Buddha's age when getting enlightened

In DN16, the Buddha says he ordained at 29, and passed away at 80. But I can’t find in which sutta does he say the age at which he realized enlightenment (35?). Can anyone help? :slight_smile: Thank you!


Interesting question and I have been waiting to see if a Pali scholar can answer as I cant find it but have always remembered it this way. Interesting that there is so little biographical information in the EBTs (at least those I have read to date). I think I have read that he took 6 years (29 + 6 = 35) after renunciation so that would be 34 to 36 depending on the exact months of renunciation and enlightenment. I understand there is scepticism about the Vesak date (covering the latter) and not heard the date of the former (i.e., escaping the Palace).

Also interested to see the scholarly reply to your use of the term “ordained”. I don’t know that he ordained ever. He left home, he joined many different teachers at the time, indeed was invited the co-lead those teachers’ gatherings, given their respect for him, but not sure he “ordained” under them or “ordained” as a Bhikkhu himself- who could be his Preceptor I wonder?

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Hi Hasantha. Yes, everyone says he attained enlightenment at age 35, including Bhikkhu Bodhi, but it seems to stem from the commentaries (?) and not the EBTs (?)

I’m looking for a sutta in which the Buddha says that:

  • it took him 6 years from the time he left home to get enlightened, or,
  • he reached enlightenment at age 35, or,
  • his teaching career spanned 45 years.
    Still searching :frowning:

Thank you for pointing out the imprecision in my choice of word “ordained”. “Went forth” or “left home” would have been more correct.


From Footprints in the Dust:

It is usually said that Gotama practiced these austerities for six years, but this would mean that he stayed with Āḷāra Kālāma and Udaka Rāmaputta for only a few months at most. That he could have attained the exalted states he did under their guidance so quickly seems unlikely. He must have been with these two teachers for at least a year or two, meaning that he practiced austerities for less than six years, although exactly how long cannot be determined. The only thing the Buddha said on the matter was that he practiced self-mortification for several years (nekavassagaṇika), without stipulating how many. The most that can be deduced from the texts is that, from the time Gotama abandoned his home to his awakening, six years elapsed.


Thank you Danny. I downloaded the book. In the footnotes it says
“27 M.I,78. S.I,122 implies that he did so for seven years.”
I’m embarrassed but I still don’t know how to convert this reference to SuttaCentral. What are M.I,78 and S.I,122?!?

I realize this is not directly tied to the main question, but I’ve never understood why people have such a low regard for the Buddha.

:joy: I mean, it’s not just that he attained those exalted formless states. The sutta also says that he memorized their teachings, and was accepted by their communities to the extent of being invited to lead them.

I get that the Buddha was a charismatic individual, but it does seem unlikely that a sectarian group of wanderers would invite a new-comer to lead them in such short order, no?

Not impossible, of course, but if someone is just reading the sutta (and doesn’t trust the commentaries), I think it’s quite reasonable to imagine that the events described took place over a year or two (still rather a quick time!) rather than a tenth that time, no? :pray:


I think the classical Theravada worked out each place where the Buddha spent vassa in, so shouldn’t be too hard to backtrack from the age of his death to enlightenment.

Given that there are super geniuses in the world, and meditation improves cognitive abilities, I don’t see why not that the Buddha can understand the scriptures of his first 2 teachers by first listening. Comparing to vedas, it’s not that impossible for the Buddha to master them very fast.

If you extrapolate it, you can chant it all in 2 months in the original Sanskrit text.


Thank you. That would have been a good way to find out but the article only talks about the first 20 years and doesn’t provide reference to the EBTs.

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In this kind of details which is not important for the path, I think there’s no harm at all to just follow the classical Theravada instead of insisting on EBT. Classical Theravada strength is in details.

Also, see the source linked from it, it seems to imply most of the rest of time is spent in the 2 monasteries at Sāvatthī.

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They are PTS volume and page numbers.

On SuttaCentral search for:
volpage: mn i 78
volpage: sn i 122
They are MN12 and SN4.24 respectively.
There is an “i” button on the search that gives a lot of options.


Thank you so much :slight_smile: very helpful.


The online version of the second edition of the book is available below and it has links to SuttaCentral reference numbers. I think that Bhante removed the reference to S.I,122 in the second edition, but there are some additional non canonical references in there too.

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Thank you. I actually contacted Bhante directly.

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I mean, these communities were based on the goal of learning a verifiable skill, and he learned that skill. If the leaders “had little dust in their eyes” why would they throw up additional road blocks? It strikes me as similar to the case of modern prodigies who are awarded PhDs under the age of twenty, and then are invited to teach alongside their former mentors.


Just coming back to this question, there is a reference in the Khuddaka Nikaya (The Twenty Fifth Chronicle: that of the Lord Gotama). The Buddha recollects how he lived a life of luxury for 29 years and then strived for 6 years as a renunciate before achieving enlightenment.

Not sure whether this is considered original canon or added later as some sections of this Nikaya seem to be hundreds of years after the Buddha (Milinda’s questions).

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