Within 5 months of his arrival
at Benares, Gautama had sixty followers. And now he called them together and
dismissed them in different directions to preach the truth for the salvation
of mankind. "Go you now, O Bhikkhus, and wander for the gain of the many, for
the welfare of Gods and men. Let not two of you go the same way. Preach, O
Bikkhus, the doctrine which is glorious in the end, in the spirit and in the
letter; proclaim a consummate, perfect and pure life of holiness."
At Uruvela, Gautama converted
three brothers named Kashyapa who worshipped fire in the Vedic form and had
high reputation as hermits and philosophers. The eldest brother Uruvela
Kashyapa and his pupils first flung their hair, their braids, their provisions
and the things for Agnihotr sacrifice into the river and received the
Pavja and Upsanpada ordination from the Blessed one. His
brothers, who lived by the river Niranjara and at Gaya, soon followed the
example. The conversions of the Kashyapa created a sensation and Gautama with
his new disciples and 1000 followers walked towards Rajgrha, the capital of
Magadha. News of the new prophet soon reached the king and Sain.iya
Bimbisara surrounded by numbers of Brahman and Vaeshya went to
visit Gautama. Seeing the distinguished Uruvela Kashyapa there, the king could
not make out if that great Brahmin had converted Gautama or if Gautama had
converted the Brahmin. Gautama understood king's perplexity and in order to
enlighten him asked Kashyapa, "What knowledge have you gained, O inhabitant of
Uruvela, that has induced you who were renowned for your penances, to forsake
your sacred fire?" Kashyapa replied that he had seen the state of peace and
took no more delight in sacrifices and offerings. The king was struck and
pleased and with his numerous attendants declared himself an adherent of
Gautama, and invited him to take his meal with him the next day.
The solitary wanderer
accordingly went, an honored guest, to the palace, of the king, and the entire
population of the capital of Magadha turned out to see him. The king
then assigned a Bamboo grove Vain.uvan close by for
the residence of Gautama and his followers, and there, Gautama rested for some
time. Shortly after Gautama obtained two renowned converts, Sariputta and
The fame of Gautama had now
traveled to his native town and his old father expressed a desire to see him
once before he died. Gautama accordingly went to Kapilavastu, but according to
custom remained in the grove outside the town. His father and relatives came
to see him there. And the next day Gautama himself went into the town begging
alms from the people who once adored him as their beloved prince and master.
The story goes on to say that the king rebuked Gautama for this act, but
Gautama replied it was the custom of his race. "But", retorted the king, "We
are descended from an illustrious race of warriors and not one of them has
ever begged his bread." "You and your family," answered Gautama, "may claim
descent from kings; my descent is from the prophet, Buddha of the old."
The kings took his son to the
palace where all the members of the family came to greet him except his wife.
The deserted Yashodhara with a wife's grief and a wife's pride exclaimed, "If
I am of any value in his eyes he will himself come; I can welcome him better
here." Gautama understood this and went to her with only two disciples with
him. And when Yashodhara saw her lord and prince enter a recluse with shaven
head and yellow robes‑ her heart failed her; she flung herself to the ground,
held his feet and burst into tears. Then remembering the impossible gulf
between them, she rose and stood aside; she listened to his new doctrine and
when subsequently Gautama was induced to establish an order of female
mendicants Yashodhara became one of the first Buddhist nuns. Just at this time
however she remained in her house but Rahula, Gautam's son, was converted.
Gautam's father was aggrieved at this and asked Gautama to establish a rule
that no one should in future be admitted to the order without his parents'
consent. Gautama consented to this and made a rule accordingly.
On his way back to Rajgrha,
Gautama stopped for some time at Anupiya, a town belonging to the Mallas. And
while he was stopping there he made many converts both from the Kolian and
from the Shakya tribe, some of whom deserve special mention. Aniruddh, the
Shakya, went to his mother and asked to be allowed to go into the houseless
state. His mother did not know how to stop him and so told him, "If Bhaddiya,
the Shakya, will renounce the world thou also mayest go forth into the
houseless state." Aniruddha accordingly went to Bhaddiya and it was decided
that they should embrace the order in seven days. Chulvagga, the Buddhist
Sutra says: So Bhaddiya, the Shakyaraj, and Aniruddha, and Ananda and Bhagu
and Kimball and Devadatt just as they had so often previously gone out to the
pleasure ground with fourfold array, and Upali the barber went with them,
making seven in all. And when they had gone some distance, they sent their
retinue back and crossed over to the neighboring district and took off their
fine things and wrapped them in their robe and made a bundle of them and said
to Upali the barber; " Do you now, Upali, turn back. These things will be
sufficient for you to live upon." But Upali was of a different mind so all the
seven went to Gautama and became converts. And when Bhaddiya had retired into
solitude, he exclaimed over and over, " O happiness! O happiness!" And on
being asked the cause said: "Formerly, Lord when I was a king I had a guard,
completely provided, both within and without my private apartments, both
within and without and town and within the borders of my country. Yet though I
was thus guarded and protected I was fearful, anxious, distrustful and
alarmed. But bow, Lord, even in the forest at the foot of a tree in solitude I
am without fear or anxiety, trustful and not alarmed; I dwell at ease,
subdued, secure, with mind as peaceful as an antelope."
