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Buddha's Biography

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Buddha's Bio
Buddha Bio

Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha, was born around 563 BCE and lived until around 483 BCE. No one is really sure exactly when he was born or when he died, or the exact circumstances of his life. All that is known comes from various writings that were made 400 years after his death, when the oral traditions of his life and teachings were finally set to paper.
“The Buddha” means the "awakened one" or "the enlightened one."

Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born and raised in land that is now the country of Nepal. His father was King Suddhodana, the leader of Shakya clan, whose capital was Kapilavastu. (During the times of Gautama’s life, the region in which he lived was separated into city states, republics and chiefdoms. )

His mother, Queen Maha Maya, was a Koliyan princess. When she realized she was pregnant she left Kapilvastu for her father's kingdom, for it was tradition that she should give birth in her home land. However, she did not arrive in time, and instead gave birth at a place called Lumbini. She died shortly after giving birth to him and he would be raised by his mother’s younger sister, Maha Pajapati.

The baby was given the name Siddhartha: "he who achieves his aim". Great things were predicted for the newborn by Brahmins whom his father called to read his future – he was to be either a great king or a great holy man.

Siddhartha’s father wished him to become a king rather than a holy man. He grew up in one of three palaces, never received religious instruction, and never saw, let alone met, the villagers over whom his father, he and the rest of the ruling class held sway.

When Siddhartha reached the age of 16, his father arranged his marriage to his cousin, Yasodhara, also 16. They had one child, a son whom they named Rahula.

When he was 29, Siddhartha left his palace for the first time in order walk among his subjects. His father had issued orders that the aged, the sick, and the suffering stay out of sight. Yet an old man disobeyed these orders, and Siddhartha saw him. Realizing that his father was shielding him from the truth, Siddhartha went on further excursions into the countryside and met “real” people, including a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. He was deeply depressed by these meetings, and decided to attempt to overcome illness, old age and death by turning to aestheticism.

Siddhartha abandoned his family, having to do so under cover of darkness in an event traditionally called the “Great Departure,” and went to a town called Rajagaha. There, he became a beggar, asking for alms in the streets.

Soon, Siddhartha left Rajagaha and sought out a hermit teacher, Alara Kalama. After learning all he could, he then became a student of Udaka Ramaputta. Both of these teachers were impressed by Siddhartha and requested that he succeed them as teacher, but Siddhartha was not yet satisfied that he had learned all he needed to now.

Siddhartha and a group of five companions continued their quest for enlightenment by depriving themselves of everything – including food. However, weak from lack of food, Siddhartha collapsed in a river while bathing and almost drowned. He realized that he was on the wrong path.

Siddhartha sat under a pipal tree (now known as the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India), and vowed that he would not leave that spot until he had found the Truth. He was abandoned by his other companions, and after 49 days of meditating, he achieved Enlightenment. He was 35.

From this point on, he became known as the Buddha or "Awakened One."He had discovered the Middle Way—the path of moderation, between the extremes of self –indulgence and self-mortification.

Although the Buddha was originally hesitant to try to teach the way to others, believing that the way to achieve enlightenment was too difficult for most people to learn. However, the Brahma Sahampati, urged him to do so, and eventually the Buddha agreed. Disciples began to gather immediately.

For the next 45 years of his life, the Buddha travelled the countryside, teaching his doctrine and discipline to everyone he could, from the ruling classes to the outcasts. He and his followers also converted people from other philosophies and religions -- his religion was open to all races and classes.

The Buddha founded the community of Buddhist monks and, much later, of nuns to continue his teachings after death. These monks and nuns would travel the countryside sharing their teachings. It was only during the four month rainy season that they would take up habitation in a monastery, or a public park, where people would come to them to be educated.

The Buddha and his followers taught their religion, but also had to defend it, as rival religions that were losing followers attempted to discredit him, even kill him, many times, but always failed.

The Buddha, at the age of 80, believed that he was near death. He ate his last meal as an offering from a blacksmith named Cunda, fell ill afterwards, and died. Controversy arose – had he died a natural death, or had he been poisoned?His body was cremated and the relics were placed in monuments or stupas, some of which are believed to still be in existence today.

At his death, the Buddha told his disciples to follow no leader, but to follow his teachings (dharma).

Some of the fundamentals of the teachings of Gautama Buddha are:

The Four Noble Truths:

1.suffering is a part of existence

2.the origin of suffering is ignorance. The main symptoms of that ignorance are attachment and craving

3.attachment and craving can be conquered

4.following the Noble Eightfold Path will help an individual conquer attachment and craving, and therefore suffering.

The Noble Eightfold Path:

1.right understanding

2.right thought

3.right speech

4.right action

5.right livelihood

6.right effort

7.right mindfulness

8.right concentration

The Buddha taught that there is no intermediary between mankind and the divine. The Buddha is only a guide and teacher for those individuals who must tread the path of Nirvana themselves to attain a spiritual awakening.

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