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."
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 Waythe path of moderation, between the
extremes of self indulgence and self-mortification.
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:
is a part of existence
The Noble Eightfold Path:
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.