Why the Buddha Suffered

from The Explanation of the Traditions about the Buddha


... Buddhāpadānaṁ kusalāpadānavasena niṭṭhāpetvā,
... having finished the account of the wholesome traditions in the Traditions about the Buddha

tad-eva akusalāpadānavasena vitthāretuṁ idaṁ pañhakammaṁ.
now (we need) to lay out the account of the unwholesome actions with an enquiry into his deeds.

Dukkarañ-ca abbhakkhānaṁ, abbhakkhānaṁ punāparaṁ,
Austerities These verses enumerate twelve ways in which the Buddha suffered, as a kind of tabulation of the stories to come. 1 and slander, and once again (more) slander,

Abbhakkhānaṁ, silāvedho, sakalikāpi ca vedanā.
Slander, pierced by a rock, and the suffering through a splinter.

Nāḷāgiri, sattacchedo, sīsadukkhaṁ, yavakhādanaṁ,
Nāḷāgiri, cut with a sword, headache, eating barley,

Piṭṭhidukkham-atīsāro – ime akusalakāraṇā. ti
Backache, dysentry – these (occurred) through unwholesome (deeds in the past).


[1. The Austerities]

Tattha, paṭhamapañhe dukkaran-ti, chabbassāni dukkarakārikā.
Herein, in the first enquiry, (called) austerities, (we hear about) the reason for six years of austerities.

Atīte Kassapasammāsambuddhakāle,
In the past, at the time of the Perfect Buddha Kassapa,

Bodhisatto Jotipālo nāma brāhmaṇamāṇavo hutvā,
the Buddha-to-be had become a brahmin student named Jotipāla,

nibbatto brāhmaṇajātivasena
and because of being born as a brahmin

Sāsane appasanno tassa Bhagavato,
he was not satisfied with the Dispensation of that Gracious One,

pilotikakammanissandena: “Kassapo Bhagavā” ti sutvā,
with this outcome through the connection of deeds: having heard it said “The Gracious Kassapa”,

“Kuto muṇḍakassa samaṇassa Bodhi? Bodhi paramadullabhā” ti āha.
he said: “Where is this shaveling ascetic's Awakening? Awakening is supremely rare!”


So tena kammanissandena anekajātisatesu
The outcome of that deed was that for countless hundreds of lives

Narakādīsu dukkham-anubhavitvā,
he underwent suffering in Naraka hell and so on,

tasseva Bhagavato anantaraṁ teneva laddhabyākaraṇena, SHB has a different construct: Bhagavatā laddhavyākaraṇo anantaraṁ teneva; which gives the same meaning.2
then after that, through having received the prediction from that Gracious One, The Buddha-to-be as Jotipāla had later ordained under the Buddha Kassapa, who then confirmed that he would become a Buddha himself at a later date.3

kammena jātisaṁsāraṁ khepetvā,
after wasting away in the transmigration of births through that deed,

pariyosāne Vessantarattabhāvaṁ patvā,
at the end, having attained his existence as Vessantara, His last earthly existence before the birth as Siddhattha, for which see the final Jātaka (Jā. 547).4

tato cuto Tusitabhavane nibbatto.
and falling away from that he re-arose in the Tusita realm.

Devatāyācanena tato cavitvā, Sakyakule nibbatto,
With the asking of the gods, after falling away from there, he arose in the Sakya family,

ñāṇassa paripākattā, sakala-Jambudīparajjaṁ pahāya,
and after coming to full maturity of knowledge, giving up the sovereignty over the whole of the Rose-Apple Island,

Anomānadītīre sunisitenāsinā samakūṭakesakalāpaṁ chinditvā,
cutting his top-knot evenly with a well-sharpened sword on the bank of the river Anoma,

Brahmunā ānīte iddhimaye kappassa saṇṭhānakāle,
which was taken by a Brahmā (god) using his psychic power until the end of the aeon,

padumagabbhe nibbatte aṭṭhaparikkhāre paṭiggahetvā pabbajitvā,
having taken the requisites (placed) in the lotus calyx and gone forth,

