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Prince Siddhartha sees death for the first time

Siddhartha Gautama's Early Life


Siddhartha Gautama, the man who became the
Buddha, was born in northern India about 2500 years ago.
Siddharthas father, King Sudodana, was a rich and
powerful ruler. His mother, Queen Maya, died shortly after
Siddharthas birth.
When Prince Siddhartha was a few days old, a holy
man read his fortune. The holy man said that the Prince would
be either a great military conqueror or a great spiritual teacher.
King Sudodana wanted Siddhartha to be the next king, so he
trained the Prince to be a warrior and military leader.
Siddhartha grew up surrounded by luxury and
protected from suffering. The King protected his son so
completely that Siddhartha grew up not even knowing that
pain, disease, poverty, and death exist.

One day, Prince Siddhartha asked a wagon driver to take him


on a series of rides through the countryside.
On these journeys he was shocked by the sight of four
things: first, an old man, then a sick man, and then a corpse.
The terrifying realities of old age, disease, and death shocked
the Prince.
Finally, he saw a wandering ascetic1. The wagon driver
explained to Siddhartha that the ascetic was one who had
given up all interest in the world and was searching for release
from the fear of death and suffering.

Siddhartha Rejects Luxury and Comfort

The Four Passing Sights


Siddhartha was a naturally curious person. He wanted
badly to learn about the world outside of the Kings palace.

Prince Siddhartha returned to his life in the palace, but


he suddenly he saw his life of luxury and comfort in a different
light.

One night Siddhartha was unable to sleep. He


wandered around the palace alone. The luxuries that had once
pleased him now seemed ugly and meaningless.
In the Kings enormous dining room Siddhartha saw
the leftover food and wine from a celebration earlier in the
evening. Handsome princes and beautiful princesses were
sleeping on the floor of the dining room. Looking at them,
Prince Siddhartha realized that, despite their wealth and
beauty, they would all eventually grow old, get sick, and die,
and that their bodies would inevitably rot and turn to dirt.
He realized then that he could no longer be happy
living the life of a prince. That very night he left the palace,
shaved his head, and exchanged his prince's clothes for the
rags of an ascetic.

he knew the cause of suffering, but not how to escape


suffering.
Around this time, Siddhartha remembered how
peaceful he felt when, as a young boy, he would do nothing
but sit in front of a fountain and watch the water. He realized
that peace came to him when he cleared his mind of all
thoughts and focused on nothing but the water.
It came to him that the way to enlightenment was to
develop this level of calm focus and concentration at all times.
He realized that instead of starvation, he needed nourishment
to build up his strength for this effort. But when he accepted a
bowl of milk from a young girl, his companions assumed he
had given up the quest for enlightenment and abandoned him.

Then he began his quest for enlightenment.


The Enlightenment of the Buddha
The Search for Enlightenment
Siddhartha began his quest by seeking out religious
teachers, who taught him everything they knew. But after
Siddhartha had learned all they had to teach, his questions
remained. So he and five disciples2 decided to find
enlightenment by themselves.
The six friends attempted to understand suffering
through physical discipline. They pushed their bodies to the
limit, enduring pain, holding their breath, fasting3 nearly to
starvation. Yet Siddhartha was still unsatisfied. He realized that

After his companions left him, Siddhartha sat beneath


a sacred tree, known ever after as the Bodhi Tree. He swore to
himself that he would not stand up until he discovered how to
achieve enlightenment.
In his mind, Siddhartha struggled against desire and
distraction. He visualized these feelings as Mara, a demon
whose name means "destruction. In Siddhartas mind, he
imagined Mara bringing armies of monsters to attack him and
beautiful women to seduce him.
Despite all of Maras efforts, Siddhartha remained
calm. Siddhartha understood that Mara, his monsters and his

beautiful women were all illusions that only existed in


Siddharthas imagination. And as the sun rose in the sky,
Siddhartha Gautama realized that if he controlled his own
mind, he could achieve enlightenment for himself. Realizing
that, he became the Buddhathe Great Teacher.

Buddha the Teacher


At first, the Buddha didnt want to become a teacher,
because it was so difficult to explain the great truth of life to
other people. He was unsure how to put into words all of the
experiences he had gone through in order to achieve
enlightenment. Nevertheless, he felt that it was his mission to
try.
After he left the Bodhi Tree, the Buddha traveled to
northern India. There he found the five companions who had
abandoned him, and to them he preached his first sermon4.
This sermon was where the Buddha first explained the
Four Noble Truths5, his most important teaching. By
understanding and living by the Four Noble Truths, he said,
people could achieve enlightenment.

The Buddha devoted the rest of his life to teaching


people how to find enlightenment for themselves. He traveled
and taught until his death at age 80. His last words to his
followers were the following:
My friends, this is my last advice to you. Nothing in the world
lasts forever. Everything that is born will die; everything that
is made will be destroyed. Accept this and live your life
accordingly to gain your own peace.

Word Bank

1.Ascetic:Aholymanwhorejectsallmaterialpossessionsandwho
wandersaroundbeggingforfoodandteachingpeopleaboutreligion

2.Disciples:Peoplewhofollowareligiousleader

3.Fasting:Whenapersonchoosesnottoeatforalongperiodoftime,
usuallyasareligioussacrifice

Buddhas Last Words


4.Sermon:Areligiousmessage,usuallyspokentoagroupofpeople

5.TheFourNobleTruths:ThemostimportantteachingsofBuddhism

It is possible to end desire and suffering: We can stop our


own suffering, and we can do it ourselves, without help from other
people--or even gods
The solution to suffering is enlightenment: If we understand
the real truth about life, and learn to stop wanting things, we will
stop suffering

Life is suffering: Everyone suffers during their lives, and life


always ends in death
The cause of suffering is desire: Suffering comes from wanting
worldly things that come and go, like wealth, power, and
relationships