Who is the Buddha ?
The Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama, was a spiritual leader and founder of Buddhism. He was born around 563 BCE in Lumbini, a town in present-day Nepal, and died around 483 BCE in Kushinagar, India.
Siddhartha was born into a royal family, but he was discontent with his life of luxury and wanted to find a way to end suffering in the world.
He left his palace at 29 and began a spiritual journey, seeking enlightenment.
Birth of the Buddha and Seven Auspicious Events
According to Buddhist tradition, several signs accompanied the birth of the Buddha, known as the "Seven Auspicious Events." These signs symbolise the Buddha's unique spiritual qualities and future role as a great spiritual teacher.
- Auspicious Conception: The Buddha's mother, Queen Maya, dreamed of a white elephant entering her womb, which was interpreted as a sign of the future greatness of her child.
- No Painful Labor: Queen Maya gave birth to the Buddha without any pain or difficulty, symbolising his spiritual purity and the ease with which he would achieve enlightenment.
- Buddha's First Steps: The newborn Buddha took seven steps immediately after his birth, with a lotus flower blooming under each footstep. This was seen as a sign of the Buddha's spiritual power and his ability to walk the path of liberation.
- Proclamation of His Greatness: A voice from the heavens proclaimed the newborn's greatness, declaring that he would become a great spiritual teacher who would liberate all beings from suffering.
- Display of the Dharma Wheel: The Buddha displayed the Dharma Wheel, symbolising the teachings he would later share with his followers.
- Display of the Jewel: The Buddha displayed the Jewel, symbolising the attainment of spiritual enlightenment and the ultimate goal of the Buddhist path.
- Great Departure: The Buddha left his home and family to pursue a life of spiritual practice and service to others, symbolising his commitment to the path of liberation and the renunciation of worldly concerns.
Early years of Buddha & Buddhism
The early years of the Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama, are surrounded by legend and myth. According to traditional accounts, he was born in 563 BCE in Lumbini, a small town in present-day Nepal. His mother, Queen Maya, gave birth to him while she was on a journey to her hometown.
The Buddha's father, King Suddhodana, was the ruler of the Shakya clan, and he wanted his son to become a great ruler as well. He sheltered the young prince from the harsh realities of life, providing him with all the comforts and luxuries of the palace.
As a child, Siddhartha was very curious and intelligent, and he was tutored by some of the best teachers in the kingdom. He excelled in his studies, mastering various subjects such as literature, mathematics, archery, and horse riding.
At the age of 16, Siddhartha married his cousin, Yasodhara, and they had a son named Rahula. Despite his comfortable life, Siddhartha felt a sense of dissatisfaction and emptiness, which he couldn't explain.
One day, he left the palace grounds and encountered the "Four Sights": an old man, a sick person, a dead body, and a wandering ascetic. These sights made him realise the impermanence and suffering inherent in life, and he resolved to find a way to overcome it.
Thus began Siddhartha's spiritual journey, leading to his eventual enlightenment and the founding of Buddhism.
What are the buddha's four sights?
The Buddha's "Four Sights" refer to the four encounters that Siddhartha Gautama had on a rare trip outside of his palace in Kapilavastu, which had a profound impact on him and ultimately led to his renunciation and spiritual journey. The Four Sights are:
- An old man: Siddhartha saw an elderly person, who was frail and weakened by age, which made him realise the inevitable process of ageing and the impermanence of life.
- A sick person: Siddhartha saw a person afflicted by disease, which made him realise the universality of suffering in life.
- A dead body: Siddhartha saw a dead body being carried away for cremation, which made him realise the inevitability of death and the transience of life.
- A wandering ascetic: Siddhartha saw a wandering ascetic who was at peace despite living in extreme poverty and deprivation. This encounter inspired Siddhartha to embark on a spiritual journey of his own.
The Four Sights are significant because they led Siddhartha to question the purpose of life and seek a way to overcome suffering. They catalysed his spiritual journey, ultimately leading to his enlightenment and the founding of Buddhism.
