‘When I am gone, my Teaching shall be your Master and Guide.’
Three months before His passing away the Buddha addressed His disciples and said: ‘I have delivered sermons to you during these forty-five years. You must learn them well and treasure them. You must practise them and teach them to others. This will be of great use for the welfare of the living and for the welfare of those who come after you’.
‘My years are now full ripe; the life span left is short. I will soon have to leave you. You must be earnest. O monks, be mindful and of pure virtue! Whoever untiringly pursues the Teaching, will go beyond the cycle of birth and death and will man an end of Suffering.’
When Ananda asked the Buddha what would become of the Order after He pass away, the Buddha replied, ‘What does the Order expect of me, Ananda? I have preached the Truth without any distinction; for in regard to the Truth, there is no clenched hand in the Teachings of the Buddha‚. It may be, Ananda, that to some among you, the thought will come ‘The Master’s words will soon end; soon we will no longer have a master.’ But do not think like this, Ananda. When I am gone, my Teaching and the disciplinary code shall be your Master.’
The Buddha further explained: ‘If there is anyone who thinks, ‘It is I who will lead the brotherhood’, or ‘The Order is dependent on me, it is I who should give instructions’, the Buddha does not think that He should lead the order or that the Order is dependent on Him. I have reached the end of my days. Just as a worn-out cart can only be made to move with much additional care, so my body can be kept going only with much additional care. Therefore, Ananda, be a lamp and refuge unto yourselves. Look for no other refuge. Let the Truth be your lamp and your refuge. Seek no refuge elsewhere.’
At the age of eighty, on His birthday, He passed away without showing any worldly supernatural powers. He showed the real nature of component things even in His own life.
When the Buddha passed away into Nibbana, one of His disciples remarked, ‘All must depart—all beings that have life must shed their compounded forms. Yes, even a Master such as He, a peerless being, powerful in Wisdom and Enlightenment, even He must pass away.’
The parting words of the Buddha:
‘Appamadena Sampadetha Vaya Dhamma Sankhara’.
‘Work diligently. Component things are impermanent.’