Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha (Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. The word Buddha is a title for the first awakened being in an era. In most Buddhist traditions, Siddharth Gautam is regarded as the Supreme Buddha (P. sammāsambuddha, S. samyaksaṃbuddha) of our age, “Buddha” meaning “awakened one” or “the enlightened one.” Siddhārtha Gautama may also be referred to as Gautama Buddha or as Śākyamuni (“Sage of the Śākyas”).
The Buddha found a Middle Way that ameliorated the extreme asceticism found in the Sramana religions.
The time of Gautama’s birth and death are uncertain: most early 20th-century historians dated his lifetime as 563 BCE to 483 BCE, but more recent opinion dates his death to between 486 and 483 BCE or, according to some, between 411 and 400 BCE. UNESCO lists Lumbini, Nepal as a world heritage site and birthplace of Gautama Buddha. There are also claims about birth place of Gautama Buddha to be Kapilavastu at Piprahwa, Uttar Pradesh, or Kapileswara, Orissa, modern India. He later taught throughout regions of eastern India such as Magadha and Kośala.
Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarized after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition, and first committed to writing about 400 years later.
Early Life & Marriage
Siddhartha was born in a royal Hindu Kshatriya family. He was brought up by his mother’s younger sister, Maha Pajapati. By tradition, he is said to have been destined by birth to the life of a prince, and had three palaces (for seasonal occupation) built for him. Although more recent scholarship doubts this status, his father, said to be King Śuddhodana, wishing for his son to be a great king, is said to have shielded him from religious teachings and from knowledge of human suffering.
When he reached the age of 16, his father reputedly arranged his marriage to a cousin of the same age named Yaśodharā (Pāli: Yasodharā). According to the traditional account, she gave birth to a son, named Rahula. Siddhartha is then said to have spent 29 years as a prince in Kapilavastu. Although his father ensured that Siddhartha was provided with everything he could want or need, Buddhist scriptures say that the future Buddha felt that material wealth was not life’s ultimate goal.
According to the early Buddhist texts, after realizing that meditative jhana was the right path to awakening, but that extreme asceticism didn’t work, Gautama discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way—a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. In a famous incident, after becoming starved and weakened, he is said to have accepted milk and rice pudding from a village girl named Sujata. Such was his emaciated appearance that she wrongly believed him to be a spirit that had granted her a wish.
Following this incident, Gautama was famously seated under a pipal tree—now known as the Bodhi tree—in Bodh Gaya, India, when he vowed never to arise until he had found the truth. Kaundinya and four other companions, believing that he had abandoned his search and become undisciplined, left. After a reputed 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained Enlightenment. According to some traditions, this occurred in approximately the fifth lunar month, while, according to others, it was in the twelfth month. From that time, Gautama was known to his followers as the Buddha or “Awakened One” (“Buddha” is also sometimes translated as “The Enlightened One”). He is often referred to in Buddhism as Shakyamuni Buddha, or “The Awakened One of the Shakya Clan.”
According to Buddhism, at the time of his awakening he realized complete insight into the cause of suffering, and the steps necessary to eliminate it. These discoveries became known as the “Four Noble Truths”, which are at the heart of Buddhist teaching. Through mastery of these truths, a state of supreme liberation, or Nirvana, is believed to be possible for any being. The Buddha described Nirvāna as the perfect peace of a mind that’s free from ignorance, greed, hatred and other afflictive states, or “defilements” (kilesas). Nirvana is also regarded as the “end of the world”, in that no personal identity or boundaries of the mind remain. In such a state, a being is said to possess the Ten Characteristics, belonging to every Buddha.
According to a story in the Āyācana Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya VI.1) — a scripture found in the Pāli and other canons — immediately after his awakening, the Buddha debated whether or not he should teach the Dharma to others. He was concerned that humans were so overpowered by ignorance, greed and hatred that they could never recognise the path, which is subtle, deep and hard to grasp. However, in the story, Brahmā Sahampati convinced him, arguing that at least some will understand it. The Buddha relented, and agreed to teach.
