THE LIFE OF SAKYAMUNI BUDDHA
18. Seven Weeks After Enlightenment
Under the Bodhi Tree
During the first week after enlightenment, the Buddha sat under the bodhi tree experiencing the happiness of freedom and peace. He was free from disturbing thoughts, calm and blissful.
Gazing at the Tree
During the second week, in thanks and gratitude to the tree that had sheltered him during his struggle for Buddhahood, the Buddha stood without moving his eyes as he meditated on the bodhi tree.
Following this example, it is the custom of Buddhists to pay respect to not only the original bodhi tree, but also to the descendants of the bodhi tree that still thrive today.
The Golden Bridge
In the third week, the Buddha saw through his mind’s eye that the devas in the heavens were not sure whether he had attained enlightenment or not. To prove his enlightenment the Buddha created a golden bridge in the air and walked up and down it for a whole week.
The Jewelled Chamber
In the fourth week, he created a beautiful jewelled chamber and sitting inside it meditated on what was later known as the “Detailed Teaching” (Abhidhamma). His mind and body were so purified that six coloured rays came out of his body — blue, yellow, red, white, orange and a mixture of these five. Today these six colours make up the Buddhist flag. Each colour represented one noble quality of the Buddha: yellow for holiness, white for purity, blue for confidence, red for wisdom and orange for desirelessness. The mixed colour represented all these noble qualities.
During the fifth week, while meditating under a banyan tree, three most charming girls called Tanha, Rati and Raga came to disturb his meditation. They danced in a most seductive and charming manner and did everything to tempt the Buddha to watch their dance. Yet he continued to meditate unperturbed, and soon they tired and left him alone.
The Mucalinda Tree
The Buddha then went and meditated at the foot of a mucalinda tree. It began to rain heavily and a huge king cobra came out and coiled his body seven times around the Buddha to keep him warm and placed his hood over the Buddha’s head to protect him from the rain. After seven days the rain stopped and the snake changed into a young man who paid his respects to the Buddha. The Buddha then said:
“Happy are they who are contented. Happiness is for those who hear and know the truth. Happy are they who have good will in this world towards all sentient beings. Happy are they who have no attachments and have passed beyond sense-desires. The disappearance of the word “I AM ” is indeed the highest happiness.”
The Rajayatana Tree
During the seventh week, the Buddha meditated under the rajayatana tree. On the fiftieth morning, after seven weeks of fasting, two merchants came into his presence. They were called Tapussa and Bhallika. They offered the Buddha rice cakes and honey to break his fast and the Buddha told them some of what he had found in his enlightenment.
These two merchants, by taking refuge in the Buddha and his Dharma (translated as “teachings of the Buddha”), became the first lay followers. There was no Sangha (order of monks and nuns) then. They asked the Buddha for something sacred to keep with them. The Buddha wiped his head with his right hand and pulled out some hair to give to them. These hair relics, called Kesa Datu, were later reputed to be enshrined by the merchants on their return home to what is now known as Burma, in the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon.
EXERCISE 18. Seven Weeks After Enlightenment
1. What did the Buddha do during the first week after enlightenment?
2. What did the Buddha do during the third week?
3. Who visited the Buddha during the fifth week?
4. For how long did he fast?
5. What are the colours of the Buddhist flag, and what does each colour symbolise?
6. Who became the first two lay disciples of the Buddha?