Born: 563 BC
Died At Age: 80
Also Known As: Siddhārtha Gautama
Born Country: Nepal
Born in: Lumbini, Nepal
Famous as: Founder of Buddhism
Quotes By Gautama Buddha
Spiritual & Religious Leaders
father: King Śuddhodana
mother: Mahapajapati Gotami, Maya Devi
siblings: Nanda, Sundari
Died on: 483 BC
place of death: Kushinagar
Who was Gautama Buddha?
Gautama Buddha was a spiritual leader on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived in eastern India/ Nepal between the 6th and 4th century B.C. Born as a prince, he spent his childhood in the lap of luxury. He lost his mother at an early age and his doting father tried his best to keep his young son away from the miseries of the world. When he was a little boy, some wise scholars predicted that he would either become a great king or a renowned spiritual leader. His father hoped that his son would one day become a great king. The prince was kept away from all forms of religious knowledge and had no idea about the concepts of old age, sickness, and death. On a trip through the city on a chariot, he witnessed an old man, a sick person, and a corpse. This new knowledge of the sufferings in the world gave rise to several questions within his mind, and the prince soon renounced all his worldly affairs in order to embark on a journey of self-discovery. After years of rigorous contemplation and meditation, he attained enlightenment, and became the ‘Buddha,’ which means ‘the awakened one’ or ‘the enlightened one.’
Childhood & Early Life
Several details regarding Gautama Buddha’s early life are shrouded in mystery. It is believed that he was born in Lumbini (modern-day Nepal) in the 6th century B.C. His birth name was Siddhartha Gautama and was born as a prince. His father, King Suddhodana, was the leader of a large clan called the ‘Shakya’ and his mother was Queen Maya. His mother died shortly after his birth.
When Siddhartha was a young boy, wise seers prophesized that the boy would either become a great king or a great spiritual leader. His father wanted Siddhartha to become a great king, so he raised him in the lap of luxury and shielded him from religious knowledge of any kind.
His father did not want Siddhartha to learn about human hardships and sufferings as he was afraid that such knowledge might lead the boy towards spirituality. So, he took great care to ensure that his son was raised in seclusion and kept away from the knowledge of natural processes like aging and death.
Having spent his childhood confined to his palace, young Siddhartha grew curious about the world outside the palace and asked a charioteer to take him on a tour outside the palace. While traveling through the city, he came across an old crippled man, a sick man, a dead body, and a holy man with no home.
These sights shocked him as he had no prior knowledge about the concepts of sickness, old age, death, and asceticism. The charioteer explained to him that sickness, aging, and death were part and parcel of life, and that some people renounce their worldly life in order to seek answers to questions regarding human sufferings.
Siddhartha was troubled after witnessing these sights. The opulence of palace life no longer interested him and he realized that he had to seek the ultimate truth.
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At the age of 29, Siddhartha left his palace to lead an ascetic life. He assumed that living a life of self-denial will provide him with the answers that he was looking for. For the next six years he lived a life of extreme austerity, eating very little food, and fasting till he became very weak.
Over these years, he gained five followers with whom he practiced rigorous austerity. In spite of living such a simple life and subjecting himself to great physical sufferings, Siddhartha was not successful in getting the answers he sought.
After starving himself for days, he accepted a bowl of rice from a young woman. After having this meal, he realized that living under harsh physical constraints was not helping him achieve his spiritual goals, and that leading a balanced life was better than living a life of extreme self-denial. His followers, however, abandoned him assuming that he had given up on his spiritual quest.
Following this, he started meditating under a fig tree (now called the Bodhi tree), and promised himself that he would not move until he attained enlightenment. He meditated for several days and visualized his entire life and previous lives.
After meditating for 49 days, he finally found the answer to the questions that he had been seeking for so many years. He found pure enlightenment, and in that moment of enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha (he who is awake).
At the time of his enlightenment, he gained complete insight into the cause of suffering, and the necessary steps to eliminate it. He called these steps the ‘Four Noble Truths.’ Legend has it that Buddha was initially reluctant to spread his knowledge to others as he was doubtful whether common people would understand his teachings. But then the leading god Brahma convinced Buddha to teach, post which he set out on a mission to spread his knowledge.
He went to a deer park in Isipatana where he found the five companions who had earlier abandoned him. He preached his first sermon to them and to others who had gathered there. In his sermon, he focused on the Four Noble Truths: ‘Dukkha’ (suffering), ‘Samudaya’ (cause for suffering), ‘Nirodha’ (state of mind free from suffering), and ‘Marga’ (way to end suffering).
He further explained the ‘Marga’ in his ‘Eightfold Path’ to end the cravings which cause suffering. He said the ‘Truth’ is found through the ‘Middle Way’ or the ‘Noble Eightfold Path.’ The path includes Right Viewpoint, Right Values, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Mindfulness among others. Gautama Buddha spent the rest of his life traveling and teaching a diverse range of people from nobles to criminals.
Gautama Buddha is the founder of Buddhism. The religion of Buddhism originated from his teachings; he gave the ‘Four Noble Truths’ which express the basic orientation of Buddhism and provide a conceptual framework of the Buddhist thought.
Personal Life & Legacy
When Siddhartha was 16 years old, his father arranged his marriage with a girl of the same age named Yaśodharā. This marriage produced one son, Rahula. Siddhartha renounced his family when he embarked on the spiritual journey as an ascetic.
Later on, Buddha reconciled with his father, King Suddhodana. His wife became a nun, while his son became a novice monk at a young age. Rahula spent the rest of his life with his father.
Gautama Buddha is believed to have died at the age of 80. At the time of his death, he told his followers not to follow any other leader.
Gautama Buddha is a highly influential figure in the modern world. The principal figure in Buddhism, he is also worshipped as a manifestation of God in Hinduism, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and the Bahá'í faith.