Gautama Buddha was born around 2,500 years ago in Northern India. The actual location of his birth is thought to be the Lumbini garden, which is presently located close to the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal’s border
ig Suddhodana, Gautama’s father, was the ruler of the Sakya empire. He was naturally ecstatic to have an heir who could succeed him to the kingdom. When a wise man saw the newcomer, he predicted that if he did not become a great world ruler, he would become ‘a great religious teacher.’ He was not happy. King Suddhodana realized that it would be Gautama’s experience of the difficult, unpleasant aspects of life that would lead him to religion, therefore he did everything he could to keep them out of the young prince’s life. Gautama was thus raised in a secure and opulent environment. He stayed in exquisite palaces, dressed in the most luxurious fabrics, ate only the tastiest delicacies, and was lavishly entertained and catered to. In Buddha karma quotes, we get the glimpse of his life.
Gautama grew up and married Yasodhara, a young princess who gave him a son named Rahula. But one day, he persuaded Channa, his charioteer, to drive him down to a nearby town, where he had never gone before. He was to make four trips to the town in total, each of which would completely transform his life. He met an old man on the first journey, a sick man on the second, and a group of people bringing a corpse to the cremation yard on the third.
He was naturally horrified, having never witnessed old age, sickness, or death before; so shocked, in fact, that palace life was no longer pleasurable or even bearable for him. He got preoccupied with the fact of pain and how to put an end to it. On his fourth visit to the town, he discovered a possible solution to his difficulty. He came across an ascetic, a pious guy, who had given up everything in order to live a monastic life. Despite his lack of possessions, this man exuded tranquility that suggested to Gautama that he had come to terms with the painful reality of suffering.
As a result, Gautama chose to follow the ascetic’s example. He snuck out of the palace in the middle of the night, exchanging his opulent silken robes for the humble orange garments of a holy man, and cutting off all of his lovely black hair. Then he headed off on his great hunt, bearing nothing but an alms bowl for people to drop food in.
Gautama went to all of his time’s most notable religious leaders and learned everything they had to say. He put his body through significant difficulty as a result of his fasting and austere activities. He lived in scary jungles, sweltering in the blazing sun and cold at night; he slept on thorny mattresses; and he occasionally resided in cemeteries. He starved himself to the point that he could feel his backbone if he touched his tummy. However, he was still unable to find a solution to his central inquiry, which would provide insight into the causes of human misery. He realized that if he continued in this direction, he would most likely die before obtaining the answer.
As a result, he chose a midway ground between luxury and austerity. He ate a small amount of food, much to the chagrin of his fellow ascetics, who quickly abandoned him. Then he sat in the ‘immovable location’ beneath a large Bodhi tree in what is now known as Bodh Gaya. He was adamant that he would sit there until he found an answer, or he would die trying.
Gautma entered deep meditation on the night of the May full moon and obtained many types of new wisdom. He was free of desire, attachment to existence, and holding to incorrect or fixed notions after seeing into his past lives and understanding Karma (karma is a Sanskrit word referring to a deliberate action that generates a consequence). ‘It is liberated…birth is exhausted, the Holy Life has been lived out, what was to be done has been done, there is no more to come…’ he exclaimed as the morning star rose.
He was no longer Gautama, but The Buddha, ‘The Awakened One.’ He had reached Enlightenment by seeing things as they truly are. He is sometimes referred to as having gained Nirvana. Nirvana is defined as the eradication of greed, hatred, and delusion. Its genuine essence cannot be expressed in words; one must experience it in one’s own heart.
The Buddha was initially hesitant to tell others about what he had discovered. He had a feeling they wouldn’t get it. He was convinced, however, that there were individuals ‘with only a speck of dust in their eyes’ who would profit from the information. He, therefore, traveled to Isipatana (modern-day Sarnath, in Benares), where he spoke his first sermon to the five disciples who had previously deserted him in a Deer Park. Thus began a forty-five-year career as a teacher.
All grades, circumstances, and sorts of men and women, as well as all beings, were taught by the Buddha. He originally preached ‘The Middle Way,’ a path that lies halfway between the useless degrading and unprofitable extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. He went on to explain exactly what that Middle Way was, namely, an understanding of ‘The Four Noble Truths’ and how to put that knowledge into practice by traveling ‘The Noble Eightfold Path’ in order to achieve relief from suffering, just as he did. Soon after, the Buddha acquired a following of devotees who were willing to give up everything in order to hear his teachings and put them into practice. The Sangha was born: a society of Buddhist monks and nuns who were first supported by a huge civilian community.
The Buddha’s life as a man had to come to an end at some point. When he was nearly eighty years old, he died at Kushinara surrounded by disciples. His supporters were understandably upset. ‘All compounded things are ephemeral strive on heedfully,’ he said as his parting words to them. Following that, he entered what Buddhists refer to as parinirvana, or ‘Full Nirvana,’ a state that cannot be described in words any more than his first Nirvana