Gautama Buddha

Gautam Buddha was one of the greatest religious teachers that the world has seen. His teachings, expounded in Buddhism, are immensely popular all around the globe. Buddha never claimed to be a divine figure; in fact, Buddha is not even his name. Buddha means 'the enlightened one'. It is a title given to a person who achieves ‘Bodhi' or enlightenment. Buddha's original name was Siddhartha. He was also called Sakyamuni, i.e. the sage of the tribe of Sakya. He was born in the year 563 B.C.

in the village of Lumbini near Kapila Vastu, within the present borders of Nepal. His father was Shuddhodana, the king of Kapilavastu in Nepal. His mother Mayadevi expired when he was just 7 days old and Gautami brought him up (hence the name ‘Goutama').

It was predicted that Siddhartha would give up worldly pleasures to follow a different path. The King wanted to avoid this at all costs and so he confined Gautama in a special palace that was provided with all worldly pleasures. He hoped that Siddhartha would one day become king. Siddhartha was married at the age of sixteen to a beautiful young girl called Yashodhara, and a son, named Rahul, was born to them.

When Siddhartha had grown into an intelligent young man, he managed to venture out of his palace one day, and chanced on a few sights that entirely 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. The impact of the dark side of life made him renounce the world that same night. He left his wife and son and became a penniless wanderer.

He studied and practiced Hindu discipline initially, and later, Jainism. 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. For several years he observed rigorous fasting along with extreme self-mortification. Eventually, he realized that tormenting his body would not bring him closer to true wisdom and he resumed eating normally and abandoned asceticism.

Siddhartha continued his search of salvation or ' Moksh' and finally reached Bodh Gaya. He was very tired and so sat under the shade of a tree. He shut his eyes and it was at this moment that he was blessed with enlightenment. This was when he realized that truth is within every human being. The search outside was pointless. Thus, he came to be known as ‘Gautama', ‘The Buddha', or 'The Enlightened One'.

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