Buddha



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Fast Facts
buddha8light.jpg
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Siddhārtha Gautama (Siddhattha Gotama), Śākyamuni (Shakyamuni)
Function: 
Enlightened
Traditions: 
Buddhism
Main Countries of Activity: 
India
Date of Birth: 
563 BCE
Place of Birth: 
Lumbin, Kapilvastu, Nepal
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
No
Date Left His/Her Body: 
483 BC

Biography

Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from ancient India and the founder of Buddhism.

He is generally recognized by Buddhists as the Supreme Buddha (Sammāsambuddha) of our age. The time of his birth and death are uncertain: most early 20th-century historians date his lifetime from circa 563 BCE to 483 BCE; more recently, however, at a specialist symposium on this question, the majority of those scholars who presented definite opinions gave dates within 20 years either side of 400 BCE for the Buddha's death, with others supporting earlier or later dates.

Gautama, also known as Śākyamuni or Shakyamuni (“sage of the Shakyas”), is the key figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules were said to have been summarized after his death and memorized by the sangha. Passed down by oral tradition, the Tripitaka, the collection of teachings attributed to Gautama by the Theravada, was committed to writing about 400 years later.

Early Life

Siddhartha Buddha was born a prince in Lumbini, Nepal, at the foot of Mount Palpa in the Himalayan ranges. His father was Suddhodana, king of the Sakhyas. Because his mother, Maya, died seven days after his birth, he was raised by his foster mother, Maya’s sister Mahaprajapati.

When he was born, astrologers predicted that upon achieving manhood, Siddhartha would become either a universal monarch (Chakravarti), or would abandon all earthly comforts to become a monk and a Buddha, a perfectly enlightened soul who would then assist all mankind to achieve enlightenment. His father, who desired his son to become a universal monarch, asked the astrologers what his son would see that might cause him to retire from the world. They replied: “A decrepit old man, a diseased man, a dead man, and a monk.”

Doing his best to prevent his son from becoming a monk, Suddhodana raised him in luxury and indulgence and sought to keep him attached to sensual pleasure. Guards were posted to assure that Siddhartha did not make contact with the four men described by the astrologers. He placed his son in a magnificent walled estate with gardens, fountains, palaces, music, dancing and beautiful women. Siddhartha married Yasodhara at age sixteen, who subsequently gave birth to their son, Rahula. Throughout these early years of his life, he knew nothing of the sufferings that were taking place outside his enclosure.

Discovering Suffering for the First Time

Then one day, desiring to see how the people in his town were living, he managed to get out of his walled enclosure accompanied by his servant, Channa. He came upon a decrepit old man, a sick man, and a corpse and he was shocked. Seeing their mortality, he realized that he also would one day become prey to old age, disease and death. He then met a monk who impressed him with his serenity and beauty. It was at this time that Siddhartha decided to renounce the material world with its luxuries and comforts, as well as suffering and pain, and take up a monastic life, realizing that “Worldly happiness is transitory.”

Leaving Home and Seeking

Siddhartha left his home forever, donning yellow robes and shaving his head, to take up Yogic practices. Seeking instructions from several hermit teachers who lived in caves in the neighboring hills, he practiced severe Tapas (austerities) and Pranayama (breath control) for six years, during which time he almost starved to death and became exceedingly weak. He finally realized that starvation did not serve his aims, as it would lead to the very conditions he was trying to surmount. At this point he decided to give up the extreme life he had been living, eat food in moderation, and take to the “middle path.”

Enlightenment

Given food by a young woman, he sought a comfortable place to sit and eat it. He found a large tree, now known as the great Bo-tree, or Tree of Wisdom. Upon consuming the physical food, he realized that he was starved for spiritual nourishment. Going deep into meditation, he contemplated his journey with its temptations and desires but did not yield to them. The legends tell us that he came out of the meditation victorious, his face shining with illumination and splendor, having attained Nirvana. (Nirvana is the completion of the path of Buddhism in which the person has achieved self-enlightenment and all delusion and anguish are permanently ended). He got up and danced in divine ecstasy for seven days and nights around the sacred Bo-tree, after which he returned to a normal state of consciousness filled with incredible compassion for all. He had an overwhelming desire to share his illumination with humanity.

A Spiritual Teacher

Thus at age 35, Siddhartha was a Boddhisatva (one who has achieved enlightenment but chooses to remain in this world who help those who are suffering). He expressed the experience of his Samadhi (state of consciousness in which Absoluteness is experienced attended with all-knowledge and joy; Oneness):

I thus behold my mind released from the defilement of sensual pleasures, released from the defilement of heresy, released from the defilement of ignorance.

“The Buddha” (enlightened one) left his wondrous Bo-tree behind, venturing out into the world to teach others who were seeking Wisdom and Enlightenment.

He died at age 80 around 480 B.C.

Teachings

Four Noble Truths

Noble Truth 1 - The Nature of Suffering (Dukkha): birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.

Noble Truth 2 - The Reason for Suffering (Samudaya): it is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination.

Noble Truth 3 - The Cessation of Suffering (Nirodha): it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it.

