The Buddha was staying in Veluva Village when a serious illness inflicted him. He was going to be eighty years old. The ailment was fierce and painful, nearly costing his life. Buddha overcame the illness through his meditative power. Using the profound method of meditative strength, he extended his life energy. In this manner, he completely recovered.
He proceeded to Savatthi and while he was staying there, Venerable Sariputta came to bid farewell. Sariputta was aware that he had only 7 days of life force. Thus, Sariputta entered parinirvana before Buddha. Sariputta’s relic was enshrined in Savatthi under Buddha’s instruction.
Buddha proceed to Rajagaha and while he was there,Venerable Maha Moggalana entered parinirvana. Maha Moggalana’s relic was enshrined in Rajagaha under the Buddha’s instruction.
After that, the Buddha travelled in stages and reached Vesali. One day, after their day meal, Buddha decided to spend the day at Capata shrine. As usual, Venerable Ananda (his attendant monk) was together with Him.
It was at the Capata shrine where Buddha gave His last hint of Buddha’s parinirvana. While seated within the shrine together with Venerable Ananda, Buddha said.
“Ananda, whosoever has cultivated, practised, used as a vehicle, taken as his basis,kept up, mastered, and fully developed the four bases of Psychic Power could, if he so wishes, live the maximum life span or even live beyond the maximum life span..” “Ananda, the Tathagata (a term used by Buddha to refer to himself) has cultivated, practised, used as a vehicle, taken as his basis,kept up, mastered, and fully developed the four bases of Psychic Power. Therefore, Ananda, the Tathagata could, if He so wishes, live the maximum life span.Extracted from The Great Chronicles of Buddhas
Ananda remained silent. He sat there, as though Buddha was just preaching another sermon.
Buddha repeated the above for a second time. Ananda continue to sit there listening.
Buddha repeated for a third time and Ananda still did not grasp the significance of the hint. Whereupon, Buddha dismissed Ananda as was the usual routine. Ananda got up from his seat and left the shrine to wait for further instruction at the foot of a tree just outside the shrine.
Buddha withdrew his life extending mental process and it resulted in an Earth tremor. Alarmed by the earthquake, Ananda rushed into the shrine to ask Buddha for the reason of the earthquake.
When Buddha disclosed the reason, Ananda was naturally distressed and entreated Buddha not to enter parinirvana. Buddha explained that it was too late. To soothe Ananda’s emotion, Buddha recounted 15 previous occasion when Ananda had similarly failed to grasp the importance of the Buddha’s hint. Thus, down playing the significance of the current episode.
What? Buddha had hinted 15 times throughout the period Ananda was attending to Him? (this was the first time I read about the 15 previous occasion) Why didn’t Buddha hint to one of the Arhat monk? Surely they would grasp the meaning? Why is it necessary for someone to entreat Buddha? Can’t He simply live forever?
I am sure many Buddhist had asked similar questions but who can fathom an enlightened mind? What we can observe is that, many great masters since Buddha’s time, seem to welcome the opportunity to enter parinirvana.
Perhaps it is similar to casting away a restrictive iron chainmail. A lightness and freedom after that.
I think, this episode reflects another human flaw in all of us. Ananda was unenlightened at that point in time. In a way, he represented all the unenlightened disciples.(People like us) The other side are all the enlightened ones.
We tend to take things for granted. We constantly live heedlessly, deluded that everything and everyone surrounding us are permanent. Then we regret later. Why didn’t we cherish them more when they were around? This lesson from Buddha is priceless,isn’t it?
May all be well and happy.