Siddhartha’s Enlightenment in his thirty fifth year which encompasses the beginning of the essential Buddhist thought, is said to have taken place after he meditated under a Bodhi tree in Gaya (in Bihar) after forty-nine days.
Traditions say that in the course of meditation, he attained the power to recollect and reminiscence his past births and lives. He is believed to have recalled tens of thousands of lives as if he was re-living them in their entirety. Siddhartha realized that all beings are bound to this endless process of birth, death and re-birth.
Then he had a vision which the Buddhists call “the heavenly eye”. Siddhãrtha is said to have perceived the disappearing and reappearing of beings between earth, heaven and hell. He observed that since all beings created their own cause of suffering, they were stuck in an endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth as dictated by the Karmic laws.
Transition from Siddhartha to Buddha
After these happenings, Siddhãrtha gained the power to resist passions. Traditions recount that Mara (the evil one) tried to distract his thoughts away from his meditation by sending his beautiful daughters to seduce him. Failing to divert his mind, Mara sent down bolts of lightning from the heavens, fierce wind and heavy rain. Siddhartha’s resistance against this finally led Mara to send his demonic armies with deadly weapons and flaming rocks. But, Gautama triumphed over these evil forces with his virtue.
The struggle having brought to an end, Siddhãrtha realized the cause leading to suffering and the way to remove it. Having gained the most supreme wisdom, and having comprehended things as they really are, he came to be known as the Buddha (one who is awake, or the enlightened one) or Shakyamuni Buddha.
Buddha’s realiztion of the Ultimate Truth.
Buddha’s first realization of the ultimate truth of reality was the feeling of a kind of detachment and calm thinking. He not only felt joy and peace, but was devoid of everyday consciousness. Next, Buddha detached himself from the disturbances of the mind to enter the state of an exalted rapture. Then he reached out to an even purer joy until he finally entered the level of consciousness. With even the joy fading away and leaving a mind so peaceful he could perceive the real world directly. He not only experienced the Truth, but also became one with it.
Siddhartha’s Enlightenment symbolizes the complete process eliminating suffering from the mind. It also an extinguishing of the flames of greed, hatred and ignorance. Along with it comes the release from ignorance, sorrow, worries, and all unhappiness. Though it is often referred as an insight into reality, it can also be described as “a state of being”. At best, this indescribable state beyond existence and non-existence, where all cravings, ignorance and sufferings are eliminated, is called “Nirvana”.