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Dhamma Articles

The seven weeks after Enlightenment


All Buddhists as well as others are aware that after enlightenment Buddha spent the next seven weeks at seven different places. Pilgrims from all over the world come to Bodh Gaya and venerate the seven places by offering flowers, lighting oil lamps, incense sticks and reciting stanzas. Yet how many are aware of the inner true meaning of the seven weeks the Enlightened One spent after enlightenment? The stanza says,

• First week at the base of Bodhi
• Second week looking at the Bodhi without blinking the eyes
• Third week walking on the golden walk.
• Fourth week inside the golden abode.
• Fifth week under the Ficus tree Ajapala
• Sixth week at lake Muchalinda
• Seventh week under Rajayathana Tree

The First Week
At Bodh Gaya pilgrims who visit will pay homage to the Bodhi Tree by offering flowers, lighting oil lamps, burning incense sticks and recitation of the stanzas. They will also worship the seat at the base of the tree stated to have been used by Buddha. However the great majority would limit their veneration to the ritual aspects without trying to fathom the depth of the occasion or the inner understanding of the actual situation. It is also customary for devotees to observe the eight precepts while venerating the seven places.

It is stated that after enlightenment Buddha stayed the first week at the base of Bodhi (BODHI MULE NISIDATHI). What is the base of Bodhi, is it the base of the Ficus Religiosa tree? To understand, we need to delve deeper into the Dhamma. At the end of the first week, on the final night Buddha in the first watch delved into the co-dependent origination. Then he saw that all things (Dhamma) are dependently originated. When this is there this arise, when this is born this is born. In the middle watch he noted that all things, when this is not there this is not there, when this is ceased this ceases. In the morning watch he introspected in both the forward and backward directions simultaneously, this arises when this is there and this ceases when this is not there.

Then Buddha uttered these stanzas,

YADAHAVE PAATHU BHAVANTHI DHAMMA, AATHAPINO JAYATHO BRAHMANASSA, ATHASSAKANKA WAPYANTHI SABBA, THATHO PAJANATHI SAHETHU DHAMMA.

YADAHAVE PAATHU BHAVANTHII DHAMMA, AATHAPINO JAYATHO BRAHMANASSA, ATHASSA KANKA VAPAYANTHI SABBA, THATHO KHAYAN PACHCHAYANAN HAVEDI.

YADAHAVE PAATHU BHAVANTHI DHAMMA, AATHAPINO JAYATHO BRAHMANASSA, VIDHUPAYAN THITTAHI MARASENA, SURYOWA OBHASAYA ANTHALIKKE.

To the Brahmana (the Arahath) who is meditating with energy, to him there it arises that all things arise because of a cause.

To the Brahmana who is meditating with energy, to him there it arises that when the cause is not there the resultant too is not there.

To the Brahmana who is meditating with energy will disperse away the ten armies of Mara just as the morning sun will brighten up the dark sky.

This in itself is the essence and the basis of co-dependent origination. We worldly people know to recite the 12 resultants arising from the dependent causality. Those are the results but here on the first week after enlightenment the Enlightened One dwelled on the very principle of co-dependent origination. In other words this is the very base of knowledge (Bodhi). Thus it should be seen that the Buddha in the first week after enlightenment dwelled looking at the very base on it all, co-dependent origination. Thus we say BODHI MULE NISIDATHI seated at the base of realization, the co-dependent origination.

The things or Dhamma are the 12 things in the co-dependent origination (Patichcha Samupppada). To the Brahmin (the Buddha or Arahath) who is meditation with energy and strength it becomes fully clear that the 12 things or Dhamma that arise are purely on the basis of co-dependency principle. Indeed, when a person becomes a stream enterer (Sothapanna), the person realizes this foundation, “Yan kinchi samudaya dhamman, sabbanthan nirodha dhamman”, that the twelve things as evident in co-dependent origination arise and cease.

ITHI IMASMIN SATHI, IDAN HOTHI, IMASSA UPPADA IDAN UPPAJJATHI. When this is present this arises, when this is born, this is born. In short it all happens then and there. This is different to the modern science where it is about when this is there, that arises.

