Who Was The Buddha?
who came to be the Buddha, was born in Kapilavastu (Nepal) in
563 B.C.E, of King Shuddhodana and Queen Maya, rulers of Sakyas.
It is said that just before he was conceived, Queen Maya dreamed
of an elephant with six tusks and carrying a lotus flower in
its trunk, touched her right side. This dream was interpreted
by Brahmins (learned men) that the child would be either the
greatest king in the world or the greatest ascetic (a holy man
who practices self-denial), and would be named Siddhartha, (meaning
"he whose aim is accomplished").
Later when Queen Maya was going to her father's home to prepare
for the birth, she stepped off her chariot in the Lumbini Gardens
and held the branch of a sal tree to rest. In that instant,
Siddhartha emerged from her right side without any help. The
infant walked seven steps each in four directions of the compass,
and lotus flowers sprouted from where his foot touched the earth.
Then the infant said, "No further births have I to endure,
for this is my last body. Now shall I destroy and pluck out
by the roots the sorrow that is caused by birth and death."
Seven days later Queen Maya died. Mahaprajapati, Maya's sister,
looked after Siddhartha. King Shuddhodana shielded Siddhartha
from all kinds of suffering and hardship. When Siddhartha was
about 20, he married Yasodhara, daughter of one of the King's
ministers, and one year later they had a child named Rahula
(meaning "fetter" or "impediment").
At age 29, Siddhartha asked his charioteer, Channa, to take
him out of the city two times without the consent of the king.
During these two trips, Siddhartha saw "Four Sights"
that changed his life. On the first trip, he saw old age, sickness,
and death. The second trip, he saw a wandering holy man, an
ascetic, with no possessions. Siddhartha started questioning
the holy man, who had a shaved head, wore only a ragged yellow
robe, and carried a walking-staff. The man said, "I am...
terrified by birth and death and therefore have adopted a homeless
life to win salvation... I search for the most blessed state
in which suffering, old age, and death are unknown." That
night, Siddhartha silently kissed his sleeping wife and son,
and ordered Channa to drive him out to the forest. At the edge
of the forest, Siddhartha took off his jeweled sword, and cut
off his hair and beard. He then took off all his princely garments
and put on a yellow robe of a holy man. He then ordered Channa
to take his possessions back to his father.
Siddhartha then wandered through northeastern India, sought
out holy men, and learned about Samsara (reincarnation), Karma,
and Moksha. Attracted to the ideas of Moksha, Siddhartha settled
on the bank of Nairanjana River, and adopted a life of extreme
self-denial and penances, meditating constantly. After six years
of eating and drinking only enough to stay alive, his body was
emaciated, and he was very weak. Five other holy men joined
him, hoping to learn from his example.
One day, Siddhartha realized that his years of penance only
weakened his body, and he could not continue to meditate properly.
When he stepped into the river to bathe, he was too weak to
get out, and the trees lowered their branches to help him. In
that instant, a milk-maid named Nandabala came and offered a
bowl of milk and rice, which Siddhartha accepted. The five holy
men left Siddhartha after witnessing this. Refreshed by the
meal, Siddhartha sat down under a fig tree (often refered to
as the Bo tree, or Tree of Enlightenment) and resolved to find
out an answer to life and suffering. While meditating, Mara
(an evil god) sent his three sons and daughters to tempt Siddhartha
with thirst, lust, discontent, and distractions of pleasure.
Siddhartha, unswayed, entered a deep meditation, and recalled
all his previous rebirths, gained knowledge of the cycle of
births and deaths, and with certainty, cast off the ignorance
and passion of his ego which bound him to the world. Thereupon,
Siddhartha had attained enlightenment and became the Buddha
(enlightened one). His own desire and suffering were over and,
as the Buddha, he experienced Nirvana... "There is a sphere
which is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air...which
is neither this world nor the other world, neither sun nor moon.
I deny that it is coming or going, enduring, death or birth.
It is only the end of suffering." Instead of casting off
his body and his existence, however, Buddha made a great act
of self-sacrifice. He turned back, determined to share his enlightement
with others so that all living souls could end the cycles of
their own rebirth and suffering.
Buddha went to the city of Sarnath and found the previous five
holy men that deserted him earlier at a deer park. When they
saw Buddha this time, they realized that he had risen to a higher
state of holiness. The Buddha began teaching them what he had
learned. He drew a circle in the ground with rice grains, representing
the wheel of life that went on for existence after existence.
This preaching was called his Deer Park Sermon, or "Setting
in Motion the Wheel of Doctrine." Siddhartha revealed that
he had become the Buddha, and described the pleasure that he
had first known as a prince, and the life of severe asceticism
that he had practiced. Neither of these was the true path to
Nirvana. The true path was the Middle Way, which keeps aloof
from both extremes.
"To satisfy the necessities of life is not evil,"
the Buddha said. "To keep the body in good health is a
duty, for otherwise we shall not be able to trim the lamp of
wisdom and keep our mind strong and clear." Buddha then
taught them the Dharma, which consisted of the Four Noble Truths
and the Eightfold Path. The five holy men and others soon joined
Buddha, accompanying him everywhere. As more joined, Buddha
organized the Sangha, a community of bhikkus (dedicated monks
and later nuns). The Sangha preserved the Dharma, and allowed
bhikkus to concentrate on the goal of Nirvana. On raining seasons
they would settle in Viharas (resting places in cave dwellings).
Upasaka, followers who believed in Buddha's teachings, but could
not follow the stict rule of the Sangha, were taught to follow
the Five Precepts. Buddha returned to his birthplace in Kapilavastu,
and his father was mortified to see his son begging for food.
Buddha kissed his father's foot and said, "You belong to
a noble line of kings. But I belong to the lineage of buddhas,
and thousands of those have lived on alms." King Shuddhadana
then remembered the Brahmin's prophesy and reconciled with his
son. Buddha's wife, son, and cousin (Ananda) later joined the
When Buddha was about eighty, a blacksmith named Cuanda gave
him a meal that caused him to become ill. Buddha forced himself
to travel to Kushinagara, and laid down on his right side to
rest in a grove of shala trees. As a crowd of followers gathered,
the trees sprouted blossoms and showered them on Buddha. Buddha
told Ananda, "I am old and my journey is near its end.
My body is like a worn-out cart held together only by the help
of leather straps." Three times, Buddha asked the people
if they had any questions, but they all remained silent. Finally
Buddha said, "Everything that has been created is subject
to decay and death. Everything is transitory. Work out your
own salvation with diligence. After passing through several
states of meditation, the Buddha died, reaching Parinirvana
(the cessation of perception and sensation).
Source: (The Encyclopedia of Religion p58-62)