In the sixth century B.C., Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama. A biography of Siddhartha Gautama was not written during his lifetime and the earliest accounts of life were not recorded until some three hundred years after his death. Because there has been much debate by historians on where to draw the line between history and legend, the history probably contains much myth. However, this is the history is accepted by most Buddhists and forms a model for all Buddhists to live by.
Who is The Buddha?
Born around 563 B.C., Siddhartha Gautama was the son to King Suddhodana Gautama, a raja (or chieftain) of the Sakya clan and family of the Kshatriya caste of ancient Bharata. His father reigned over a small district in the Himalayas between India and Nepal.
At birth he received the name Siddhartha, meaning “he who has accomplished his objectives”, but was also called Sakyamuni (“the wise sage of the Sakya clan”), Ghagavat (“blessed with happiness”), Tathagata (“the one who has gone thus”), Jina (“the victorious”), and, probably most common, the Buddha or “the enlightened one”.
Jesus Among Other gods
When Siddhartha was an infant, a sage visited the King’s court and prophesied that Siddhartha would become either a great ruler like his father if he remained in the palace or, if he went out into the world, he would become a Buddha. The King believed that if Siddhartha was exposed to any human misery, he would leave his home to seek the truth. Therefore, he ordered his subjects to shield Siddhartha from any form of evil or suffering.
At age sixteen, Siddhartha won the hand of his cousin by performing 12 feats in the art of archery. He may have taken more wives during his life, but his cousin Yashodara was his principle wife.
Despite his father’s attempts to keep him confined to the palace, he ventured outside and observed a leper, a corpse, and an ascetic. From these observations, he determined that happiness was an illusion. As soon as his first son was born, assuring him that the royal bloodline would be continued, Siddhartha left the kingdom on a pilgrimage of inquiry and asceticism as a poor beggar monk seeking truth.
For six or seven years, he sought communion with the supreme cosmic spirit, first through the teachings of two Brahmin hermits and then in the company of five monks. However, despite his efforts, he didn’t feel he had found truth. At this point, he discovered the importance of what he called the Middle Way. Instead of denying himself food or sleep as the other monks did, he ate solid food and did not deny himself worldly things. This angered the monks he was with, so Siddhartha moved on.
At Gaya in northeast India, he sat at the foot of a fig tree where Mara, the evil one, tried to thwart his becoming the Buddha. After withstanding the temptations from Mara, he received a revelation. He now felt he knew the way to escape the cruel cycle of rebirth. He claimed to have discovered the four noble truths (Pativedhanana) and henceforth was the Buddha.
The Buddha was then faced with a choice. He could retreat into solitude with his knowledge as the other monks did when they felt they had reached spiritual truth, or he could remain with the people and share his knowledge. It is because he chose to stay with the people that Buddhists feel Buddhism is based not only on truth but on compassion as well.
Two months later the Buddha gave his first sermon and began the “Wheel of the Law”, a symbol of the Buddhist faith. For more than 40 years he dedicated himself to the spread of this new religion. At age 80 a blacksmith fed him a poisonous food and the Buddha became extremely ill. He died at Kusinara in the district of Gorakhpur. His last recorded words were “Decay is inherent in all component things! Work out your own salvation with diligence.”
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