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 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.
Life Changing Experiences
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. He first saw a very old man who could barely walk, a sick man who was in a great deal of pain, and lastly a corpse. He had never been exposed to pain before, and so these sights had a deep effect on him. His servant explained that pain and death were inevitable.
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 who they called Rahul.
A Search for Light
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 reached Bodh Gaya. 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. After this he was known as ‘ Buddha’ or the enlightened one.
The Right Path and Immortality
For 45 years, Buddha spread his message of a spiritual life. He did not believe in rituals but pointed to an 8 – fold 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.