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gone beyond
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After nearly a half century of teaching, the Enlightened One predicted that He would pass away in three months time on the full moon of May. The news hurriedly spread over the land. The Venerable Ananda, who had yet to realize Enlightenment, begged the Blessed One to remain on earth longer. With great compassion, the Master gently reminded him it is in the nature of all composite things to pass away, to separate ourselves from all that is near and dear. Everything that is born, or brought into being, and organized, contains within itself the inherent propensity for dissolution. On one occasion, when the Order was gathered about the ailing Blessed One, He noticed that Ananda was not among them, but stood apart, weeping bitterly because the Buddha would soon pass away and he had not realized Enlightenment. After sending for him, the Buddha said, "For a long time, Ananda, you have been very near to me by acts of love in word, deed and thoughts. You have done well, Ananda! Be earnest in your efforts and you, too, shall know Liberation." When the Blessed One had journeyed to Kusinara, the Awakened One felt His long life was drawing to a close. He addressed the Order, assuring them He had not withheld any spiritual instruction regarding the Path leading to the end of sorrow and to Enlightenment. The Buddha stated He would not appoint a successor but, rather, He bequeathed the Holy Dhamma (the Truth) as the ultimate guide for their lives.
Counseling the Order, He said:
"Hold fast to the Truth and the Discipline as a lamp. Seek deliverance alone in the Truth. Strive on with diligence. Free yourself from the tangled net of sorrow and dissatisfaction. Look not for assistance to anyone besides yourself. In regard to the body and the mind, let one be mindful and overcome the greed which arises from the body's craving, which arises from craving for sensations, which arises from craving due to ideas, reasons and emotions. If one is mindful, seekers of Truth shall surely reach the top- most pinnacle of Emancipation. But they must be willing to learn."
The Buddha gave special exhortation to members of the Order: to practice and meditate on the Truth, and to spread it abroad so that the teachings would last long and be perpetuated for the good and happiness of great multitudes, out of compassion for the world and the good of every living being. He gave those in the Order, the teachers of many, the last chance to ask questions to resolve doubts or misunderstandings, noting this would be the final opportunity to question the Master face-to-face. All remained silent.
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The Compassionate One said:
"It may be that you do not speak out of reverence for me as your teacher. If that is so, then speak to me as my friends.
Still, they remained silent. The Buddha, with His Wisdom-mind, saw into their inmost hearts that, indeed, no one had misgivings and that everyone assembled would surely realize Liberation. Finally, before passing away, the Buddha said:
"Perishable are all conditioned things, but the Truth will live forever! Work out your Liberation with diligence!"
The Buddha lay on a couch spread between two giant sal trees. The ancient texts say the trees blossomed out of season and sweet-smelling flowers scattered over His couch. Then, lying on His right side, calm and composed, the Great Being entered a profound state of deep meditative bliss and passed away (entered Parinibbana, the final decease of an All-Enlightened Buddha). A light spread over His face and then His body.
There occurred a mighty earthquake and from the depths of the earth a great roar arose, and from the heavens peal after peal of hair-raising thunder was heard. Those who were emancipated from sorrow bore their grief, collected and composed. Those who were not yet set free covered their faces and wept in anguish. Those who were liberated comforted the bereaved. After the Buddha passed away, prominent monks spent the rest of the night discussing the teachings. At dawn, the Venerable Ananda informed the Mallas of Kusinara of the death of the Master. For seven days the Mallas and throngs of people paid respect to the body of the Blessed One with lights, incense, garlands of flowers, instrumental music and religious songs. For the cremation ceremonies, a pyre of perfumed wood and flowers was prepared. The body of the Buddha was cremated with honor due the Greatest King. His relics were distributed to Kings in equal portion. They were enshrined in burial mounds (stupas) which have become sites of pilgrimage for the faithful. Thus the Buddha Sakyamuni passed from earthly eyes, yet His teachings of Truth, the way to end sorrow and life's pain, remains in our hearts and minds forever!

Contents | Birth | 4 Sights | Renunciation | Austeristies | Middle Way | Enlightenment | Teaching | Home | 2 Disciples | Women | Last Disciple | Death