Siddhattha Gotama’s Stupendous Struggle

The Buddha-to-be spent almost six years practising extreme abstinence at Pragbodhi near Bodhgaya.

After leaving Rajagaha, Siddhattha Gotama went to the vicinity of Uruvela to further his cultivation towards liberation.  There, He was joined by five ascetics in the practice of extreme abstinence from food, rest, and any semblance of comfort, in the belief that such self-mortification can lead to the liberation of the mind from craving and clinging.

Alas, that extreme practice almost caused the Buddha-to-be His life.  He experienced acute, painful, sharp and piercing sensations throughout His physical body.  Yet amazingly, His mind was as clear as ever!

“Strenuous and indomitable was my (mental) energy; my mindfulness was established and unperturbed.  My body was however fatigued and was not calmed as a result of that painful endeavour, being overpowered by exertion.  But even though such painful sensations arose in me, they did not at all affect my mind.” [Note 1]

Realizing that self-mortification does not lead one to liberation from suffering, but merely dulls and delays spiritual progress, the Buddha-to-be left the company of others to forge His unique “Middle Way” towards Enlightenment, and slowly walked to the banks of Nerañjara River a distant away.

Note 1 : Excerpt from the ‘Maha-Saccaka Sutta’, Majjhima Nikaya No. 36.
Photograph:
View of ‘Pragbodhi’ (today’s Dhongra Hills near Bodhgaya in Bihar), where the Buddha-to-be practised extreme abstinence for almost 6 years.