Uruvela The Place Of Mortification
The Bodhisatta went in search of a better system and came to a
settlement of five bhikkhus in the jungle of Uruvela; and when
the Blessed One saw the life of those five men, virtuously
keeping in check their senses, subduing their passions, and
practising austere self-discipline, he admired their earnestness
and joined their company.
With holy zeal and a strong heart, the Sakyamuni gave himself up
to meditative thought and rigorous mortification of the body.
Whereas the five bhikkhus were severe, the Sakyamuni was severer
still, and they revered him, their junior, as their master.
So the Bodhisatta continued for six years patiently torturing
himself and suppressing the wants of nature. He trained his body
and exercised his mind in the modes of the most rigorous ascetic
life. At last, he ate each day one hemp-grain only, seeking to
cross the ocean of birth and death and to arrive at the shore of
And when the Bodhisatta was ahungered, lo! Mara, the Evil One,
approached him and said: "Thou art emaciated from fasts, and
death is near. What good is thy exertion? Deign to live, and thou
wilt be able to do good works." But the Sakyamuni made reply: "O
thou friend of the indolent, thou wicked one; for what purpose
hast thou come? Let the flesh waste away, if but the mind becomes
more tranquil and attention more steadfast. What is life in this
world? Death in battle is better to me than that I should live
And Mara withdrew, saying: "For seven years I have followed the
Blessed One step by step, but I have found no fault in the
The Bodhisatta was shrunken and attenuated, and his body was like
a withered branch; but the fame of his holiness spread in the
surrounding countries, and people came from great distances to
see him and receive his blessing.
However, the Holy One was not satisfied. Seeking true wisdom he
did not find it, and he came to the conclusion that mortification
would not extinguish desire nor afford enlightenment in ecstatic
Seated beneath a jambu-tree, he considered the state of his mind
and the fruits of his mortification. His body had become weaker,
nor had his fasts advanced him in his search for salvation, and
therefore when he saw that it was not the right path, he proposed
to abandon it.
He went to bathe in the Neranjara river, but when he strove to
leave the water he could not rise on account of his weakness.
Then espying the branch of a tree and taking hold of it, he
raised himself and left the stream. But while returning to his
abode, he staggered and fell to the ground, and the five bhikkhus
thought he was dead.
There was a chief herdsman living near the grove whose eldest
daughter was called Nanda; and Nanda happened to pass by the spot
where the Blessed One had swooned, and bowing down before him she
offered him rice-milk and he accepted the gift. When he had
partaken of the rice-milk all his limbs were refreshed, his mind
became clear again, and he was strong to receive the highest
After this occurrence, the Bodhisatta again took some food. His
disciples, having witnessed the scene of Nanda and observing the
change in his mode of living, were filled with suspicion. They
were convinced that Siddhattha's religious zeal was flagging and
that he whom they had hitherto revered as their Master had become
oblivious of his high purpose.
When the Bodhisatta saw the bhikkhus turning away from him, he
felt sorry for their lack of confidence, and was aware of the
loneliness in which he lived. 12 Suppressing his grief he
wandered on alone, and his disciples said, "Siddhattha leaves us
to seek a more pleasant abode."
Next: Mara The Evil One
Previous: The Bodhisatta's Search