Noble Truth 4 - The Way (Marga) Leading to the Cessation of Suffering: it is the Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

Noble Eightfold Path

As the name indicates, there are eight elements in the Noble Eightfold Path, and these are divided into three basic categories as follows:

Wisdom (Sanskrit: prajñā, Pāli: paññā)
1. Right view
2. Right intention

Ethical conduct (Sanskrit: śīla, Pāli: sīla)
3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right livelihood

Mental discipline (Sanskrit and Pāli: samādhi)
6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness
8. Right concentration

Photos

Locations

There are 4 locations in India and Nepal which are associated with Buddha's life and therefore are centers of pilgrimage for Buddhists and Buddha lovers.

The locations are:

Lumbini - in the Kapilavastu district of Nepal, near the Indian border. It is the place where Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was born.

Bodhgaya - a city in Gaya district in the Indian state of Bihar. It is the place where Gautama Buddha attained nirvana (Enlightenment) under a Bodhi tree.

Sarnath - a deer park located 13 kilometres north-east of Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, India. It is the place where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence.

Kushinagar - is a town in Kushinagar district in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is where Gautama Buddha died.

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Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

by Thich Nhat Hanh

(Paperback)

In The Heart of the Buddha\'s Teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh introduces us to the core teachings of Buddhism and shows us that the Buddha\'s teachings are accessible and applicable to our daily lives. With poetry and clarity, Nhat Hanh imparts comforting wisdom about the nature of suffering and its role in creating compassion, love, and joy--all qualities of enlightenment. Covering such significant teachings as the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Three Doors of Liberation, the Three Dharma Seals, and the Seven Factors of Awakening, The Heart of the Buddha\'s Teaching is a radiant beacon on Buddhist thought for the initiated and uninitiated alike.

Cover image

Buddha (Penguin Lives Biographies)

by Karen Armstrong

(Paperback)

With such bestsellers as A History of God and Islam, Karen Armstrong has consistently delivered ?penetrating, readable, and prescient? (The New York Times) works that have lucidly engaged a wide range of religions and religious issues. In Buddha she turns to a figure whose thought is still reverberating throughout the world 2,500 years after his death.

Many know the Buddha only from seeing countless serene, iconic images. But what of the man himself and the world he lived in? What did he actually do in his roughly eighty years on earth that spawned one of the greatest religions in world history? Armstrong tackles these questions and more by examining the life and times of the Buddha in this engrossing philosophical biography. Against the tumultuous cultural background of his world, she blends history, philosophy, mythology, and biography to create a compelling and illuminating portrait of a man whose awakening continues to inspire millions.

Pro Opinions

My Deep Gratitude Towards Buddha

archana.anchal's picture

The world dont need any description about Gautam Buddha......
The only thing i can do here, is express my deepest Gratitude towards him, and i pray to him, to be my side and bless me
Best Regards

Compassion

Similar's picture

Compassion for all things, forever.

viapassana

NIDHI PARKASH's picture

Gautama Buddha discovered the best technique of meditation which leads to salvation successfully.2600 years ago there was not this method available to people but 2500 years Gautama Buddha discovered i

Buddha, State, Oneness, Union, Choosen, Non Religious, Ignorance,

earthling's picture

Another Ignorance.
He Wanted & Choose to Help others find light within.
I believe / Feel, Buddha is the state of Union, Oneness, Non Duality.
But Ignorant followers made new religion.

Father of sprituality

santthosh kumaar's picture

Buddha is the real inspiration in the field of truth seeking. though his original teachings have been lost still we find the traces of truth in his teachings.

LeslieTripathy's picture

I continue 2 follow Buddha's ideologies,in today's world

In school,we were taught Buddha's philosophies,it touched me to the extent of following his Ideologies.Though my friends find it crazy to believe I'm not materialistic yet they have come to terms with it and respect me and no more call me 'out of this world'.

LeslieTripathy | Tue, 01/13/2009 - 11:09

A Scientist Saint

kanthi's picture

Gautama Buddha is a saint who had elaborately described the process of life giving minute details as a scientist who dissects an object to find the truth. It is simple yet very profound.

LeslieTripathy's picture

I continue 2 follow Buddha's ideologies,in today's world

In school,we were taught Buddha's philosophies,it touched me to the extent of following his Ideologies.Though my friends find it crazy to believe I'm not materialistic yet they have come to terms with it and respect me and no more call me 'out of this world'.

LeslieTripathy | Tue, 01/13/2009 - 11:08
Shanti's picture

God should not be put on test

God should not be put on test. We can simply feel the Almighty god. To follow the instructions of the god mean to step towards the true path of the life and most of all to know the fact of life, but it is not so easy to follow the ideology of the god. We have to cope with so many problems in our life.

Shanti | Sun, 10/03/2010 - 02:02

Con Opinions

Spiritless spirituality

divine intervention's picture

When I look around at Buddhists I see two distinct types of following:

egosheriff's picture

These are two excellent

These are two excellent points, however certainly the Buddha is not to blame for the misinterpretations of his followers! Let alone two millenia after his death... one could say the same about Jesus, yet both of these giants' purpose was to liberate us all.

Ramakrishna talks wisely of rituals, and how when you have achieved a certain spiritual understanding, they are no longer necessary. After you climb to the top, you no longer need the ladder. Might we pray that those aforementioned Buddhists advance along to realize the truth behind their omniscient guru. OM.

egosheriff | Wed, 01/18/2012 - 06:17