When I finished writing the first chapter, it was published in installments in the Journal of Modern Buddhism. I used the pseudonym, “Yin Shui”(drink water), derived from the text Suramgama Sutra that reads “One perceives whether the water is cold or warm only when one drinks it.” A friend of mine asked why I chose such an insignificant title. I replied, “I prefer to make a fuss about trifles rather than underplaying a big issue, not to mention completely ignoring significant subjects.” The title of this book is in conformity with my wish.
The Three Gems are the Gem of the Buddha, the enlightened one, the Gem of Dhamma, the teachings given by the Buddha, and the Gem of Sangha, the Order of the Buddha’s monastic disciples. These three are called gems (ratana) because they can lead people to stop doing evil and to perform kindness, to free themselves from suffering and to gain happiness. The title of “The Three Gems” also shows the great value placed on them. When the Buddha initially turned the wheel of Dhamma, Kondanna and others, five of them in all, followed the Buddha, renounced lay life and became the Buddha’s disciples, thus forming the Sangha Order. Therefore, the Three Gems have been cherished since that time.
The Buddha’s initial turning of the wheel of Dhamma at Sarnath was a great event in Buddhism. At that time, Buddhism was established; and after that, the Three Gems (Tiratana) came into existence.
There are different versions regarding the age at which Sakyamuni attained enlightenment, some quote it as thirty and some as thirty-five. For fifty (or forty-five) years after that, until the end of his life at the age of 80, he never stopped preaching his doctrine. He traveled widely, preaching to the public the truth he had perceived. At the outset, he went to Benares (P.Baranasi) to look for his five departed followers and preached the truth to them. The first sermon of the Buddha is called “the initial turning of the wheel of Dhamma”(S.Dharmacakra pravartana, P.Dhammacakkappavattana) in Buddhism.
The site where Sakyamuni attained Buddhahood has been known as the Place of Enlightenment or Buddhagaya ever since. The Pippala tree there, as well as that kind of tree in general later became known as Bodhi tree. Bodi means enlightenment. Buddhagaya is situated in the southern suburbs of Gaya City in Bihar Pradesh of India today. In the course of more than twenty centuries, the Bodhi tree was twice chopped down and once blown over, but always sprouted again. The present Bodhi tree is a great grandson of the original one. At the plot where the Buddha sat under the tree is a stone-carved diamond pedestal (Vajrasana). To the east of the tree is a majestic thupa (S.stupa) temple known as Mahabodhi Arama with a history of over 18 centuries, and nearby are a number of traces of the Buddha and ancient carved stones and constructions. In 1956, the government of Bihar Pradesh appointed an international advisory committee to supervise the construction and administration of the Holy Land. At its invitation the Buddhist Association of China, sent two delegates to that committee.
Queen Maya died soon after giving birth. Young Sakyamuni was brought up by his aunt(his mother’s sister) Princess Prajapati. As a child he began to learn literature, philosophy, arithmetic and so on from Brahmin scholars and gained a broad and pround knowledge. He also learned martial arts from warriors and became a master at riding, shooting and fencing. Because of his great intelligence and striking features, his father, king Suddhodana, hoped that he would become a universal ruler (Raja Cakkavattin, a king who could unify the whole world) and perform meritorious services he succeeded to the throne.