. Therefore, after this time, stupas where the remains of not only Buddha but also his disciples were buried were built in various places in India. (SeeA History of Buddhism in New Asia 01 India I: Background to the Emergence of Buddhism.(See p. 189-190)


Now that we have taken a brief look at the life of Buddha, how was it?

I am sure that the Buddha himself became more familiar to them.

I hope that you could also feel how the background of the times was related behind the activities of one great person.

Buddha was a human being who lived in the context of ancient India. The importance of the context of the society in which we live is the same for those of us living today. This perspective will surely serve as a great guideline for those of us living today.

In the next article, the last in this series of articles, I will give a very brief history of Buddhism since the death of Buddha. We hope you will bear with us until the end.

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