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From the day the Great Being had gone forth from the household life until the day depicted in this picture, six years had elapsed. Here he has resumed eating normal food and his body has returned to a normal state. This day was the fifteenth of the waxing moon of the sixth lunar month, 45 years before the Buddha's passing away [parinibbana]. The lady offering things to the Great Being in the picture is Sujata. She was the daughter of a householder in a village in Uruvela Senanigama. She is offering a dish of Rice Gruel with Milk [madhupayasa], rice cooked with pure cow's milk. It was a vegetarian food, containing no meat or fish, used especially as an offering to deities.

The Pathamasambodhi states that Sujata had made a prayer to the deity of a certain banyan tree for a husband of equal status and for a son by him. When she had obtained what she wished for, she cooked the milk rice as an offering in thanks. Before the day she was to cook the rice, Sujata had some of her servants lead the herd of 1,000 cows to a forest of licorice grass so that the cows could eat their fill. Then she divided them into two herds of 500 head each, and milked the 500 cows of one herd and fed that milk to the 500 cows of the other herd. She then continued to divide that herd and feed half on the milk of the other half until there were only eight cows left. She then took the milk from those eight cows to make her milk rice.

When the rice was cooked, Sujata sent a servant girl to clean up the area around the banyan tree. The servant girl came back to Sujata with a report that the deity [deva] who was to receive the offerings had materialized, and was already sitting at the foot of the banyan tree. Excited, Sujata lifted the tray of milk rice to her head and carried it to the banyan tree, together with her servant girl. Seeing that it was as her servant had told her, she came forward and proffered the tray of milk rice. The Great Being received it and looked at Sujata. She understood from his look that he had no bowl or any other dish with which to eat the food, and so she made an offering of both the rice and the dish.

Having offered the rice, she walked back to her house, full of happiness, believing that she had made offerings to a deva.


Early on the full moon day of Kason (April) in the year 103 of the Great Era, i.e. 2551 years ago, counting back from the year 1324 of the Burmese Era, the now emaciated prince sat down under the Bo Tree (the Bodhi Tree) near the big village of Senanigăma awaiting the hour of going for alms food. At that time, Sujătă, the daughter of a rich man from the village, was making preparations to give an offering to the tree-spirit of the Bo tree. She sent her maid ahead to tidy up the area under the spread of the holy tree. At the sight of the starving man seated under the tree, the maid thought the deity had made himself visible to receive their offering in person. She ran back in great excitement to inform her mistress.

Sujătă put the milk rice which she had cooked early in the morning in a golden bowl worth a hundred thousand pieces of money. She covered the same with another golden bowl. She then proceeded with the bowls to the foot of the banyan tree where the prince remained seated and put the bowls in the hand of the soon to be Great Bodhisattva, saying, "May your wishes prosper like mine have." So saying, she departed.

Sujătă, on becoming a maiden, had made a prayer at the banyan tree: "If I get a husband of equal rank and same caste with myself and my first born is a son, I will make an offering." Her prayer had been fulfilled and her offering of milk rice that day was intended for the tree deity in fulfillment of her pledge. However, later when she learnt that the Bodhisattva had gained Enlightenment after taking the milk rice offered by her, she was overjoyed with the thought that she had made a noble deed to the greatest merit.

His body had been tortured by the elements, and he was dangerously underweight. A farm girl passing by offered him milk-gruel. It was a mysterious event. Reverently taking the milk-gruel to his lips, he at once was taken back by his state of mind. ("What could this feeling be?") The taste of the delicious milk, his joy, gratitude, and deep emotion all began flooding him. It left him speechless. That instant his suffering heart caused by the Great Doubt had been cut off. He had never experienced anything like it before. He was full and satisfied. He had failed to notice this heart before. It didn't exist during his ascetic practices. It was his first such experience. He had touched upon the beginning of a new world. (Still, where could that refreshed, satisfied feeling have arisen from? What is this thing called the self? And how can he resolve his original doubts?)

Here Shakyamuni noticed the mysterious workings of the mind: "What is the make up of this mind that makes me suffer, and feel delight alike? Even if one wrestles with the question of his own death, isn't it a matter of the mind itself?" These doubts intensified. Investigating the mind like this is the beginning of Zen. His practice until this time had been unfocused. Instantenously things arose in the mind then disappeared. Things excited the mind, which the mind then amplified. Examining this happening, he realized the unlimited depth and power of the mind itself. And this is where he started focusing his attention. In introspection, he realized that punishing one's body will not temper or toughen the mind, and ascetic practices will not resolve his doubts.

From: RESOLVING THE MIND: Buddha's Enlightenment

The turning point of Gotama's enlightenment was Gotama's acceptance of the bowl of milk-gruel from Sujata.  This indicated that he had come full circle:

In the palace Gotama had partaken of the choicest delicacies; as a mendicant he had to suppress his disgust and eat whatever scraps were put into his bowl.  He nearly fasted to death, but then ate rich food put into his bowl.  Gotama had experienced every type of sensation regarding food, ranging from gustatory delight to revulsion and from satiety to starvation.

Gotama partook of the gruel from Sujata without desiring or shying away from her or her beauty or her sexual presence, for in that realm too he had experience every possible variation regarding sex, from indulgence to abstinence.

After completing the above 'full circles', Gotama was fully detached from the two extreme ends and being freed from the world of duality.  It was with this new experience of a 'Middle Way' that his 'mind and body were in proper balance for the first time'.

Inside Gotama was a void.  In such a void he saw the last morning star setting, and in that seeing became Enlightened. -  There the star continued setting, there the sky became empty of the stars; here Buddha was completely empty within, the meeting of the two empty skies took place.  Bliss unfolding as the natural outcome of our being a void within.

The above, with minor editing
from the graceful services of:

The Bodhi Tree as it appears today, the fourth direct descendant of the original Bodhi Tree and oldest continually documented tree in the world. Click here for more on the Bodhi Tree.


The Shape of the Universe


Buddha illustrations courtesy The Buddhist Door