Buddha is Enlightened One and Buddhism is a philosophy of life expounded by Gautama Buddha who lived and taught in northern India in the 6th century B.C. The Buddha was not a god and the teachings of the Buddha are aimed solely at liberating Human beings from the suffering of the world.
Buddhism originated in northern India, Later on, Emperor Ashoka helped to spread Buddhism to South-East Asian countries as – Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and China, from where Buddhism moved on to influence people of the Himalayas residing in Sikkim (India), Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, Central Asia as well as China, Korea, Viet Nam and Japan. For example Around 95% population in Thailand is Buddhist, the highest concentration in the world.
Now let us dive into the Life of Buddha who created the Buddhism
Birth Story of Buddha
- Siddhartha (Buddha) Born to a royal family that ruled over the land of the Sakyas at Kapilvastu in Nepal around 490 B.C.E.
- Legends say that in 623 B.C. on a beautiful full moon day the Queen Mahamaya was travelling from Kapilvastu to Devadaha, to give birth to her child at her parental home. Halfway between these two cities, the Queen gave birth to a son while standing in a grove of trees now known as Lumbini.
- Later over 300 years after the event, King Ashoka erected a stone pillar to mark this sacred place, which is now a famous Buddhist pilgrimage site.
- On the fifth day after his birth, his father, King Suddhodana invited eight Brahmins for the naming ceremony of the boy they were also asked to predict the baby’s future. The baby was named Siddhartha.
- The invited men predicted that the boy would either become a great king or a great teacher when exposed to any suffering.
- Queen Mahamaya passed away on the seventh day after childbirth and the Baby Siddhartha was raised by his aunt.
Palace Life of Buddha
- Siddhartha grew up in all the luxuries and was pursued to excel in education by his father.
- At the age of 16, he was married to his cousin, princess Yashodhara. But the inner flame kept him motivated as he was still not happy. He longed to see the world beyond his palace.
- At the age of 29, Siddhartha left his palace with his charioteer Channa to see the world beyond his palace.
- Siddhartha was deeply intrigued by what he had never seen before, the ‘Four Passing Sights’:
- an old man weakened with age;
- a sick man crying in pain;
- a dead man whose corpse was taken for cremation;
- and a wandering sannyasin.
- He was saddened by seeing ageing, sickness, and death for the first time. But He was inspired by the sannyasin and decided to leave the palace, his wife, and the newborn son with the aim to gain a higher understanding of life its sufferings and find a solution to sufferings in the world.
How Siddhartha became the Buddha
- Siddhartha search for enlightenment started by practising strict asceticism. In the six years of hardship, Siddhartha finally realized neither luxury nor starvation can provide him with a deeper understanding of Life.
- He then followed the Middle Path, and gained enlightenment in a village, Bodh Gaya, under a Bodhi tree as he sat down in meditation.
- Buddha saw his past lives, death, and rebirths in enlightenment and realized that he had eliminated all desires and ignorance within himself. By now the Siddhartha had become the ‘Awakened One, a Buddha.
- Buddha gave his first sermon to a group of ascetics with whom he practised earlier, they were the very first disciples of Buddha.
- Buddha then continued to spread his teachings in India for the next forty-five years until his death at the age of 80 in a small town called Kusinara.
Why Buddha is So Special
- Buddha lived his life in the time when an early form of Hinduism, ‘Brahmanism’ was influential in India. His teachings shared some of the basic ideas of Brahmanism, such as karma and rebirth, moksha, the existence of gods, yogic practices, and the value of spiritual insight.
- However, Buddha rejected the authority of Vedas, sacrifices to gods, and the social system of caste.
- Buddhism was open to people of all social classes.
- The social order of monks and nuns known as the Sangha was introduced by Buddha himself.
- Many followers became monks and nuns; others remained lay-people providing material support to the monks and nuns, who in return gave laypeople teachings and advice. This mutual relationship still lies at the heart of the different schools of Buddhism.
THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS
The Buddha’s Four Noble Truths talks about human suffering. They may be described as:
- Dukkha-Suffering exists
- According to it, Life is full of suffering and Suffering is real and almost universal. This belief attributes suffering to many causes: loss, sickness, pain, failure, and the impermanence of pleasure.
- Samudaya-It says that there is a cause of suffering.
- It connects Suffering to the attachment. Attachment is a desire to have and control things. It can take many forms in mind such as the desire for sensual pleasures; desire for fame; desire to avoid unpleasant feelings and sensations like fear, anger or jealousy.
- Nirodha: There is an end to suffering.
- It points to the solution that Attachment can be overcome by Humans. All the Suffering ceases with the final liberation i.e. Nirvana (Nibbana). In Nirvana or the Enlighten State, the mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. And It lets go of any desire or craving.
- In order to end this suffering, humans must follow the Eightfold Path. There is a path for accomplishing this.
THE EIGHTFOLD PATH
The Buddha’s Eightfold Path consists of Panna, Sila and Samadhi as discussed below
Panna: Discernment, wisdom
- Samma ditthi: Right Understanding of the Four Noble Truths. That is the right view is the true understanding of the four noble truths.
- Samma sankappa: Right thinking- following the right path in life. The right path is the true desire to free oneself from attachment, ignorance, and hatefulness.
These two are referred to as Prajna or Wisdom.
Sila: Virtue, morality
- Samma vaca: Right speech- This path instructs for No lying, criticism, condemning, gossip, harsh language. The Right Speech of Humans should abstain from lying, gossiping, or hurtful talk.
- Samma kammanta: Right conduct or Right Action. It involves abstaining from hurtful behaviours, such as killing, stealing etc.
- Samma Ajiva: Right livelihood: It instructs that a Human should support himself without harming others. Right Livelihood is making your living in such a way as to avoid dishonesty and hurting others, including even animals.
These three are referred to as Shila, or Morality.
Samadhi: Concentration, meditation
- Samma Vayama: Right Exercise or Effort: Right Effort is a matter of exerting oneself in regards to the content of one’s mind: The Bad qualities should be abandoned and prevented from arising again, and the Good qualities should be enacted and nurtured.
- Samma Sati: Right Mindfulness: This Path instructs that a Human should become aware of his body, mind and feelings. The Right Mindfulness is the focusing of one’s attention on one’s body, feelings, thoughts and consciousness and in such a way as to overcome craving, hatred, and ignorance.
- Samma samadhi: Right Concentration: This path tells us to meditate in such a way as to progressively realize a true understanding of imperfection, impermanence, and non-separateness. It instructs to meditate to achieve a higher state of consciousness
Important Places of Buddhism
|Lumbini||Lumbini is currently located in Kapilavastu, Nepal. It is the birthplace of Buddha.|
|Bodhgaya||Located in Bihar on river Neranjana, known as Uruwela at that time. It is the place of enlightenment of Buddha.|
|Sarnath||At Sarnath Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermon.|
|Kushinagar||Kushinara, Uttar Pradesh. Site of Buddhas death or Mahaparinirvana|
|Sravasti||Sravasti, Uttar Pradesh. Most of the monastic life of Buddha was spent in Shravasti. It is also the birthplace of Jaina Tirthankar Sambhavanath.|
|Sankasya||There is a belief that Buddha after his death descended from heaven here.|
|Rajgir||After the great departure -Mahabhinishkramana, Buddha had first gone to Rajgir. He started begging alms over there and living the life of an ascetic. King Bimbisara had offered Buddha his throne which he turned down.|
|Vaishali||After leaving Kapilavastu, Buddha came to Vaishali first and had his spiritual training from Allara and Udaka.|