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Gotama was born into a royal family; the maiden whom be married was a princess, and there were many who thought that he himself would become a world-ruler. And so Prince Siddhārtha (for that was his name in his father's palace) grew up with every circumstance of power and delight surrounding him. But even as the lotus grows in the water in which it is born, and rises above it, and ceases to be stained by it, so does the one who is born to be a Buddha, the Enlightened and the Giver of Enlightenment, rise above all that belongs to the world whether of delight or power, trouble or service. Gotama was born to be the Buddha of our age. He did not give his mind to those who urged him to make himself a world-ruler; rather, he left his wife and child and his father's palace, and he went into the forest, becoming a hermit so that he might discover how men may escape from death that is bound to birth, and old age that is bound to infancy. And after having lived for six years in the forest during which time he subsisted on the few grains of millet seed which he ate daily, he went once more towards where men lived, saying to himself, "I will nourish my body and seek Enlightenment through other means than through those severities which have brought me near to death."
He came to a village. Now in that village there was a woman whose name was Sujātā. She had been warned in a dream that the one who was to become Buddha would come that way and that she
was to be ready to bestow a gift of food upon him. And so when Gotama came into that village Sujātā had milk and rice of the purest kinds ready for him, and she gave him this food in a golden bowl. Gotama rejoiced in the readiness with which the gift was offered, in the purity of the food, and the fineness of the vessel in which it was given. He blessed Sujātā. He ate the food and thereafter he bathed in the river. And when he placed it in the water the golden bowl floated up the stream. Thereupon a great joy possessed Gotama; the bowl floating up the stream was, he knew, a sign given him that he would soon attain Enlightenment.
So he went towards that Tree of Knowledge under which had sat the Buddhas of other ages; under it they had attained Enlightenment and had become Buddhas. And as he went towards that tree birds of bright colours flew around his head and beasts walked behind him. The friendly spirits hung banners upon trees to guide him to the place. As he went on he thought that these friendly spirits and the birds and the beasts would be witnesses to the victory that would give him Enlightenment, and that the spirits of evil would be witnesses of it also.
That thought went from his mind and it penetrated the mind of Mārā, the chief of the spirits of evil. Hastily Mārā got together his forces: Gotama must not be allowed to stay under the Tree of Knowledge, he told his followers. With the speed of the whirlwind, with his band Mārā went to the place. But with composure, with the assurance of victory in his heart, with majesty, Gotama went towards the tree. He took his place where the Blessed Ones who had attained to Enlightenment had taken theirs; he seated himself on the eastern side of the Tree of Knowledge.
The earth heaved six times, and the birds and beasts that had come with Gotama were affrighted and fled away. But the friendly spirits remained near him. Then Mārā, the chief of the evil spirits, taking on himself the appearance of a messenger from his father's country, went to where Gotama sat. Breathlessly he said to him, "Even while you sit here your evil-hearted cousin has taken possession of your father's kingdom, and is cruelly and rapaciously treating all the people whom you should protect. Go, go from this place. Destroy the tyrant, and give peace to your country!" But the words of Mārā,
cunning though they were, had no effect: Gotama remained unmoved. He reflected that if his cousin were acting in such way it was because of a malice that possessed him, and if the nobles of the land permitted him to act unjustly it was because they were weak and cowardly. And then he thought upon weakness, malice, and cowardice, and he resolved to raise himself above them by destroying in himself the centre out of which they come; namely, desire that fixes itself upon things of this world. He resolved, too, to show others how to destroy that desire in themselves. So he remained unmoved. The spirit of the tree cast perfumes upon him, and prayed him through its leaves to continue his mighty efforts towards Enlightenment.
Then Mārā flung against him his army of evil spirits. Terrible beyond all imagination were they-footless and headless and eyeless beings armed with all manner of weapons. So terrifying were they in their mere appearances that the friendly spirits who had stayed near him now fled from beside Gotama, and the spirit of the tree groaned and withdrew itself into the depths of the earth. The army of the evil spirits came towards Gotama howling terribly, raging frightfully, brandishing spears and swords, clubs and lighted torches. But Gotama remained unmoved; then did the weapons stick to their hands, then were the hands that held the weapons paralyzed. Raging to see his army made so powerless, Mārā raised himself up on his mighty elephant. He made that elephant rush towards Gotama. In his hand he held the discus which, when flung, could split a mountain. He flung the discus at Gotama. But the iron circle did not strike him; it stayed in the air over his head as if it were a halo. Then Mārā came close to him and howled to him: "Depart from this place! Begone! You have not the merit that would permit you to seat yourself where Buddhas of former ages seated themselves. Depart, unworthy one!" So Mārā, the Evil One, said, hoping to create in Gotama's mind a doubt about himself. And all who were with the Evil One cried out, "He has not merit enough! He has not merit enough!" Their voices were like the sound of all the waves in the ocean. "This place is mine, not yours," cried the Evil One, "and I call on these many witnesses to declare that it is mine." "It is thine! It is thine! We are witnesses!" the army of the Evil One cried out. But Gotama remained unmoved. He put his hand down upon the earth, asking the
earth to bear witness for him. And the earth in a thousand voices bore witness that he had merit enough to sit in the place in which the Buddhas of former ages had sat. Then the elephant on which Mārā rode bowed its knees in homage to Gotama. Then the army of the Evil One fled away, and Mārā turned and fled with them.
But even as he fled he remembered that there was one force that he had not used against Gotama. Something else he would bring against him to prevent his attaining Enlightenment. Mārā summoned his three daughters, Desire, Lust, and Pining. Lovely were they in the eyes of men. Now they came before Gotama as he sat under the Tree of Knowledge and danced and sang for him. He saw them, but his mind did not go out to them. All his thought was now upon the attainment of Enlightenment and the attainment of the power to enlighten others. And the daughters of Mārā, reaching to an understanding of the nobility of his purpose, ceased to dance, ceased to sing, ceased to posture; they knelt before him, and they prayed:
[paragraph continues] When Mārā saw his own daughters kneeling before Gotama he fled away.
Then was Gotama left in peace. The sun went down, and still he remained under the tree. Enlightenment dawned upon his mind. In the twentieth hour all things were gathered up for him, and things in the farthest worlds and things beside him showed themselves to him in their values and their measures. Then did he know the law that binds all existences together. Then did he obtain perfect enlightenment. Then did he become Buddha.
And having become Buddha, rays of six colours went from his body and spread through all the universe. All creation rejoiced because out of myriads of beings one had become Buddha. For seven days he remained in meditation under the Tree of Knowledge and the serpent Mucalinda covered him with its coils. Then with knowledge of how to break the chain that binds together birth and death, infancy and old age, Buddha rose up and went forth to instruct mankind.