The life of Siddhārta Gautama
Siddhārtha Gautama was born in the kingdom of Kapilavastu in Nepal. At that time, a clan called the Shakya’s ruled Kapilavastu. His father was a king named Suddodana Gautama, and his mother was the beautiful Mahamaya.
Siddhārtha lived in luxury; his father kept trouble and hard work far from him. A seer predicted that if Siddhārtha stayed inside his palace his whole life, then he would become a great king. However, if he left the palace, then he would become a great religious leader. The king did not want his son to become a religious leader. He kept Siddhartha in the palace for his whole childhood.
When he was older, his father found a woman for Siddhārtha to marry at the age of 16. He married the woman named Yashodhara, and they had a son, Rahula.
Although Gautama had everything he could want, he still was not happy. He wanted to learn the meaning of his existence.
He got out of the castle against his father’s orders. He saw the “Four Passing Sights”: an old crippled man, a sick man, a dead man, and a holy man with no home. Right then, Gautama knew that nothing can stop people from being born, becoming old, getting sick, and dying. He decided to give up his worldly life. He would not keep his wives, his children, his wealth, or his palace. He would become a holy man with no home. He would look for the answer to the problem of birth, old age, sickness, and death. He left his home in the middle of the night.
Seeking for answers
At that time, holy men were usually ascetics. They hurt their bodies in order to help their spiritual beings. They do not do things they like so they can defeat their desires. The most ascetic kinds of holy men were called Jains. They practiced self-denial and made themselves suffer very much. They believed this would free the ātman (soul) from pain and sadness. Siddhārtha did these things well. Eventually he was better than his teachers. He still found no answer, and he left his teachers. Some friends and he went even farther. He ate only six grains of rice a day. He tried not breathing. He became just skin and bones, and he nearly died. Still, he had no answer.
Siddhārtha started to think again about this path. He thought there might be a better way than hurting himself. He found a big tree (now called the Bodhi tree) and started to meditate. He told himself that he would not get up until he had found enlightenment. He meditated under the tree for 49 days. His mind is said to have become pure, and then, six years after he began his path, he said he found Enlightenment, and became a Buddha.
The life as a Buddha
When the Buddha became enlightened, he knew the answer to suffering, and he knew how to defeat suffering. This answer was called the Four Noble Truths. He was not sure if he should teach his new ideas or not. He asked himself if the world was ready for such a deep teaching. But in the end, he decided to travel to a town called Sarnath to teach the people his new way. He taught about the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
The people listened to him.
When he taught, he did not pretend to be a god. He said he was just a man who had found the meaning of life (enlightenment), and that any person can also find the meaning of life.
For the rest of his life, he walked all over Southern Nepal and parts of India to teach people what he believed. He started a Sangha, which is a group of Buddhist monks and nuns. Many people became enlightened because of him. At the age of 80, Gautama Buddha died.