Sunday, August 8, 2010

How it all began

It's unclear when it all started.
Probably in the 5th or 6th century before Christ.

Siddhartha Gautama was born in what is now called Nepal, in the place Lumbini.
At the time the Vedic cicilization was the dominant culture of northern India but the place of birth would have been either at the border of it, or outside the area, because early texts suggest that Gautama was not familiar with these teachings

He was raised in, what was at the time, the small kingdom or principality of Kapilvastu, which was later during Gautama's lifetime, annexed by the growing Kingdom of Kosala.

His father was King Suddhodana, the leader of Shakya clan, whose capital was Kapilavastu. Gautama was the family name.
His mother, Queen Maha Maya (Māyādevī) was a Koliyan princess.

The story goes that on the night Siddhartha was conceived, Queen Maya dreamt that a white elephant with six white tusks entered her right side.
According to the Shakya tradition she left Kapilvastu for her father's kingdom to give birth.
But she gave birth on the way in a garden beneath a sal tree in Lumbini.

Queen Maya died either directly at the birth or a few days later.

The infant was given the name Siddhartha (Pāli: Siddhatta), meaning "he who achieves his aim".

Asita, a hermit seer examined the boys feet and birthmarks when he put his feet in her hair and she forecasted that the child would either become a great king (chakravartin) or a great holy man.

At the naming ceremony on the fifth day, the king invited eight brahmin scholars to read the future. All predicted that the baby would either become a great king or a great holy man.
Only the youngest, Kaundinya (Pali: Kondanna), was the only one who unequivocally predicted that Siddhartha would become a Buddha.

Siddhartha was destined however to a luxurious life as a prince.
He had three palaces (for seasonal occupation) especially built for him. His father, wanted him to become a great king and he kept religious teachings and knowledge of human suffering far away from him.
Siddhartha was raised by his mother's younger sister, Maha Pajapati.

When Siddhartha Gautama reached the age of 16, he was confronted with an arranged marriage to a cousin of the same age: Yaśodharā (Pāli: Yasodharā).
The story goes that in time, she gave birth to a son, Rahula.

Siddhartha spent 29 years as a Prince in Kapilavastu, living in wealth..
But he had a growing feeling that material wealth was not the ultimate goal of life.

At the age of 29 he left the palace to see the people of his kingdom.
Even though everything was tried to keep him away of real life, he saw an old man.
One of his servants told him that every human being grows old.
Siddharta went further into his kingdom and met all sorts of people and he realised that old age, illness, and death are the destiny of all.

He decided he would live ascetic to learn how to overcome this all.

He escaped from his palace, accompanied by Channa on his horse Kanthaka.
The story goes that the gods muffled the sounds of the hooves, so none could his departure.

Siddhartha went to Rajagaha and began his ascetic life by begging for alms in the street.
Siddhartha left Rajagaha and practised under two hermit teachers.
The first one was Alara Kalama (Skr. Ārāḍa Kālāma), who asked Siddhartha to succeed him, but Siddharta wanted to learn more and left.

He then became a student of Udaka Ramaputta (Skr. Udraka Rāmaputra), but even though he achieved high levels of meditative consciousness and was asked to succeed Ramaputta, he moved on.

Siddhartha and a group of five companions led by Kaundinya deprived themselves of worldly goods, including food, practising self-mortification by eating just a nut or leaf a day. Then he collapsed in the river while bathing and nearly drowned.
Recondiering what he was doing he remembered his childhood and attained a concentrated and focused state, the jhāna.

A small girl from the village, called Sujata, thought he was a good spirit, and brought him milk and rice.
He was sitting under a pipal tree, we now call Bodhi tree, in Bodh Gaya, India, and he vowed nhe would never go from there until he had found the Truth.
His companions left him because they thought he had stopped his search.

Siddharta meditated 49 days and then he attained Enlightenment. He was 35.

From then on he was called the Buddha, "Awakened One" or "The Enlightened One." Another name is: Shakyamuni Buddha, which means "The Awakened One of the Shakya Clan."
Related Posts with Thumbnails