He is also called Shakyamuni Buddha.
About 2600 years ago, a clan called the "Shakyas" ruled the city of Kapilavastu.
Siddhartha Gautama was born just outside the city in Lumbini. His father was a king named Shuddhodana, and his mother was a queen named Maya. Maya died when Siddhartha was about 7 days old. His father controlled him in a very peaceful and nice way. There were home tutors for him as he was not interested in the outward things that took place at that time. Siddhartha lived in luxury; his father kept trouble and hard work far from him. A seer predicted that if Siddhartha stayed inside his palace his whole life, then he would become a great king. However, if he left the palace, then he would become a great religious leader. The king did not want his son to become a religious leader. He kept Siddhartha in the palace for his entire childhood.
When Siddhartha turned 16 years old, his father found a woman for him to marry. He married a woman named Yashodhara, and they had a son named Rahula. Although Siddhartha had everything he could want, he was still not happy. He wanted to learn about life outside his palace.
Legend says that he got out of the castle against his father's orders. He saw the "Four Great Sights": an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a holy man with no home.
When Siddhartha turned 20, he became a leader of the Shakya clan. After eight years the Shakya and Koliya clans had a dispute. It was about the use of the water from the Rohini River. People from both the sides fought and some were injured. After seeing this, the Shakya clan held a meeting and decided to fight a war against the Koliyans to teach them lesson.
Siddhartha opposed the proposal and said, "war is not a solution to any problem. We can form a council with people from both sides to solve our issues." Almost all the members rejected his opinion. The next day the head of the clan said, "we are going to recruit new soldiers for the war and it is essential for a man who is above 20 and below 50 years." Once again, Siddhartha opposed the proposal. The head of the clan reminded Siddhartha of his oath, but Siddhartha replied that he would not fight.
The clan asked him to choose one of three options: to fight with the Shakya clan against the Koliyans; to die; or to leave the country and boycott his family. Siddhartha bravely said, "I am ready for death". The head of the clan said, "this may be harmful because the king of Kosala will not allow it." Siddhartha suggested that he could become an ascetic and then leave the country, and that the king of Kosala could not do anything about it. The head of the clan thought it was a good idea. He said that they would start the war after Siddhartha left, so that the king would not be able to find any relation between him and the fighting.
The next day, Siddhartha left his family, his land and everything else at the age of 29.He left everything to be a monk and a religious leader for the people.
Many holy men at this time were ascetics. They hurt their bodies for religious reasons. They abstain from certain pleasures so they can get rid of desire. One group of ascetics were called the Jains. They practiced self-denial and made themselves suffer very much. They believed this would free the ātman (soul) from pain and sadness. Siddhartha tried these practices and eventually became better than his teachers. He still found no answer, so he left his teachers and friends to discover another way. He decided to eat only six grains of rice a day. He tried holding his breath. His body became very thin, like skin and bones, and he nearly died. Still, he had no answer.
Siddhartha began to think again about this path. He thought there might be a better way than hurting himself. He found a fig tree (now called the Bodhi tree) and deicded to meditate beneath it. He promised himself that he would not leave this spot until he had found enlightenment. He meditated under the tree for 49 days. His mind is said to have become pure, and then--after a total of six years practicing--he became enlightened. He was now the Buddha.
His life as a BuddhaEdit
When the Buddha became enlightened, he found the answer to suffering, and he knew how to defeat suffering. This answer was called the Four Noble Truths. He was not sure if he should teach his new ideas or not. He asked himself if the world was ready for such a deep teaching. But in the end, he decided to travel to a town called Sarnath to teach the people his new way. He taught about the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The people listened to him.
When he taught, he did not pretend to be a god. He said he was just a man who had found the meaning of life (enlightenment), and that any person can also find the meaning of life. For the rest of his life, he walked all over Southern Nepal and parts of India to teach people what he believed. He started a Sangha, which is a group of Buddhist monks and nuns. Many people became enlightened because of him. At the age of 80, Gautama Buddha died.
The life teachingsEdit
The teachings of the Buddha are known as Buddhism. Buddhism is mostly about ending the feeling of pain that all people feel inside. Gautama Buddha taught that old age, sickness, death and suffering is a part of everyone's life. He taught that pain is caused by craving. And he showed that there is a way to end craving and end suffering by doing good things, not doing bad things, and training one's mind. When a person is able to perfect these qualities, they will gain enlightenment.
Buddhism teaches non-harm and balance – not going too far one way or the other. The Buddha taught people to meditate while sitting in the lotus position. Some Buddhists chant and meditate while walking. Buddhists sometimes do these things to understand the human heart and mind. Sometimes they do these things to understand the way the world works. Sometimes they do these things to find peace.
The Buddha taught that people should not look to gods to save them or bring them enlightenment. The gods may have power over world events and they might help people, or they might not. But Buddha believed that it is up to each person to become enlightened.
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