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Thread: Buddha's Anti-Ascetic Bodhi Tree Practice

  1. #1

    Buddha's Anti-Ascetic Bodhi Tree Practice

    I've heard Buddha's story a million times, in a million ways, but one thing hasn't really cleared up for me in all of these renditions. After his ascetic practice, and just before his realization, he is sitting under the tree between 7 - 49 days (depending on the rendition; don't really care how long it was, even if it was 7 years!). They make it sound like he wasn't eating, etc. during this time. I know for a fact many people believe he wasn't. Logic would say that he was eating and maybe sleeping–having given up the 'silly' practice of asceticism–during this time. My question is: what say you, my fine fettled friends?
    My name is: Jordan.

  2. #2
    Hi Jordan,

    If I understand your question ...

    I believe that the Buddha practiced various kinds of asceticism as still common in India (like this fellow who hasn't put his arm down for four decades) ...



    ... and also various kinds of hyper-focused and extremely deep "removed from worldly consciousness" meditations as also still practiced by some in India (sorry, no photo to capture that available!) ...

    ... perhaps until he looked like this ...



    ... (although the stories about his him living on a single grain of rice per day, or of learning to breathe through his skin and ears are probably idealized exaggerations)

    ... and after all that, he saw the simple morning star, realized the Middle Way and "Just This", and found the Liberation of Enlightenment right here all along.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-21-2012 at 09:11 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    A young girl was bringing him food. Kind of like your neighbor/landlords. Walking is good too. The historical Buddha cannot make your way. The great Frank sinatra sang 'I did it my way' lol
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  4. #4
    "...what say you?"
    I wasn't there; therefore I don't know. I take the story at face value; if he abandoned asceticism and discovered the Middle Way, then he was practicing the Middle Way, not asceticism, when he achieved enlightenment; otherwise the Middle Way would be invalid. Whether he sat for 7 or 49 days, practice requires diligence, but diligence is not asceticism.

    I've met more than a few practitioners that appear to me to have a strong penchant for asceticism despite the Middle Way. Whether or not that's a personality trait or a residual influence of their impression of the rigors of traditional Japanese monastic Zen practice I don't know. It does seem to me that on occasion life can be harsh enough "just as it is"; there's always sufficient grist for the mill, and I fail to see the value or utility of artificially making it any harsher.

    As Jundo said, there are many "idealized exaggerations" regarding the Buddha; flying through the air, walking through walls, that sort of thing, which appear to me to be simple superstition. Personally I don't see how believing that upon his enlightenment his hair spontaneously turned blue and spun into tight clockwise little curls would in any way contribute to my practice (actually, quite the opposite. The Buddha repeatedly denied being a god, celestial being, or whatever; but simply a man who had fully awakened. The obvious implication is that I too, being simply a man, can also awaken, a point which would be completely negated by the Buddha's deification), but admittedly my understanding is rather limited.
    Enlightenment unfolds.
    Last edited by Piobair; 07-21-2012 at 11:57 AM.
    May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind
    quickly be freed from their illnesses.
    May those frightened cease to be afraid
    and may those bound be free.
    May the powerless find power
    and may people think of befriending one another.

  5. #5
    First off, I highly doubt that a large portion of these stories are true, so I'm not filling out my calendar based on how Buddha did it... but thanks for the heads up

    Yes, I understand that there are variations and variations, and as I said prolly hooey, but it never really makes THAT PART clear like the stories makes other parts clear. After he does all the nutty practices, he says "forget this!," leaves the ascetics, the girl gives him porridge (or milk), ascetic buddies say "screw you traitor," he's alone, starts to meditate. So as he meditates for those 7 - 49 days as a non ascetic, and before he sees the morning star, is the girl still bringing him food during this time? I did not know she continued after the fist time.

    I mean... it's a legitimate question. Like did Dogen die of pork poisoning? Who cares right? Still interesting, and I'm still gonna sit tonight regardless of the answer. Naw mean?
    Last edited by SyntaxJO; 07-21-2012 at 12:03 PM.
    My name is: Jordan.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    BTW, this is priceless. I swear, at first I thought it was an ascetic giving the thumbs down; as in, "This sucks!"
    My name is: Jordan.

  7. #7
    disastermouse
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Piobair View Post
    I wasn't there; therefore I don't know. I take the story at face value; if he abandoned asceticism and discovered the Middle Way, then he was practicing the Middle Way, not asceticism, when he achieved enlightenment; otherwise the Middle Way would be invalid.
    Really?


    Hmm...




    Not so sure.

    Chet

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    A young girl was bringing him food. Kind of like your neighbor/landlords. Walking is good too. The historical Buddha cannot make your way. The great Frank sinatra sang 'I did it my way' lol
    Man, right on! That's all I can say. I do not want to live a copycat, aping, life. Very cool

    Even though the Buddha settled in the Middle, perhaps he needed to experience both sides to find the Middle. I guess we all do that. I find myself clinging to extremes... but you just gotta bring it back. I guess that's what Shikantaza teaches us.

    In the idealized story of the Buddha, I do find it hard to believe that he reached this state of perfect enlightenment. I don't know if that makes me a heretic, and I'm sure as hell not that experienced, but life constantly changes. I think practice is a lifelong thing where we may diminish certain habits, but they are there, and we need to deal with them. As long as we are human, we are going to face those challenges. In any case, it would be real interesting to see how "The Buddha" truly was. Ah well... too bad we can't travel back in time. lol

    Idealized stories can be good in that they exaggerate to articulate a fundamental point about a religion or philosophy, but the downside is that it removes the real, human element from things. It really does make me wonder how the Buddha or any great master really were.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  9. #9
    disastermouse
    Guest
    In reality, there is no middle - there's just where you are before you start to place yourself.

    IMHO.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Piobair View Post
    It does seem to me that on occasion life can be harsh enough "just as it is"; there's always sufficient grist for the mill, and I fail to see the value or utility of artificially making it any harsher.
    Gassho,

    Dokan
    We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
    ~Anaïs Nin

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