“Buddha” means “one who is awake.” Buddha is not a name but a title. Gautama Buddha who lived 2,600 years ago was not a God but an ordinary person, whose profound insights inspired the world. It is said that when a Buddha dies he or she is not reborn but passes into the peace of Nirvana, which is not a heaven but a transformed state of existence. Buddha founded Buddhism.
Buddha, the son of Suddhodana, the cheif of a Kshatriya clan of the Sakyas of Kapilavastu in present day Nepal was given the name Siddhartha. He was born in 567 BC in Lumbini Garden, near Kapilavastu. His mother Mayadevi died after a few days after his birth and he was brought up by his step mother. In order to divert his attention towards worldly affairs, his father got him married at the age of sixteen to a princess called Yashodhara. He led a happy married life for some time and had a son by name Rahula.
One evening, while Siddharta was passing through the city, he came across an old man who was abandoned by his relatives, a sick man crying with pain and a dead body surrounded by weeping relatives. He was deeply moved by these sights. He also saw an ascetic who had renounced the world and found no sign of sorrows. This prompted him to renounce the world, leave his palace and went into forest in search for the cause of suffering and the truth. In the course of his wanderings, he sat under a peepal tree for several days until he attained enlightenment. That place in Bhiar is called Bodh Gaya.
After his enlightenment, Buddha decided to impart his knowledge to the people. He went to Varanasi and gave his first sermon at Sarnath. A large number of people along with his family became his followers. The teachings of Buddhism are as follows.
Teachings of Buddhism
Four Great Truths
- There is suffering and sorrow in this world.
- The cause of human suffering is desire and carving
- The pain or sorrow can be removed by suppressing the desire or carving.
- This is to be achieved by leading a disciplined life or following the Noble Eight-fold Path.
The Noble Eight-fold Path – To Attain Purest State of Mind
- Right views
- Right aspirations
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right contemplation or meditation
Attainment of Nirvana
According to Buddha, a person should aim at attainment of Nirvana or the highest bliss, and it could be achieved by any person leading a virtuous life and following the Noble eight-fold Path.
Ahimsa or Non Violence
Ahimsa was a fundamental belief of Buddha. He condemned bloody sacrifices in the yajnas. According to him, love for all living beings was an essential disposition for a good practitioner of Buddhism.
Middle Path and Salvation
Buddha advised his followers not to indulge in material pleasures and luxuries. He saids by following the middle path people could attain moksha or salvation, that is freedom from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
Emphasis on Morality
Buddha wanted his followers to do good deeds and to lead a moral, disciplined life. He appealed to them to refrain from lying, from killing living beings, from taking intoxicants, from stealing and leading a sensual life.
Today, Buddhism is the world’s fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers that is over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. But Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to insight into the true nature of reality. Buddhist practices like meditation are means of changing yourself in order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and wisdom.