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How the Buddha spent the 'Sath Sathiya'

You may have gone sightseeing yesterday and the day before, and the sight of some of the Vesak lanterns and pandals may have held you captivated. At least a few of these pandals may have featured the 'Sath Sathiya', the seven weeks the Buddha spent immediately after attaining Enlightenment.

So, what is this 'Sath Sathiya'? This week, we'll see how the Buddha spent these seven weeks in the vicinity of the bodhi tree where He attained Enlightenment.

First week: Under the bodhi tree - During the first week after Enlightenment, the Buddha sat under the bodhi tree, experiencing the happiness of freedom and peace. Throughout the week, He sat in one posture, experiencing the Bliss of Emancipation (Vimukthi Suva).

Second week: Gazing at the bo tree - In gratitude to the tree that had sheltered Him during His struggle for Buddhahood, the Buddha stood without moving His eyes as He meditated on the bodhi tree (Animisalochana Pooja), thus teaching a great moral lesson to the world. Buddhists who follow this example pay their respects not only to the original bo tree, but also other bo trees.

Third week: Golden bridge - The Buddha saw through His mind's eye that the gods were not sure whether He had attained Enlightenment, as the Buddha had not given up His temporary residence at the bo tree. To clear their doubts, He created, by His psychic powers, a golden bridge in the air, and walked up and down it for a whole week.

Fourth week: In the jewelled chamber - The Buddha created a beautiful jewelled chamber (ratanaghara) and sitting inside it, meditated on what was later known as the 'Detailed Teaching' (Abhidhamma).

His mind and body were so purified that rays of six colours came out of His body - blue, yellow, red, white, orange and a mixture of these five. Each colour represented one noble quality of the Buddha: yellow for holiness, white for purity, blue for confidence, red for wisdom and orange for defeat of desire.

The mixed colour represented all these noble qualities. Today these six colours make up the Buddhist flag.

Fifth week: With a Brahmana and three girls - While meditating under the Ajapala banyan tree, the Buddha replied to a Brahmana, who came to see Him, that one becomes a perfect Brahmana by one's deeds and not by birth.

Three charming girls called Tanha, Rati and Raga (the daughters of Mara) came to disturb His meditation. They danced around the Buddha and tried to distract Him, but soon got tired and left Him alone.

Sixth week: Under the muchalinda tree - The Buddha started meditating under a muchalinda tree. It began to rain heavily and the huge Muchalinda Nagaraja (cobra king) came out and coiled his body seven times around the Buddha to keep Him warm and placed his hood over the Buddha's head to protect Him from the rain.

After seven days, the rain stopped and the snake changed into a young man who paid his respects to the Buddha.

Seventh week: Under the Rajayatana tree - The Buddha meditated under the Rajayatana banyan tree. Two merchants, Tapassu and Bhalluka, came into His presence and offered the Buddha rice cakes and honey.

The Buddha told them some of what He had found in His Enlightenment. These two merchants, by taking refuge in the Buddha and His Dhamma, became the first lay followers in the Buddhist world. There was no Sangha (order of monks and nuns) then.

They asked the Buddha for something sacred and the Buddha wiped His head with His right hand and pulled out some hair to give them. These hair relics (Kesa Datu) were brought home and enshrined by the merchants.

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