Bodhiñāṇadassanassa tāva aparipakkattā,
being unripe as yet for insight and knowledge and wisdom,

Buddhabhāvāya maggāmaggaṁ ajānitvā,
through not knowing what is path and not path to Buddhahood,

chabbassāni Uruvelajanapade
for six years in the Uruvelā country

ekāhāra-ekālopa-ekapuggala-ekamagga- PTS adds -ekataṇḍula-; one rice-grain; SHB omits ekamagga.5ekāsanabhojanavasena
because of eating only one (type of) food, one lump (of food), (from) one person (only), (on) one path (only), (at) one sitting (only), These are all different types of austerities: taking only one type of food, like beans; or only one lump or food, like one bean; or from only one person, no matter how little they give; or from only one path, instead of going along as many as needed; or eating only at one sitting, not taking anymore for the day after rising from the seat, etc.6

aṭṭhicammanahārusesaṁ nimmaṁsarudhirapetarūpasadisasarīro,
his body, with its bones, skin, sinews and the rest, being without flesh and blood, (became) like a dead person,

Mahāpadhānasutte DN 14, which hardly touches on the subject of the striving, but with the process of Awakening; ChS, Thai: Padhānasutte, and identifies it with Suttanipāta, 3.2, but that also deals not so much with the striving as with the fight with Māra. Perhaps a better reference would have been to MN 26, Ariyapariyesanasuttaṁ, which does deal in detail with the striving.7 vuttanayeneva padhānaṁ,
and his striving (should be understood) as it is recorded in the Discourse on the Great Traditions,

mahāviriyaṁ dukkarakārikaṁ akāsi.
(and so) with great energy he performed his austerities.

So imaṁ dukkarakārikaṁ Sambodhiyā maggaṁ na hotī ti cintetvā,
After realising that austerity is not the Path to Complete Awakening,

gāmanigamarājadhānīsu paṇītāhāraṁ paribhuñjitvā,
and partaking of fine food in the villages, towns and capital cities, However, in the tradition it is only said that he partook of the food provided by Sujāta, and there is no mention of his traveling around the country, as this implies, partaking of fine food.8

pīṇitindriyo paripuṇṇadvattiṁsa-Mahāpurisalakkhaṇo,
having satisfied faculties the thirty-two signs of the Great Man (appeared),

kamena Bodhimaṇḍam-upagantvā
and after gradually approaching the grounds of the Bodhi (Tree),

pañca Māre jinitvā Buddho jāto. ti
and defeating the five Māras, Māra as a god (devaputtamāra); Māra as defilements (kilesammāra); Māra as the constituent parts (khandhamāra); Māra as (wholesome and unwholesome) deeds (kammamāra); and Māra as death (maccumāra).9 he became the Buddha.


Avacāhaṁ Jotipālo Sugataṁ Kassapaṁ tadā:
As Jotipāla I spoke to the Buddha Kassapa, (saying):

“Kuto nu Bodhi muṇḍassa? Bodhi paramadullabhā!” [92]
“Where is this shavelings' Awakening? Awakening is supremely rare!”

Tena kammavipākena acariṁ dukkaraṁ bahuṁ
Through that deed and its result I practiced many austerities

Chabbassān-Uruvelāyaṁ tato Bodhim-apāpuṇiṁ. [93]
For six years at Uruvelā, and then attained to Awakening.

Nāhaṁ etena maggena pāpuṇiṁ Bodhim-uttamaṁ,
I did not attain the supreme Awakening through this path (of pain),

Kummaggena gavesissaṁ pubbakammena vārito. [94]
I sought along the wrong path being obstructed by a past deed.

Puññapāpaparikkhīṇo, sabbasantāpavajjito,
With merit and demerit destroyed, abstaining from all torment,

Asoko anupāyāso, nibbāyissam-anāsavo. ti [95]
Griefless, without despair, I will be released, without pollutants.