Assaji is one among the five foremost disciples of Lord Buddha. The remaining four are Bhaddiya, Kondanna, Mahanama and Vappa. They closely followed Buddha during his days of severe fasting and intense spiritual practices. In those days, attaining total freedom from enslavement to senses, by observing extreme fasting and performing severe austerities in itself was considered as liberation. Buddha, however, realized through his own experience that this was wrong and began partaking of food. On seeing this, his five disciple monks assumed his aberration from the path and left him to depart on their own chosen paths.
After some time, Buddha attained enlightenment, used his clairvoyance to search for people who can be taught the same path. Through divine eye, he comprehended that his earlier masters named Alara Kalama and Uddhaka Ramaputra had passed away, and his five follower monks were residing at Saranath nearby Kasi and proceeded there to teach them.
His preachings to these followers is called ‘Turning of the Wheel of Dharma’. In this fashion, Buddhism came into existence. The monk named Assaji or Aswajit was one among these five disciples. All of them practiced the path as taught by Buddha and attained Buddhahood.
Sariputra approached Assaji to inquire about the teachings of Buddha and the details of his path. Assaji replied, “Sir, I am not an expert on this subject. I do not know the complete details of the path discovered by Buddha. However, I can briefly explain - ‘He found the reasons behind the sorrows of human beings and the path to eliminate them’. Thereby, the delighted Sariputra, along with Moudgalyayana adopt the practice of Buddhism and they both became very intimate disciples of Lord Buddha in course of time.
Assaji defined the path of Buddha very accurately. It is difficult for anyone to summarize the teachings of Buddha, in fewer words than this. This contains the essence of Buddha’s teachings - ‘Understanding why misery exists and how to eliminate it’. This is precisely what the teaching of Lord Buddha is.
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