By Jayaram V
Page 1 |
Page 2 |
Page 3 |
Here is a brief sketch of the life of the Buddha also known as
Siddhartha, Gautama and Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. We have presented
the life of the Buddha in four parts. This is part 1.
The Buddha was born in the year 563 B.C. in a mango grove at a place called Lumbini.
It is presently located in the foot hills of
Nepal in the region bordering the present day India. His father Suddhodana was a
Sakya king and his mother Maya also came from a princely family. Seven days after
his birth his mother died, leaving him to the care of her sister and his step mother
Mahajapati, who was also a wife of Suddhodana.
The young Buddha was brought up in Kapilavastha, which was the capital of Sakya
kingdom. When he was born, legend records the occurrence of several miracles, confirming
the arrival of a great being into the world. His father and some prominent members
of his court were aware that a divine child, who was was destined to be a great
person, was born amidst them. His parents gave him the name Siddhartha. They expected
him to grow and become a successful and skillful king.
Siddhartha was also known in history by the name Gautama. This was in fact his
family name, which he inherited from his mother's side.
Princely life and the great change
We are told that knowing well what was in store for his son, his father tried
his best to shield him from all possible spiritual contacts and influences by surrounding
him with pomp and luxury and providing all material comforts, so that when he grew
up he would become a great ruler. He built three palaces for his son with all the
comforts and amenities and arranged for his training in in martial arts and education
in various subjects necessary for conduct of state affairs. We are told that despite
of these arrangements the young Siddhartha was still drawn occasionally into philosophical
and contemplative thinking during which he would suffer from deep despair.
When he reached the age of sixteen he was married to a beautiful princess called
Yashodhara. She was the daughter of a Sakya Chieftain called Suprabuddha. He had
a son through her by the name Rahula. We do not know much about his family life,
except that he cared for his wife and spent considerable time in her company. We
do not know whether he had any liaison with some other women too. Yashodhara was
probably a very dutiful wife, who might have suffered later in life when the Buddha
finally left her.
During this period he went through four strange experiences which the Buddhists
refer as the "Four Noble Signs". They changed his thinking completely and brought
a fundamental change in his attitude towards the life he was leading till then.
The first of these signs was the sight of an old and decrepit man. This made
him think about the decay inherent in all life. The second was the sight of a sick
and ailing man. This made him think about the suffering inherent in existence.
The third sign was the sight of corpse lying in a bier. This made him think about
the transience of human life and need for liberation from the very experience of
death. The fourth was the sight of a meditating monk, who had renounced the worldly
life and was leading the life of a monk. It reminded him of the possibilities of
spiritual life lying beyond the boundaries of his own materialistic life.
These experiences prompted the young Siddhartha to review the life he was leading
till then and change it if he could. He was overwhelmed with a sense of grief and
compassion for the troubles of the mankind. He decided not to rest till he found
suitable answers to the questions that were troubling him for some time. His son
Rahula was just born then, as if circumstances were making it a little more difficult
for him to leave his wife and worldly life behind.
The life of a wandering monk
But the young Siddhartha was firm in his resolve. Ever since he saw the meditating
hermit, he became eager to pursue a similar life of austerity and inner detachment.
Shortly afterwards, one day, in the middle of the night, when every one was asleep,
he left the palace, his family, friends and the kingdom.
Page 1 |
Page 2 |
Page 3 |
Suggested Further Reading