Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world, being exceeded in numbers only by Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. It was founded in Northern India by the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. He was born circa 563 BCE in Lumbini which is in modern-day Nepal. At the age of 29, he left his wife, children and political involvements in order to seek truth. It was an accepted practice at the time for some men to leave their family and lead the life of an ascetic. He studied Brahmanism, but ultimately rejected it. In 535 BCE, he attained enlightenment and assumed the title Buddha (one who has awakened).
Buddha's Past Buddha's original name was Siddhartha. It meant one who had accomplished his aim. Gautama was Siddhartha's family name. Siddhartha was known all over the world as Buddha, the Enlightened. He was also known by the name of Sakhya Muni, which meant an ascetic of the Sakhya tribe. The Buddha who is the founder of the Buddhist religion is called Buddha Shakyamuni. "Shakya" is the name of the royal family into which he was born, and "Muni" means "Able One." Buddha Skakyamuni was born as a royal prince in 624 BC in a place called Lumbini, which was originally in northern India but is now part of Nepal. His mother's name was Queen Mayadevi and his father's name was King Shuddhodana. Siddhartha spent his boyhood at Kapilavastu and its vicinity. He was married at the age of sixteen. His wife's name was Yasodhara. Siddhartha had a son named Rahula. At the age of twenty-nine, Siddhartha Gautama suddenly abandoned his home to devote himself entirely to spiritual pursuits and Yogic practices. A mere accident turned him to the path of renunciation. One day he managed, somehow or the other, to get out of the walled enclosure of the palace and roamed about in the town along with his servant Channa to see how the people were getting on. The sight of a decrepit old man, a sick man, a corpse and a monk finally induced Siddhartha to renounce the world. He felt that he also would become a prey to old age, disease and death. Also, he noticed the serenity and the dynamic personality of the monk. Let me go beyond the miseries of this Samsara (worldly life) by renouncing this world of miseries and sorrows. This mundane life, with all its luxuries and comforts, is absolutely worthless. I also am subject to decay and am not free from the effect of old age. Worldly happiness is transitory".
Gautama left for ever his home, wealth, dominion, power, father, wife and the only child. He shaved his head and put on yellow robes. He marched towards Rajgriha, the capital of the kingdom of Magadha. There were many caves in the neighboring hills. Many hermits lived in those caves. Siddhartha took Alamo Kalamo, a hermit, as his first teacher. He was not satisfied with his instructions. He left him and sought the help of another recluse named Uddako Ramputto for spiritual instructions. At last he determined to undertake Yogic practices. He practiced severe Tapas (austerities) and Pranayama (practice of breath control) for six years. He determined to attain the supreme peace by practicing self-mortification. He abstained almost entirely from taking food. He did not find much progress by adopting this method. He was reduced to a skeleton. He became exceedingly weak.
Buddha's Teachings According to Buddha "Dharma" means "protection". By practicing Buddha's teachings we protect our self from suffering and problems. All the problems we experience during daily life originate from ignorance, and the method for eliminating ignorance is to practice Dharma. Practicing Dharma is the supreme method for improving the quality of our human life. The quality of life depends not upon external development or material progress, but upon the inner development of peace and happiness. For example, in the past many Buddhists lived in poor and underdeveloped countries, but they were able to find pure, lasting happiness by practicing what Buddha had taught.
The End Buddha went to Sravasti, the capital of the kingdom of Kosala. Here a wealthy merchant gave him for residence an extensive and beautiful forest. Buddha spent many rainy seasons there and delivered several grand discourses. Thus Lord Buddha preached his doctrine for over forty-five years traveling from place to place.
Buddha died of an illness brought on by some error in diet. He became ill through eating Sukara-maddavam, prepared for him by a lady adherent named Cundo. The commentator explains the word as meaning 'hog's flesh'. Subadhara Bhikshu thinks it means something which wild boars are fond of and says that it has something of the nature of a truffle. Dr. Hoey says that it is not boar's flesh but Sukarakanda or hog's root, a bulbous root found chiefly in the jungle and which Hindus eat with great joy. It is a Phalahar that is eaten on days of fasting.
Buddha said to Ananda, "Go Ananda, prepare for me, between twin Sal trees, a couch with the head northward. I am exhausted and would like to lie down". A wonderful scene followed. The twin Sal trees burst into full bloom although it was not the blossoming season. Those flowers fell on the body of Buddha out of reverence. Divine coral tree flowers and divine sandalwood powders fell from above on Buddha's body out of reverence. Lord Buddha said, "Come now, dear monks. I bid you farewell. Compounds are subject to dissolution. Prosper ye through diligence and work out your salvation".