Gautama Buddha is considered to be the epitome of wisdom and knowledge. His life is an inspiration for many people who can't cope up with the increasing pressures of today's fast paced life. The teachings of Buddha talk about realizing your inner self and finally the attainment of Nirvana or total bliss. It's believed that Gautama Buddha was born in 563 B.C. in Lumnini (today in Nepal). Gautam Buddha forms an important character in the history of ancient India.
King Suddhodana, the ruler of Sakhya clan was the father of Buddha. His
mother's name was Maya. He was born in a small grove at a place called
Lumbini while his mother was on her way to her maternal home for the
delivery of the child. It is said that the birth of the Buddha took
place among many auspicious signs. The Gods themselves made preparations
for the birth of the child.
Flowers bloomed on the tree under which he was born, gentle rains
calmed the weather, light music filled the air and calm smells filled
the atmosphere. When Buddha was born, his body is said to have borne
thirty two auspicious signs or birthmarks, which indicated that his
future was going to be very bright. His mother died seven days after
giving birth to him and he was brought up by her sister named
Mahaprajapati who became his foster mother.
The king made preparations for an elaborate celebration after he was
born. The baby was named Siddhartha, which means someone who
accomplishes his aims. During the grand celebrations, great sages were
called to predict the baby's future. The astrologers predicted that the
child had a bright future and would be known throughout the world either
as a powerful emperor or a revered monk who would leave his house and
other worldly pleasures to become a holy and enlightened person.
The king was worried about the prediction about his son becoming a monk
and asked what would make him turn into a monk. The astrologers
predicted that four signs would prompt him to leave his worldly
possessions and seek salvation. These would be an old crippled man, a
diseased man, a corpse and a monk. The king grew worried about this
prediction and made sure that his son never went out of the palace and
brought him everything he wanted inside the palace premises.
Siddhartha got married at the age of sixteen to a girl named Yashodhara
and had a son named Rahula. One day, he somehow managed to bribe a
servant to take him out of the palace. As predicted by the astrologers,
he saw a crippled old man, a diseased man, a corpse and finally a
peaceful monk. The first three disturbed him to a great extent and made
him realize that life and beauty were not permanent. However, when he
saw the serene and calm on the face of the monk, he made a decision that
he would leave all his worldly possessions and pursue a saintly life.
Siddhartha left his family, palace, power and all worldly possessions
for pursuing a saintly life. He shaved his head, put on yellow robes and
proceeded towards the capital of Magadha known as Rajgriha. He then went
towards the hills located near this kingdom where hermits were supposed
to live in caves. He requested a hermit named Alamo Kalamo to guide and
instruct him. After some time Siddhartha decided to go to another hermit
for the pursuit of spirituality. He was determined to practice extreme
forms of Yogic austerities to attain inner bliss. He stopped taking food
entirely and became very weak by this constant torture.
One day as he was trying to meditate, some dancing girls passed by the
place where he was sitting. The song they were singing suddenly made
Siddhartha realize that self torture is not going to help and staying
away from food does not mean the attainment of true happiness. Thus, he
began to eat again and gave up extreme forms of meditation and other
practices. He realized that inner peace can be attained only if the body
and mind is happy and free of any forms of pain or torture.
He sat in deep meditation under the shadow of a large peepal tree,
which later came to be known as Bo-tree or tree of wisdom. He just
wanted to attain full illumination and was even ready to give up his
life for the sake of enlightenment. He was distracted by Maya (worldly
pleasures) many times but he did not get allured and remained adamant in
his position. Finally, he emerged victorious and attained full
enlightenment. He was so ecstatic that he danced in a state of trance
for seven days. When he gained his normal state of consciousness, his
face shone with divine glow and his heart was filled with compassion and
Buddha (Enlightened One) traveled far and wide disseminating the
knowledge he had gained. He preached the information and benefits he had
gained from the enlightenment. He traveled to Varanasi once and gave a
discourse to an audience that comprised of people from all walks of
life. His preaching made an impact on everyone present there and a rich
man known as Yasa converted to Buddhism. The next in line were Yasa's
parents. Thousands followed thereafter and adopted Buddhism as not just
their religion but a way of life. Lord Buddha is supposed to have died
at the age of 80 due to some error in his diet.