Buddha, meaning ‘one who is awake’ in the sense of having ‘woken up to reality’ was the title first given to Lord Buddha. It was about 2500 years ago when Prince Siddhartha Gautam left all the worldly pleasures to attain the reality of life, and became the Buddha – the enlightened one. It was a state in which the Buddha gained an insight into the deepest workings of life and therefore into the cause of human suffering, the problem that had set Him on his spiritual quest in the first place.
Siddhartha Gautama was born in 563 BCE in Lumbini, Nepal as a son of Shuddhodhana, the king of Kapilavastu and his Queen, Mayadevi. Unfortunately, Mayadevi died only seven days after the birth of Siddhartha and so, He was brought up by His stepmother, Gautami. It is interesting to note that when Siddhartha was born, the astrologers had predicted that the prince would renunciate the comforts of the materialistic world and instead, opt for a path of His own. When the King Shuddhodhana came to know about the prediction, he naturally became extremely cautious and tried to prevent a thing that was bound to happen, and he did not let Siddhartha even move out of the palace. It was the deepest desire of the king that his son would fulfill his father’s dream one day by becoming a King.
The Turning Point
When Siddhartha had grown into an intelligent young man, He moved out of his palace one day, and saw certain things that changed the entire course of His life. He first saw a very old man who could barely walk, a sick man who was in A severe pain, and lastly a corpse. Since, He had never been exposed to pain before, these sights affected him immensely, although His charioteer tried to explain Him that pain and death – both were inevitable.
This entire episode turned His life and His heart compelled Him to evaluate His life completely and then, He began the search for the reason of existence. King Shuddhodhana got perturbed by whatever his son was going through and therefore, he arranged Siddhartha’s marriage with a young and beautiful princess, Yasodhara. For some time, Siddhartha again got involved into the worldly pleasures, but somewhere at the back of His head, He had still not forgotten what He had seen! It was soon after the birth of son Rahul, that Siddhartha on a starry night, left His wife and son in deep sleep and left the palace.
A Quest for Light or Truth
Siddhartha was only 29, when He had left home. For some time, He moved around the entire country meeting various sadhus and saints in His search for inner peace. It was during this period that Siddhartha lived the life of a hermit and involved Himself in rigorous ‘ tapasya’ in order to comprehend the reason for life and death. A time came when He realised that it was useless to torture one’s body while finding the truth, and then, He denunciated the method of tapasya and fast.
Then one fine day as Siddhartha reached Bodh Gaya and being very exhausted, He took a seat under the shade of a peepal tree and closed His eyes. It was then He felt a divine light coming within Himself. This was the turning point in His quest as He realised that the truth is within every human being and to search for it outside was baseless. After this incidence, He came to be known as ‘ Buddha’ or the enlightened one.
The Right Path and Immortality
For 45 years, Buddha spread His message of spiritual life to not only His disciples but the common people as well. He gave emphasis on the purification of mind, heart and ultimately, soul by following the Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths and the Five Preceptions. This path included the right speech, understanding, determination, deeds, efforts, awareness, thinking and living. As per Buddhism, if one follows these paths, one could overcome desires, which were the reason for all the grieves and miseries.
After spreading His message to the world successfully, Buddha died at the age of 80 years in 483 BCE. at Kushinagar, India. Today, Buddhism has a strong following in various Asian countries and is gradually finding its feet in some of the western countries as well.