The Bodhisatta goes to study with the recluse Alara; finding it not to be the way to enlightenment, he journeys on

At this time, the country of Magadha had many famous recluses who had established themselves as teachers with ashrams. Each of these ashrams had many followers and adherents. Rajagaha was one place through which these sect-leaders passed to spread their teachings.

During the time of Prince Siddhattha's going forth, there were two teachers more well known than the others in that country: the group belonging to Alara Kalama, and that of Udaka Ramaputta. Both of these ashrams were established in the forest outside the city.

The Great Being went here to study and see whether their paths led to enlightenment. He first went to the ashram of Alara Kalama. He stayed there and learned all that the teacher had to teach, and then, finding that it still did not lead to enlightenment, went to study at the ashram of the second teacher. He obtained a little more knowledge there, but only up to the level of the eighth level of concentration [samapatti].

Samapatti is "absorption" [jhana], a method of making the mind concentrated. It ranges from coarser levels up to the most refined. Altogether there are eight levels. The Great Being saw that the mind even in these states was still on the mundane level. An unenlightened being was capable of experiencing them, but they could decline. They were not the level of lokuttara, transcendence.

The teachers of both of these centers invited the Great Being to stay on and help them teach their followers. Both of them praised him as having a knowledge equal to their own. However, the Great Being declined their invitations.

Having tried out the teachings of both of these teachers, who were regarded by the people to be possessed of the highest knowledge, and found them through his own wisdom to be not the way to enlightenment, the Great Being thought of trying out a mode of practice resorted to by many recluses of that time to see whether it led to enlightenment. That was the practice of asceticism, the strict and rigorous practice beyond what an ordinary person could do referred to as "self-torture."
 

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