Life of the Buddha

He (The Buddha) travelled around India for 45 years teaching the Dharma to all classes of men and women and has left an elegant system of understanding the mind, compassionate heart and a path to achieve an end to our habitual patterns of distress

There are many very scholarly publications on the historical life of the man who is referred to as the Buddha which can be interpreted as “The Enlightened One”. Awakening refers to a transformational view of life in which we are fully present in each moment aware of what is arising in the body and mind without being influenced in our responses to life by our past learning and conditioning.

As a young prince Siddartha experienced extreme wealth. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the kingdom of the Sakyas in modern Nepal. It was written that he lived periodically in a summer palace, a winter palace and a rainy season palace. He was sheltered by the king his father and not allowed to leave the palace without his servant/chaperon.

On one outing with one of his staff he embarked on an exploration of the kingdom outside of the palace walls. He came upon a very old person and was intrigued as he had not witnessed such an aged person before he asked his driver what had happened to this person and he was advised that this was a very aged person. Siddartha was somewhat perplexed at the condition of this aged person and he asked his companion if this condition of aging would happen to him? Of course, he was told that yes this will happen to you as it happens to everyone.

 

They proceeded a little further and came upon a very ill person. This person was ill and near death. Young Siddartha was again shocked to see such an ill person as he never had before. He asked his companion if this some day would happen to him as well. Again, he was instructed yes everyone gets sick and so will you. The young Siddartha was again shocked at this insight and they travelled on. They then came upon a corpse on the side of the road and the same inquiry ensued. Siddartha was truly horrified at the prospect of having to face his own death. It is recorded that these observations of illness, aging and death motivated Siddartha to leave the wealth and comfort of his fathers kingdom to become one of the wandering sabbana’s  who wondered through the wilderness engaging in ascetic practices of fasting and sleeping without shelter to learn to transcend the limitations of the body and master the mind.

After seven years of wandering and attempting many different and difficult practices he had severely damaged himself from the extreme fastng and he was found near death by young woman who allegedly nursed him back to health with rice milk. During his convalescence he reflected on how he had at one time had unprecedented wealth. On his sojourn to overcome limitations of body and mind he realized he practiced extreme self- abdication.  He did not find answers to satisfy his quest for awakening in either of these two extremes. He is known to have taught the “Middle Way”. A more balanced approach to enlightenment. He resolved to sit under a tree, since then known as the Bodhi tree or “the Tree of Wisdom” on the bank of the river Neranjara at Buddha-Gaya.  At age 35 he attained Enlightenment and then was know as the Buddha, “The Enlightened One”.

After his Enlightenment, The Buddha delivered his first sermon to a group of five ascetics, his old colleagues, in the Deer Park at Isipatana (modern Sarnath) near Benares. His teachings were spoken in Pali and his monks memorized the teachings and eventually they were written down. These first teachings were called The Four Noble Truths. His teachings are also referred to as “The Dharma”, or in Pali “The Damma”. He travelled around India for the 45 years teaching the Dharma to all classes of men and women and has left an elegant system of understanding the mind, compassionate heart and a path to achieve an end to our habitual patterns of distress.