The confused and legendary notices of the journeyings of Gotama are succeeded by tolerably clear accounts of the last few days of his life. On a journey towards Kusinārā, a town about 120 m. north-north-east of Benares, and about 80 m. due east of Kapilavastu, the teacher, being then eighty years of age, had rested for a short time in a grove at Pāwā, presented to the society by a goldsmith of that place named Chunda. Chunda prepared for the mendicants a mid-day meal, and after the meal the Buddha started for Kusinārā. He had not gone far when he was obliged to rest, and soon afterwards he said, "Ānanda, I am thirsty," and they gave him water to drink. Half-way between the two towns flows the river Kukushtā. There Gotama rested again, and bathed for the last time. Feeling that he was dying, and careful lest Chunda should be reproached by himself or others, he said to Ānanda, "After I am gone tell Chunda that he will receive in a future birth very great reward; for, having eaten of the food he gave me, I am about to die; and if he should still doubt, say that it was from my own mouth that you heard this.
There are two gifts which will be blest above all others, namely, Sujātā's gift before I attained wisdom under the Bo tree, and this gift of Chunda's before I pass away." After halting again and again the party at length reached the river Hiranyavati, close by Kusinārā, and there for the last time the teacher rested. Lying down under some Sal trees, with his face towards the south, he talked long and earnestly with Ānanda about his burial, and about certain rules which were to be observed by the society after his death. Towards the end of this conversation, when it was evening, Ānanda broke down and went aside to weep, but the Buddha missed him, and sending for him comforted him with the promise of Nirvāna, and repeated what he had so often said before about the impermanence of all things, - "O Ānanda! do not weep; do not let yourself be troubled. You known what I have said; sooner or later we must part from all we hold most dear. This body of ours contains within itself the power which renews its strength for a time, but also the causes which lead to its destruction. Is there anything put together which shall not dissolve? But you, too, shall be free from this delusion, this world of sense, this law of change.
Beloved," added he, speaking to the rest of the disciples, "Ānanda for long years has served me with devoted affection." And he spoke to them at some length on the kindness of Ānanda.
About midnight Subhadra, a brahmin philosopher of Kusinārā, came to ask some questions of the Buddha, but Ānanda, fearing that this might lead to a longer discussion than the sick teacher could bear, would not admit him. Gotama heard the sound of their talk, and asking what it was, told them to let Subhadra come. The latter began by asking whether the six great teachers knew all laws, or whether there were some that they did not know, or knew only partially. "This is not the time," was the answer, "for such discussions. To true wisdom there is only one way, the path that is laid down in my system. Many have already followed it, and conquering the lust and pride and anger of their own hearts, have become free from ignorance and doubt and wrong belief, have entered the calm state of universal kindliness, and have reached Nirvāna even in this life. O Subhadra! I do not speak to you of things I have not experienced. Since I was twenty-nine years old till now I have striven after pure and perfect wisdom, and following the good path, have found Nirvāna." A rule had been made that no follower of a rival system should be admitted to the society without four months' probation.
So deeply did the words or the impressive manner of the dying teacher work upon Subhadra that he asked to be admitted at once, and Gotama granted his request. Then turning to his disciples he said, "When I have passed away and am no longer with you, do not think that the Buddha has left you, and is not still in your midst. You have my words, my explanations of the deep things of truth, the laws I have laid down for the society; let them be your guide; the Buddha has not left you." Soon afterwards he again spoke to them, urging them to reverence one another, and rebuked one of the disciples who spoke indiscriminately all that occurred to him. Towards the morning he asked whether any one had any doubt about the Buddha, the law or the society; if so, he would clear them up. No one answered, and Ānanda expressed his surprise that amongst so many none should doubt, and all be firmly attached to the law. But the Buddha laid stress on the final perseverance of the saints, saying that even the least among the disciples who had entered the first path only, still had his heart fixed on the way to perfection, and constantly strove after the three higher paths. "No doubt," he said, "can be found in the mind of a true disciple." After another pause he said: "Behold now, brethren, this is my exhortation to you.
Decay is inherent in all component things. Work out, therefore, your emancipation with diligence!" These were the last words the Buddha spoke; shortly afterwards he became unconscious, and in that state passed away.