The Story of the Buddha
The Buddha was not a God, but rather an exceptional human being who awoke to the true nature of reality; or as commonly expressed, attained enlightenment. The word “Buddha” means “fully Awakened One” and this in turn refers to a mind that has awoken from the sleep of ignorance. When Buddhist practitioners bow or prostrate to statues of the Buddha, or figures of Buddhist art, this is not with the intention of requesting rewards or forgiveness in return for worship. Instead, this action of respect is to remind oneself of one’s own potential and to rejuvenate one’s motivation to follow the Buddha’s example on the path to liberation.
The Buddha was formerly known as Prince Siddhartha Gautama. He was born in the 5th century B.C, around 2,600 years ago in the Nepalese village, Lumbini. His mother, Maya, passed away after childbirth and his father was the wealthy King Suddhodana. His father deliberately went to great lengths to shelter his son from the sufferings of life in the hope that one day Siddhartha Gautama would take his place as king. So Prince Siddhartha lived in luxury, oblivious to the pains and turmoils that come hand and hand with existence. During this time he married a beautiful woman and together they had a son.
One day, with the help of a charioteer, he managed to leave the palace and what he saw fundamentally changed the course of his life. In this, and subsequent escapades, he witnessed fellow human beings undergoing the pains of old age, sickness and death. He then realised that suffering is a trait of humanity and that no level of privilege or wealth could protect him. He also began to reflect upon the futility of his worldly ways. In remedy of this, he came across a robed aesthetic, or holy man, who had dedicated his life to search for the truth of existence.
Consequently, at the age of 29, Siddhartha Gautama fled the palace and his sumptuous life; determined to find a way to overcome suffering and reveal life’s true meaning. Following the holy man’s example, he began his search by taking up the practices of extreme aestheticism; which included fasting to near starvation. However, after six years he was frustrated as through these methods of harsh constraint, he had not experienced the insights he was seeking. After receiving food and water and recovering his health, he sat under the renowned Bodhitree in Bodhgaya, India, and vowed he would not rise until he had experienced the truth of reality. It was during this time that his consciousness moved through the different stages of awakening until he understood the true nature of mind and realised absolute liberation from suffering.
The Buddha was hesitant to teach what he had experienced, as it was so different from worldly existence, who would believe him? However, it is said that Brahma, the King of the Gods, encouraged him, and consequently he gave his first teaching which is known today as, “Setting in Motion the Wheel of Dharma.” He dedicated the rest of his life to sharing his experiential wisdom to his disciples (the Sangha) and passed away in 483.BC in Kushinagar, a state of Uttar Pradesh, at the age of 80.
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O’Brien, B. (2021, July 13). Who Was the Buddha, and What Did He Teach? - Lion's Roar. Lion’s Roar. https://www.lionsroar.com/who-was-the-buddha/