Gautam Buddha, the originator of Buddhism is also called as “the Buddha” or basically as “Buddha.”
The word Buddha means “the enlightened one” or “the awakened one”. Gautam Buddha was initially known as Siddharth Gautam.
The word “Siddharth” literally means “the one who achieves his aim”. He is also known as “Shakyamuni” being the sage of Shakyas. He was born to King Shuddhodan and Queen MahaMaya as a prince in 563 B.C. in the township of Lumbini near Kapila Vastu.
According to myth, an astrologer and a great sage predicted and foretold His father, the king Shuddhodan, that the boy would do a lot for the wellbeing and betterment of the world. Lord Buddha would relinquish the throne and lavishness and renounce the world the day He see four things:
(i) an old man,
(ii) a sick man,
(iii) an ascetic and
(iv) The dead man.
He also predicted that Siddhartha would renounce worldly pleasures completely to pursue a different path i.e. a path of spirituality.
King Shuddhodan was not in favour of this and wanted Siddharth to be a Chakravarti and rule his reign as a wise king. Therefore he made sure that Siddharth would not set His foot out of the palace. He was kept in a special palace which was filled with all worldly pleasures and led a very privileged life. He was raised with all the luxuries and was fortified from all spiritual teachings or knowledge of human affliction. At the age of 16, He was married to a beautiful girl named Yashodhara who later gave birth to His son Rahul.
Siddharth thus led a generous life for 29 years in Kapila Vastu. But destiny had written something different for Siddharth. One day, an occasion helped Him to go out of His palace. There He saw an old man who could hardly walk, a sick man with a deadly disease, a dead body in a funeral procession, and finally an ascetic who had renounced all material pleasures, for the first time in His life. His charioteer Channa told Him that every living being has to grow old and ultimately die. Never witnessing such incidences in His life, Siddhartha was extremely moved. He was totally disheartened by these sights and thus decided to conquer death, illness and old age by becoming an ascetic. He thought that material belongings are not the aim of life and started questioning His existence. Despite of all family and material pleasures, He felt an emptiness in His life and left His family and ran away from the palace with His charioteer Channa in search of true happiness.
Initially Mahatma Buddha studied and practiced Hindu discipline and later on Jainism. Along with extreme self-mortification He observed rigorous fasting for a number of years. On realizing that distressing His body did not bring Him closer to true intelligence, He abandoned asceticism and resumed eating normally. He followed the path of self degradation in order to attain illumination.
Gautam Buddha sat under the Bodhi or Pipal tree in Bodh Gaya and determined not to get up until He attains enlightenment. Finally He was blessed with a celestial light through which He attained complete awakening and realized the vital truth. It was after this practice He was called “Buddha – The Enlightened One.” It is said that He attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree on the first full moon in the month of May and that day is celebrated as Buddha Poornima.
Later He spent 45 years in teaching the ultimate truth to the world that He had revealed. He died at the age of 80 in 483 BC.
Buddhism is categorized into two sects i.e. Hinayana and Mahayana.
The major teachings of Lord Buddha can be summarized in “Four Noble Truths”-
1) There is pain and misery in life i.e. suffering or pain is an intrinsic part of existence.
2) The root of this suffering and misery is desire or ignorance.
3) The major symptoms of ignorance are attachment and craving and this can be removed by removing desire.
4) Desire can be detached by following the Eight Fold Path.
The Noble Eight fold path is-
1. Right understanding or views,
2. Right thoughts,
3. Right speech,
4. Right actions,
5. Right livelihood,
6. Right efforts,
7. Right mindfulness, and
8. Right concentration or meditation.
According to Buddhism, Nirvana, which is a termination of all sorrows, can be achieved by removing longing by following the Eight Fold Path.
According to Lord Buddha, there should be-
a) Consideration and graciousness of heart.
b) Ability to introspect and follow one’s belief.
c) Fortitude to look for the ultimate truth and significance of life.
d) Dedication to spread the enlightenment to the masses.
Even today, Lord Buddha’s teachings are respected and followed by millions of people who have embraced the Buddhist way of life. Lord Buddha is considered as one of the incarnation or avatar of the Almighty.
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