was, and still is, a belief in India among many of her ascetics
that purification and final deliverance can be achieved by rigorous
self-mortification, and the ascetic Gotama decided to test the
truth of it. And so there at Uruvelâ he began a determined
struggle to subdue his body in the hope that his mind, set free
from the shackles of the body, might be able to soar to the
heights of liberation. Most zealous was he in these practices.
He lived on leaves and roots, on a steadily reduced pittance
of food; he wore rags from dust heaps; he slept among corpses
or on beds of thorns. The utter paucity of nourishment left
him a physical wreck. Says the Master: "Rigorous have I
been in my ascetic discipline. Rigorous have I been beyond all
others. Like wasted, withered reeds became all my limbs...."
In such words as these, in later years, having attained to full
enlightenment, did the Buddha give his disciples an awe-inspiring
description of his early penances.n8
thus for six long years, he came to death’s very door, but he
found himself no nearer to his goal. The utter futility of self-mortification
became abundantly clear to him by his own experience. He realized
that the path to the fruition of his ardent longing lay in the
direction of a search inward into his own mind. Undiscouraged,
his still active mind searched for new paths to the aspired
for goal. He felt, however, that with a body so utterly weakened
as his, he could not follow that path with any chance of success.
Thus he abandoned self-torture and extreme fasting and took
emaciated body recovered its former health and his exhausted
vigour soon returned. Now his five companions left him in their
disappointment, for they thought that he had given up the effort
and had resumed a life of abundance. Nevertheless, with firm
determination and complete faith in his own purity and strength,
unaided by any teacher, accompanied by none, the Bodhisatta
resolved to make his final effort in complete solitude.
the forenoon of the day before his enlightenment while the Bodhisatta
was seated in meditation under a banyan tree, Sujâtâ,
the daughter of a rich householder, not knowing whether the
ascetic was divine or human, offered milk-rice to him saying:
"Lord, may your aspirations be crowned with success!"
This was his last meal prior to his enlightenment.