The Awakened One: A Life of the Buddha [NOOK Book]


The story of the founder of Buddhism is one of the world's great archetypal tales of spiritual awakening. He was born Siddhartha Gautama in the sixth century
BCE, the son of a prince who ruled a small kingdom in what is now Nepal.
Siddhartha led a sheltered existence until the age of twenty-nine, when he left his life of ease and set out to find a solution to the problem of suffering.
For years he wandered as ...

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The Awakened One: A Life of the Buddha

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The story of the founder of Buddhism is one of the world's great archetypal tales of spiritual awakening. He was born Siddhartha Gautama in the sixth century
BCE, the son of a prince who ruled a small kingdom in what is now Nepal.
Siddhartha led a sheltered existence until the age of twenty-nine, when he left his life of ease and set out to find a solution to the problem of suffering.
For years he wandered as a homeless ascetic, practicing severe austerities that brought him to the brink of death but no nearer to his goal. He then abandoned asceticism for a "middle way." Sitting down under a tree, he vowed to remain there until he realized the truth. After a night of deep meditation, his
Enlightenment came at dawn, and he was thereafter known as the Buddha, the
"Awakened One."

Drawing on traditional sources--including the Lalitavistara Sutra, the Buddhacharita by Ashvaghosha, the Mahavastu, and the Pali canon of scripture--Kohn has created a simple and beautiful retelling of one of the world's great spiritual biographies for a contemporary audience.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
What makes Buddhist teacher Kohn's book different from a work like E.J. Thomas's The Life of the Buddha (1969) is his lucid way of combining the various early sources he relies on here. The major events in the life of the Buddha from preexistence to his ``utter extinction of final nirvana, parinirvana'' provide a framework into which Kohn fits many of the Buddha's teachings, which he presents without analysis. A Mahayana view of the Buddha marks Kohn's work, as evidenced by a description of the Buddha's preexistence and his superhuman powers, such as the ability to make others invisible. Though an index would have made the book more useful, it is a splendid combination of biography and instruction. Highly recommended for any library that needs a concise yet thorough presentation of the Buddha's life and teachings.-- David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino
From Barnes & Noble
Filled with stories of wisdom and compassion, this retelling of the life of Siddharta Guatama, who attained "Enlightenment" and became the founder of Buddhism, offers inspiration and insight into the wellspring of Buddhist beliefs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834829442
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/11/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 1,071,795
  • File size: 334 KB

Meet the Author

Sherab Chödzin Kohn is coeditor of the best-selling anthology The Buddha and His Teachings. He has been teaching Buddhism and meditation for more than thirty years, and he has edited a number of the books of his teacher, the Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa. He has also published numerous translations, including an acclaimed version of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Read an Excerpt


The story of a human life grips us very directly because it is a case history of the condition we all share. Since beginningless time people have listened to stories of what others have done, feeling for the pattern in life these stories might reveal, exploring for their own possibilities, their own boundaries. We want to know where life can go, what can be made of it, how far its scope can extend. Are there barriers? Are there hidden treasures? Though we may appear settled, we are always testing, testing at our edges and limits or retreating from having done so. Convention, ordinary life, provides an artificial definition and an artificial safe haven. But the walls of convention are thin.
If we pass through them, what is the real reach and range of existence that lies beyond?

In the context of this basic questioning, the life of the Buddha is an immense landmark. The Buddha was a prince, and he left the palace. He stepped out of the pattern that he had grown into and set out on a journey of discovery from which he never returned. He might have been discouraged and beaten and fallen back on the easy life, or he might have followed a sidetrack into insanity. But instead he completed his journey. The Buddha fully explored the true reach and range of reality. He set out to conquer death, and he actually did so. This is what makes him a hero for us, an exemplar. That is why his life story is particularly gripping.

First he discovered that there is no safety. The basic weather of existence—impermanence—beats mercilessly upon whatever we try to erect against it. No stuff of dreams, no cocoon of convention, can withstand change,
aging, and death. So the prince reluctantly renounced clinging to the illusion of security and sought the reality beyond it. Relentlessly, with unflagging courage and devotion, he followed the path pointed out by intelligence. The result? A prince completely awoke from all dreams and became a buddha, an awakened one.

mantra enshrined in
Heart Sutra,
a key Buddhist text, runs,
Gate gate para gate parasam gate bodhi svaha
"Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, awake, so be it."
That limns the first part of the Buddha's story.

The rest of the story is the down-to-earth pageantry of wisdom and compassion. The
"Thus-Gone One," the Tathagata, as the Buddha is called, clearly sees the totality of existence and beyond existence. He sees the parameters of all that is and how they are constituted, how the whole thing works and does not really work. Does he come back to those he left behind who are still earnestly slumbering, passionately caught up in dreams, and find a way to open and clear their eyes? At first, knowing the difficulty, the Tathagata decides to remain silent (a tendency he constantly reverted to ever after). But waking and sleeping—the Buddha and confused beings—are inseparably bound together, part of the same magic. This truth is acted out in our story by a god who appears and entreats the Buddha to teach. He arouses the Tathagata's fathomless compassion, and from there unfold forty-five years of communicating, of teaching the Dharma. The Dharma is the wisdom of total vision, which can be boiled down to knowing in specific circumstances what should be cultivated and what should be refrained from. The Buddha's forty-five years of teaching required a mountainous labor of patience and care, not to mention an incalculable amount of walking. And it did an incalculable amount of good, as we shall see.

