In 483 BCE, Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who has the title of Buddha, died. His last words:
“Never forget it: decay is inherent in all things.”
The Buddha had been born a prince of the Sakya tribe in Nepal about 563 BCE. He described his early life this way:
“I was delicately nurtured, exceedingly delicately nurtured, delicately nurtured beyond measure.”About the age of 30, he left the life of the idle rich, abandoned his wife and son, donned beggar’s clothes, and moved into a cave in the wilderness. He abused his body with starvation.
Having determined that starvation was not the route to enlightenment, he returned to a traditional Indian diet. As a consequence, he put on weight, and developed the large stomach that would later become his hallmark.
At the village of Pava in 483 BCE, he preached a sermon in a mango grove. The village’s wealthy families held a number of fetes with abundant food and drink in his honor. Cumda, a prosperous blacksmith, held the most lavish banquet. He honored the Buddha with meats, flavored rices, bamboo sprouts, milk sweets, and a spicy pork dish (sukara-maddava). The Buddha did not finish the meal: he was bloated, had stomach cramps and burning. He attempted to conceal his stress from his followers.
He left Pava on foot with the intention of going to Kusinara to preach. He did not get far. In all likelihood, a duodenal ulcer ruptured and loosed a large quantity of blood into his intestinal tract. Suffering from thirst, he lay on the roadside and begged for water. Water from a nearby stream—water which was probably polluted and unfit for drinking—was brought to him to drink.
Even though he was weak, bleeding anally, and vomiting, he tried to continue on to Kusinara. He lapsed into unconsciousness. During periods of lucidness, he talked to his followers about the inevitability of the decay of all living things.
According to another version of his death, he ate poisoned food at Cumda’s banquet. Knowing that the food was going to kill him, he warned his followers not to eat it. Then he lay down and meditated until he died.
Following his death, his body was cremated. His ashes were sifted into eight equal piles. Eight gold urns containing the ashes were sent to the rulers of the eight Indian kingdoms. Altars were erected over these relics which became places of worship.