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Buddha The word Buddha means "enlightened one.

" It is used today as a title to the one who has given us more religious beliefs than almost any other human who lived in this world. However, he was not given this name at birth; he had to earn it for himself by undergoing long, hard hours of meditation and contemplation. Buddha has changed the lifestyles of many cultures with new, never-before asked questions that were explained by his search for salvation. He began an entirely new religion that dared to test the boundaries of reality and go beyond common knowledge to find the answers of the mysteries of life. India During the sixth century BC, India was a land of political and religious turmoil. It was an era of great brutality with the domination of Northwest India by Indo-Aryan invaders. Many people, influenced by the Aryan civilization, began to question the value of life and it's true meaning. Schools were opened because of this curiosity where teachers would discuss the significance of existence and the nature of man and held programs to reconstruct one's spiritual self. (Pardue, page 228) Background Near the town of Kapilavastivu, today known as Nepal, lived King Suddhodhana and Queen Maya of the indigenous tribe known as the Shakyas. (Encyclopedia Americana, page 687) Queen Maya soon became pregnant and had a dream shortly before she gave birth. In this dream a beautiful, white elephant with six tusks entered her room and touched her side. This dream was soon interpreted by the wisest Brahmin, or Priest of Brahmanism, that she was to give birth to a son that would, if he were to remain in the castle, become the wisest king in the world, but if he were ever to leave the castle he would then become the wisest prophet far into future generations. (Encyclopedia Americana, page 410) In around the year 563 BC, Siddhartha Gautama was born into a life of pure luxury. (Wangu, page 16) His father wanted to make sure that his son was

well taken care of as he grew to prevent him from desiring to leave the palace. Suddhodhana, listening to the prophecy, kept Siddhartha away from the pain of reality so that he could follow in his father's footsteps in becoming a well respected leader. As Siddhartha grew, he became very curious about the world outside of the palace walls. He felt a great need to undergo new experiences and learn the truth of reality. Siddhartha was married to a woman named Yasodhara who gave birth to a boy, Rahul. Even after his marriage, Siddhartha was still not completely satisfied with his life; he decided that it was necessary for him to see the lives of those outside the castle. The Four Meetings One day, Siddhartha called for his charioteer to take him to the park. When the King heard of this, he ordered the streets to be cleared of everything except beauty. As the Prince rode by, the people cheered and threw flowers at him, praising his name and Siddhartha was still clueless to the suffering of life until a god, disguised as a poor, old man stumbled before the chariot. Siddhartha was curious to this man's condition and he asked the charioteer about his appearance. The charioteer replied that all men must endure old age and that even the prince could not escape this fate. Siddhartha then returned to the palace to contemplate about old age which caused him to want to see more. The next day, Siddhartha decided to venture on to the streets again which were, by the King's request, once more cleared of all evil and ugliness. This time, Siddhartha encountered a sick man and again, returned to the palace to reflect on sickness. On his third trip to the park, Siddhartha approached a funeral in a garden and was educated by the charioteer about how every man must experience death. Finally, on the fourth day, the young prince saw a shavenheaded man wearing a yellow robe. He was amazed and impressed by how peaceful the man seemed; he carried with him only a begging bowl and had left all other possessions to try to find spiritual deliverance. At that moment, Siddhartha knew his destiny was to discover how this man has avoided these acts of

suffering. (The New Encyclopedia Britannica, page 270) Later that night, Siddhartha kissed his wife and son, and left with his charioteer away from the palace of riches and pleasure. He left behind his life of pure desire to understand the true meaning of life. To symbolize his renunciation from civilization, Siddhartha cut his long hair and beard with his jeweled sword, traded his silk robes for a yellow robe, and gave away all of his possessions. The Journey to Moksha (Salvation) Siddhartha wandered from place to place gathering as much information as he could from countless teachers. His main beliefs revolved around the Hindu religion and the theory of transmigration which means that the human soul, or Atman, is entrapped in an endless cycle of rebirths called Samsara. After the soul has died, it is reborn into a different state, depending on the deeds done in former lives which is known as karma. The ultimate goal is to obtain complete salvation from this cycle. (Pardue, page 228) Siddhartha also practiced the art of yoga and self mutilation. Yoga is a system of inward, ascetic discipline over the body, mind, and motivations. In other words, yoga is gaining control over one's desires and even their needs such as breathing or eating. It can be accomplished by long, concentrated hours of meditation. (Pardue, page 228) It is designed to end the torturous cycle of transmigration and all sources of karma. Self mutilation is putting one's own body through acts of torment and pain to learn to cope with problems that occur such as diseases and to eliminate all feeling of despair and suffering. Siddhartha would experience the limits of his body by practicing long periods of fasting and skin torture; he devoted his time to learning the nature of his self. Finally, Siddhartha settled near the banks of the Nairanjana River and began deep meditation, determined to gain salvation. Through harsh weather conditions, he survived with the minimum of food that the body needs to live. He remained here, in this state for six years with little strength and power. Soon Siddhartha was joined by five other men who were almost as determined to gain redemption. They continued these acts for about a year until one day, the

