The bodhisattva had renounced the material world and left Kapilvastu, the city of his birth, on the full moon night of Asalha (July) month. The crown prince was now a wandering ascetic on his quest for the ultimate truth of life.
He was standing draped in the robe of Pratyeka Buddhas and contemplating about his quest for truth.
He went to the abode of a hermit, the son of Rishi Brigu, and enquired about the location of the place. The hermit replied he had come around 12 yojanas from Kapilvastu. Bodhisattva thought he was still too near to Kapilvastu, and his tribesmen from the Sakya tribe may disturb him at that location.
The Bodhisattva was now a wandering ascetic. He was now living on alms given by laity and had no permanent abode. He rested under a tree by day and spent his night inside some secluded cave.
Barefooted he kept on walking south. He crossed the river Ganges and reached the city of Rajgriha.
As he was walking through the streets, the people of Rajgriha were awestruck by his royal appearance and calm gait. Soon the news reached Bimbisar, the king of Rajgriha, that a monk who looks no less than Gods is seeking alms in his city. Bimbisar had a look of Bodhisattva from the terrace of his palace. He was struck by his look and royal appearance.
He sent his courtier to fill his alms bowl and another courtier to find where the monk was going. The courtier brought the news that the monk was staying at the Pandava Hills.
Bimbisar went to the Pandava hills to meet the Bodhisattva in the next morning. After bowing to the young monk, Bimbisar requested Bodhisattva to stay at Rajgriha. He offered him land, palace, and all that would make his life comfortable.
Bodhisattva answered that he was Siddhartha, the crown prince of Kapilvastu, the kingdom of Sakyas, a tribe of Ikshvaku Kshatriya. He had renounced the worldly life to find an answer to the miseries of humankind and was in search of the ultimate truth of life.
He was in search of the ultimate truth of life and enlightenment and not worldly pleasures and passions which are the root of sorrow, pain, and fear. He wanted to conquer desires and not to indulge in them.
Bimbisar requested that once bodhisattva reached his goal, he should teach him the path of unsurpassed knowledge and wisdom. Bodhisattva promised to teach the path once he attains his goal of attaining the ultimate truth of life and he left for the Griddhakuta (Vulture Peak), another hill in the vicinity of Rajgriha.
He lived there with the ascetics and practiced their mortifications and meditations. Soon he surpassed them all in mortifications and was called “The great ascetic of Mahcramana”. It was not long that he learned that the ultimate goal of ascetics of Griddhakuta hill was to become Sakka (the king of gods) or Brahma (the creator God in Indian mythology) and not enlightenment and finding the ultimate truth of life. He left them in disgust.
The scriptures tell that after his brief stay with the ascetics of Griddhakuta, he went to Vaishali to the renowned ascetic and teacher of his time, Alara Kalama. Alara Kalama led a strict monastic life with his 300 pupils.
Bodhisattva soon learned and mastered his doctrine of “State of Nothingness”. Alara Kalama offered him the leadership of his pupils as equal to him. Bodhisattva turned down his offer as he had realized that the doctrine of Alara Kalama was not the answer to his quest for the ultimate truth of life. The doctrine did not lead to cessation of pain or to enlightenment and Nibbana.
He left Alara Kalama and went to another sage Uddaka Ramputta. Uddaka Ramputta was a famous ascetic at the time of Buddha and lived near Rajgriha with his seven hundred disciples. The doctrine taught by Uddaka Ramputta was realized and proclaimed by his father Rama.
Suddhodana heard that Bodhisattva was staying at the hermitage of Uddaka Ramputta near Rajgriha. He sent three hundred men as his attendant. Suppabuddha, his father in law, also sent two hundred men as attendants to Bodhisattva. Bodhisattva retained only five of them as attendants; three of them sent by Suddhodana and two of them sent by Suppabuddha.
Bodhisattva soon learned and mastered the doctrine of Uddaka Ramputta which was called “Neither Perception nor Non-Perception”. Uddaka Ramputta proposed to make him the leader of his entire school of the pupil, including himself. But Bodhisattva found this doctrine also to be unsatisfactory and abandoned him for the higher goal of finding the ultimate truth of life.
Bodhisattva has realized that there was no teacher capable enough, under whom he could attain the supreme enlightenment and Nibbana. He had realized that the highest truth was to be found within himself and seeking external help was futile.
He came to the army township of Uruvela (present-day Bodhgaya) and settled at the banks of the mesmerizing river Niranjana. Five disciples of Ramputta have accompanied him in his quest. He made his abode at the foot of a tree on the bank of river Niranjana and decided to undertake rigorous mortifications and meditations to attain supreme truth. Gradually he made his mortifications severe and more severe.
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