27. The Buddha's Last Illness
Buddha had not been staying very long at Beluva during the
rainy season when he became sick. The severe sickness attacked
him with violent and deadly pains. But, mindful and self-possessed,
he bore them without complaint. And this thought came into
his mind: "It would not be right for me to pass away
without addressing the disciples, without taking leave of
the order. Let me now by a strong effort of the will suppress
this sickness." He suppressed the sickness and it abated.
when he began to recover, he went out of the monastery, and
sat down on a seat spread out for him. The Venerable Ananda
went to where the Buddha was, sat respectfully beside him,
and said, "I have seen how the Blessed One suffered,
and at that sight my body became weak as a creeper. Yet I
had some little comfort in thinking that the Blessed one would
not pass away until he had left some instructions for the
more then, Ananda does the order expect from me?" said
the Buddha. "Now, a Perfect One does not think that it
is he who shall lead the order or that it is dependent upon
him. Ananda, I am now grown old and full of years. My journey
is drawing to its close. Therefore, Ananda, each of you should
make the Dharma his island, and have no other as his refuge.
And whoever after I am dead shall be an island unto themselves,
who makes the Dharma their island, the Dharma their refuge,
they will be the foremost amongst my monks."
old and feeble, the Buddha continued to use every opportunity
to teach the Dharma to his disciples. He also went on alms
rounds when there were no private invitations from the villagers
morning the Buddha robed himself early in the morning and,
taking his bowl, went into Vesali for alms. When he returned
from his alms round, he spoke to the Venerable Ananda: "Take
a mat, Ananda, let us go to the Capala Shrine to pass the
sat down on a mat and the Buddha spoke about the pleasant
surroundings in all the shrines in Vesali, and then addressed
Venerable Ananda thus:
anyone has practiced and developed the Four Means of Accomplishment,
he could, if he wished, live for a longer period. I have completely
mastered the Four Means of Accomplishment, and if I so wish,
I could live longer."
though the Buddha gave a clear suggestion, Venerable Ananda
could not understand its meaning and therefore ask the Buddha
to live longer for the good, benefit, and happiness of the
many, out of compassion for the world. At that time Venerable
Ananda could not understand because his mind was confused.
Buddha addressed him, saying, "You may leave me, Ananda, for
a while." So Ananda went and sat under a nearby tree.
Buddha had appeared on earth to teach the seekers of Truth
how to see things as they truly are and to show the path
for deliverance from all the ills of life. The Buddha reflected
about the long years of teaching he had performed to fulfil
his mission. He felt that he had given all the necessary instructions
to his followers, both monks and the lay followers. Not only
were they following his teaching, they were also able to teach
the teachings to others. He therefore decided not to live
up to his full life span and announced to Venerable Ananda
that he would pass away in three month's time.
then Venerable Ananda remembered what the Buddha had said
earlier and begged him to live for a longer period for the
good and happiness for all.
Ananda, do not beg me. The time for making such a request
is now past. Let us now go to the Hall with the Pointed Roof
in the Great Wood," said the Buddha.
they arrived at the Great Hall, he said, "Ananda, go
and summon all the monks living in Vesali. Ask them to meet
at the service hall." When the monks had all come, he
spoke to them, "Whatever truths I have taught you, study
them and put them into practice, so that the holy life may
last long for the good and benefit of the many.
component things must grow old and pass away. Work out your
salvation with diligence. At the end of three months from
this time, the Blessed One will pass away. My age is now full
ripe; my life draws to its close. Be diligent, mindful and
virtuous. Keep watch over your own hearts. Who lives out diligently
the Dharma and Discipline will leave the round of rebirths
and make an end of suffering."
the Buddha's disciples were grieved to hear the sad announcement
of his death in such a short time to come. All of them came
forward to pay their last respects except one monk named Dhammarama.
They did not know why he did not come and suspected him of
not being loyal and dutiful to the Buddha.
matter was reported to the Buddha, who summoned Dhammarama
to his presence to explain his absence to all the other monks.
He then replied that since the Buddha would be passing away
in three month's time, he thought that the best way of honouring
the teacher was by attaining arahantship before his death.
excellent! He who loves me should follow the example of
Dhammarama. He honours me most who practises my teaching best,"
said the Buddha, in praise of this monk.
Buddha decided to continue his last journey the next morning.
His next destination was the little village of Pava.