What Buddha did after the four sights
After encountering the Four Sights, Siddhartha Gautama was deeply moved and decided to leave his life of luxury behind in search of a way to end suffering in the world. He left his palace and began a spiritual journey, eventually leading to his enlightenment and the founding of Buddhism.
Siddhartha first studied with various teachers and practised extreme asceticism, but he found these practices unsatisfactory. He then began practising meditation under a Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, India and achieved enlightenment at 35.
How long has Buddha sat under the Bodhi Tree?
According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha spent six years practising various forms of asceticism and meditation before he attained enlightenment.
During this time, the Buddha is said to have engaged in extreme practices, such as prolonged fasting and self-mortification, in an attempt to find the path to liberation from suffering. However, after realising that these practices did not lead to the desired result, he abandoned them and turned to a more balanced approach.
The Buddha then practised intensive meditation under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, India, for a period of 49 days until he finally attained enlightenment. During this time, he is said to have passed through various stages of meditative absorption, gaining insight into the nature of reality and the causes of suffering.
The exact amount of time the Buddha spent meditating during these 49 days is not specified in the Buddhist scriptures, but it is said that he was so absorbed in his practice that he was able to overcome all obstacles and finally achieve enlightenment.
When the Buddha was in India, he was surrounded by a wide range of people, including his disciples, other spiritual seekers, and members of the general population.
Some of the most important figures in the Buddha's life in India included:
- His disciples: The Buddha had a core group of disciples who travelled with him and helped to spread his teachings. These included Sariputta, Moggallana, Ananda, and Mahakasyapa, among others.
- Kings and nobles: The Buddha was often sought out by kings and members of the nobility, who sought his guidance on matters of ethics and spirituality. Some of the most prominent royal patrons of the Buddha included King Bimbisara and King Pasenadi of Kosala.
- Ordinary people: The Buddha also had a large following among the general population, including merchants, farmers, and other members of society. Many of these individuals became his disciples and were deeply inspired by his teachings.
- Other spiritual seekers: The Buddha was not the only spiritual teacher in India during his time. He was also familiar with other religious and philosophical traditions, including Jainism and the Vedic traditions of Hinduism.
After his enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching others about the path to the end of suffering. He gathered disciples and followers, travelled throughout India, and shared his teachings through discourses, conversations, and examples.
The Buddha's teachings emphasised the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which he believed were the keys to ending suffering and attaining enlightenment. He also stressed the importance of compassion, mindfulness, and wisdom in one's spiritual journey.
The Buddha passed away at the age of 80 in Kushinagar, India, leaving behind a legacy of wisdom and compassion that continues to inspire millions of people around the world.
Who were the early years of Buddha's teachers?
According to traditional accounts, the Buddha had two primary teachers during his early years of spiritual seeking before he attained enlightenment.
The first was Alara Kalama, a yogi who taught Siddhartha meditation and the attainment of the highest meditative states known as the "realm of nothingness" and the "realm of neither perception nor non-perception." Siddhartha became adept at these practices and achieved these states, but he realised that they did not lead to the end of suffering.
The second teacher was Uddaka Ramaputta, who taught Siddhartha meditation and the attainment of the highest meditative state known as the "realm of neither perception nor non-perception." Siddhartha also achieved this state, but again he realised that it did not lead to the end of suffering.
Although the Buddha learned valuable skills from these teachers, he ultimately found their methods insufficient in bringing an end to suffering. He continued to seek the path to liberation and eventually attained enlightenment through his efforts without the help of a teacher.
What are Realms of Nothingness
The "Realms of Nothingness" is a term used in Buddhist meditation practices to refer to a state of consciousness where the meditator experiences a deep sense of mental calm and tranquillity.
In Buddhist cosmology, the Realms of Nothingness (or "Arupa Jhana" in Pali) are one of the four immaterial planes of existence, which are said to be accessible to meditators who have achieved high levels of concentration and mental purification.
