Buddha, meaning 'one who is awake' in the sense of having 'woken up to reality' was the title first given to Lord Buddha. It was about 2500 years ago when Prince Siddhartha Gautam left all the worldly pleasures to attain the reality of life, and became the Buddha - the enlightened one. It was a state in which the Buddha gained an insight into the deepest workings of life and therefore into the cause of human suffering, the problem that had set Him on his spiritual quest in the first place.
Siddhartha Gautama was born in 563 BCE in Lumbini, Nepal as a son of
Shuddhodhana, the king of Kapilavastu and his Queen, Mayadevi.
Unfortunately, Mayadevi died only seven days after the birth of Siddhartha
and so, He was brought up by His stepmother, Gautami. It is interesting to
note that when Siddhartha was born, the astrologers had predicted that the
prince would renunciate the comforts of the materialistic world and instead,
opt for a path of His own. When the King Shuddhodhana came to know about the
prediction, he naturally became extremely cautious and tried to prevent a
thing that was bound to happen, and he did not let Siddhartha even move out
of the palace. It was the deepest desire of the king that his son would
fulfill his father's dream one day by becoming a King.
The Turning Point
When Siddhartha had grown into an intelligent young man, He moved out of
his palace one day, and saw certain things that changed the entire course of
His life. He first saw a very old man who could barely walk, a sick man who
was in A severe pain, and lastly a corpse. Since, He had never been exposed
to pain before, these sights affected him immensely, although His charioteer
tried to explain Him that pain and death - both were inevitable.
This entire episode turned His life and His heart compelled Him to evaluate
His life completely and then, He began the search for the reason of
existence. King Shuddhodhana got perturbed by whatever his son was going
through and therefore, he arranged Siddhartha's marriage with a young and
beautiful princess, Yasodhara. For some time, Siddhartha again got involved
into the worldly pleasures, but somewhere at the back of His head, He had
still not forgotten what He had seen! It was soon after the birth of son
Rahul, that Siddhartha on a starry night, left His wife and son in deep
sleep and left the palace.
A Quest for Light or Truth
Siddhartha was only 29, when He had left home. For some time, He moved
around the entire country meeting various sadhus and saints in His search
for inner peace. It was during this period that Siddhartha lived the life of
a hermit and involved Himself in rigorous ' tapasya' in order to comprehend
the reason for life and death. A time came when He realised that it was
useless to torture one's body while finding the truth, and then, He
denunciated the method of tapasya and fast.
Then one fine day as Siddhartha reached Bodh Gaya and being very exhausted,
He took a seat under the shade of a peepal tree and closed His eyes. It was
then He felt a divine light coming within Himself. This was the turning
point in His quest as He realised that the truth is within every human being
and to search for it outside was baseless. After this incidence, He came to
be known as ' Buddha' or the enlightened one.
The Right Path and Immortality
For 45 years, Buddha spread His message of spiritual life to not only His
disciples but the common people as well. He gave emphasis on the
purification of mind, heart and ultimately, soul by following the Eightfold
Path, the Four Noble Truths and the Five Preceptions. This path included the
right speech, understanding, determination, deeds, efforts, awareness,
thinking and living. As per Buddhism, if one follows these paths, one could
overcome desires, which were the reason for all the grieves and miseries.
After spreading His message to the world successfully, Buddha died at the
age of 80 years in 483 BCE. at Kushinagar, India. Today, Buddhism has a
strong following in various Asian countries and is gradually finding its
feet in some of the western countries as well.