young voyager realized that he had only weakened his body and mind; he finally understood that with these long years of self mutilation, he has not yet achieved his goal. He did, however, manage to survive with very little of the necessities that people need daily which was in itself a large accomplishment. Unfortunately, the other men had realized that Siddhartha Gautama was giving up, so they left and saw him as a failure. With great disappointment on his mind, Siddhartha gathered all the rest of his strength to crawl into a pool to bathe, but found that his energy had been used and he was just too tired to climb out. Before the young man's life was taken from him, he noticed a tree branch hanging near his reach; he grabbed them and was pulled out. An old milk maid noticed Gautama's frail body and brought him milk to aid his hunger. Gaining back his health, Siddartha decided to abandon the teachings that he had learned thus far and walked to a Bo-Tree where he would meditate until enlightenment or death. Enlightenment While Siddartha meditated, he was visited by the God of Evil, Mara, who saw the attempt of the prince to reach his goal. Mara attacked Siddartha with several demons, but there was a force of goodness surrounding him, preventing any weapons thrown from hitting his body. The evil god then sent two incredibly beautiful women to tempt Siddartha away from his goal, but he had the strength to ignore his lusts and enter into a deeper stage of thought. At this point, Siddartha is able to recall all of his previous lives and gains the knowledge of the cycle of birth and death. He now casts off the ignorance which has led him to great passion for his self and bounded him to the suffering of Samsara. This marks the beginning of Buddhism, when Siddhartha becomes the Buddha and his suffering and desires come to an end; he can now enter Nirvana. "There is a sphere which is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air...which is neither this world nor the other world, neither sun nor moon. I deny that it is coming or going, enduring death or birth. It is only the end of suffering." -Buddha (Wangu, page 24)

Buddhism When the Buddha finally reached his ultimate goal, he made a great sacrifice to all human kind and gave up his Nirvana so that he could teach his enlightenment to others. Even though Siddhartha could have stayed in perfect harmony in paradise, he chose to spread the practices that he had experienced to all of man, so that they may learn to end their cycle of rebirths also. Siddartha traveled to Saranath where he found the five men who previously joined him on his quest for release. These men were drawn to the Buddha with a phenomenal power that they could not explain. They immediately felt a great love and loyalty towards Siddhartha and they became the Buddha's first disciples. With some grains of rice, he drew a picture of a wheel that represented the cycle of Samsara. The first of his ceremonies is known as the Deer Park Sermon; he began "setting in motion the wheel of doctrine." (Wangu, page 25) Thus began the beginning of Buddha's teachings of the Middle Way of life which says that one should not lead a life of desire of pleasure or materials, but that they should also not mistreat their body. The Middle Path was between the Upper Path, which is when someone has luxury and wealth such as Siddhartha had when he was living with his family, and the Lower Path, which he also experienced when he performed self mutilation. On the Middle Path, one would have to follow the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path. The Four Noble Truths are open to all human kind despite race, sex, or caste. The Four Noble Truths 1. Duhkha -This explains that all life is suffering and that man is bound to the earth by Samsara. 2. A person suffers because they believe they are important when in fact they are insignificant. This is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and desires. The rejection of desire will break the chain of Samsara and bring salvation. The Eight Fold Path must be followed to gain enlightenment. 5. Have right

3. 4.

The Eight Fold Path 1. Think right thoughts

intentions 2. Say right words life 3. Perform right deeds 4. Have right aspirations meditations

6. Live the right way of 7. Perform right efforts 8. Perform right

Many people are not ready to give up their lives yet and they must subsist as many lives as they need until they feel that it is the right time. The Buddha did, however, develop five principles to be able to gain salvation in the next life. Buddha's Five Principles 1. Refrain from taking life 2. Refrain from taking what is not given 3. Refrain from sexual misconduct 4. Refrain from false speech 5. Refrain from intoxicating things that cloud the mind (Wangu, page 29) Spread of Buddhism The Buddha began attracting followers from all over India. Stories of his deeds began to spread even throughout other nations. The pupils of Buddhism were called monks and they developed a community called a Sangha were Buddha's rules of conduct were followed. The Sangha was created for monks to preserve the teachings karma and to let the monks concentrate on the goal to reach Nirvana. A monk agrees to give total commitment to Buddhism and to withdraw from the world to gain enlightenment; all men who were committed could enter a Sangha. Their only possessions that were allowed were a beggar's bowl, a needle, a razor, a strainer, a staff, a toothpick, and a robe. Those who have perfected Buddha's teachings are called Arahats which means perfected ones. Buddhism began to spread worldwide and conflicted with the Hindu religion. Buddha's rejection to the idea that Brahmin's should be the supreme leader and to the caste system, won him many supporters. It was evident that Buddhism would be a long-lasting religion. (Encyclopedia Americana, page 689) The Buddha's Departure The Buddha had preached until he felt the end of his life coming. At the age of 80, he decided that he had completed his tasks and he began to meditate to once again attain Nirvana. He had no written books of his teachings, but

they would still live on through his followers. Siddartha's death was tragic, but his students knew that his life was complete. He left behind his legacy to the world and shaped the cultures of people for centuries to come. Buddha's Contributions Much of what the world believes today have originated from the teachings of Buddha. Even within other religions, it is evident that they were in some ways influenced by him. Ideas, such as the Middle Path, are clearly communicated in many values of today. Buddhism has even had a major effect on politics in Asia. Tibet used to be controlled a system of theocracy ruled by a Buddhist Priest, or the Dalai Lama. In China and Japan, Zen Buddhism has been used in the practices of Yoga that many people study everyday. He was one of the greatest prophets ever to walk the earth and his teachings will be remembered for generations. He has sacrificed his total salvation so that mankind could be taught of the path to enlightenment. The Buddha has proven to be one of the wisest and giving men who touched the lives of so many millions of people. Buddhism will live on as a major impact on the cultures of the world and the Buddha will never be forgotten. "Everything that has been created is subject to decay and death. Everything is transitory. Work out your own salvation with diligence." -Buddha (Wangu, page 31) Bibliography "Buddha and Buddhism." Cohen, John Lebold. Encyclopedia Americana. Mary Frank, 1969. Encyclopedia of World Biography. The New Encyclopedia Britannica. New York: Facts On File, 1993. 1990.

Buddha.

Pardue, Peter A. "Buddha." McGraw Hill, 1973. "The Buddha and Buddhism." 1990. Wangu, Madhu Bazaz.

Buddhism.