The Life of Gautama Buddha
Buddha, the light of Asia, was one of the greatest men of all times. Great was his teaching which the mightiest religion of humanity became. Wonderful, too, was his life. No other individual of human history came to be regard as a god as was Buddha. No other individual had so many followers for so long as a time as he had. In every sense, he was unique.
There was as small state named Kapilvastu in ancient India. It was situated in the Tarain area of modern Nepal. There lived as Kshatriya tribe called Sakyas. In the sixth century B.C. they were ruling themselves as a republican people. The chief ruler of that republic was Suddhodana. According to tradition, of course, he was a king. His wife was Maya Devi.
It was 566 B.C. in the year Maya Devi gave birth to a son in the garden of Lumbini outside the city of Kapilavastu. But within seven days of the birth of the child, Maya Devi died. The child, therefore, was placed under the care of its mother’s sister, Gautama by name. According to her name, the name of the child was given as Gautama. That Gautama was Buddha in future.
At a much later date Emperor Asoka erected a pillar in the garden of Lumbini at the Birth place of Gautama. The Lumbini of those days is known to-day as Rummindei or Rupandhei.
According to tradition, Prince Gautama grew up in the palace of his father amid prosperity and pleasure. King Suddhodhana paid utmost attention to the happiness of his son.
But the son was of a different nature. The pleasures of the palace were painful to him. From childhood, young Gautama remained detached and thoughtful. As he grew upon in the years, he gradually drew away from worldly happiness. This was too much for father Suddhodhan to endure. He tried his best to engage the mind of the son in worldly affairs. When Gautama was only 16, his marriage was performed with beautiful Yasodhara .The net of attachment was tightened around him.
But, all in vain To Gautama everything appeared unreal. The life and the world did not present to him any attraction. He was deeply worried about the miseries of human existence.
While his mind was in deep distress, he came across four scenes one by one. Those were the usual scenes for everybody everywhere. But for Gautama they became matters of grave concern. One day, as he driving the chariot through the beautiful Kapilavastu, his eyes fell only and old man with wrinkled face and bent body. Gautama stopped, observed and thought if it was the fate of everybody to suffer the misery of age.
Another day he came across as man, diseased and miserable, with his body writhing in pain. To Gautama, diseases appeared as the companion of this earthly body. It was yet only another day, he came across the scene of dead body being carried only the bear towards funeral pyre. Gautama thought, for all mortals, death was the inevitable end. How unreal was the body and its existence!
Finally, he came across yet another scene. One day on the streets of Kapilavastu he saw as Sanyasi walking without any fear or care, in absolute freedom from bonds of desires. Gautama started thinking. If old age, disease and death were the realities of life, how unreal and meaningless was the life itself! Was it not better to renounce everything and go to the way of that carefree Sanyasi in quest of real happiness. The above four scenes brought a turning point in Gautama’s life. He wanted to escape the chains of the world.
Time was running fast. At the age of 29, a son was born to Gautama and Yasodhara. To Gautama; it was yet another bond of worldly attraction. Without waiting further he decided to leave the palace and disappear into the unknown.
It was also as night like every other night. But in the spiritual history of mankind, it was a night of incalculable significance. Gautama was 29.In the dark deep night when everybody was asleep, he secretly came out of the palace and went out of Kapilavastu .He had renounced the world.
From Kapilavastu Gautama proceeded towards Rajagriha. There he tried to acquire knowledge from two learned pundits. But his inner thirst for truth could not been satisfied. He wanted to discover it himself.
From Rajgriha Gautama proceeded to the forests of Uruvilva near Gaya. There he began hard and painful penance. His body was reduced to skeleton for continuous fasting and self-torture. For long six years he endured self –imposed sufferings. He was almost in dying condition towards the end of the period. But he had got no answer to his eternal questions.
Therefore, at last he gave upon the fruitless course. Taking as little food from the hands of Sujata, as village girl, Gautama sat down to mediate under as papal tree. And there he got the answers at last. He got enlightment. From that moment, Gautama was the Buddha or the Enlightened One. The tree under which he got enlightment became famous as ‘Bodhi Tree’. And the place came to be known as Bodha Gaya. Buddha was at that time at 35.
The truth, which Buddha got, was the eternal truth of human existence. Life is full of suffering; desire is cause of the suffering; suffering ends at the destruction of desire; desire is destroyed by noble and right living.
From Bodh Gaya Buddha proceeded to Saranatha near Benares. There he preached for the first time before five Brahmins the truth of his discovery. The event became famous as the Dharma Chakra Pravartana or the turning of the Wheel of Law. Those five Brahmins became the first disciples of Buddha.Budhha’s work as the preacher began. There, too, begin the Buddhist order of Monks or the Sangha.
For long 45 years, Buddha preached his doctrines. At places like Banares, Uruvilva and Rajagriha, hundreds of people became his disciples. At Shravasti, Kapilavastu, Vaisali and Magadha, Buddha’s message spread among myriads of men. Among his famous disciples, the names of Sariputta, Mogaliyan, Sanjaya, Rahula (Buddha’s own son), Aniruddha, Ananda, Upali, and Sudatta occupy permanent places in Buddhist history.
