Who was Buddha?
Buddhism is a religion whose origins come from India. Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Buddha who was born Siddhartha Gautama during the sixth century in Lumbini India, known today as Nepal.
Siddhartha Gautama’s father was a king named Suddhodana, and his mother was queen Maya. His mother is said to have died seven days after his birth. The oracle was summoned upon his birth, and prophesied that Siddhartha would either become a great king like his father, or an inspirational spiritual leader. His father insisted that his son would become a king, but destiny had other plans for Siddhartha.
Siddhartha was raised with a lavish lifestyle within the walls of his father’s kingdom, and was protected from the realities of life such as old age, poverty, and sickness that befalls us all. He was married at the age of 16 to the most beautiful lady in the kingdom, and soon after had a son with his loving wife. Siddhartha and his family continued to live a sheltered life inside of the palace walls until one day curiosity got the best of him.
When Siddhartha was in his late 20’s he questioned his father about what was beyond the walls of the kingdom he had grown up in. He insisted on leaving the confines of the kingdom’s walls to explore the outside world, so Siddhartha was allowed to venture into the great unknown with a chaperone by his side who was well aware of what laid beyond the palace walls.
It wasn’t long after Siddhartha embarked on his journey outside of the kingdom walls that he came across an old man, and was shocked by his appearance. He questioned his chaperone about what had happened to the man to cause him to look that way. His chaperone informed him that not only will all men grow old and die, but every living thing will cease to exist one day as well.
Prince Siddhartha wasn’t content with just one trip outside of his father’s kingdom, and explored the reality of the outside world once again with his chaperone along to assist him. He wanted to explore even farther outside of the palace walls to learn even more about the outside world.
Siddhartha being very observant as he is known for, was keeping a watchful eye on everything around him as he and his trusted chaperone traveled to new areas. The first person that caught his eye during his second trip outside the walls was a sickly beggar. His chaperone explained to him that the beggar was poor, and had no money. "This man could only depend on the good will of others to obtain the food he needed to survive."
Sadly it was a decaying corpse that next got his attention. Siddhartha gazed upon the corpse bewildered as his trusted chaperone spoke to him, “That is what death looks like your highness. It is what will become of all men. All things are impermanent prince Siddhartha.”
Finally Siddhartha and his chaperone came upon an ascetic quietly meditating in the forest. Siddhartha was mesmerized as he fixed his gaze upon the frail man sitting motionlessly before him yet very much awake. Siddhartha then questioned his Chaperone about the ascetic man in front of him.
The chaperone wisely hesitated before answering to give Siddhartha a moment to reflect on what he was seeing, “He is a holy man your highness, he has renounced all worldly pleasures in an attempt to seek release from suffering.”
Siddhartha didn’t speak the rest of the way as he journeyed warily back home with his chaperone, he quietly contemplated what he had seen as they made their way back to the kingdom.
Siddhartha spent the next few days reflecting back on all that he had seen during his journey outside of the palace walls. He made the decision after much contemplation to leave his wife and son, and join the ascetics in an attempt to find a way to relieve all of humanity from the suffering he now knew affects us all.
Siddhartha devoted his life to learning, and meditating with a group of ascetics as he attempted to discover enlightenment, and achieve Nirvana. Siddhartha’s devotion to his quest for enlightenment was so compelling to the other ascetics that they soon became his students.
After six years of practicing meditation, and a lifestyle of only consuming minimal amounts of food and water, Siddhartha became emaciated, and was near death from the lack of substance. He was approached by a young child who felt empathy for this frail man, and offered him a bowl of rice, and a drink of water.
Siddhartha happily accepted the offering from this compassionate child, and as he partook in eating the rice, and drinking the water the other ascetics looked upon him with disdain. He decided to bathe himself in the river to clean his body of the dirt that had built up over time. The other ascetics observed his behavior, and decided he was no longer one of them. They left him alone in the river.
Siddhartha realized at that moment that the path of renouncing everything was not the correct path for him to take. Buddha wondered about until he came upon a Bodhi tree, and sat beneath it. He meditated underneath it as he contemplated the right path to obtain the enlightenment he was seeking.
After several days of meditation he saw his entire life, and all of his past lives pass before his mind’s eye. He was also tempted by the demon Mara who attempted to seduce Siddhartha with various earthly pleasures such as many beautiful women, and extreme wealth.
Siddhartha ignoring the offerings of the demon Mara, and understanding the meaning of all his past lives and all that occurred in the world around him had finally reached the enlightenment that he was seeking. Siddhartha then became the Buddha, “The Awakened One”.
After reaching enlightenment Buddha ardently set out to teach his Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path as the way to free oneself from suffering, and achieve nirvana. Buddha soon came across the ascetics who had abandoned him at the river, and they became the first students to embrace his new enlightened wisdom.
Buddha’s Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are the basis of Buddhism, and are still taught to students of Buddhism till this day.