– Me at the Mahabodhi Temple
Nearly 2,500 years ago in India, a wandering monk named Gautama was practicing severe austerities in the forest with five fellow mendicants. After 6 years, he had nearly starved himself to death and attained almost unimaginable states of single-pointed concentration. Yet, despite his herculean efforts, he was still dissatisfied with his understanding, for he discovered that even subtle bliss states lasting for days at a time were subject to the law of impermanence. After controversially accepting a bowl of milk from a maiden named Sugata, enacting with his own body the principal of the “middle way” he would someday propagate to the world, his five friends abandoned him in disgust.
Shortly after this incident, he sat down under the now famous Bodhi Tree, and vowed not to leave the spot until he attained enlightenment. Traditions differ, but the most popular one says he meditated for a week, observing himself with mindfulness and scrupulously inquiring into the nature of his own experience. On the 7th day, he saw the morning star and finally experienced his own True Nature. Then he said something like, “I am awakened together with all beings!” The monk Gautama had become the Buddha, or the “Awakened One.”