The memory of Buddha’s death and the period preceding it has been preserved. The date of his death, 480 B.C.E, is regarded as certain. His last wandering is described in detail. At first, he tried to get the better of his painful illness and cling to his life. Then he put his will behind him: “Three months hence the Perfect One will enter into Nirvana.”
Journeying onward, he casts a last glance back at the beloved city of Vesali. As they enter a little wood, he gives his last instructions: “Make me a bed between two twin trees, my head to the north. I am tired, Ananda.” And he lay down as a lion lying down to rest.
When one of his disciples wept, he said: “Not so, Ananda. Do not mourn, do not lament. Have I not taught you that it is in the very nature of all things near and dear to us to pass away? How then, Ananda, since whatever is brought into being contains within itself the inherent necessity of dissolution, how can it be that such a being should not be dissolved?”
The disciples believe that with Buddha’s death the word will have lost its master. “Think not so. The doctrine and the order that I have taught you, they will be your master when I am gone. The Perfect One thinks not that it is he who should lead the brotherhood. … I am now grown old, my journey is drawing to its close, I am turning eighty years of age. Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Rely on yourselves. Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Seek salvation alone in the truth.”
His last words were: “All accomplishment is transient. Strive unremittingly.” Then, rising from one stage of contemplation to the next, Buddha entered into Nirvana.