The Second Week
The location where Buddha spent the second week after enlightenment is in the area in front of the temple, to its left. This week it is said that the Buddha spent whole week looking at the Bodhi Tree without blinking his eyes. In the veneration of Dhamma the stanza speaks of wise realizing this Dhamma through self. Thus here too we must dwell deeper into the situation.

In explaining the conditioned in Dhamma it is stated, “THEENI MANI BHIKKAVE SANKATHASSA SANKATHA LAKAKANI KATHAMANI THEENI, UPPADO PANNAYATHI WAYO PANNAYATHI THITHASSA ANNATHATHTHAN PANNAYATHI”

“Bhikkus, the conditioned have in it these three, what are these three? There appears arising, there appears ceasing and what is seen as permanent there is this and that”. This means that in the conditioned even this permanence visualization is a case of being this and that simultaneously or in other words this constant change and not permanence. It is also said that this arising and ceasing (birth & death) occurs faster than the blinking of the eye. Buddha is one who is beyond birth and death and during this week it can be seen that he was delving into the realization or the enlightenment. Thus the Buddha spent the second week in the realization of Nibbana where there is no birth or death. Thus we say the second week he spent in expression of his gratitude to the Ficus Religiosa tree which gave the shelter. From a deeper perspective it can clearly be understood that Buddha spent the second week in the super mundane aspect of the Nibbana of no birth or death.

Suppose an eminent scientist finds something new after much research, he or she will delve into that again and again to relook at it. In the same way it can be seen that Buddha too looked into his self realization of the truth. It is also stated that given the deep and profound nature of the realization, the Enlightened One once did wonder whether the worldly people would be able to understand such a profound and deep truth.

Third Week
The location where the Buddha spent the third week after enlightenment is seen to the left of the temple. It is said that in the third week Buddha with his omniscient knowledge created another Buddha and the two of them walked in the opposite direction to each other. This means that both the Enlightened One and the created Buddha walked alone in direction opposite to each other.

What is the inner super mundane significance of this? To understand the higher significance one must dwell into the DWAYATHANUPASSANA SUTTA.

THANHAYA DUTHIYO PURISO, DIGHAMADDHANA SANSARAN
ITHTHABAANNATHABHAVAN SANSARAN NATHIWATHTHATHI.

Thus it is very evident that we the worldly people endowed and under the influence of the six agencies are never alone but is with the second person of craving all the time. But the enlightened, Buddha, Pachcheka Buddha or Arahath are without the second person and thus are all by themselves. So we say Eka Vihari which means by self only and no another with that person. Often people say they will go to a retreat and be all alone. Yet if one has not attained the ultimate of becoming an Arahath, then that person will be with the second, that of craving. On the other hand, Buddha and his Arahath disciples were dwelling in the Jethawana Vihar as well as in other temples amid tens of thousands of people who would come to Vihar, yet they were all by them self.

Those lay who meditate, once having learned the path may not necessarily need to be in a retreat all the time, but can do the meditation practice at home by striving to find that isolation from the second person of craving. Often people will say that they cannot meditate at their homes because of sounds and disturbances. Yet such things can disturb only if one volitionally seek to grapple with such sounds without learning to let go.

One may go to a retreat for an extended period yet may not be alone if that person tries to grapple with the Nama & Rupa that illustrate our consciousness. So the path as shown by the Enlightened One is letting go. Such a person will discharge his/her responsibilities to the immediate family, friends, society, to the country etc and yet will walk on the path to ultimate purification.

Fourth Week
The fourth week after enlightenment Buddha spent in the golden abode. The location of this place is to the left of the main temple and today the walls are often pasted with golden foil paper by many devotees. The traditional commentary has it that Buddha spent the fourth week in the golden abode created by gods. In Marghadi language (Pali) the fourth week is termed as dwelling in Rathana Agara or golden abode. In the months prior to the dispensation of the first discourse to the five ascetics at Varanasi, there was only the Buddha and the Dhamma had not been expounded to the worldly or the Sangha Sasana yet not established. Thus of the three Rathanas only the Buddha Rathana was in existence at that time.

