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The Lord Buddha Enters Nirvana and Dies

If there is a certain vagueness with regard to a parst of Buddha's life, there is no doubt whatever as to the place of his death upon entering Nirvana

The Lord Buddha Enters Nirvana and Dies

Continued from << Development of Buddhism into a religion

All the legends, without exception, agree in saying that it took place at Kusi-nagara, in the kingdom of the same name, which no doubt in the days of Prasenajit formed part of Kosala. The Buddha, then eighty years of age, was returning from Rajagriha in Magadha, accompanied by Ananda, his cousin, and a numerous crowd of monks and disciples. On reaching the southern bank of the Ganges, and before crossing the river, he stood on a large square stone, gazed tenderly at his companion, and said: 'This is the last time that I shall look from afar on the city of Rajagriha and the Diamond Throne (Vajiasanam).'

Buddha - Death Mahaparinirvana - Gandhara AD200 - Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutra of the Pali canon, at the age of 80, the Buddha announced that he would soon reach Parinirvana or the final deathless state abandoning the earthly body. After this, the Buddha ate his last meal, which he had received as an offering from a blacksmith named Cunda. Falling violently ill, Buddha instructed his attendant Ānanda to convince Cunda that the meal eaten at his place had nothing to do with his passing and that his meal would be a source of the greatest merit as it provided the last meal for a Buddha. Mettanando and von Hinüber argue that the Buddha died of mesenteric infarction, a symptom of old age, rather than food poisoning. The precise contents of the Buddha's final meal are not clear, due to variant scriptural traditions and ambiguity over the translation of certain significant terms; the Theravada tradition generally believes that the Buddha was offered some kind of pork, while the Mahayana tradition believes that the Buddha consumed some sort of truffle or other mushroom.

The Mahayana Vimalakirti Sutra claims, in Chapter 3, that the Buddha doesn't really become ill or old but purposely presents such an appearance only to teach those born into samsara about the impermanence and pain of defiled worlds and to encourage them to strive for Nirvana.

After crossing the Ganges he went to the city of Vaisali, to which he bade the same touching farewell, and he received several monks into his Order, the last of whom was the mendicant Subhadra. He was in the country of the Mallas, near the river Achiravati, about half a mile north-west of the city of Kusi-nagara, when he was seized with a sudden faintness. He stopped in a grove of salas, under a tree of this species {Shcrea robusid), and there died, or, as the Buddhist legends say, he entered into Nirvana. Hiouen-Thsang saw the four sala trees, all of equal height, under which it was said the Buddha rested and drew his last breath. The Buddha died in the eighth year of the reign of Ajatasatru, if we may rely on Sinhalese chronology. He passed away on the full moon of May.

The Lord Buddha Enters Nirvana and Dies

The Tibetan Dulva gives a detailed account of the funeral rites that were rendered him, which were as splendid and solemn as those reserved for the Chakrawarti kings (universal monarchs). The most illustrious of his disciples, Kasyapa, author of the Abhidharma, or Collection on Metaphysics, and who afterwards took such an important part in the first Council, was at that moment at Rajagriha, but instantly hurried back to Kusi-nagara. The Buddha's body was not buried until the eighth day after his death; and after much quarrelling, which almost ended in bloodshed, and was only allayed by an appeal to the concord and meekness inculcated by the Reformer, his relics were divided into eight portions, one of which was given to the Sakyas of Kapilavastu.

Relief fragment depicting female warrior guarding Buddha relics - Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Such is, in its principal outlines, the life of Sakja-muni. All his actions, great though they were, seem so natural that we cannot hesitate to accept the account as true, since so much concordant evidence has vouched for it. We have given it as it is related in the documents already known, and new documents can but complete it. The figure of the Buddha is shown under the most credible conditions, for if they reveal the originality of his genius, they also explain no less clearly the immense influence he exerted over others. But we must in all sincerity admit that we have in a slight degree transformed the Buddhist legends, while borrowing from them the probably true narrative which they furnish.

The Lord Buddha Enters Nirvana and Dies

Text adapted from 'The Buddha and His Religion'
by Jules Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire (19 Aug 1805 – 24 Nov 1895)

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The Lord Buddha Enters Nirvana and Dies

The Dharma Wheel

Spokes of the Dharmachakra - "The Dharma Wheel" Meaning - The Dharma Wheel Symbol - The Dharma Wheel Image - 8 spokes representing the Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya magga)

In Buddhism—according to the Pali Canon, Vinayapitaka, Khandhaka, Mahavagga, the number of spokes of the Dharmachakra represent various meanings:

8 spokes representing the Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya magga).
12 spokes representing the Twelve Laws of Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppada).
24 spokes representing the Twelve Laws of Dependent Origination and the Twelve Laws of Dependent Termination (Paticcasamuppada).
31 spokes representing 31 realms of existence (11 realms of desire, 16 realms of form and 4 realms of formlessness).

Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is a Japanese Buddhist chant based upon the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Daishonin (Feb 16, 1222 – Oct 13, 1282) a Buddhist monk who lived during the Kamakura period (1185–1333) in Japan. Nichiren taught devotion to the Lotus Sutra, entitled Myōhō-Renge-Kyō in Japanese, as the exclusive means to attain enlightenment and the chanting of Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō as the essential practice of the teaching. Various schools with diverging interpretations of Nichiren's teachings comprise Nichiren Buddhism.
Nam - To devote one's life
Myoho - Myo is the mystic nature of life and Ho, its manifestation
Renge - "Lotus Flower"; which symolises the ballance of cause and effect
Kyo - Sutra, the voice or teachings of Buddha (The sound or vibration that connects everything in the ubiverse)

As the Buddha had never claimed to be a god, it is evident that he never prescribed the form of worship that was to be rendered to him. A legend, however, attributes to him the institution of this form of worship

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