Having renounced his former life, Siddhartha
travelled from place to place, begging for his
and questioning all the holy men he met about
their religious beliefs and practices.
All the holy men he encountered happened to
seeking the same thing, attaining the
annihilation of mind and body and thus
into the state of becoming a pure being.
Many of these yogis believed that the only
achieve this was by undergoing terrible
such as gazing into the sun until their eyes
be dissolved away, by sitting or standing in
positions until their limbs would become
immobile, or by starving almost to the point of
Eventually the Bodhisattva went to live in a
which was by the banks of the river Nairanjan,
For six years he would fast and perform all
of penances, and although these weakened
body, his spiritual powers became strong.
According to the tradition, while fasting, his
radiant skin became dark and due to his
emancipated state he ultimately became very
weak and ill.
One day a milkmaid went past and pitying his
state offered him a bowl of milk, which he
Then he realised that he needed some food
after eating he began to feel strong again.
Eventually it became clear to Siddhartha that
extreme physical discipline would not lead to
intellectual liberation. This could only be
by calm meditation, an impossible task for
anyone whose body is worn down by hunger
Malnourished figures, with their ribs clearly
showing are often used to depict the fasting
Buddha in various postures.