We the worldly people too have an abode that has been created by the consciousness together with nama & rupa. Our abode is worldly and subject decay and death. But the golden abode of the Buddha is that which arises after having attained enlightenment. Thus Buddha was in the golden abode while the rest of the beings were in the abodes made by the consciousness. Our abodes made by the consciousness are illustrated with nama & rupa (Nidassana Vingnana) while the Enlightened One is in non-illustrated consciousness (Anidassana Vingnana).

Fifth Week
After enlightenment Buddha spent the fifth week under the Ficus Bengalansis tree Ajapala. In the traditional commentary, it is said that the Goatherds used the shade of the tree to spend the day, (Aja meaning Goat and Pala meaning the herder). But as I have stated afore, the Buddha has always told us to look at the inner depth of the Dhamma and not take the Dhamma in a very cosmetic way. (Opaniko pachchaththan vedithabbo vinnuhithi)

The Ajitha Manawa Sutta in Parayana Vagga Suththa Nipatha, Ajitha asked Buddha as to what this adhesive is? Buddha replied that this great adhesive is Jappa or craving. The Enlightened One in the fifth week chose the base of the Ficus tree Ajappa. Thus Ajappa means that which does not stick/bind/attach etc.

The Ficus Bengalansis tree as it grows starts spreading across the terrain with branches often parallel to the ground and supported by buttress roots springing from the branches reaching the ground. After some years there would be many such buttress roots that it often becomes difficult to find the real base of the tree.

It is the same with us the mundane humans. After birth we grow up and with craving and supported by the six touch agencies grasp this world. We are thus termed Lokika, worldly or under the influence of the six touch agencies whilst the Enlightened are termed Lokauththara or no longer under the six touch agencies influence and beyond the world. Even though the Enlightened One was seated under the Ficus tree just as the Goatherds, yet he was not under the influence of the worldly phenomena. Three girls Thanha, Rathi and Raga came and danced in front of Buddha trying to disturb him and later left having failed left him alone. Chasu Loko Samuppanno, Chasu kubbathi santhvan, Channameva upadaya, Chasu loko vihannathi. This world of self is of the six touch agencies, and with the six we associate it all, having grasped it all with the six touch agencies, we the worldly ones lament and wail.

Sixth Week
The sixth week Buddha spent near the Muchalinda pond. During that period there were heavy rains and a giant cobra named Muchalinda gave shelter to Buddha from rain by coiling around Enlightened One’s body and with the hood over his head. The term NAGA is also used for the enlightened such as Buddha and Arahath. We the worldly people are all the time susceptible to this defiling rain (KILESA WARSA) and defile ourselves with the six touch agencies. But the Buddha has totally eradicated it all and no such things can impact the Enlightened.

Seventh Week
The last of the seven weeks was known to have spent under the Rajayathana tree. It was here that the two merchants from Ukkala (now Odisha) came and worshipped Buddha and offered him alms of honey and cereals. The later requested for something sacred which they could take and Buddha gave them some hair relics.

Part of these relics is enshrined at Girihadu Seya in Thriyaya north of Trincomalee. Another part is supposed to be enshrined in Odisha in a shrine called Kesa Sthupa which has now been located. Another part is enshrined in Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon. The two traders were the first lay disciples of Buddha.

What is the significance of Rajayathana? We the worldly people are under the influence of six touch agencies and are thus under the Salayathana which our illustrated consciousness built for us. But the enlightened are no longer under the influence of the six agencies and now in their own abode built and is termed Rajayathana. Buddha after enlightenment said that the abode built by the maker has now been shattered and destroyed. That abode is the six agencies abode built by illustrated consciousness. Buddha and all Arahaths have non-illustrated Consciousness (Anidassana Vinnana).

Sugath Rajapakse
Formerly Senior Commercial Manager at Sri Lankan Airlines and presently Consultant to Air India GSA in Sri Lanka.

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