Footprints of the Buddha
The Thathagatha Siddhartha Gautama Buddha uttered thus in Mahaparinibbana Sutta: There are four places Ananda, a pious person should visit and look with feeling of reverence. What are the four places – the birthplace of Prince Siddhartha Gautama – Lumbini, the place of his attainment of Buddhahood – Buddhagaya, where he set the rolling, the unexcelled wheel of Dhamma (Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta), Isipatana Migadaya and where the Blessed One passed away – Kusinara.
According to Achariya, Abbatadamma Sutta, of Majjhima Nikaya, when Prince Siddhartha future Gautama Buddha was born, it was stated that many miraculous things happened on that particular day of Vesak Full M
oon Poya Day.
The women normally give birth, seated or lying down. Bodhisatva’s, the future Buddha’s beloved mother, Queen Mahamaya, gave birth to Siddhartha standing up. When the Bodisatva came forth from mother Mahamaya womb, first, Gods received him. Then, human-beings. He did not touch the earth. God’s sang “Rejoice Queen, a great son of great power, has been born to you.”
Where is this Buddha’s birthplace?
Lumbini – it is situated at the foothills of the snow clad, beautiful, picturesque Himalaya mountain, the modern Nepal.
It is a beautiful garden full of green shady sal trees, a breathtaking site.
Queen Mahamaya, on her way to her parent’s (this is the normal Indo-Aryan practice, the would be mothers normally go to her mother for the confinement) village, stopped and rested in this beautiful garden and here, she got the ‘labour pains’ and delivered Prince Siddhartha, in Lumbini on the Vesak Full Moon Day in 623 BCE.
Lumbini, where Prince Siddhartha Gautama Buddha was born is a ‘Piece of Heaven on Earth’ stated the famous Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsiang.
The things to be seen at Lumbini are the Asoka Pillar, the sacred pool - ‘Pokkharani’ supposed to be where Mahamaya took a bath before the delivery of the Boddhisatva are presently the Buddhist temple, showing the architectural elegance of Buddhist shrines in Nepal.
Buddha Gaya is situated about 10 km south of the famous city of Gaya. It is about 105 km from Patna, in the state of Bihar, India. The Temple of Gaya has a tower of 55 metres or 180 feet. It is one of the most holiest place of worship as Prince Siddhartha attained Supreme Buddhahood under the shady, pleasant, cool Bodhi tree in 588 BCE on the Full Moon Day of Vesak.
The ‘Ariyapariyasana Sutta’ of ‘Majjhima Nikaya’ in Sutta 26, the Buddha described the serene, peaceful environment and described “delightful grove with clear flowing river with pleasant, smooth banks.”
On Vesak Full Moon Poya Day, in the month of Vesak (May) the Compassionate One attained Imperturbability, calm, Bliss of Nibbana, and became a Samma Sambudda – an Awakened One at Buddhagaya.
The most sacred object is the Bodhi Tree. Under the shade of this tree, Siddhartha Gautama attained the Supreme Enlightenment. Like the Compassionate One – Gautama Buddha, the Bodhi tree is also serene, majestic and cool.
This Bo-tree is considered as the oldest and the most venerated tree in the world.
Inside the Maha Bodhi Temple there is the serene Maha Bodhi statue of Buddha, which adorns the main shrine of Buddhagaya.
Outside the Maha Bodhi Temple, you can see Ratanacanakamana Chetiya (the jewel promenade shrine) where the Blessed One mindfully walked for physical exercises. Then, there is Mahanama’s shrine, built by a Sri Lankan Bhikku Mahanama in 588 CE, Muchalinda lake and Spire shrine, a smaller version of Mahabodhi temple built in the 11th Century in the name of Tara and Avalokitesvara.
Tracing history an inscription revealed that first Sri Lankan visitor to Mahabodhi was a monk named Bodhirakshita.
A Sri Lankan literary work Rasavahini states that in about 100 BCE, a Buddhist Monk named Chullatissa and a tour party visited Buddhagaya.
We, Buddhists in Sri Lanka are very grateful to Anagarika Dharmapala. His timely intervention helped Buddhists all over the world an opportunity to respect and venerate Buddhagaya.
Anagarika Dharmapala, the great son of Sri Lanka, roared Sinhalayini, negitiv – Buddhagayawa beraganivu - (Oh, Sinhalese awaken save Buddhagaya). Due to this clarion call, today, we Buddhists have the opportunity of visiting Buddhagaya.
