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The Life Of Buddha Narrated In Traditional Thangka Paintings – Part 2

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In the first part we described the first four main episodes of the life of Siddharta Gautama.
Following the narration depicted in the beautiful thangka painting realized by our master artists we will explore the events that led the young prince to leave the palace and start his quest for the true meaning of life.

5. The four Encounters.

Having been warned by the court astrologers that his son may well give it all up and choose the path of meditation, Buddha’s father tried his best to shield him from the harsh realities of life.
This state of affairs continued until one day, Siddharta decides to leave the palace with one of his servants driving the chariot.
During his journey the prince encounters an old man, a sick man and a dead man leading to great turbulence in his mind.
He also comes across an ascetic monk and after questioning him Gautama decides to follow his example, convinced that herein lay the way to quell his mental agitation.

Buddha's four encounters

Buddha’s encounters out of the palace

Having made the decision, Siddhartha leaves the palace to pursue his quest and find the truth about life, suffering and genuine happiness.

6. Siddharta leaves the palace and starts his ascetic experience.

According to the legend Gautama left the luxurious palace of his father in the middle of the night, leaving behind his sleeping wife and son.
The first thing that Siddharta did after leaving his home was to cut his long and beautiful hair. his episode is depicted in the thangka painting in representation of Buddha’s strong commitment.

Ascetic Buddha

Buddha cuts his hair and starts his ascetic experience

Dressed as a beggar, the young prince wanders from place to place with his begging bowl.
During this time Siddharta encounters several teachers and he learns how to meditate.
Despite what he had learnt he could see that he was still subject to old age, sickness, and death and that his quest was not over.

7. The six years of austerity

Wandering in his search for enlightenment, Buddha came to a pleasant hermitage by a lovely stream where he joined five mendicants practicing a discipline based on severe fasting. The legend says that he ate a single grain of rice for each of the first two years, drank a single drop of water for each of the second two years, and took nothing at all during the last two. For six long years he did these practices becoming so skinny that when he touched his stomach, he could almost feel his spine.
The thangka shows Buddha sitting in lotus position meditating under a tree with his body severely affected by this experience.

Austerity years Buddha Life

Fasting Buddha in lotus position

In spite of the great pain and suffering Gautama did not find wisdom or the answers to his questions so he decides to go back begging for food and build up his body.

8. Striving for enlightenment

Gautama went to Gaya and looked for a suitable place to sit down and meditate. He found a banyan tree and sat on its east side,
There he met a village girl named Sujata who offered him a bowl of rice. It was the first food he had accepted in years and it instantly restored his body to lustrous good health.
Sujata was so happy and excited that the holy man accepted her food so she starts dancing with joy and comes back in company of her servant with more offering as illustrated in the painting.

Buddh Enlightened

Buddha under the bodhi tree in Gaya

Abandoning himself to meditation, Gautama vowed not to move from that spot until he had attained full enlightenment.

In the third part we will explore the episodes that led Siddhartha to fulfill his search and his commitment to spend the rest of his life teaching others how to achieve enlightenment for themselves.

Endless Knot Symbol

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