After spending his last rainy season in Vesālī, the Buddha announced his imminent passing, and set off for Kusinārā with Ānanda. They stopped in the towns and villages of Bhaṇḍagāma, Hatthigāma, Ambagāma, Jambugāma, and Bhoganagara. In each of these places, the Buddha gave the same comprehensive instructions to the congregated meditators explaining the necessity of deeply understanding morality, concentration and wisdom.
This is sīla, this is samādhi, this is paññā. Samādhi imbued with sīla brings great benefits. Paññā imbued with samādhi brings great benefits. The mind imbued with paññā becomes totally free from the defilements of sense pleasures, becoming, false views, and ignorance.
Thirty kilometres before reaching Kusinārā, the Buddha and Ānanda rested in a small town called Pāvā, where they stayed in a luscious mango grove owned by Cunda the Silversmith, a lay disciple. Cunda was a great admirer of the Buddha and offered him a local delicacy prepared from a mushroom called “Tender Pig” (sūkara maddava). Shortly after the meal, the Buddha fell violently ill with dysentery, but bore the pains with perfect awareness and equanimity. The next day, having purged the illness, the Buddha felt fit enough to continue the journey. ….
Before reaching Kusinārā, they came to the Kakutthā River, where the Buddha took his last bath and drink of water. After meditating by the riverbank, the Buddha told Ānanda,
"Ānanda, the meal we ate at Cunda’s was the Tathāgata’s last meal. People may accuse Cunda of poisoning the Tathāgata, so make sure to console him, letting know that the meal was greatly treasured. Rather than feeling depressed, Cunda should feel glad to have had the opportunity to offer him this auspicious last meal. Explain to him that there are two kinds of alms food whose fruits are far greater than any others. Which two? One is the alms food eaten just before attaining Supreme Enlightenment; the other is the alms food eaten before passing into parinibbāna. The fruits of both these meals are conducive to long life, beauty, happiness, fame, wealth, and heavenly rebirth."
After resting for a short while, the Buddha crossed the Hiraññavati River190 and went to the Malla’s sālā grove. The Buddha was fatigued, and Ānanda prepared a place for him to meditate in the resting lion’s pose between two great sālā trees.….
Knowing that he would not live much longer, the Buddha asked Ānanda to send word to the Mallas of his forthcoming death. When the Malla people heard the news they rushed to the sālā grove and waited in a long queue to pay their last respects to the Buddha.
A wandering ascetic named Subhadda also heard the news that the Buddha was about to die. He hurried over to the grove hoping that the Buddha would be able to dispel a doubt of his that he’d been carrying for a long time. Seeing the long line of people, Subhadda went over to Ānanda, “Friend,” he pleaded, “please allow me to ask the Buddha a question.” Not wanting the Buddha to be bothered by philosophical debates in his last moments of life, Ānanda refused the ascetic’s request, saying, “Please, Sir, the Buddha is exhausted. He should not be disturbed.” The Buddha overheard their conversation and told Ānanda to permit Subhadda to come forth with his question. He knew that this old man was ripe for awakening and that he too did not have much time left. Subhadda asked the Buddha about other teachers and whether or not they had direct knowledge of ultimate reality. “Forget about them, Subhadda! Concentrate on yourself. Practise the Noble Eightfold Path and you will realize the Truth!”
Hearing these words of encouragement and feeling the Buddha’s immense compassion, Subhadda asked for immediate ordination. (Excerpt: Along the Path)
8. And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!" This was the last word of the Tathagata.
How the Blessed One Passed into Nibbana
9. And the Blessed One entered the first jhana. Rising from the first jhana, he entered the second jhana. Rising from the second jhana, he entered the third jhana. Rising from the third jhana, he entered the fourth jhana. And rising out of the fourth jhana, he entered the sphere of infinite space. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite space, he entered the sphere of infinite consciousness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite consciousness, he entered the sphere of nothingness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of nothingness, he entered the sphere of neitherperceptionnornonperception. And rising out of the attainment of the sphere of neitherperceptionnornonperception, he attained to the cessation of perception and feeling.
10. And the Venerable Ananda spoke to the Venerable Anuruddha, saying:
"Venerable Anuruddha, the Blessed One has passed away." "No, friend Ananda, the Blessed One has not passed away. He has entered the state
of the cessation of perception and feeling."
11. Then the Blessed One, rising from the cessation of perception and feeling, entered the sphere of neitherperceptionnornonperception. Rising from the
attainment of the sphere of neitherperceptionnornonperception, he entered the sphere of nothingness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of nothingness, he entered the sphere of infinite consciousness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite consciousness, he entered the sphere of infinite space. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite space, he entered the fourth jhana. Rising from the fourth jhana, he entered the third jhana. Rising from the third jhana, he entered the second jhana. Rising from the second jhana, he entered the first jhana. Rising from the first jhana, he entered the second jhana. Rising from the second jhana, he entered the third jhana. Rising from the third jhana, he entered the fourth jhana. And, rising from the fourth jhana, the Blessed One immediately passed away.