Though Buddhism has taken many different forms, still all the forms depend on the real life experiences of Buddha and his teachings. A comprehensive account of the life of Buddha can be studied from Buddha Charita (life of Buddha) written by Ashvaghosa in second century AD. The time when Buddha started teaching was the age when Upanishads were written and when Hindu ideal of renunciation of family and social life to seeking truth became widespread.
Siddhartha was the son of a king. According to legend, at his birth a fortune-teller predicted that he might become a renouncer. To prevent this, his father provided him with many luxuries and pleasures. But, as a young man, he once went on a series of four chariot rides where he saw more severe forms of human suffering: old age, illness, a corpse and an ascetic renouncer. The contrast between his life and this human suffering made him realize that all the pleasures on earth where infact transitory, and were only masking human suffering.
He left his wife and new-born son and tried severe renunciation in the forest until the point of near-starvation. Finally, realizing that this too was only adding more suffering, he ate food and sat down beneath a tree to meditate. Later, he had attained Nirvana, which provided both the true answers and permanent release from the causes of suffering.
Now the Buddha began to teach others out of compassion for their suffering. The most important doctrines he taught included the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path. After the death of Buddha, his followers settled in monasteries and tried to spread teachings of Buddha.
Personal details of Buddha
Titles: Sakyamuni (Hermit of Sakya tribe),
Thathagata (An enlightened being who is liberated from birth-and-death),
Family: Kshatriya family (Sakya clan)
Birth year: 563 BC
Place of birth: Lumbini, Nepal
Death year: 483 BC
Place of Death: Kusinara
Cause of death: Due to bad mushrooms and pork
Father: Suddhodana, Chief of Sakya clan
Mother: Mahamaya, Koshala dynasty princess
Eightfold path of Buddhism
Buddhism includes a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on teachings given by Buddha. Buddhism originated in India between sixth and fourth century BC. From India it spread through Asia. Buddhism has two main branches namely, Theravada (School of the Elders) and Mahayana (The Great Vehicle). Buddhism is the world's fourth-largest religion and the followers of Buddhism are called Buddhists.
The ultimate goal of Theravada school is attainment of Nirvana (escaping the cycle of birth and death). According to this school, nirvana is achieved by practicing Noble Eightfold Path whereas the ultimate goal of Mahayana school is obtain Buddhahood or Bodhisattva (to help other beings get awakened). In doing so one remains in the cycle of birth and death.
The Eightfold Path consists of eight practices:
- Right belief,
- Right thought,
- Right speech,
- Right action,
- Right livelihood,
- Right effort,
- Right recollection,
- Right meditation
Other miscellaneous details about Buddha
- Buddha was married to Yasodhara. Their son was named Rahula. Later Yasodhara became a bhikkhuni (a Buddhist nun)
- Buddha was brought up by his step-mother Mahaprajapati
- After leaving his home, he spent initial years wandering as an ascetic. He was under the guidance of two Brahmin religious teachers namely Alara Kalama who taught him at Vaisali and Rudraka Ramaputta who taught him at Rajagriha.
- After resorting to several kinds of self-tortures, he abandoned everything went to Uruvela (Bodh Gaya) and took bath in river Niranjana and sat under a Pipal tree.
- Finally, he attained supreme knowledge or Enlightnment and came to be known as Buddha or Thathagata.
- He gave his first sermon at Sarnath near Varanasi. His first sermon was known as Dharmachakra parivarthana.
- He attained Mahaparinirvana (death) under a sal tree at Kusinara. The cause of his death is eating bad mushrooms and pork.
- Buddha’s last teaching was heard by Subhadra and Ananda.
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