previous contents next

Chapter 27: Scripture Walking

From the time of his great awakening until his death, the Buddha lived 45 years, and he traveled widely among the small states of India., staying at hermitages (jīngshè 精舍). But his favorites were the Bamboo Forest Retreat that King Pínpó-suōluó had created for him at the town of Wángshè and the Earthgod Garden Hermitage (Qíyuán jīngshè 祇园精舍) at the town of Shèwèi 舍卫, created by a supporter named Jǐgūdú-zhǎngzhě 给孤独长者.

Throughout these years his time was spent spreading the doctrines of the buddhas (fófǎ 佛法). He would rise in the morning, wash, don his simple robe, and then go and beg, either alone or in a small group with some of the bǐqiū. Sometimes people would ask him to come to their homes to receive their gifts, and if the time was appropriate, he would do so, and they would provide him comfortable cushions to sit on and give him excellent food. And after he had eaten and washed his hands, he would explain to them about good and evil and how to avoid suffering, and afterward they would courageously follow his instructions, and he would return to the hermitage.

There he would sit on a dais and wait until all of the bǐqiū had returned from begging, and then he would preach, or they would have discussions. The Buddha was determined that they should all be diligent in studying the doctrine, and he hoped that all would attain nirvana (nièpán 涅盘), which is a state in which one is no longer subject to reincarnation, and therefore no longer must experience the suffering of birth, sickness, old age, and death.

As today, there were always students who wanted a quick summary, and the Buddha would have to think how best to suit the message to each individual inquiry. Often he would ask them to recite exactly (niànsòng 念诵 or jìsòng 偈诵) the words that he taught them, hoping that by repetition the meaning would gradually become a part of their thinking.

When the bǐqiū divided up, each to his own tree or little thatch shelter, to recite whatever the Buddha had told them to recite, the Buddha would return to his quarters. On warm evenings people would come from the surrounding area to bring food (gòngyàng 供养) and to hear the Buddha preach. Every kind of person came: the rich and the poor, those with learning and those without, those of high caste and those of low caste. And each person felt as though the teaching were directed right to him. Perhaps it was.

When they left, the Buddha would bathe, and then sometimes receive bǐqiū coming from afar. It could be exhausting, and to gain exercise and avoid weariness, he developed the technique of walking while he spoke, which today is called "scripture walking" (jīngxíng 经行).

Finally he would go to sleep, lying on his side, resting on his right elbow, his left arm along his side, and his feet slightly bent.

Previous Chapter Contents Top of Page Next Chapter