GREAT ‘Lord Buddha’| Gautama Siddhartha, who later became known as the Buddha – or ‘The Enlightened One’ was a prince, who forsook the comforts of a palace to seek enlightenment. He realized the essential unreality of the world and experienced the bliss of nirvana. After his enlightenment, he spent the remainder of his life teaching others how to escape the endless cycle of birth and death.
Buddha was born approximately 400 BC in the area now known as Nepal. He was brought up in a palace with all the comforts and luxuries possible.
Growing up a young noble prince, it is said his father sought to shield the young prince Siddhartha from the pain and suffering of the world. It is said his father had a premonition that Siddhartha would once renounce the world.
About Buddha life
On the birth of the child, Siddhartha, the astrologers predicted to its father Suddhodana: “The child, on attaining manhood, would become either a universal monarch (Chakravarti), or abandoning house and home, would assume the role of a monk and become a Buddha, a perfectly enlightened soul, for the salvation of mankind”.
Then the king said: “What shall my son see to make him retire from the world ?”. The astrologer replied: “Four signs”. “What four ?” asked the king. “A decrepit old man, a diseased man, a dead man and a monk – these four will make the prince retire from the world” replied the astrologers.
Suddhodana’s Precaution — Suddhodana thought that he might lose his precious son and tried his level best to make him attached to earthly objects.
He surrounded him with all kinds of luxury and indulgence, in order to retain his attachment for pleasures of the senses and prevent him front undertaking a vow of solitariness and poverty.
He got him married and put him in a walled place with gardens, fountains, palaces, music, dances, etc.
Countless charming young ladies attended on Siddhartha to make him cheerful and happy. In particular, the king wanted to keep away from Siddhartha the ‘four signs’ which would move him to enter into the ascetic life.
“From this time on, ” said the king, “let no such persons be allowed to come near my son. It will never do for my son to become a Buddha.
What I would wish to see is my son, exercising sovereign rule and authority over the four great continents and the two thousand attendant isles, and walking through the heavens surrounded by a retinue thirty-six leagues in circumference”.
And when he had so spoken, he placed guards for the quarter of a league, in each of the four directions, in order that none of the four kinds of men might come within sight of his son.
Siddhartha spent his boyhood at Kapilavastu and its vicinity. He was married at the age of sixteen. His wife’s name was Yasodhara.
Siddhartha had a son named Rahula. At the age of twenty-nine, Siddhartha Gautama suddenly abandoned his home to devote himself entirely to spiritual pursuits and Yogic practices.
A mere accident turned him into the path of renunciation. One day he managed, somehow or the other, to get out of the walled enclosure of the palace and roamed about in the town along with his servant Channa to see how the people were getting on.
The sight of a decrepit old man, a sick man, a corpse and a monk finally induced Siddhartha to renounce the world. He felt that he also would become a prey to old age, disease, and death.
Also, he noticed the serenity and the dynamic personality of the monk. Let me go beyond the miseries of this Samsara (worldly life) by renouncing this world of miseries and sorrows.
This mundane life, with all its luxuries and comforts, is absolutely worthless. I also am subject to decay and am not free from the effect of old age.
Worldly happiness is transitory”.
Gautama left forever his home, wealth, dominion, power, father, wife and the only child. He shaved his head and put on yellow robes.
He marched towards Rajgriha, the capital of the kingdom of Magadha. There were many caves in the neighbouring hills.
Many hermits lived in those caves. Siddhartha took Alamo Kalamo, a hermit, as his first teacher. He was not satisfied with his instructions.
He left him and sought the help of another recluse named Uddako Ramputto for spiritual instructions. At last, he determined to undertake Yogic practices.
He practised severe Tapas (austerities) and Pranayama (a practice of breath control) for six years.
He determined to attain the supreme peace by practising self—mortification.
He abstained almost entirely from taking food.
He did not find much progress by adopting this method. He was reduced to a skeleton. He became exceedingly weak.
For many years, Buddha travelled around India, especially around the Ganges plain and in Nepal, teaching his philosophy of liberation.
His teachings were transmitted orally and not written down until many years after his death.
Many stories relate to the life of the Buddha in this teaching phase.
His essential teachings were of love, compassion, and tolerance.
The Buddha taught that a seeker must have compassion for all living beings and this was the most important teaching.
Although the Buddha disliked formal rules, a monastic following sprung up for those interested in following his path.
He advocated strict celibacy for those wishing to follow his monastic path.
The Buddha attracted hostility from those jealous towards his popularity and spiritual development. One of his own monks Devadatta later became jealous of the Buddha and sought to split the community.
He even tried on three occasions to kill the Buddha, but on each occasion, he failed.
The Buddha passed away after many years teaching and wandering India.
On his deathbed, he told Ananda (his dearest disciple) that he should now rely on his teachings and own ethical conduct to be the guide of his life.
After attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, Buddha travelled, preaching the Dharma (the name given to the teachings of the Buddha) in an effort to lead others to and along the path of enlightenment.
When he died, it is said that he told his disciples that they should follow no leader.