Siddhartha Gautama (566-486 B.C.E.) was a man who went through many transitions in life. During his journey in life, Siddhartha had earned many titles. Siddhartha was a prince and a warrior. He was also a seeker. In addition, Siddhartha was the founder of Buddhism, a spiritual teacher and a philosopher. Furthermore, Siddhartha was a Buddha, meaning the awakened one, which has inspired many people to know about his life and his teaching.
Siddhartha was born in what is now a modern Nepal. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of Kapilavastu. His mother was a Koliyan princess, who died later after Siddhartha’ birth. When Siddhartha was born, a seer named Asita predicted his future. He told Siddhartha’s father that his son would one day either be the greatest ruler of an entire kingdom or be the greatest godly man. When he heard this news, Suddhodana held a ceremony to celebrate his son’s birth. He invited eight seers to predict his son’s future. All eight seers predicted the same things as Asita did about Siddhartha’s future.
King Suddhodana did not want his son to become a godly man when he heard the news. Instead, he wished Siddhartha to become a king. Thus, King Suddhodana did everything to prevent his son from becoming a godly man. He provided everything that his son wanted or needed to shielded his son from going out the palace. He did not want his son to know the knowledge of human suffering. He also did not want Siddhartha to study any religious teaching.
At age sixteen, Siddhartha had an arranged marriage arranged by his father. King Suddhodana arranged Siddhartha to marry his cousin named Yasohara. He married her. Later, she gave birth to a son named Rahula. Siddhartha was living happily with his wife and son in the palace. He also was indulging the luxury life living in the palace for 29 years. On the other hand, Siddhartha was curious about the world beyond the palace walls. Therefore, one day, Siddhartha went outside the palace with an attendant.
During his journey beyond the palace walls, Siddhartha saw an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and a spiritual seeker. He was not sure why those men were not healthy. Thus, he asked his attendant. His attendant replied that everybody would grow old one day. He or she would never stay young and perfect forever. Moreover, his attendant replied that everyone would get sick. At that moment, Siddhartha realized impermanence, suffering, and death existed in everyone’s life.
Siddhartha was not aware of the suffering in the past. However, he did now after the tour outside the palace walls. He wanted to find solutions to end suffering. As a result, Siddhartha left the palace, his wife, and his son to search for answers. He climbed down the ladder from the palace and rode his horse. Meanwhile, Mara, the god of desire, tempted Siddhartha. Mara told him that if he would go back to the palace, he could have everything in the world. He also told Siddhartha that his destiny was to be a king. Therefore, he should go back to the palace. Siddhartha refused the temptation and kept riding his horse.
Siddhartha wandered from town to town, searching for solutions to his questions. During his journey, he met a seeker who renounced the world and embraced poverty. The seeker thought by doing that, the seeker would escape reincarnation. Siddhartha joined the seeker and practiced the seeker’s way for many years. Nevertheless, he was unsatisfied with the practice. As a result, Siddhartha left the seeker and continued to search for the truth.
Siddhartha continued to wander from town to town. He found a godly man. The pious man practiced yoga and meditation in order to achieve ultimate happiness. Siddhartha joined the holy man and practiced yoga and meditation for so many years. However, he was still unsatisfied with the practices. Siddhartha believed that practicing yoga and meditation did not solve the problem of suffering. As a result, he left the virtuous man.
Siddhartha continued his journey from town to town. He came across five ascetics. The five ascetics believed practicing asceticism could escape the cycle of birth and rebirth. Siddhartha joined the five ascetics and began practicing asceticism. He practiced asceticism for six years with the five ascetics. Siddhartha took his austerity even further. He deprived worldly goods by practicing self-mortification.
By practicing self-mortification, his body was weakened day by day. On the edge of death, Siddhartha reconsidered his ascetic practices. He thought that his practice did not help him find the path to ultimate happiness. Siddhartha was disappointed. Meanwhile, he remembered one event when he and his father sat by the river. Siddhartha felt a perfect world in front of his eyes. He also felt a sense of happiness and serenity.
Suddenly, Siddhartha decided that he wanted to feel that same feelings again. He also did not want to give up searching the path to ultimate happiness. Therefore, one day, Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi tree in a Buddha’s position and began to mediate. During his meditation, he realized as the sun moved, the shadows of the trees also moved. However, Siddhartha noticed that he and the Bodhi tree where he sat at remained in the same spot. He realized a tree was still a tree no matter if the sun moved.
