§ 7. The Great Struggle

Translated from the Introduction to the Jātaka (i.65.29).

Now the Future Buddha, having thus retired from the world, -- in that place there was a mango-grove named Anupiya, and here he first spent a week in the joy of having retired from the world, -- in one day went on foot to Rājagaha, a distance of thirty leagues, and entering the city, he begged for food from house to house without passing any by. By the beauty of the Future Buddha, the whole city was thrown into a commotion, like that into which Rājagaha was thrown by the entrance of Dhanapālaka, or like that into which the [68] heavenly city was thrown by the entrance of the chief of the Titans.

Then ran the king's men to the palace, and made announcement, --

"Sire, there is a being of such and such appearance going about the city begging for food. Whether he be a god, or a man, or a serpent, or a bird, we do not know."

Then the king, standing on the roof of his palace, and thence beholding the Great Being, became amazed and astonished, and commanded his men, --

"Look ye now! Go and investigate this! If this person be not a man, he will vanish from sight as soon as he leaves the city; if, namely, he be a god, he will depart by way of the air; if a serpent, he will sink into the ground. But if he be a human being, he will eat the food he has obtained in alms."

Now the Great Being, after collecting a number of scraps, sufficient, as he judged, for his sustenance, left the city by the same gate he had entered, and sitting down with his face to the east, in the shade of Pandava rock, he attempted to eat his meal. But his stomach turned, and he felt as if his inwards were on the point of coming out by his mouth. Thereupon, in the midst of his distress at that repulsive food, -- for in that existence he had never before so much as seen such fare, -- he began to admonish himself, saying, "Siddhattha, although you were born into a family having plenty to eat and drink, into a station in life where you lived on fragrant third season's rice[1] with various sauces of the finest flavors, yet when you saw a monk clad in garments taken from the rubbish heap, you exclaimed, 'Oh, when shall I be like him, and eat food which I have begged? Will that time ever come?' And then you retired from the world. And [69] now that you have your wish, and have renounced all, what, pray, is this you are doing?" When he had thus admonished himself, his disgust subsided, and he ate his meal.

Then the king's men went and announced to the king what they had seen. And the king, on hearing the report of the messengers, issued hastily from the city, and approaching the Future Buddha, and being pleased with his deportment, he tendered him all his kingly glory.

"Great king," replied the Future Buddha, "I do not seek for the gratification of my senses or my passions, but have retired from the world for the sake of the supreme and absolute enlightenment."

"Verily," said the king, when his repeated offers had all been refused, "you are sure to become a Buddha; but when that happens, your first journey must be to my kingdom."

The above is an abridgment, but the full account, beginning with the lines, --

"I sing the man of insight keen,
And his retirement from the world,"

can be found by referring to the "Discourse on Retirement from the World," and its commentary.

Then the Future Buddha, having made the king the required promise, proceeded on his way; and coming to Ālāra Kālāma and Uddaka, the disciple of Rāma, he acquired from them the eight stages of meditation. But becoming convinced that they did not lead to enlightenment,[2] he ceased to practise them. And being desirous of making the Great Struggle, so as to show the world of gods and men his fortitude and heroism, he went to Uruvelā, and saying, "Truly, delightful is this spot," he there took up his abode, and began the Great Struggle.

And those five persons, Kondañña and the others,[3] who since their retirement from the world, were wandering about for alms through villages, market-towns, and royal cities, here met with the Future Buddha. And during the six [70] years of the Great Struggle, they swept his cell, and did all manner of service for him, and kept constantly at his beck and call, all the time saying, "Now he will become a Buddha, now he will become a Buddha."

And the Future Buddha, thinking, "I will carry austerity to the uttermost," tried various plans, such as living on one sesamum seed or on one grain of rice a day, and even ceased taking nourishment altogether, and moreover rebuffed the gods when they came and attempted to infuse nourishment through the pores of his skin. By this lack of nourishment. his body became emaciated to the last degree, and lost its golden color, and became black, and his thirty-two physical characteristics as a great being became obscured. Now, one day, as he was deep in a trance of suppressed breathing, he was attacked by violent pains, and fell senseless to the ground, at one end of his walking-place.

And certain of the deities said, "The monk Gotama is dead;" but others said, "This is a practice of the saints." Then those who thought he was dead went to king Suddhodana, and announced to him that his son was dead.

"Did he die after becoming a Buddha, or before?" asked the king.

"He was unable to become a Buddha, but in making the Struggle, he fell to the ground and died."

When the king heard this, he refused to credit it, saying, "I do not believe it. Death cannot come to my son before he attains to enlightenment."

But why would not the king believe it? Because of the miracles he had seen, -- the first when the ascetic Kāladevala had been compelled to do homage to the Future Buddha, and the other which happened to the rose-apple tree.

But the Future Buddha recovering his consciousness, and standing up, the deities went a second time to the king, and told him that his son was well again.

Said the king, "I knew that my son could not have died."

Now the six years which the Great Being thus spent in austerities were like time spent in endeavoring to tie the air [71] into knots. And coming to the decision, "These austerities are not the way to enlightenment," he went begging through villages and market-towns for ordinary material food, and lived upon it. And his thirty-two physical characteristics as a great being again appeared, and the color of his body became like unto gold.

Then the band of five priests thought, "It is now six years that this man has been performing austerities without being able to attain to omniscience. And how much less can he be expected to do so in future, now that he has again taken to ordinary material food begged from town to town! He has become luxurious, and given up the Struggle. For us to look for any benefit to come from that quarter would be as reasonable as if a man were to imagine he could bathe his head in a dew-drop. We will have nothing more to do with him." With that they took their bowls and robes, and left the Great Being, and going eighteen leagues off, entered Isipatana.


A garment new, a new-built house,
A new umbrella, and a bride, --
The new is good; but long-kept rice
And long-kept servants men do praise.

From the Sanskrit of the Nītipradīpa, 15, as given by Böhtlingk, Indische Sprüche, 3410.

[2]See pages 334-8.

[3]See pages 52-3.

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