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By Charles S. Prebish, Damien Keown

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For the remainder of his life, a total of for�ty-five years, he travelled throughout the towns and villages of Northeast India giving religious teachings. At the age of eighty he succumbed to illness and passed away into the state of nirva�na from which he would never more be reborn. 52 The Buddha The few brief facts mentioned in the text box are the kernel of a story which is referred to elusively in the earliest sources in the form of scattered details, but is not found in any one place as a single continuous narrative.

E. and consists of three divisions known as “baskets” (piṭaka). These are (1) the Discourses (Sūtra Piṭaka) or sermons of the Buddha, which are subdivided into five divisions known as nikāyas; (2) the Monastic Rule (Vinaya Piṭaka), which contains the rules of monastic discipline; and (3) the Scholastic Treatises (Abhidharma Piṭaka), a slightly later compilation of scholastic works. 53 The Buddha Our earliest literary information about the Buddha comes from the Pāli Canon (see text box), but the scattered details preserved there were not placed in chronological order until several centuries after the Buddha’s death.

During this time the spirit glimpses all six realms of rebirth before being attracted—as if by magnetism—to the one most in keeping with its karmic state. Perhaps the view of the world just described seems alien and strange, but the notion of the cosmos having various realms or divisions is not unfamiliar in the West. Traditional Christian teachings depict God dwelling at the summit of his creation surrounded by angels and saints, while Satan inhabits an infernal region beneath our feet. Human beings are somewhere in between, poised, so to speak, between two eternal destinies.

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