Gautama Buddha


Gautama Buddha
Siddhārta Gautama was the name of the person who began the religion of Buddhism. He lived from about 563 BCE to about 483 BCE. He was the most recent Buddha, and some people just call him "the Buddha". He is also called Sakyamuni or Tathāgata. Some "Buddhists" believe that Siddhārtha Gautama was a perfect person.
The life of Siddhārta Gautama.
There are many old stories about the life of the "Buddha". No one knows which stories are true and which stories are made up. But most historians think that the Buddha was a real person. He was very kind and wise and wanted to change the world.
His early years.
Old stories say that Siddhārtha Gautama was born in the kingdom of Kapilavastu in Nepal. At that time, a clan called the Sakyas ruled Kapilavastu. His father was a king named Suddodana Gautama, and his mother was the beautiful Mahamaya. Siddhārtha lived in luxury; his father kept trouble and hard work far from him. A "seer" said that Siddhārtha would become either a great king or a great holy man. (A seer is a wise man who can see the future.) The king did not want his son to become a holy man. He believed if he always kept Siddhārtha happy, he would not want to become a holy man. So his father never let Siddharta outside the palace.
When he was older, his father found a woman for Siddhārtha to marry at the age of 16. He married the woman named Yashodhara, and they had a son, Rahula. Although Gautama had everything he could want, he still was not happy. He wanted to learn the meaning of his existence.
He got out of the castle against his fathers orders. He saw the "Four Passing Sights": an old crippled man, a sick man, a dead man, and a holy man with no home. Right then, Gautama knew that nothing can stop people from being born, becoming old, getting sick, and dying. He decided to give up his worldly life. He would not keep his wife, his child, his wealth, or his palace. He would become a holy man with no home. He would look for the answer to the problem of birth, old age, sickness, and death. He left his home in the middle of the night. He looked at his family one last time. He did not return for a very long time.
Seeking Answers.
At that time, holy men were usually "ascetics". They hurt their bodies in order to help their "spiritual" beings. They do not do things they like so they can defeat their desires. The most "ascetic" kinds of holy men were called Jains. They practiced self-denial and made themselves suffer very much. They believed this would free the ātman (soul) from pain and sadness. Siddhārtha did these things well. Eventually he was better than his teachers. He still found no answer, and he left his teachers. Some friends and he went even further. He ate only one grain of rice a day. He tried not breathing. He became just skin and bones, and he nearly died. Still, he had no answer.
Siddhārtha started to think again about this path. He thought there might be a better way than hurting himself. He found a big tree (now called the "Bodhi tree") and started to meditate. He told himself that he would not get up until he had found "enlightenment". His mind is said to have become pure, and then, six years after he began his path, he said he found Enlightenment, and became the first Buddha.
The Life as the first Buddha.
When the Buddha became "enlightened", he knew the answer to "suffering", and he knew how to defeat "suffering". This answer was called the Four Noble Truths. He was not sure if he should teach his new ideas or not. He asked himself if the world was ready for such a deep teaching. But in the end, he decided to travel to a town called Sarnath to teach the people his new way. He taught about the "Four Noble Truths" and the Noble Eightfold Path. The people listened to him, and began to follow him.
When he taught, he did not pretend to be a god. He said he was just a man who had found "enlightenment", and that any person can also find "enlightenment". For the rest of his life, he walked all over Southern Nepal and parts of India to teach people his new way. He started a "Sangha", which is a group of Buddhist monks and nuns. Many people became "enlightened" because of him.
At the age of 80, Gautama Buddha died. The Buddha's last words were, "All things must end. Work hard for your own enlightenment".
The Life Teachings.
The teachings of the Buddha are known as "Buddhism". Buddhism is mostly about ending the feeling of pain that all people feel inside. Gautama Buddha taught that pain is a part of all life. He taught that pain is because of desire. And he showed that there is a way to end desire and end pain by doing good things, not doing bad things, and training one's mind. This is done to end pain and gain "enlightenment".
Buddhism teaches non-harm and "moderation" or balance, not going too far one way or the other. The Buddha taught people to meditate, or think deeply, while sitting in a special way. Some Buddhist chant and meditate while walking. Buddhists sometimes do these things to understand the human heart and mind. Sometimes they do these things to understand the way the world works. Sometimes they do these things to find peace.
The Buddha would not say if gods exist or not. He taught that people should not look to gods to save them or bring them enlightenment. The gods may have power over world events and they might help people, or they might not. But it's up to each person to become "enlightened".


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