horizontal rule


Previous The Birth of the Buddha

The Birth of the Buddha

5. Austerities

During these six years he first spent time with and practiced the systems of meditation taught by two leading ascetics of the time. Although he mastered their respective systems, he felt that here he had not found any real answer to the problem of human suffering. So next, in the company of five other wandering ascetics, he turned to the practice of severe austerities. The old texts preserve a hauntingly vivid description of the results of this practice:

My body reached a state of extreme emaciation. Because of eating so little my limbs became like the jointed stems of creepers or bamboo; my backside became like a buffalo's hoof; my backbone, bent or straight, was like corded beads; my jutting and broken rafters of an old house; the gleam of my eyes sunk deep in their sockets was like the gleam of water seen deep down at the bottom of a deep well. (Gethin, p. 22)
Figure 8, (under construction) the famous sculpture form Gandhara, captures even more visually the moments of the Bodhisattva practicing severe austerities.