At the Roots of Enlightenment, Part IV

At the end of the next seven days, the Enlightened One moved from the root of the Mucalinda Tree to the root of the Rājāyatana Tree, feeling the bliss of deliverance.

Two merchants, Tapussa and Bhalluka, traveling by the road from Ukkalā, were told by a deity (who had been a relative of theirs in a former life) to go visit the newly Enlightened One at the root of the Rājāyatana Tree and make offerings to him of rice cake and honey for their happiness and welfare.

They went and offered their food to the Blessed One, saying to him: “Lord, let the Blessed One accept this rice cake and honey, so that it may be long for our welfare and happiness.”

But the Blessed One thought, “Perfect Ones do not accept in their hands.  In what should I accept the rice cake and honey?”  The Four Divine Kings, aware of the Perfect One’s thought, delivered four crystal bowls from the four quarters so the Perfect One could accept the offerings.

The Blessed One accepted the offering, and Tapussa and Bhalluka took refuge in the Buddha and the Dhamma as follows: “We go for refuge to the Blessed One, and to the Dhamma.  Beginning from today let the Blessed One count us as followers who have gone to him for refuge for as long as breath lasts.”

As related by the Pāli Canon, Tapussa and Bhalluka only took two refuges because they were the first two followers of the Buddha.  As the first two followers, they mark the origins of the lay Sangha – the followers of the Buddha Way who have not gone forth into homelessness.

As Schumann points out, at this point in time (according to the Pāli Canon), the Buddha had not begun teaching the Dhamma.  His previous encounters at the various trees were not presented as teachings.  And, as we will see in upcoming posts, the Buddha will struggle with the question of whether to teach the Dhamma to those with dust in their eyes.

So this poses some questions: Is this just an inconsistency in the Pāli Canon’s presentation?  Or is there something to be gleaned about the Dhamma that the Buddha, in his post-enlightenment root travelling, is showing us without explicitly calling it by name?

Whatever the case, I must admit that after reading these sections I will never look at the roots and bases of trees in the same way!  Thank you for reading!  May we each find time to stand, walk, sit, or lie down among the trees that nourish us!

(Note: This entry is a paraphrase of Bhikkhu Nānamoli’s The Life of the Buddha, page 34.)

2 thoughts on “At the Roots of Enlightenment, Part IV”

  1. I had never understood that Buddha was so supported by the roots, trunks and branches of the forest. Thank you for bringing this out.

    Nor did I know that his first two followers were lay people. I had always thought that his first followers were his fellow homeless companions.

    I look forward to the next posts.

    1. Hello! Yes, that was surprising for me too. There is always the possibility that the stories about him moving from tree to tree are just part of the mythological history of the Buddha. But, as I am coming to appreciate more and more, the mythological history of the Buddha is as important as the factual history, especially for us and our practice.

      I especially appreciate that their first act of devotion was the giving of alms – they were among the first to literally nourish the Sangha!

      Thank you for reading! Have a good weekend…

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