BuddhaThe word Buddha means “enlightened one. ” It is used today as a title tothe one who has given us more religious beliefs than almost any other human wholived in this world. However, he was not given this name at birth; he had toearn it for himself by undergoing long, hard hours of meditation andcontemplation. Buddha has changed the lifestyles of many cultures with new,never-before asked questions that were explained by his search for salvation.
He began an entirely new religion that dared to test the boundaries of realityand go beyond common knowledge to find the answers of the mysteries of life. IndiaDuring the sixth century BC, India was a land of political and religiousturmoil. It was an era of great brutality with the domination of NorthwestIndia by Indo-Aryan invaders. Many people, influenced by the Aryan civilization,began to question the value of life and it’s true meaning. Schools were openedbecause of this curiosity where teachers would discuss the significance ofexistence and the nature of man and held programs to reconstruct one’s spiritualself. (Pardue, page 228)BackgroundNear the town of Kapilavastivu, today known as Nepal, lived KingSuddhodhana and Queen Maya of the indigenous tribe known as the Shakyas.Order now
(Encyclopedia Americana, page 687) Queen Maya soon became pregnant and had adream shortly before she gave birth. In this dream a beautiful, white elephantwith six tusks entered her room and touched her side. This dream was sooninterpreted by the wisest Brahmin, or Priest of Brahmanism, that she was to givebirth to a son that would, if he were to remain in the castle, become the wisestking in the world, but if he were ever to leave the castle he would then becomethe wisest prophet far into future generations. (Encyclopedia Americana, page410)In around the year 563 BC, Siddhartha Gautama was born into a life ofpure luxury. (Wangu, page 16) His father wanted to make sure that his son waswell taken care of as he grew to prevent him from desiring to leave the palace. Suddhodhana, listening to the prophecy, kept Siddhartha away from the pain ofreality so that he could follow in his father’s footsteps in becoming a wellrespected leader.
As Siddhartha grew, he became very curious about the world outside ofthe palace walls. He felt a great need to undergo new experiences and learn thetruth of reality. Siddhartha was married to a woman named Yasodhara who gavebirth to a boy, Rahul. Even after his marriage, Siddhartha was still notcompletely satisfied with his life; he decided that it was necessary for him tosee the lives of those outside the castle. The Four MeetingsOne day, Siddhartha called for his charioteer to take him to the park.
When the King heard of this, he ordered the streets to be cleared of everythingexcept beauty. As the Prince rode by, the people cheered and threw flowers athim, praising his name and Siddhartha was still clueless to the suffering oflife until a god, disguised as a poor, old man stumbled before the chariot. Siddhartha was curious to this man’s condition and he asked the charioteer abouthis appearance. The charioteer replied that all men must endure old age andthat even the prince could not escape this fate. Siddhartha then returned tothe palace to contemplate about old age which caused him to want to see more.
The next day, Siddhartha decided to venture on to the streets againwhich were, by the King’s request, once more cleared of all evil and ugliness. This time, Siddhartha encountered a sick man and again, returned to the palaceto reflect on sickness. On his third trip to the park, Siddhartha approached afuneral in a garden and was educated by the charioteer about how every man mustexperience death. Finally, on the fourth day, the young prince saw a shaven-headed man wearing a yellow robe.
He was amazed and impressed by how peacefulthe man seemed; he carried with him only a begging bowl and had left all otherpossessions to try to find spiritual deliverance. At that moment, Siddharthaknew his destiny was to discover how this man has avoided these acts ofsuffering. (The New Encyclopedia Britannica, page 270)Later that night, Siddhartha kissed his wife and son, and left with hischarioteer away from the palace of riches and pleasure. He left behind his lifeof pure desire to understand the true meaning of life.