Siddhartha Gautama (Gauthama Buddha) was a spiritual teacher from ancient India who founded Buddhism. Buddha, meaning ‘one who is awake’ in the sense of having ‘woken up to reality’ was the title first given to Lord Buddha.
Early life and marriage of Gauthama Buddha
Siddhartha Gautama was born in 563 BCE in Lumbini, Nepal as a son of Shuddhodhana, the king of Kapilavastu and his Queen, Mayadevi. Unfortunately, Mayadevi died only seven days after the birth of Siddhartha and so, He was brought up by His stepmother, Gautami. It is interesting to note that when Siddhartha was born, the astrologers had predicted that the prince would renunciate the comforts of the materialistic world and instead, opt for a path of His own. When the King Shuddhodhana came to know about the prediction, he naturally became extremely cautious and tried to prevent a thing that was bound to happen, and he did not let Siddhartha even move out of the palace. It was the deepest desire of the king that his son would fulfill his father’s dream one day by becoming a King.
Siddhartha was brought up by his mother’s younger sister, Maha Pajapati. By tradition, he is said to have been destined by birth to the life of a prince, and had three palaces built for him. Although more recent scholarship doubts this status, his father, said to be King Suddhodana, wishing for his son to be a great king, is said to have shielded him from religious teachings and from knowledge of human suffering. When he reached the age of 16, his father reputedly arranged his marriage to a cousin of the same age named Yasodhara . According to the traditional account, she gave birth to a son, named Rahula. Siddhartha is then said to have spent 29 years as a prince in Kapilavastu. Although his father ensured that Siddhartha was provided with everything he could want or need, Buddhist scriptures say that the future Buddha felt that material wealth was not life’s ultimate goal
The Turning Point
When Siddhartha had grown into an intelligent young man, He moved out of his palace one day, and saw certain things that changed the entire course of His life. He first saw a very old man who could barely walk, a sick man who was in A severe pain, and lastly a corpse. Since, He had never been exposed to pain before, these sights affected him immensely, although His charioteer tried to explain Him that pain and death – both were inevitable. This entire episode turned His life and His heart compelled Him to evaluate His life completely and then, He began the search for the reason of existence. King Shuddhodhana got perturbed by whatever his son was going through and therefore, he arranged Siddhartha’s marriage with a young and beautiful princess, Yasodhara. For some time, Siddhartha again got involved into the worldly pleasures, but somewhere at the back of His head, He had still not forgotten what He had seen! It was soon after the birth of son Rahul, that Siddhartha on a starry night, left His wife and son in deep sleep and left the palace.
The Buddha sitting in meditation, surrounded by demons of Mara. Sanskrit manuscript. Nalanda, Bihar, India. Pala period. According to the early Buddhist texts, after realizing that meditative jhana was the right path to awakening, but that extreme asceticism didn’t work, Gautama discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way—a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. In a famous incident, after becoming starved and weakened, he is said to have accepted milk and rice pudding from a village girl named Sujata. Such was his emaciated appearance that she wrongly believed him to be a spirit that had granted her a wish. Following this incident, Gautama was famously seated under a pipal tree – now known as the Bodhi tree – in Bodh Gaya, India, when he vowed never to arise until he had found the truth. Kaundinya and four other companions, believing that he had abandoned his search and become undisciplined, left. After a reputed 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained Enlightenment. According to some traditions, this occurred in approximately the fifth lunar month, while, according to others, it was in the twelfth month. From that time, Gautama was known to his followers as the Buddha or “Awakened One.” (“Buddha” is also sometimes translated as “The Enlightened One.”) He is often referred to in Buddhism as Shakyamuni Buddha, or “The Awakened One of the Shakya Clan.” According to Buddhism, at the time of his awakening he realized complete insight into the cause of suffering, and the steps necessary to eliminate it. These discoveries became known as the “Four Noble Truths”, which are at the heart of Buddhist teaching. Through mastery of these truths, a state of supreme liberation, or Nirvana, is believed to be possible for any being. The Buddha described Nirvana as the perfect peace of a mind that’s free from ignorance, greed, hatred and other afflictive states, or “defilements” (kilesas). Nirvana is also regarded as the “end of the world”, in that no personal identity or boundaries of the mind remain. In such a state, a being is said to possess the Ten Characteristics, belonging to every Buddha. According to a story in the Ayacana Sutta – a scripture found in the Pali and other canons – immediately after his awakening, the Buddha debated whether or not he should teach the Dharma to others. He was concerned that humans were so overpowered by ignorance, greed and hatred that they could never recognise the path, which is subtle, deep and hard to grasp. However, in the story, Brahma Sahampati convinced him, arguing that at least some will understand it. The Buddha relented, and agreed to teach.
After two months the Buddha decided to impart knowledge and enlightenment to others. The first sermon of Buddha was held at the deer garden in Banaras. Buddha called his teachings “the Middle Way” because it was midway between asceticism and indulgence. His “Four Noble Truths”, which are the foundation of all Buddhist beliefs, are:
- All human life is suffering.
- All suffering is caused by human desire
- An end of human desire is the end of human sufferings.
- An end to all the desire can be achieved by following the “Eightfold Noble Path”.
The Eightfold Noble Path is:
- Right Understanding
- Right Thought
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
For the next forty-five years after his enlightenment, he taught as the Buddha or “Shakyamuni” (the sage of the Shakaya). Buddha established an order of monks called the
Formation of the sangha
After his awakening, the Buddha met two merchants, named Tapussa and Bhallika, who became his first lay disciples. They were apparently each given hairs from his head, which are now claimed to be enshrined as relics in the Shwe Dagon Temple in Rangoon, Burma. The Buddha intended to visit Asita, and his former teachers, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, to explain his findings, but they had already died. He then travelled to the Deer Park near Varanasi (Benares) in northern India, where he set in motion what Buddhists call the Wheel of Dharma by delivering his first sermon to the five companions with whom he had sought enlightenment. Together with him, they formed the first sangha: the company of Buddhist monks. All five become arahants, and within the first two months, with the conversion of Yasa and fifty four of his friends, the number of such arahants is said to have grown to 60. The conversion of three brothers named Kassapa followed, with their reputed 200, 300 and 500 disciples, respectively. This swelled the sangha to more than 1000
For 45 years, Buddha spread His message of spiritual life to not only His disciples but the common people as well. He gave emphasis on the purification of mind, heart and ultimately, soul by following the Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths and the Five Preceptions. This path included the right speech, understanding, determination, deeds, efforts, awareness, thinking and living. As per Buddhism, if one follows these paths, one could overcome desires, which were the reason for all the grieves and miseries.
After spreading His message to the world successfully, Buddha died at the age of 80 years in 483 BCE. at Kushinagar, India. Today, Buddhism has a strong following in various Asian countries and is gradually finding its feet in some of the western countries as well.
[wptab name=’Biography’]Content for the tab Biography[/wptab]
[wptab name=’Videos’]Content for the tab Videos[/wptab]