Who was the Buddha and What You Should Know
Buddha is undoubtedly one of the most recognized religious figures in the world. We find statues in Chinese restaurants, as home décor pieces or you may know him through many of his teachings. It’s easy to recognize Buddha since he is made so popular and highly commercialized, but how much do you really know about the Enlightened One?
Born as Siddhartha Gautama (Siddhartha means “one who achieves his aim”) in the 6th century B.C in a place called Lumbini (which is Nepal today) Buddha belonged to a large clan known as the Shakyas, of whom his father as a leader of. Unfortunately, his mother died just seven days after he was born.
During this time, an old holy man predicted that Siddhartha would one day become a spiritual leader or a great kind who would change the entire world. Strangely, as it turns out, he did become a spiritual leader who brought a massive change to the entire world.
Siddhartha’s father, intent on shielding his son from all the real-world problems and sufferings, decided to raise him in a palace, where he lived in luxury and wealth. Here, he was raised by his mother’s sister. The palace was built solely for Siddhartha and there, the high walls shielded him from any understanding of religion, and real hardships and sufferings faced by people. His father hoped that this would make him a great king one day.
As was the custom, Siddhartha got married when he was 16 years old. The wife later gave birth to a son. Despite all the riches he could want, and a family of his own, Siddhartha still felt unsatisfied and knew deep down that material wealth was not the answer he was looking for.
Turning point and journey to enlightenment
The young prince, one day, ventured outside the palace walls, and immediately saw the harsh realities of the world. Now that he was no longer in the territory of his protected palace, he saw human suffering and pain with his own eyes. First, he saw an old man, and his charioteer Channa explained that all humans eventually grow old. Then he traveled further and saw a diseased man, a rotting corpse, and an ascetic. All these sights and knowledge of the real world depressed him.
At the age of 29, he decided to leave his life of wealth and family behind, and started his spiritual journey along with Channa and his horse, Kanthaka. For the next six years, he studied under various ascetics, choosing to live under harsh conditions and pushing himself further when he did not receive the answers he was looking for. However, Siddhartha soon realized that following a Middle Way, rather than a path of extremism, was the way of inner enlightenment.
He then sat under a Bodhi Tree, in Bodh Gaya, India, where he vowed to meditate until the truth came to him. After 49 days of meditation and fighting off Mara (the god of desire), Siddhartha finally received an answer to his question of human suffering. From then on, he was known as Buddha or "the Enlightened One" or "the Awakened One."
Life as Buddha and his teachings
After his enlightenment, Buddha traveled all over the world until his death, preaching the Dharma (his teachings). His most important teachings were that his followers shouldn’t be ignorant, hate other people, nor should they get angry. He taught that everyone suffers, suffering is caused by our own greed, desire and ignorance, and that suffering can end only when he renunciate greed and ignorance. He also taught a correct way of living known as the eightfold pat of life.
Today, Buddha's teachings have influenced many faiths, philosophy as well as literature all over the world, making him one of the most influential religious and spiritual leaders.