One day, a girl named Sujata saw Siddhartha sitting under the Bodhi tree. She noticed that he was starving. Therefore, Sujata offered him a bowl of rice pudding. Siddhartha accepted and ate. He felt Sujata had compassion and generosity. At that point, he discovered that self-mortification is not the way to solve the problem of suffering. Instead, Siddhartha discovered that he needed to eat something to give him strength. He discovered there must be a balance between self-indulgence and self-mortification. Buddhists called this the Middle Way.
Meanwhile, the five ascetics saw Siddhartha took a bite of the rice pudding. Immediately, they saw him in disgusted. The five ascetics believed that Siddhartha had abandoned the practice of asceticism and gave in to the luxury life. As a result, the five ascetics let him. Siddhartha felt sad but remained in the same spot. He continued to sit under the Bodhi tree under he found the path of ultimate happiness.
As Siddhartha mediated under the Bodhi tree, Mara, the god of desire, challenged him again. Mara sent an army of demons with weapons to attack him. Nevertheless, Siddhartha remained calm and did not move. Then, Mara sent his three daughters to seduce him. Siddhartha, however, was not tempted by his three daughters. Finally, Mara asked him who would be worthy enough to testify that he was the one to attain ultimate wisdom. Siddhartha touched the ground with his finger indicated that the earth would be his witness. Mara then left the earth after three unsuccessful trials.
After Mara had left, Siddhartha continued to mediate. While meditating, he remembered all his former past life. Later, Siddhartha realized that all creatures would go through the cycle of birth and rebirth. He also realized that creatures’ actions or deeds would have an impact on reincarnation. `At this point, Siddhartha became a Buddha when he was 35 years old.
Buddha felt a complete sense of peace and happiness in his heart. He did not want to leave where he was, sitting under the Bodhi tree. Also, Buddha did not want to teach his knowledge to others. He thought that his knowledge would be difficult for people to understand. Instead, Siddhartha wanted to live a solidary life. Nevertheless, Brahmin, a supreme god of all the gods, asked him to teach others. Brahmin said that others needed enlightenment. Buddha felt compassion toward others and agreed to teach.
One day, Buddha came across a wandering ascetic. The wandering ascetic asked him where his master was. Buddha replied that he had no master. The wandering ascetic looked at him once more time and left. As Buddha continued his journey, he met his five former ascetics whom they had abandoned him. The five former ascetics looked at Buddha. They said to him that he was as equaled as they were. Buddha said no and began sharing the path of enlightenment from his experience.
Buddha first taught what it called the Wheel of Dhama, which is the wheel set in motion. Then, he taught the five former ascetics the Middle Way, the balance between two things. Next, Buddha taught them the Four Noble Truth, explaining the facts of suffering. Finally, Buddha taught the principles to end suffering. He called this the Noble Eightfold Paths.
Among the teaching of the Wheel of Dharma, Middle Way, the Four Noble Truth, and the Noble Eightfold Pathfold, Buddha also taught other teachings. He taught about his ethics and the highest development of virtuous qualities. He also the three marked of existence (impermanence, pain, and self).
The five former ascetics became enlightened through his teaching. They became Buddha’s first disciples. Overtime, Buddha’s teaching spread across different communities. Many people approached Buddha’s teaching. Many of them were monks, merchants, kings, and members of communities. Later, Buddha established a Buddhist community, Sangha.
Buddha welcomed people to join the Sangha regardless of their gender, status, and nationality. He had no restriction if only certain status and gender could join the Sangha. Buddha believed that men and women were in equal status. He also believed that men and women who were wise were considered noble. In addition, Buddha believed that people could accomplish enlightenment. All people had enlightenment within them. They just had to search it within them.
Buddha taught for 45 years. Many people joined the Sangha. When he died at the age of 80, many of his disciples were sad. On the other hand, before Buddha died, he told them not to be sad. Instead, he told them to keep following his teachings. Also, Buddha told them to keep sharing his teachings to others. Many of Buddha’s disciples shared his teachings to others throughout centuries. Today, Siddhartha’s teachings have spread throughout the world.