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Siddhārtha Gautama or Siddhattha Gotama in Pali, also called the Gautama Buddha, the Shakyamuni Buddha or simply the Buddha, after the title of Buddha, was a monk, mendicant, sage, philosopher, teacher and religious leader on whose teachings.
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Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition and first committed to writing about years later. Scholars are hesitant to make unqualified claims about the historical facts of the Buddha's life.


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Most people accept that the Buddha lived, taught, and founded a monastic order during the Mahajanapada era during the reign of Bimbisara c. The times of Gautama's birth and death are uncertain. Most historians in the early 20th century dated his lifetime as c. It was either a small republic, or an oligarchy , and his father was an elected chieftain, or oligarch. There is also philological evidence to suggest that the two masters, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta , were indeed historical figures and they most probably taught Buddha two different forms of meditative techniques.

No written records about Gautama were found from his lifetime or from the one or two centuries thereafter.

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From canonical sources come the Jataka tales , the Mahapadana Sutta DN 14 , and the Achariyabhuta Sutta MN , which include selective accounts that may be older, but are not full biographies. Traditional biographies of Gautama generally include numerous miracles, omens, and supernatural events.

The character of the Buddha in these traditional biographies is often that of a fully transcendent Skt. Andrew Skilton writes that the Buddha was never historically regarded by Buddhist traditions as being merely human:. It is important to stress that, despite modern Theravada teachings to the contrary often a sop to skeptical Western pupils , he was never seen as being merely human. The ancient Indians were generally unconcerned with chronologies, being more focused on philosophy. Buddhist texts reflect this tendency, providing a clearer picture of what Gautama may have taught than of the dates of the events in his life.

These texts contain descriptions of the culture and daily life of ancient India which can be corroborated from the Jain scriptures , and make the Buddha's time the earliest period in Indian history for which significant accounts exist. The Buddhist tradition regards Lumbini , in present-day Nepal to be the birthplace of the Buddha. Gautama was the family name. Legend has it that, on the night Siddhartha was conceived, Queen Maya dreamt that a white elephant with six white tusks entered her right side, [95] [96] and ten months later [97] Siddhartha was born.

As was the Shakya tradition, when his mother Queen Maya became pregnant, she left Kapilavastu for her father's kingdom to give birth.

What is Buddhism

However, her son is said to have been born on the way, at Lumbini, in a garden beneath a sal tree. The day of the Buddha's birth is widely celebrated in Theravada countries as Vesak. Various sources hold that the Buddha's mother died at his birth, a few days or seven days later. During the birth celebrations, the hermit seer Asita journeyed from his mountain abode and announced that the child would either become a great king chakravartin or a great sadhu.

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Suddhodana held a naming ceremony on the fifth day, and invited eight Brahmin scholars to read the future. All gave a dual prediction that the baby would either become a great king or a great holy man. Early texts suggest that Gautama was not familiar with the dominant religious teachings of his time until he left on his religious quest, which is said to have been motivated by existential concern for the human condition.

Maya's dream, Bharhut , c. The infant Buddha taking the Seven Steps. Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara. Siddhartha was brought up by his mother's younger sister, Maha Pajapati. 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.


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Siddhartha Gautama continued to ponder about religious questions. Despite his father's efforts to hide from him the sick, aged and suffering, Gautama is said to have seen an old man.

Who Was the Buddha?

When his charioteer Chandaka Pali : Channa explained to him that all people grew old, the prince went on further trips beyond the palace. On these he encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic that inspired him. Shortly after, Gautama woke up at night and saw his female servants lying in unattractive poses, which shocked him. Leaving his servant and horse behind, he journeyed into the woods and changed into monk's robes there, [] though in some other versions of the story, he received the robes from a brahma deity at Anomiya. The now mendicant Gautama began his ascetic life.

He went to Rajagaha present-day Rajgir , begging for alms in the streets.

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After King Bimbisara's men recognised Gautama and the king learned of his quest, Bimbisara offered Gautama a share of his kingdom. Gautama rejected the offer but promised to visit the king's kingdom of Magadha first, upon attaining enlightenment. Siddhartha Gautama left Rajagaha and practised under two teachers of yogic meditation. But, once more, he was not satisfied and moved on. According to the early Buddhist texts, [] after realising that meditative dhyana was the right path to awakening , but that extreme asceticism did not work, Gautama discovered what Buddhists know as being, the Middle Way [] —a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification, or the Noble Eightfold Path , as described in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta , which is regarded as the first discourse of the Buddha.

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. After a reputed 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained Enlightenment , [] [] and became known as the Buddha or "Awakened One" "Buddha" is also sometimes translated as "The Enlightened One".

According to some sutras of the Pali canon, at the time of his awakening he realised complete insight into the Four Noble Truths , thereby attaining liberation from samsara , the endless cycle of rebirth, suffering and dying again. Nirvana is the extinguishing of the "fires" of desire, hatred, and ignorance, that keep the cycle of suffering and rebirth going. 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. The Buddha relented and agreed to teach.

After his awakening, the Buddha met Taphussa and Bhallika —two merchant brothers from the city of Balkh in what is currently Afghanistan—who became his first lay disciples. It is said that each was given hairs from his head, which are now claimed to be enshrined as relics in the Shwe Dagon Temple in Rangoon , Burma.

The Buddha intended to visit Asita , and his former teachers, Alara Kalama and Udaka Ramaputta , to explain his findings, but they had already died. He then traveled to the Deer Park near Varanasi Benares in northern India, where he set in motion what Buddhists call the Wheel of Dharma by delivering his first sermon to the five companions with whom he had sought enlightenment.

All five become arahants , and within the first two months, with the conversion of Yasa and fifty-four of his friends, the number of such arahants is said to have grown to The conversion of three brothers named Kassapa followed, with their reputed , and disciples, respectively. This swelled the sangha to more than 1, For the remaining 45 years of his life, the Buddha is said to have traveled in the Gangetic Plain , in what is now Uttar Pradesh , Bihar , and southern Nepal, teaching a diverse range of people: from nobles to servants, murderers such as Angulimala , and cannibals such as Alavaka.

The sangha traveled through the subcontinent, expounding the dharma. This continued throughout the year, except during the four months of the Vassa rainy season when ascetics of all religions rarely traveled. One reason was that it was more difficult to do so without causing harm to animal life. At this time of year, the sangha would retreat to monasteries, public parks or forests, where people would come to them. The first vassana was spent at Varanasi when the sangha was formed. After this, the Buddha kept a promise to travel to Rajagaha , capital of Magadha , to visit King Bimbisara.

During this visit, Sariputta and Maudgalyayana were converted by Assaji , one of the first five disciples, after which they were to become the Buddha's two foremost followers. Upon hearing of his son's awakening, Suddhodana sent, over a period, ten delegations to ask him to return to Kapilavastu.

On the first nine occasions, the delegates failed to deliver the message and instead joined the sangha to become arahants. The tenth delegation, led by Kaludayi, a childhood friend of Gautama's who also became an arahant , however, delivered the message. Now two years after his awakening, the Buddha agreed to return, and made a two-month journey by foot to Kapilavastu, teaching the dharma as he went.

At his return, the royal palace prepared a midday meal, but the sangha was making an alms round in Kapilavastu.

What is Buddhism?

Hearing this, Suddhodana approached his son, the Buddha, saying:. That is not the custom of your royal lineage. But it is the custom of my Buddha lineage. Several thousands of Buddhas have gone by seeking alms. Buddhist texts say that Suddhodana invited the sangha into the palace for the meal, followed by a dharma talk.