Of these converts Ananda
became the most intimate friend and companion of Gautama and after his death
led the band of 500 monks in chanting the Dharma in the council of
Rajagrha. Upali, though barber by birth, became an eminent member of the order
and his name is often mentioned in connection with the Vinyapitak.
Devadatta became subsequently the rival and opponent of Gautama and is even
said to have advised Ajatashatru, the prince of Magadha, to kill his father
Bimbisara and then attempted to kill Gautama himself.
After spending his second
Vas or rainy season in Rajagrha Gautama repaired to Sravasti, the
capital of Kosalas, where Prasenajit reigned as king. A wood called Jaitvan
was presented to the Buddhists and Gautama often repaired and preached there.
Gautam 's instructions were always delivered orally and preserved in the
memory of the people like all the ancient books of India, although writing was
known at this time.
The third Vas was also
passed in Rajagrha and in the fourth year from the date of proclaiming is
creed Gautama crossed the Ganges, went to Vaisali and stopped in the Mahavana
grove. Thence he is said to have made a miraculous journey through the air to
settle a dispute between the Shakyas and Kolians about the water of the
Boundary River Rohini. In the following year he again repaired to Kapilvastu
and was present at the death of his father, then 97 years old.
His widowed step‑mother
Prajapati Gautami and his no less widowed wife Yashodhara had now no ties to
bind then to the world and insisted on joining the order established by
Gautama. The sage had not yet admitted women to the order and was naturally
most reluctant to do so. But his mother was inexorable and followed him to
Vaisali and begged to be admitted. Ananda pleaded her case but Gautama still
replied: " Enough, Ananda, Let it not please thee that women should be allowed
to do so." But Ananda persisted and asked, "Are women, Lord, capable when they
have gone forth form the household life and entered the homeless state under
the doctrine and discipline proclaimed by the blessed one, are they capable of
realizing the fruit of conversion, or of the second path or of Arhat
ship?"2 There could be only one reply to this Honor to women
has ever been a part of religion in India and salvation and heaven are not
barred to the female sex by the Hindu religion. "They are capable,"
reluctantly replied Gautama.
And Prajapati and other
ladies were admitted to the order as Bhikkhunee under some rules making
them strictly subordinate to Bhikkhu. After this Gautama retired to
Kausambi near Prayag (Allahabad).
In the sixth year after
spending the rains at Kausambi Gautama returned to Rajagrha, and Kshema the
queen of Bimbisara was admitted to the order. In same year Gautama is said to
have performed miracles at Sravasti and went to heaven to teach Dharma
to his mother who had died 7 days after his birth.
In the eleventh year Gautama
converted the Brahmin Bharadvaja. In the next year he undertook the longest
journey he had ever made and then preached the famous Mharahulsutan to his son
Rahula, then 18 years old. Two years later Rahula was admitted in the order.
In the fifteenth year he visited Kapilavastu again and addressed a discourse
to his cousin Mahanama, who had succeeded Bhaddiya, the successor of
Shuddhodana. Gautam's father‑in‑law Suprabuddha, the king of Koli, publicly
abused Gautama for deserting Yashodhara but is said to have been swallowed up
by the earth shortly after.
In the seventeenth year he
delivered discourse on the death of Shrimati, a courtesan; in the next year he
converted a weaver who had accidentally killed his daughter; in the following
year he released a deer caught in a snare and converted the angry hunter who
had wanted to shoot him; and in the twentieth year he similarly converted the
famous robber Angulimala of the Chaliya forest.
For twenty‑five years more
Gautama wandered through the Gangetic valley, preached piety and holy life to
the poor, the lowly and misguided, made converts among the high and the low,
the rich and the poor and proclaimed his law wherever he went. He died at the
age of 80. He lived 45 years from the date of his proclaiming the new