Bodhisatta Gotama left his palace and his beloved ones in search of true happiness. At first, he chose the wrong path: self-mortification practice which only caused pain and suffering. Nevertheless, this self-mortification (Dukkaracariya) experience of Bodhisatta Gotama highlighted the right way to attain enlightenment.
What made Bodhisatta Gotama to practise self-mortification
- His strong will to gain enlightenment.
- Presence of extreme beliefs at pre-Buddhist period
These include: eternalism (believed that all things were permanent); nihilism (believed in the non-existing of the beings after death); self-indulgence (completely enjoying sensual pleasures) and self-mortification (totally torturing oneself).
- Recognizing that his achievement up to the eighth jhanic stage (nevasannanasanna yatana jhana) was unsatisfactory to reach his goal.
- His consideration: Three comparisons appear to his mind.
- Rubbing two soaked sappy logs of wood cannot produce fire. Likewise,those who is still attached to the objects of sensual desires and delighting in passionate pleasures, he will be unable to obtain enlightenment however hard he tried.
- Freshly cut green sappy logs of wood not soaked in water also cannot produce fire. Similarly, even one has abandoned the objects of sensual desires but if he still delights in thoughts of passionate pleasures, he will be unable to obtain enlightenment.
- Unsoaked dry sapless logs of wood will start fire by friction. Just so,having abandoned the objects of sensual desires and gave up the lustful thoughts and cravings as well, he will be able to attain enlightenment.
Referring to the third comparison, he decided to practise self-mortification.
How Bodhisatta Gotama performed self-mortification
Restraining respiration: He withheld the in-breathing and out-breathing of the nose, mouth and ears. The air which could not pass through his nostrils went upwards into his crown causing extreme pain. To find the way, the air then moved downwards and reached the belly, making intense pain. As a result, he was fainted.
Abstaining from food: He gradually reduced eating food. His daily meal was just a handful of bean soup or a small plum. Because of this malnutrition, he was exceedingly emaciated. His clear, bright, golden coloured skin changed into dark brown. His belly and his back nearly stuck to each other. Only skin and bones were the remnants of his body. He almost lost all his thirty-two marks of a Grand-Being together with the eighty minor signs.
Self-mortification experience of Bodhisatta Gotama lasts six years. Then he realized that it was futile. Wisely, he changed over to a new path: the middle way (Mijjhima Patipada) which led him to Nirvana.
Posted by Aye Sat