Life of Buddha
The Buddha was born around 500 bce in the kingdom of Kapilavastu, in present-day southern Nepal, which was ruled by the Sakyas. The Buddha’s father, Suddhodana, was king of the Sakyas, and his mother, Maya, was a princess of Devadaha.
At the end of spring, Queen Maya gave birth to a prince in Lumbini Garden. The prince was named Siddhartha. As was the custom, King Suddhodana summoned the most learned wise men to foretell his son’s destiny. The renowned sage Asita predicted that Siddhartha would become a great king of the world if he remained a layperson, or he would become one who liberates sentient beings if he left the home life. On the seventh day after Siddhartha’s birth, Queen Maya died. Her sister, Queen Mahaprajapati, lovingly raised the child as her own.
The prince grew into a young man who excelled in everything he tried and was greatly admired for his strength, intelligence, dignity, and beauty. When Siddhartha reached marrying age, King Suddhodana arranged for his son to marry the beautiful and noble Yasodhara. She eventually bore him a son, Rahula.
Still, King Suddhodana feared that Prince Siddhartha might leave the palace and his royal position. King Suddhodhana sheltered him from the world by building him special pleasure palaces and surrounding him with beautiful women, music, wine, and other luxuries. Nevertheless, these worldly plea could not satisfy the feelings that had crept into the prince’s heart. One day, Siddhartha told his father that he wished to travel outside the palace walls to see the kingdom. Hearing this, King Suddhodana immediately ordered that the kingdom be decorated and cleared of anything unpleasant.
Travelling with Chandaka, his personal charioteer, the prince had his first encounters with people who were elderly, sick, and dead. Being sheltered by his father for Siddhartha’s whole life, these were shocking new experiences. Siddhartha and Chandaka then encountered an ascetic who walked towards them. The prince asked him who he was, and the man explained that he had renounced the world to seek liberation from the suffering of old age, sickness, and death. Siddhartha’s heart filled with joy, and the encounter left an indelible mark in his heart.
Not long afterward, the prince decided to leave the palace to find a path to liberation from all forms of suffering. With one last look at his sleeping wife and infant son, Siddhartha vowed that he would return to see them after he had awakened to the truth. As everyone slept, he rode away from Kapilavastu with faithful Chandaka by his side.
When they reached a serene forest outside the city, the prince took off his fine silken clothing and removed his jeweled ornaments, and handed them to Chandaka. Then, with his sword, he cut off his long hair and severed all attachments to his old life.
Siddhartha sought teachers to learn how to be free from old age, sickness, and death. As an ascetic he practiced fasting and meditation under extreme conditions of hardship and deprivation. After six years had passed in this way, Siddhartha was near death. He realized that complete liberation still eluded him, so he abandoned asceticism.
After accepting an offering of milk rice, some strength returned, and Siddhartha traveled to Bodhgaya where he seated himself beneath a tree that would later be known as the “bodhi tree,” and began to meditate. He swore that he would not stir from his seat, even at the cost of his life, until he had found truth and freedom from birth, old age, sickness, and death.Sitting in meditation, Siddhartha conquered all the demons of his mind—greed, anger, and ignorance.
He then entered a deep meditative state called samadhi, and attained complete awakening. He was thirty-five years old. From this moment forth, he was known as Sakyamuni Buddha.What the Buddha awakened to that night was the root of suffering, ignorance, and a path to remove suffering.
After the prince of the Sakyas became the Buddha, he traveled to the Deer Park where he gave his first discourse. While listening to the Buddha’s words, Kaundinya, one of the five ascetic disciples, saw the truth of the universe clearly and purely. All five of the former ascetics were ordained and eventually attained awakening. The Buddha then continued teaching for forty-nine years. Among his followers, some were former leaders of other religious traditions, kings and queens, rich and poor, men and women, and people from all walks of life with great compassion and wisdom, he taught for the remainder of his life.
At the age of eighty, under a pair of sala trees, the Buddha entered final nirvana The legacy he left his disciples was profound, for the Buddha had dedicated his earthly life to teaching others the path to awakening.
*This text was taken from the BLP booklet ‘The Great Buddha‘.
*The images were taken from a CG animation titled “人間佛陀 The Buddha”.