Gautam Buddha was a spiritual teacher from ancient India who founded Buddhism. Buddha means "Awakened One". From this general account of the nature of Buddha we now consider this specific person known to history as the Buddha. His life like that of most great religious teachers has been adorned with miracles and legends but from this mass of myth, a historical core can be found and even the mythical element should not be dismissed just as pure fantasy since much of it conveys an important message. The Buddha's given name was Siddhartha and his family name was Gotama. Buddhas know him as the Buddha Gotama or the Buddha Shakyamuni, the sage of Shakya clan. The dates for his birth, accepted now by most historically oriented scholars is 563 B.C. to 483 B.C. though other dates are also recognized.
Though for history, the story of the Buddha begins with his birth, from the traditional Buddha's perspective, the story goes back much further. It goes back aeons and aeons into the past.According to the Pali sources, the Bodhisattva(a being bound for complete enlightenment) career of our own Buddha began thousands of years ago in the past in the dispensation of a Buddha named Dipankara, who is the 26th Buddha before Gotama. At that time Gotama Buddha was a young man named Sumedha. When his parents died and left him a great amount of wealth he reflected upon the impermanence of all wealth and worldly enjoyments. Then he renounced the household life and became a hermit living in the forest and practicing meditation. One day he came into the town in order to gather supplies and on that occasion he learnt that an enlightened Buddha Dipankara was coming into the town. Then when the Buddha Dipankara entered the town, the hermit Sumedha saw him coming and he was so awed by his majesty, by his presence, by his serenity, that he bowed down on his feet right down on the mud and he made an aspiration in his mind that he too wanted to become a Buddha sometime in the future. Then when the Buddha Dipankara came up to him he saw there is Sumedha bowing down on the mud, he read his mind and saw his wish and he leaped into the future and saw that the aspiration could succeed and he gave Sumedha the prediction that aeons and aeons down the future, he would become a Buddha named Gotama.
After striving for thousands of births, in the last birth Sumedha took birth as the son of King Sudhodhana, the leader of Shakya clan and Queen Maha Maya in Lumbini and was raised in the small kingdom of Kapilavastu. His birth, according to many texts was full of miracles and wonders. Soon after he was born and brought back into the palace, the king called in the court astrologers to foretell his future. Eight Brahmins, noteworthy astrologers came to examine the baby and consulted the horoscope. When they finished, all the astrologers with one exception held up two fingers. The two fingers symbolized the destiny of Siddhartha, either he would grown up to become a great emperor if he is shielded from the sorrows of the world or else he would renounce the world and become a spiritual leader whose teachings would spread throughout the world. The one exception raised only one finger said that it was sure that Siddhartha would renounce the world.
The king, who did not want his son to become an ascetic built three palaces, one for each seasons and kept Siddhartha engrossed in all sorts of luxuries and worldly pleasure and shielded him from the sufferings of the world. When he reached the age of 16, he was married to a cousin of same age, Yasodhara who gave birth to a son named Rahula.
At the age of 29, Siddhartha left his palace in search of enlightenment. Despite his fathers efforts to to hide from him sickness, old age and suffering, Siddhartha is said to have witnessed an old man, a diseased man, a decaying corpse and an ascetic. These depressed him, and he initially strived to overcome aeging, sickness and death by leading the life of an ascetic.
In his ascetic life Siddhartha went to various places and learnt meditation techniques from a number of gurus but none of them satisfied him. Siddhartha and a group of five ascetics then set out to take their austerities further. They tried to find enlightenment through deprivation of worldly goods, including food, practicing self mortification. After nearly starving himself to death by restricting his food intake to around a leaf or a nut per day, he collapsed in a river while bathing and almost drowned. Siddhartha began to reconsider his path. Then he remembered a moment in childhood in which he had been watching his father start the season's plowing. He attained a concentrated and focused state that was blissful and refreshing, the jhana.
According to the early Buddhist texts, after realizing that the meditative jhana was the right path to awakening, Gautama discovered what Buddhists call The Middle Way - a path of moderation away from the extremes of self indulgence and self mortification. Gotama then sat under the Pipal tree, now known as The Bodhi Tree - in Bodh Gaya, India, when he vowed never to arise until he had found the truth. The other four companions, believing that he had abandoned his search and become indisciplined, left him. After a reputed 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he attained Enlightenment.
The Four Noble Truths
- Life means suffering
- The origin of suffering is attachment
- The cessation of suffering is attainable
- Noble Eightfold path is the path to cessation of suffering
Noble Eightfold Path
- Right View
- Right Intention
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
Dependent Origination - the mind creates suffering as a natural product of a complex process
Anicca - All things that come will have an end
Dukkha - Nothing which comes to be is ultimately satisfying
Anatta - Nothing in the realm of experience can really be said to be "I" or "Mine"
Nibanna - It is possible for sentient beings to realize a dimension of awareness which is totally peaceful, and all suffering due to the mind's interaction with the conditioned world.
End of Worldly Life
At the age of 80, Buddha announced that he would soon reach Parinivana, or final deathless state, and abandon his earthly body. Buddha's final words are reported to have been "All composite things pass away. Strive for your own liberation with diligence".
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