Brief Introduction about Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama, was the founder of Buddhism and is believed to have lived and taught between sixth and fourth centuries BCE. The story of Gautama Buddha had been passed on to generations and has received many variations and additions on its journey.
How Siddhartha Metamorphosed into Buddha
Buddha, or “the enlightened one”, is believed to be born in Lumbini, which is present-day Nepal. Although there have been accounts and stories that Gautama Buddha was an ordinary prince and lived his life as one, some biographies of Gautama Buddha, suggest that he was never seen as an ordinary man, or in that sense, a mere human. He was believed to bear the thirty-two major and eight minor signs of being a “super-human”.
Much about Gautama Buddha is unknown or the information is uncertain. It is believed that at the time of his birth, the hermit seer Asita announced that the child would either be a great king or a great holy man. His father, Suddhodana, aimed at guiding his son Siddhartha to be a noble king, and so he ensured that the Buddha never witnessed the sorrow and sufferings of the common masses.
For twenty-nine years prince Siddhartha lived in his palace, but one day he encountered a frail old man and was told that all men grow old. On venturing further away from the palace, the Buddha encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. These encounters troubled him deeply, and so, he decided to renounce his life as a prince to overcome aging, sickness, and death.
Gautam Buddha mastered the arts of yogic meditation and yoga, but could not be satisfied with either. Taking a step further, he tried to find enlightenment through self-mortification. After almost starving himself and later drowning due to falling into a river from weakness, the Buddha accepted milk and rice cakes from a girl of a nearby village, and thus realized that true enlightenment lies in the Middle-way and that meditative Dhyan was the right path. Subsequently, he meditated for forty-nine days, and finally achieved enlightenment.
According to Buddhist texts, he is said to have realized complete insight into the cause of suffering and ways to prevent it, forming the heart of Buddhist teachings; the Four Noble Truths. Gautam Buddha described in his teachings that nirvana, also interpreted as the end of the world, is achieved when there remain no boundaries in the mind. The next half-century of the life of Buddha was spent traveling around the north-eastern part of India and Nepal with his sangha and giving Buddhist teachings to one and all.
Gautam Buddha’s Preachings
He preached Dharma, which was the name given to his teachings. Choosing the symbol of the wheel to denote the eightfold path, he explained in simple terms to the common masses that nothing is lost in the universe, and that life is like a constantly flowing river, denoting that change is perennial. Knowing that his teachings would be difficult to follow, Gautam Buddha established the three refuges of the Buddha being the guide, the Dharma the path and the Sangha the companions on the way to enlightenment. The first and foremost of his five basic rules was respect for life, which is something that is much needed in today’s world.
The core teaching and belief of Buddhism is the practice of Dhyan, and that by practicing the four noble truths, and the eightfold path, the mind can become still and concentrated. Buddhist beliefs about achieving enlightenment are centered on practicing yogic-meditation and aiming to find the “middle-path” which is the truest path to realization.
At the time of his death, Gautam Buddha is believed to have told his disciples that they should not follow any leader.