One) 14. Six Years of Searching
leaving his second teacher, Uddaka, Prince Siddhartha
was known as Ascetic Gautama. He met five friends
Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji
who had also left the palace and a life of luxury to
become ascetics, or students of life, living poorly.
They went to Uruvela and for six years Gautama struggled
and tortured his body while his five friends supported
and looked after him.
will carry austerity to the uttermost," thought
Gautama. "This is the way to acquire wisdom."
He practised fasting, which was thought to be one of
the best ways to acquire wisdom. He lived on a grain
of rice a day, and later, nothing at all. His body became
so thin that his legs were like bamboo sticks, his backbone
was like a rope, his chest was like an incomplete roof
of a house, his eyes sank right inside, like stones
in a deep well. His skin lost its golden colour and
became black. In fact, he looked like a living skeleton
all bones without any flesh! He suffered terrible
pain and hunger, yet continued to meditate.
way of torturing his body was to hold his breath for
a long time until he felt violent pains in his ears,
head and whole body. He would then fall senseless to
the ground. During the full moon and new moon he went
out into the forest or to a cemetery to meditate, wearing
rags from graveyards and rubbish heaps. He became frightened
at first, especially when wild animals came, but he
never ran away. He stayed behind bravely in these dreadful
places, meditating all the time.
six long years he did these practices and in spite of
the great pain and suffering he did not find wisdom
or the answers to his questions. He finally decided,
"These austerities are not the way to enlightenment."
He went begging through the village for food to build
up his body. When his five friends saw this they felt
disappointed. They took their bowls and robes and left,
wanting nothing more to do with Gautama.