There exists a large and complex body of material on the Buddha's life. It is preserved in writing in ancient texts of various Buddhist traditions and in various languages. It lives orally on the tongues of Buddhist teachers of a great variety of national and sectarian persuasions, who continue to use the
Buddha's life as an example. Perhaps the most vital and forceful point is that the Buddha continues to be emulated widely. Of course there are many Buddhists trying to follow the main part of his example—to meditate with discipline and knowledge and so attain enlightenment. But the Buddha's story continues to live also in many small, earthy ways, as when a rising teacher looks out among his students to see who are to be his two leading disciples, his Shariputra and
Maudgalyayana; or when the long-time personal attendant of an aged and preeminent Tibetan guru massages his teacher's tired old limbs, both knowing well that Ananda did this for the Buddha.

And of course there is not only the material direct out of the Buddha's own tradition. In addition, the great teacher's life has been variously purveyed and worked over by scholars and other writers with a non-Buddhist optic, here and there with considerable merit.

In telling the Buddha's story I have tried to follow what seemed to me a straightforward path. I saw the tradition as a living whole and did not approach it with any set of conceptual instruments such as one might use to try to cut away legend from history or to sever the tissue of one tradition from that of another. Rather my approach has been that of a composer who, awestruck by the dignity and beauty of an ancient and manifold song cycle, preserves its essence, integrity, and inalienable features in a unified chamber piece of manageable length. I hope I may have succeeded to some degree.

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Table of Contents



  • Previous lives and the Heaven of the Contented
  • The bodhisattva enters Mahamaya's womb
  • Mahamaya's dream
  • Birth
  • The great rishi Asita's prophecy
  • Death of Mahamaya
  • Shuddhodana's protectiveness
  • The plowing festival
  • Siddhartha displays his prowess
  • Siddhartha marries
  • The four visions
  • Siddhartha frees the slaves and oxen
  • The palace women in disarray
  • Siddhartha leaves the palace


  • Mara appears
  • The bodhisattva doffs his finery
  • The mendicant Gautama in Rajagriha
  • King
    Bimbisara seeks out Gautama
  • Gautama studies with Arada and Rudraka
  • Gautama practices asceticism


  • Gautama's dream
  • Sujata's gift
  • The night under the Bodhi Tree
  • Buddhahood


  • The
    Buddha meditates near the Bodhi Tree
  • Muchalinda protects the Buddha
  • The
    Buddha takes refuge in the Dharma but decides not to teach
  • The god Sahampati
  • Trapusha and Bhallika take refuge
  • Upaka on the road
  • The
    Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path
  • The first five arhats
  • The doctrine of nonself
  • The conversion of Yasha and his friends
  • The
    Buddha disperses the Sangha
  • The pleasure outing
  • The three Kashyapas


  • Mara and his three daughters
  • The fire discourse
  • The conversion of the Rajagrihan householders
  • Bimbisara gives the Venuvana
  • Conversion of Shariputra and Maudgalyayana
  • Mahakashyapa's illumination
  • Return to Kapilavastu
  • Shakyan arrogance tamed with wonders
  • King
    Shuddhodana's conversion
  • Nanda and Rahula enter homelessness
  • The
    Shakyan princes and Upali the barber


  • Buddha permits the monks to live in shelters
  • Conversion of Anathapindada
  • Anathapindada outwits Prince Jeta
  • Anathapindada gives the Jetavana
  • The
    Buddha institutes the rainy-season retreat
  • The
    Shakyans and Koliyans dispute
  • The
    Buddha accepts women into the community
  • Queen
    Khema and the phantasmic maiden
  • The competition between the orders
  • The
    Buddha teaches his mother
  • Attempts to discredit the Buddha
  • Father and Mother Nakula
  • The great Kaushambi quarrel
  • Tuskers serene
  • The quarrel healed
  • Simile for Bharadvaja
  • Rahula instructed
  • The famine at Veranja
  • Supprabuddha's demise


  • Vishakha becomes Mrigara's mother
  • Vishakha gives the Purvarama
  • The
    Buddha appoints Ananda
  • Conversion of Angulimala
  • The
    Buddha dismisses and recalls the Sangha
  • Sudinna's tryst
  • The
    Buddha proclaims the monastic code
  • The
    Buddha's daily routine
  • The
    Buddha refuses to recite the pratimoksha
  • Three robes are enough
  • Instruction to Shrona
  • Care for the sick


  • Ajatashatru elevates Devadatta
  • Devadatta asks the Buddha to retire
  • The
    Buddha denounces Devadatta
  • Ajatashatru and Devadatta plot
  • Devadatta wounds the Buddha
  • The
    Buddha tames Nalagiri
  • A
    schism in the Sangha
  • Devadatta's defeat


  • King
    Prasenajit pays a visit
  • The future Pataliputra
  • The courtesan Amrapali and the godlike Licchavis
  • The
    Buddha is gravely ill
  • Death of the great disciples
  • The earthquake at the Chapala Shrine
  • The
    Buddha announces his parinirvana
  • The meal at Chunda the goldsmith's
  • Kusala presents the golden robes
  • Conversion of Subhadra Parinirvana


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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2001

    A Slendid Spiritual Biography

    The way this book enabled me to visualize the Buddha's life so vividly astounds me. The way the teachings of the Buddha are woven into the narrative flow is a work of beauty. The life and teachings of the Buddha are clear and insightful and raised my understanding of the principal doctrines of Buddhism profoundly. I highly recommend this book for it is a literary gem.

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