Siddartha Gautama was on the verge of death. He had been following a strict practice of not eating as he was told to by the local holy men, to help him on his spiritual quest. Siddartha was born as a prince of Shakya clan. Six years ago, he had left his wife, son and his palace life of luxury, because he wanted to seek the true nature of reality. In a world of beauty and joy, why is there pain and sadness? How can we end our suffering?
Despite sticking to this extreme routine of not eating, Siddartha wasn't getting closer to understanding the nature of reality. In fact, it only left him starving and near-death.
A local girl, Sujata, found Siddartha at the riverside and offered him a spoonful of rice porridge. The taste of the porridge reminded him of his childhood. He realized that punishing his mind and body wasn't doing anything, and was just as much of an obstacle to him to find truth, as was his previous luxurious life as prince. He knew that there must be a middle way.
When Siddhartha regained his strength, he continued his search, he knew that the answers to his questions could only be found within himself. He found a spot under a Bodhi tree and vowed to remain there until his questions were answered.
Once Siddartha settled into his meditation, Mara, the Lord of Desire, appeared, trying to distract Siddartha from his task. Mara first sent an army of demons in an effort to scare him. The demons approached Siddartha, but he was unmovable. Their weapons all turned into flowers and had no power against him. Next, Mara sent beautiful women to distract him, but once again, Siddartha was unmovable.
Finally, in an effort to fill Siddartha with self-doubt, Mara demanded to know who would vouch for Siddartha. Without a word, Siddartha touched the ground. The Earth shook as it vouched for him and his enlightenment.
With Mara defeated, Siddartha, in meditation, experienced all of his previous lives. He also experienced all the previous lives of every being that has lived on the Earth. He saw how all beings past, present and future were connected. He experienced the fundamental wisdom and compassion of the universe.
As the morning star appeared, Siddhartha stood up and smiled. "My mind is at peace". The sky shook and the Bodhi tree rained down flowers. He had become the Awakened one, the Buddha.
The story and the pictures were part of our Bodhi Day Evening Service 2022.