The Great Renunciation of Buddha

Buddha, Vietnam Temple, Sarnath, Buddhist Pilgrimage

It was full moon night of Asalha (July) month and princess Yashodhara awoke from her dreams in the silence of the night. She was about to experience an event that changed the course of mankind, she was about to experience the great renunciation of Buddha !!

She had seen in her dreams that her husband, Siddhartha was leaving her and their newborn son to seek the truth. She told Siddhartha, her husband and the crown prince of the kingdom of Kapilvastu, about her dream and requested him to take her also wherever he goes. Siddhartha thought he was seeking the path of truth, so he assured her that she will not be left alone. That promise was fulfilled several years after the renunciation of Buddha when she joined the order of nuns in the Sangha.

The Great Renunciation of Buddha

Meanwhile, Siddhartha stayed awoke contemplating the four fleeting signs (Old age, sickness, death, and peace in Nirvana) he had experienced a few days ago and the requests by Sakka (the king of gods) and other gods to free the world.

He got up from the bed and found his female musicians sleeping around him. They looked like dead bodies in their sleep and some drooling saliva while some were snoring like beasts. He was filled with loathing towards material life.

renunciation of buddha
Buddha: Mahabodhi temple, Bodhgaya

He asked his charioteer Chandaka to saddle his horse Kanthaka. The night has finally arrived for the great renunciation of Buddha.

King Suddhodana of Kapilvastu, was a very worried father at that time because he had come to know about the inclination of Siddhartha to seek the path of renunciation and Nirvana.  

He always remembered the words of astrologers that if Siddhartha chooses to stay at home, he will become a universal monarch, but if he leaves the house and renounces the world he will become an Arhat, an enlightened Buddha.

King Sudhodhana, in his last effort to prevent his twenty-nine years old son from leaving the palace, had set guards around the gates of the city and had stationed troops outside the city. This was the last effort from the king to prevent the renunciation of Buddha.

Ruins of Kapilvastu, the site of great renunciation of Buddha
Ruins of Kapilavastu: The site of renunciation of Buddha

His brothers guarded the different gates of the city. The northern gate was guarded by Amritodana, the southern gate by Dronodana, the western gate was guarded by the Suklodana, and the eastern gate by king Suddhodana himself. The center of the palace was guarded by Mahanama with a small contingent of troops. 

Siddhartha patted his horse Kanthaka gently and left his palace with Chandaka. The full moon was shining bright in the night sky, clear of any clouds.

The moment Bodhisattva Siddhartha left the palace, the deities who inhabited it started to cry and their tears started to fall on the ground like rain drops.

When he reached the center of the city he found Mahanama with his troop. Mahanama pleaded Siddhartha not to renounce the world and cried. He begged and told about all the pains that his loved ones will have to go through once Siddhartha renounced this material world.

Buddha, Thai Temple, Sarnath - Buddhist Pilgrimage Tours
Buddha , Thai Temple, Sarnath

Sakka was helping Bodhisattva in the great renunciation and had put all guards on sleep through his spell. Siddhartha reached the eastern gate of Kapilvastu and the God who resided there opened the gate for the Bodhisattva. The Gods have waited a long time for the renunciation of Buddha.

The moment he crossed the eastern gate Mara appeared and standing in the air requested Bodhisattva not to renounce the material world and told that seventh day of that day, Siddhartha would become the Universal monarch. Bodhisattva refused and continued his journey.

Suddenly he had a desire to have another look of the city. With his desire the earth turned round, so that bodhisattva would not have to turn back. This was an important event during the process of the great renunciation of Buddha. At that place, a Stupa was erected to commemorate that event, which was called Kanthaka Nivattana Stupa.

He traveled through the night for twelve yojanas, accompanied by gods. After crossing the river Anoma, he stopped. The river Anoma bordered three cities of Kapilvastu, Savatthi, and Vaishali.

He gave his ornaments to Chandaka and asked him to return to Kapilvastu with Kanthaka. Chankaka cried and pleaded to remain with him, but Siddhartha asked him to return to Kapilvastu and tell his family members about his quest.

Chandaka returned back with Kanthaka and reached Kapilvastu on the seventh day. Kanthaka died soon after the renunciation of Buddha.

Siddhartha took his sword and cut his hair and beard and threw them in the air. Sakka and other gods appeared in the sky and took them to the Trayatrimsa heaven.

Siddhartha continued with his journey. Sakka knew about the wish of ten sons of Anupama, born in earlier times, and who all became Pratyeka Buddhas. They wished to gift their robe to Siddhartha, the son of Suddhodana when he renounced the world. With the renunciation of Buddha, the day has finally arrived for the fulfillment of the wish of Pratyeka Buddhas.

Stupa, Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya- Buddhist Pilgrimage Tours
Stupa with Mahabodhi temple in background – Bodhgaya

Sakka appeared in the form of a hunter wearing the robe of Pratyeka Buddhas and exchanged it with the royal clothes of Bodhisattva. He took the royal clothes of Bodhisattva to the Trayatrimsa heaven. The Sakka was delighted with the ultimate renunciation of Buddha.

On the spot of exchange of clothes between Buddha and Sakka, the faithful built a stupa to commemorate the event.

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Bodhisattva travels specializes in Buddhist pilgrimage tours in India and Nepal. Follow in the footsteps that Buddha had once taken and visit the places where Buddhism originated and attained its glory.  Visit  Lumbini ,  Bodhgaya,  Sarnath,  Kushinagar, Rajgir, Vaishali , Sankasiya and  Sravasthi, the eight great places of Buddhist Pilgrimage. We also provide wildlife tours, adventure tours, heritage tours, Wellness Tours and educational tours across India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

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