Life of the Buddha
Life of the Buddha Context • Prince Siddhartha Gautama • Part of the Shakya Clan (hence name Shakyamuni) • Born Kapilavastu in Northern India, 563BCE • Indian religion at time was Hinduism • Buddhism part of a revolt against Hinduism: expensive sacrifices, Caste System, pessimistic view of salvation, etc Siddhartha’s Birth • • • • • • • • Birth stories very symbolic Queen Maya’s dream: elephant in side Born in garden at Lumbini Trees bent down to support Queen Maya Born out of her side Golden Skin Walked seven steps and lotuses grew at his feet Declared this was his last rebirth Siddhartha’s Early Life • A seer called Asita told his father King Sudohanna that he would either grow up to be a great leader, or a holy man. • To make sure he became a king like him, the King kept Siddhartha in the palace for his whole life. • He was surrounded by youth, beauty, pleasure and wealth, and had no idea that life could be any different. The Great Renunciation (The Four Sights) • Siddhartha began to question life, and asked what was beyond the palace walls. • He convinced his charioteer Channa to take him outside 4 times. • On these occasions he saw an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and lastly a holy man (saddhu). • The first three sights dispirited him, but the fourth gave him hope that he could figure out how to stop all the suffering in life (he was moved by great compassion) • He decided to leave his family (wife and child too – also symbolising leaving attachments behind) to become a wandering holy man in search of the truth. Asceticism • Siddhartha first came across some yogins who taught him the art of meditation. He stayed with them for a couple of years, then moved on to join a group of ascetics. • Ascetics deny themselves things in order to ‘force’ the mind to see clearly. For example, a lazy person might force themselves to stand all the time. • Siddhartha decided that since he had lived a life of material luxury, he would starve himself. • Legend has it that he reduced his food until he was living on 3 grains of rice a day and almost died. • He eventually realised that this was not helping him realise the truth, and (with some help from a local girl) made himself better. Enlightenment • Soon after this, Siddhartha sat under a pipal tree (commonly known as a bodhi tree) and decided he would not move until he had an answer to the world’s suffering. • For many days Siddhartha meditated, facing Mara and all of his temptations. • Eventually Siddhartha came to realise the truth about reality and became enlightened. • He was now the Buddha (enlightened one) • He spent the rest of his life travelling and teaching what he had learned.