“Before my Enlightenment, when I was still an unenlightened Bodhisatta, the thought occurred to me: ‘Household life is crowded and dusty, life gone forth is wide open. It isn’t easy, while living in a home, to lead the holy life that is totally perfect and totally pure as a polished shell. What if I, having shaved off my hair and beard, and putting on the yellow robe, were to go forth from the home life into homelessness?’
So at a later time, when I was still young, black-haired, endowed with the blessings of youth in the prime of life, having shaved off my hair and beard — though my parents wished otherwise and were grieving with tears on their faces — I put on the yellow robe and went forth from the home life into homelessness.”
– Maha-Saccaka Sutta, MN 36
Siddhattha Gotama, a prince bathed in luxury and heir to His father’s kingdom, had lofty and noble aspirations like no other. He turned away from riches and power to find a yet unchartered path – a way to total ending of suffering. Enduring six long years of austerity, harsh self-discipline and starvation, He never gave up hope.
At the pinnacle of His ascetic practice, He was near death due to severe malnutrition. In that moment of pain and suffering, He realised the futility of this practice, and abandoned this painful and extreme practice which weakens and retards mental development. He recalled how when His father was engaged in ploughing, He experienced ‘jhana ’ as a 6-year old, and bravely moved forward on the Middle Path.
As Buddhists aspiring for liberation, we can learn a great lesson from the Bodhisatta through His actions. Just as Ascetic Gotama, we will face our own set of challenges and struggles, many of which are mind-made. We must remember to accept and adapt to each situation, so that we maintain our momentum towards our goal. Those who become attached to unwholesome ways and expect enlightenment, will be defeated by their own stubbornness and ignorance.
It is our good fortune that the path to Nibbāna is laid before us, but it will remain a myth unless we decide to walk on it with precise steps guided by Buddha-Dhamma. Let us muster our courage to develop our virtues, mindfulness and wisdom in every moment, until the day we are free from the bonds of Samsara.