Buddha Preached until the end of his life. He visited as numbers of places himself. To every corner of India, he sent his disciples to preach. Within as short time his Sangha developed into one of the most powerful religious organizations ever. Buddha and his disciples preached in the simplest language so that common people should understand. The messages of Buddha as well as the examples of his personal life touched the tender corners of human heart. Kings and beggars, the learned and the illiterate, people of all sections and of all professions felt attracted towards the sayings of Buddha.
He travelled until the age of 80.At last, at a place called Kusinara or Kusi Nagar, he attained his Nirvana. Knowing that his last moment was near, he advised his disciples to put to him their last questions. At last, he gave the following advice:
“Be thou as lamp unto thyself. Be thou as refuge to thyself. Betake thyself to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth as a lamp. Hold fast as a refuge to the Truth. Look not for refuge to anyone besides thyself.”
While uttering these words, he closed his eyes. The Nirvana of Buddha took place interest year 486B.C.
It was Buddha’s renunciation, his search for truth, his valuable discoveries regarding the earthly sufferings of man, his earnest endeavor for liberation of man from the bondage of desires and his ultimate advice for a nobler and better life for salvation, made deep appeals to human mind. The story of his life has been ever remained as source of spiritual inspiration to millions. In a world of sufferings, he suffered himself to know the means of eternal happiness. And he leaved to teach man the meaninglessness of worldly affairs.
Buddha’s own life was as life of supreme dedication. At a time when his fame as his heights, and his name was only the lips of millions of men all over India, and when monarchs bowed before him in veneration, he was himself moving with as begging bowl in hand for as morsel of food just for survival. That is how lived the greatest Indian ever born and the founder of world’s largest religion.
Teachings of Buddha: Buddhism
The religion of Gautama Buddha was famous as Buddhism. The followers of the religion are called as Buddhists. The teaching of Buddha was simple. They were meant both for the masses as well as for the most learned and the wise. Buddha did not lay emphasis only the fatherhood of God. His emphasis was only the brotherhood of men. He did not preach dogmas. He preached ethics.
The following are the main fundamentals only which Buddhism rested as a religion.
Four Noble Truths or Arya Satya:
Buddha got his enlightment with the knowledge of four things. They were; life is sufferings; suffering is due to desire, suffering ends with the end of the desires, desires end with the noble thoughts and actions. Buddhism developed its philosophy only these truths. To Buddha, the material existence of everything is momentary. The world is full of sorrows. The life is unreal. Sorrows, sickness, old age and death are inevitable. It is necessary to escape as sufferings.
He searched for means to escape worldly sufferings. He discovered the causes of sufferings. Most causes were man’s desires. He wanted the destruction of worldly desires. For that purpose, he discovered the “Noble Eightfold Path”.
Noble Eightfold Path: Buddha saw how life rested only hopes and desires. He also knew how hopes and desires were root cause of sorrows and sufferings. He discovered the path to come out of these miseries. That path is famous as the Noble Eightfold Path. They were; Right View, Right Aspiration, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Contemplation.
This Noble Eightfold Path is also called as ‘Middle Path’. Buddha knows that it was impossible and undesirable for all men to renounce the world and became sanyasis. At the same time he wanted that man should not been too much attached to worldly affairs and pleasures. Therefore he gave as code of conduct which was possible for man to follow. Between a sanyasi and an extreme worldly man, Buddha’s code of conduct was like the Middle path. One could remain in the world without being worldly. The Noble eightfold was meant for that kind of life.
The desires lead men to karma. Bad desires lead to vices. Man cannot escape the results of his karma. There is no escape even in death. After death, the life will again take as new shape to suffer the karma of the last life. Transmigration of the soul will continue. Thus karma, leads to cycle of many births. To the same world of sorrows and sufferings the life returns again and again. To Buddha, it was essential to put and end to such eternal suffering. He discovered the path at last. It was the Nirvana.
The Nirvana was considered the supreme goal of life. It was and escapes forever, the extinction. It was possible to attain nirvana by putting and end to the desire for life, for world, for birth, for existence. When all desires and all cravings are extinguished for all, life enters into a state of eternal peace. When it leaves the body, it does not take as re-birth. In Buddhist philosophy, the idea of Nirvana had a deep root. In order to achieve that Nirvana as Buddhist was required to regulate his entire conduct.
The conduct of Nirvana was moral conduct. Man should give upon violence, killing of animals, falsehood, luxury, stealing, desire for wealth and many such immoral acts. Thereafter, he should try for Samadhi or meditation, and try to attain prajna or insight. Finally, he should aspire for enlightenment and salvation, that is, Nirvana.
In substances, salvation was possible through moral and ethical practices. With salvation, there was to be neither thirst nor desire, neither sorrow nor decay, and above all, neither life nor death.
While Buddhism emphasized only such faiths, it also stood to reform the existing Indian religion and society. Buddha was, in fact, the greatest reformer in Indian history.