Saranath, Isipatana and Migadaya
Saranath is the place, where the Buddha set in the motion the wheel of the Dhamma, which brings real peace, happiness and the Bliss of Nibbana.
The famous Saranath statue depicts the Dhammaccacamudra (the posture of the setting of the wheel of Dhamma). It was at Saranath Isipatana, Migadaya, The Buddha delivered His first sermon on the Full Moon Day of Esala (July), two months after attaining Enlightenment, to the Panchavassiye Bhikkus – the five Ascetics.
What does Saranath mean? It means the sanctuary for deer and in Pali this place is called Migadaya.
It is situated 12 kilometres from the city of Varanasi (Baranas).
Sravasti, Jetavanaramaya and Ananda Bodhi
Two other important sites are Jetavanaramaya – Gandha Kuti (Perfumed chamber, where The Buddha resided) and Ananda Bodhi. The remains of Jetavana and Sravasti were locally known as Sahet – Mahet. Leading lay Dayaka, a multi-millionare banker (situ) Sudatta, popularly known as Anathapindika purchased the princely Pleasure Garden of Prince Jeta, and build a massive structure with all facilities – Blessed One’s perfumed chamber, dinning and meeting halls, bathing places, wells and ponds etc.
The Buddha resided in the rich city of Sravasti many years and Jetavanaramaya became the centre of Buddhist activity. In close proximity was the Purvaramaya constructed by Visakha, the Chief Daikawa, the kind hearted attractive pleasant lady.
In Savatthi, Jetavanaramaya, another important place of worship is the Ananda Bodhi tree.
Many devotees visit Jetavanaramaya to meet the Buddha. At times, when the Blessed One was not in, the devotees return home disappointed. After a discussion with Buddha, the Venerable Ananda Thera, planted a Bo-Sapling of the Jayasrimaha Bodhi for the devotees to pay their respect and reverence. As this Bo-tree was planted by Venerable Ananda Thera, the Bo-tree was named as Ananda Bodhiya – a great place of veneration. Some of the devotees make vows at the foot of Ananda Bo-tree.
According to Maha Parinibbana Sutta, the Blessed One addressed his Personal Assistant – Ven Ananda Thera (Dharmabandigarike) Treasurer of Dhamma thus:
Quote: “Let us cross the Hirannavat river and go to Mallas Sala Grove, in the vicinity of Kusinara.”
The Blessed One, realized that the end was fast approaching. The Gautama Buddha, told Ven Ananda to prepare a bed between the twin sala trees. The Buddha said that He is tired and went to rest.
Venerable Ananda Thera, who was so close to the Buddha, as the Attendant Monk, who was not an Arahat started weeping.
The Buddha stated from His death bed, Don’t cry, don’t grieve. All things are impermanent. Everything born, contains its own cessation. I am 80 years old now. I am now like a worn out cart. The Buddha advised Ananda Thera, Make effort. In a short time you will attain the Bliss of Nibbana.
Then The Buddha addressed the monks, Handa Dani Bhikkave Amantayami vo Vaya Dhamma Sankhara Appamedena Sampidetha - Now, O’ monks, I declare to you – all conditioned things are of a nature to decay, strive on with diligence. With these words, The Buddha passed away on the Vesak Full Moon Poya Day of Vesak 543 BCE.
Mahaparinibbana Stupa is constructed on the place the Blessed One passed away in Kusinara.
A royal funeral was accorded to the Blessed One. The funeral arrangements were made under the direction of Venerable Anuruddha, a cousin and a disciple of The Buddha.
The relics of the Buddha were distributed among the representatives of the 8 kingdoms of ancient India, namely Magadha, Vaishali, Kapilavastu, Allakappa, Ramagama, Vethadipa, Pava, and Kusinara.
Today these relics are enshrined in stupas across Asia and millions of devotees worship them.
At the time of the Buddha era, Kushinagar was the capital of the Mallas.
Venerable Ananda appealed to Buddha, prior to His passing away that he should chosen a big city of India like Kapilavastu, Vesali, Rajagaha etc rather than a small township like Kusinara for His passing away.
Buddha stated that in ancient times it was a prosperous city and in number of His previous births too, he breathed his last at Kusinara.
In the vicinity of Kusinara you find Parinibbana stupa and Maha Parinibbana Temple.
The two places that most people visit in Kusinara are the site of Mahaparinibbana and the place known as Makutabandana, where the cremation of the Blessed One took place.