Achievement of Buddha’s Great Enlightenment
Prince Siddhartha Gautama was confronted with the reality of human suffering. He at the age of 29 is said to have left the family palace to meet his subjects. Then, with five companions, he engaged in rigorous asceticism for 5 to 6 years. He tortured himself and fasted until his ribs stuck out, but yet enlightenment was not achieved.
He realized then that instead of punishing his body, he would work with his own nature and practice purity of mental defilements to realize enlightenment. He knew that he would need physical strength and better health to continue. About this time, a young girl named Sujata came by and offered Siddhartha a bowl of milk and rice. When his companions saw him eating solid food they believed he had given up the quest, and they abandoned him.
At this point, Siddhartha had realized the path to awakening was a ‘middle way’. The middle way is the path of moderation, away from the extreme of self-indulgence and self-mortification. Then Buddha sat under the Pipal tree, which is now known as the Bodhi tree situated in Bodh Gaya and he vowed not to arise from his seat until he had found the truth of life. Buddha went for a meditation of 49 days and then attained enlightenment at the age of 35 years.
On attaining enlightenment, Buddha realized that complete awakening and insight depends on the nature. Cause of human suffering was ignorance, which needed to be eliminated. The state of supreme liberation that was possible for any being was termed as ‘Nirvana’. Eventually, he formulated the ‘Four Noble Truths’ and the ‘Eightfold Path’, so that people could find the way to enlightenment for himself. Then he left Bodh Gaya and went forth to teach.