According to Buddhist teachings, there are four stages of meditative absorption, or "Jhana," which lead to progressively deeper states of concentration and mental stillness. The Realms of Nothingness are said to be the third of these stages, reached after passing through the first two stages of meditative absorption, known as the "Realms of Form."
In the Realms of Nothingness, the meditator experiences a state of consciousness characterised by the absence of sensory perception, thought, and mental activity. The meditator is said to experience a profound sense of peace and tranquillity, as well as a sense of spaciousness and boundlessness.
While the Realms of Nothingness can be a powerful and transformative experience, Buddhist teachings emphasise that it is not the ultimate goal of the spiritual path. Rather, the goal is to use these meditative states to gain insight into the nature of reality and ultimately achieve liberation from suffering.
What is the Realm of neither perception nor non-perception in early Buddhism?
The "Realm of Neither Perception Nor Non-Perception" (or "Nevasanna-nasanna" in Pali) is a state of deep meditative absorption described in early Buddhist texts. It is considered to be one of the highest levels of meditative absorption that a person can attain through intensive practice.
In this state of consciousness, the meditator experiences the cessation of all perception, including sensory perception, and the cessation of all thought and mental activity. This state is characterised by a profound sense of equanimity and tranquillity beyond any conceptual or experiential distinction.
According to Buddhist teachings, the Realm of Neither Perception Nor Non-Perception is part of the fourth and highest stage of meditative absorption, known as the "Formless Realm." This state is considered rare and often associated with advanced spiritual practice.
However, Buddhist teachings also emphasise that these states of meditative absorption, while necessary for developing concentration and insight, are not an end in themselves. The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is to use these states of consciousness to gain insight into the nature of reality and achieve liberation from suffering.
What is Formless Realm in early Buddhism?
The "Formless Realm" (or "Arupa-Loka" in Sanskrit) is a term used in early Buddhist teachings to describe a series of meditative states that are considered to be higher states of consciousness than those found in the material world.
In Buddhist cosmology, the Formless Realm is one of the six "Realms of Existence" that are believed to exist in the universe. These realms are said to be occupied by beings reborn into them based on their karma or the quality of their actions and intentions in previous lives.
The Formless Realm is said to be inhabited by beings who have attained high levels of meditative absorption through intense practice. In this Realm, there is no material form, and the mind is said to be absorbed entirely in states of formless consciousness.
There are four states within the Formless Realm, each characterised by a progressively more refined level of consciousness. These states are known as the "Realms of Infinite Space," "Infinite Consciousness," "Nothingness," and "Neither Perception nor Non-Perception."
While the Formless Realm is considered a high state of consciousness in early Buddhist teachings, the ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is to transcend all realms of existence and achieve liberation from the cycle of rebirth and suffering.
Buddha's first teaching after the enlightenment
The Buddha's first teaching, known as the "Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta" or "Turning the Wheel of Dharma," was delivered to his five former companions who had practised with him during his ascetic years. The teaching took place in a deer park in Sarnath, near Varanasi in present-day India, and marked the beginning of the Buddha's ministry as a teacher.
The five companions of the Buddha, who became the first disciples to receive his teachings after his enlightenment, were:
- Kondanna: He was the first person to understand the Buddha's teachings and became the first Arahant (fully enlightened disciple) in the Buddha's community.
- Vappa: He was a member of a wealthy family who renounced his worldly possessions to follow the Buddha.
- Bhaddiya: He was a member of a clan of warriors who also renounced his worldly life to become a disciple of the Buddha.
- Mahanama: He was a cousin of the Buddha who joined his community of disciples after his enlightenment.
- Assaji: He was a young nobleman who, along with his other companions, had previously followed a path of asceticism before joining the Buddha's community.
In this teaching, the Buddha laid out the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, which form the foundation of Buddhist philosophy and practice. The Four Noble Truths are:
- The truth of suffering (dukkha)
- The truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya)
- The truth of the cessation of suffering (nirodha)
- The truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering (magga)
The Noble Eightfold Path consists of the following:
- Right understanding
- Right intention
- Right Speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right concentration
........to be continued in the part II
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