Six Years of Extreme Asceticism

In due course, they arrived at the village of Uruvilva, south west of Rajagriha. They saw a delightful stretch of land, a lovely woodland grove and a clear flowing river with an easy crossing place. It was there that they practised asceticism in the belief that they could realise the Truth through tortures of the body. As Gautama’s determination became stronger, he practised the most severe forms of asceticism. Sometimes, he would stand on a spot for days without food even though this practice gave rise to severe muscle pain and extreme hunger. He would also sleep on a bed of thorns in order to experience the torture of severe pain.

As a prince, Gautama had been both strong and handsome with a radiant complexion. But after having practised extreme asceticism, his body became thinner and thinner and his complexion also suffered. Later, he described his condition at this time as follows:

“Because I ate so little, all my limbs became like the joints of withered creepers, my protruding backbone like the crazy rafters of shabby shed, the pupils of my eyes appeared lying low and deep. My scalp became dry. If I touched my belly skin, I took hold of my backbone. If I touched my backbone, I took hold of my belly. Because I ate so little, the skin of my belly came to touch my backbone.”

Undeterred by failing health and great pain, he and his five companions continued practising extreme asceticism in Uruvilva for six years.

Title: Buddhism for Beginners
By: Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery
Chapter 7 | Page 34 to 35
ISBN 978-981-08-3641-2