Brahmanism and Buddhism
Brahmanism and Buddhism relationship to Buddha
After having accepted the hospitality of several Brahmans in succession, the young prince reached at last the large city of Vaishali or Vesali . (At the time of the Buddha, Vaishali, which he visited on many occasions, was a very large city, rich and prosperous, crowded with people and with abundant food. There were seven thousand seven hundred and seven pleasure grounds and an equal number of lotus ponds. Its courtesan, Amrapali, was famous for her beauty, and helped in large measure in making the city prosperous. The city had three encircling walls, each one quite a distance away from the other, and at three places in the walls were gates with watch towers.) He had now to prepare himself for the long conflict he had to undertake with the Brahmanical doctrines. He was too modest to believe himself sufficiently prepared for the contest, and wished to put himself to the test, and at the same time acquire a thorough knowledge of their doctrines. He sought out the Brahman Alara Kalama, who was renowned as the most learned of professors, and who had no less than 300 disciples, besides a throng of listeners. The beauty of the young man, when he appeared for the first time in this assembly, filled all present with admiration, and above all Kalama himself; but before long he admired the learning of Siddhartha still more than his beauty, and he besought him to share with him his work of teacher. But the young sage thought within himself: 'This doctrine of Alara is not truly a deliverance. The practice of it will not completely free humanity from misery.' Then he added in his heart: ' In rendering perfect this doctrine, which consists in poverty and the subduing of the senses, I shall attain true freedom, but I must still make further researches.'
He remained therefore some time at Vaisali; on leaving that city he advanced into the country of Magadha, and reached its capital Rajagriha. His reputation for beauty and wisdom had preceded him ; and the people, struck with surprise at the sight of such self-abnegation in so handsome and youthful a man, flocked to meet him. The crowds that filled that day the streets of the city ceased, says the legend, both buying and selling, and even abstained from drinking wine and all liquors, in order to contemplate the noble mendicant who came begging alms. The king Bimbisara himself, descrying him from the windows of his palace, in front of which he passed, borne forward by the popular enthusiasm, had him watched to his retreat on the slope of the Pandava mountain, and the next morning, to do him honour, went there in person, accompanied by a numerous retinue. Bimbisara was about the same age as Siddhartha, and deeply impressed by the strange condition in which he found the young prince, charmed by his discourse, at once so elevated and so simple, touched by his magnanimity and virtue, he embraced his cause from that moment and never ceased to protect him during the rest of his reign. His most seductive offers were, however, powerless to move the new ascetic ; and after sojourning some time in the capital Siddhartha retired far from the crowd and tumult to the banks of the river Nairanjana, the Phalgu of modern geography.
Brahmanism and Buddhism
If we are to believe the Mahavansa, the Sinhalese chronicle, written in verse in the fifth century of our era by Mahanama, who composed it from the most ancient Buddhist documents, the king Bimbisara was converted to Buddhism, or to use the expression of the writer, 'joined the Congregation of the Conqueror,' in the sixteenth year of his reign. He had ascended the throne at the age of fifteen, and reigned no less than flfiy-two years. His father was bound by the strongest ties of affection to Siddhanha's father, and this was no doubt one of the reasons that had made Bimbisara so favourable to him. His son Ajatasatru, who murdered him, did not at first share his kindly feeling towards the Buddha, and for some time persecuted the innovator before accepting his doctrine, as we shall see later.
Notwithstanding the enthusiastic welcome the Sramana Gautama received, both from kings and peoples, he did not consider himself sufficiently prepared for his great mission, he determined to make a last and decisive test of the power of his arguments.
There lived at Rajagriha a Brahman even more celebrated than the Brahman of Vaisali. His name was Udraka, son of Kama, and he enjoyed an unrivalled reputation among the common people and even among the learned. Siddhartha went humbly to him, and asked to be his disciple. After some conversations Udraka raised his disciple to be his equal, and established him in a teacher's abode, saying, 'Thou and I together will teach our doctrine to this multitude.' His disciples numbered 700. However, as at Vaisali, the superiority of the young ascetic was soon apparent, and he was compelled to separate himself from Udraka: 'Friend' he said to him, 'this path does not lead to indifference to things of this world, it does not lead to emancipation from passion, it does not lead to the prevention of the vicissitudes of mankind, it does not lead to calm, nor perfect wisdom, neither does it lead to the state of Sramana nor to Nirvana.' Then, in the presence of all Udraka's disciples, he parted from him.
Five of the disciples, fascinated by the teaching of Siddhartha and the lucidity of his precepts, left their former master to follow the reformer. They were all five men of high caste, says the legend. Siddhartha first withdrew with them to Mount Gay a, then he returned to the banks of the Nairanjana, to a village called Uruvela, where he determined to settle with his companions before going forth to teach mankind. Henceforth he was decided with regard to the learning of the Brahmans, he knew its capacity, or rather its insufficiency; he felt himself stronger than they. Nevertheless he still had to gain strength against his own weaknesses, and although he disapproved of the excessive Brahmanic asceticism, he determined to submit for several years to a life of penance and self-mortification. It was perhaps by way of ensuring as popular a consideration as the Brahmans possessed, but it was also a means of subduing the senses.
Brahmanism and Buddhism
Text adapted from 'The Buddha and His Religion'
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