The Buddha's Journey of Enlightenment

  After the Buddha left his home and family, he practiced with two teachers: Alara Kalama and Uddaka Rampaputta. He learned and quickly reached ‘the base of nothingness’ and ‘the base of neither perception nor non-perception.’ However, the Buddha was not satisfied since they did not lead to Nibbana.

  For the next six years, he did extreme ascetic practices with the five bhikkhus. Although he practiced until he was near death, he did not reach Nibbana. At this point, he recalled the first jhana —he experienced when he was a child — that it may lead to enlightenment. Then realized that in his excessively emaciated physical condition, he could not do the jhana practice. So, he took solid food (milk porridge) to gain physical strength. Seeing this, his five bhikkhus left him in disgust. Therefore, he practiced jhana alone. He had five momentous dreams that foretold him the following:

  1. His discovery of the supreme, full enlightenment
  2. His discovery of the Noble Eightfold Path
  3. He will have many white-clothed lay followers
  4. The four castes would realize the supreme deliverance
  5. He will use four requisites (robes, alms, abode, and medicine) without greed or delusion or clinging, perceiving their dangers and understanding their purpose

  After eating solid food, he was able to reach first, second, third, and fourth jhana. With the concentration power he achieved through four jhanas, he recalled his numerous past lives; he saw beings passing away and reappearing, inferior and superior, fair and ugly, happy and unhappy in their destinations; he attained true knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. Then, he was liberated from the taint of sensual desire, from the taint of being, and from the taint of ignorance. When he was liberated, there came the knowledge, ‘It is liberated.’

M. 15, 36, 85, 100, Sn. 3:2, A.5:196