Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": GOTAMA BUDDHA PRACTISED THE MOST SEVERE ASCETECISM

AND BECAME A MASTER IN YOGA


('Majjhima-nikaya,' XXXVI ['Maha-saccaka-sutra'])

Thought I then to myself:-Come, let me, with teeth clenched and with tongue pressed against my palate, by sheer force of mind restrain, coerce, and dominate my heart. And this I did, till the sweat streamed from my armpits. just as a strong man, taking a weaker man by the head or shoulders, restrains and coerces and dominates him, even so did 1, with teeth clenched and with tongue pressed against my palate, by sheer force of mind restrain, coerce, and dominate my heart, till the sweat streamed from my armpits. Resolute grew my perseverance which never quailed; there was established in me a mindfulness which knew no distraction,-though my body was sore distressed and afflicted, because I was harassed by these struggles as I painfully struggled on.Yet even such unpleasant feelings as then arose did not take possession of my mind.

Thought I to myself: Come, let me pursue the Ecstasy that comes from not breathing. So I stopped breathing, in or out, through mouth and nose; and then great was the noise of the air as it passed through my ear-holes, like the blast from a smith's bellows. Resolute grew my perseverance . . . did not take possession of my mind.

Thought I to myself: -Come, let me pursue further the Ecstasy that comes from not breathing. So I stopped breathing, in or out, through mouth and nose and ears; and then violent winds wracked my head, as though a strong man were boring into my skull with the point of a sword. Resolute grew my perseverance . . . did not take possession of my mind.

Thought I to myself: -Come, let me pursue still further the Ecstasy that comes from not breathing. So I kept on stopping all breathing, in or out, through mouth and nose and ears; and then violent pains attacked my head, as though a strong man had twisted a leather thong round my head. Resolute grew my perseverance . . . did not take possession of my mind.

Thought I to myself: -Come, let me go on pursuing the Ecstasy that comes from not breathing. So I kept on stopping breathing, in or out, through mouth and nose and ears; and then violent winds pierced my inwards through and through,-as though an expert butcher or his man were hacking my inwards with sharp cleavers. Resolute grew my perseverance . . . did not take possession of my mind.

Thought I to myself: --Come, let me still go on pursuing the Ecstasy that comes from not breathing. So I kept on stopping all breathing, in or out, through mouth and nose and cars; and then there was a violent burning within me,-as though two strong men, taking a weaker man by both arms, were to roast and burn him up in a fiery furnace. Resolute grew my perseverance . . . did not take possession of my mind.

At the sight of me, some gods said I was dead; others said I was not dead but dying; while others again said that I was an Arahat and that Arahats lived like that !

Thought I to myself: Come, let me proceed to cut off food altogether. Hereupon, gods came to me begging me not so to do, or else they would feed me through the pores with heavenly essences which would keep me alive. If, thought I to myself, while I profess to be dispensing with all food whatsoever, these gods should feed me all the time through the pores with heavenly essences which keep me alive, that would be imposture on my part. So I rejected their offers, peremptorily.

Thought I to myself:-Come, let me restrict myself to little tiny morsels of food at a time, namely the liquor in which beans or vetches, peas or pulse, have been boiled. I rationed myself accordingly, and my body grew emaciated in the extreme. My members, great and small, grew like the knotted joints of withered creepers . . . (etc., as in Sutra XIII) . . . rotted at their roots; and all because I ate so little.

Thought I to myself:-Of all the spasms of acute and severe pain that have been undergone through the ages past or will be undergone through the ages to come-or are now being undergone-by recluses or brahmins, mine are pre-eminent; nor is there aught worse beyond. Yet, with all these severe austerities, I fail to transcend ordinary human limits and to rise to the heights of noblest understanding and vision. Could there be another path to Enlightenment?

A memory came to me of how once, seated in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree on the lands of my father the Shakyan, I, divested of pleasures of sense and of wrong states of mind, entered upon, and abode in, the First Ecstasy, with all its zest and satisfactions state bred of inward aloofness but not divorced from observation and reflection. Could this be the path to Enlightenment? In prompt response to this memory, my consciousness told me that here lay the true path to Enlightenment.

Thought I to myself:-Am I afraid of a bliss which eschews pleasures of sense and wrong states of mind?-And my heart told me I was not afraid.

Thought I to myself: -It is no easy matter to attain that bliss with a body so emaciated. Come, let me take some solid food, rice and junket; and this I ate accordingly.

With me at the time there were the Five Almsmen, looking for me to announce to them what truth I attained; but when I took the rice and junket-, they left me in disgust, saying that luxuriousness had claimed me and that, abandoning the struggle, I had reverted to luxuriousness.

Having thus eaten solid food and regained strength, I entered on, and abode in, the First Ecstasy.-Yet, such pleasant feelings as then arose in me did not take possession of my mind; nor did they as I successively entered on, and abode in, the Second, Third, and Fourth Ecstasies.


Translation by Lord ChaImers, Further Dialogues of the, Buddha, I (London, 1926), pp. 17.4-7

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