The word ‘Buddha’ is a title and not a name. It means ‘one who is awake’ in the sense of having ‘woken up to reality’. Buddha, means ‘the enlightened one’. And Gautam Buddha was one of the greatest religious teachers that the world has seen. His teachings expounded in Buddhism, are immensely popular in India ,Thailand ,Burma, China, Japan and other South Eastern Countries. The Buddha was born in 563 B.C. as Siddhartha to Shuddhodana the king of Kapilavastu in Nepal. His mother Mayadevi expired when he was just 7 days old and he was brought up by his stepmother Gautami. Siddhartha was made to lead a very sheltered life as the astrologers had predicted that he would give up worldly pleasures to follow a different path. The King wanted to avoid this at all costs and so did not let him out of the palace. He hoped that Siddhartha would one day become king. The royal family belonged to the Gautama Gothra of the Sakya clan of the solar race. Their kingdom Kapilvastu was between the Nepalese foothills and the river Raptu. The Shakayas were priestly-warriors, wealthy knights and landowners.
When Siddhartha had grown into an intelligent young man, he ventured out of his palace one day, and chanced on a few sights that changed the course of his life. During one of his few excursions, Siddhartha saw four things, which opened his eyes towards the harsh realities of life. He saw an old man suffering from the frailties of age, a sick man suffering from disease, a beggar suffering from hunger and he saw a dead body. All these events affected him immensely and Siddhartha finally came to the conclusion that nothing is permanent in life. The infirmities of old age, the pangs of hunger, the pain of sickness and end of life brought sufferings that he had never experienced. All these events in his life forced him to search for truth that eventually changed his life.This made Siddhartha very sad and he started to rethink his life and began to try to fathom the reason of existence. Seeing him so thoughtful, his father decided to get him married and get his mind off such serious topics. He was married to a beautiful princess called Yashodhara, who soon gave birth to a son whom they called Rahul.
Despite this, Siddhartha found no happiness in materialistic pleasures and so left the palace in search of salvation – ‘ Moksh’. He was only 29 years old. He roamed the country, meeting various sadhus and saints in his search for inner peace. He lived the life of a hermit and underwent rigorous ‘ tapasya’ to achieve his purpose, but still could not understand the meaning of or reason for life and death.
Finally, one day he was very tired and so sat under the shade of a tree. He shut his eyes and was blessed with a divine light. This was the turning point, as he realized the truth is within every human being. The search outside was pointless. The tree under which he meditated came to be known as the ‘Bodhi Tree’, the tree of wisdom. And the place where this happened is still known as Bodh Gaya, now in north eastern part of India. It is believed that he attained nirvana on the day of the full moon in the month of Vaishakha, or Vesakha. It became a great Holy Day for the Buddhists. It was also on this day Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath, also in the North Eastern India.
This is why the Buddhists rotate the prayer wheels in the belief the prayers written on the wheels get dispersed on this day. The day when Prince Siddhartha became Gautam Buddha and again the day when he gave his first sermon at Sarnath.
Soon after his enlightenment the Buddha preached to a small group of the curious and those who heard his words became his disciples. From then on the Buddha devoted the rest of his life to teaching those who sought his advice, his compassion, his wisdom. The growth in the number of his disciples led to his establishment of the Sangha, the Buddhist monastic order. It was his disciples who passed along his teachings, by word of mouth, from generation to generation. Not until some considerable time after his death, were the words of the Buddha recorded in written form.Finally Buddha liberated himself from the cycle of rebirth and achieved mahaparinirvana, also on the auspices of Vesak.
For 45 years, Buddha spread his message of a spiritual life. He did not believe in rituals but pointed to an Eightfold path towards salvation – that of right speech, understanding, determination, deeds, efforts, awareness, thinking and living. According to Buddhism, by following this path one could overcome desires, which were the root cause of grief and misery.
The Buddha died in 483 BC at the ripe age of 80 years, after successfully spreading his message to the world. Buddhism still lives and has a strong following in various Asian countries.
Gautam Buddha established a new religion, which had no sects, classes or castes, that teaches the principle “Live and let live”. It was Gautam Buddha, who taught Hindus of non-violence and eating vegetarian food. Hindus honored Gautam Buddha and bestowed on him the title of 9th incarnation of Vishnu.
The Three Buddhist Precepts
Buddham Sharanam Gacchami
Buddha is a state of no mind, no prana or life force. In that state surrender dawns on you.
Dhammam Sharanam Gacchami
Dharma is an internal practice—an eight-fold path that adherents tread.
Sangham Sharanam Gacchami
This is spiritual brotherhood. In a no-mind state, religions can’t exist.
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