Some scholars believe that some portions of the Pali Canon and the Āgamas contain the actual substance of the historical teachings (and possibly even the words) of the Buddha. Some scholars believe the Pali Canon and the Agamas pre-date the Mahāyāna sūtras. The scriptural works of Early Buddhism precede the Mahayana works chronologically, and are treated by many Western scholars as the main credible source for information regarding the actual historical teachings of Gautama Buddha. However, some scholars do not think that the texts report on historical events.
Some of the fundamentals of the teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha are:
- The Four Noble Truths: that suffering is an ingrained part of existence; that the origin of suffering is craving for sensuality, acquisition of identity, and annihilation; that suffering can be ended; and that following the Noble Eightfold Path is the means to accomplish this.
- The Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
- Dependent origination: the mind creates suffering as a natural product of a complex process.
- Rejection of the infallibility of accepted scripture: Teachings should not be accepted unless they are borne out by our experience and are praised by the wise. See the Kalama Sutta for details.
- Anicca (Sanskrit: anitya): That all things that come to be have an end.
- Dukkha (Sanskrit: duḥkha): That nothing which comes to be is ultimately satisfying.
- Anattā (Sanskrit: anātman): That nothing in the realm of experience can really be said to be “I” or “mine”.
- Nibbāna (Sanskrit: Nirvāna): It is possible for sentient beings to realize a dimension of awareness which is totally unconstructed and peaceful, and end all suffering due to the mind’s interaction with the conditioned world.
However, in some Mahayana schools, these points have come to be regarded as more or less subsidiary. There is disagreement amongst various schools of Buddhism over more complex aspects of what the Buddha is believed to have taught, and also over some of the disciplinary rules for monks.
According to tradition, the Buddha emphasized ethics and correct understanding. He questioned everyday notions of divinity and salvation. He stated that there is no intermediary between mankind and the divine; distant gods are subjected to karma themselves in decaying heavens; and the Buddha is only a guide and teacher for beings who must tread the path of Nirvāṇa (Pāli: Nibbāna) themselves to attain the spiritual awakening called bodhi and understand reality. The Buddhist system of insight and meditation practice is not claimed to have been divinely revealed, but to spring from an understanding of the true nature of the mind, which must be discovered by treading the path guided by the Buddha’s teachings.
Timeless wisdom quotes from Buddha.
This documentary is made by filmmaker David Grubin and narrated by Richard Gere. It tells the story of the Buddha’s life, a journey especially relevant to our own bewildering times of violent change and spiritual confusion. It features the work of some of the world’s greatest artists and sculptors, who across two millennia, have depicted the Buddha’s life in art rich in beauty and complexity. Hear insights into the ancient narrative by contemporary Buddhists, including Pulitzer Prize winning poet W.S. Merwin and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
This documentary covers the life of Siddhartha Gautama, a young prince from India who went out to find the reason for “Dukkha” [problems] of human life. He later found the reason of Dukkha and teached a way to live life. He was later known as the Buddha, the founder of “Buddhism”.
Born in Lumbini, Nepal, Siddhartha was destined to a luxurious life as a prince, had three palaces especially built for him. Siddhartha escaped his palace, accompanied by Channa aboard his horse Kanthaka, leaving behind this royal life to become a mendicant. Sitting under a banyan tree, now known as the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya (Bihar, India), he vowed never to arise until he had found the Truth. After 49 days meditating, at the age of 35, he attained Enlightenment (Nirvana). Gautama, from then on, was known as the Buddha or “Awakened One.” Buddha is also sometimes translated as “The Enlightened One.” Often, he is referred to in Buddhism as Shakyamuni Buddha or “The Awakened One of the Shakya Clan.”
The Buddha devoted the rest of his life to his teachings. But it would not be easy.
This is part 10 of 19 of the PBS documentary THE BUDDHA, a film by David Grubin