The Buddha was originally born named Siddhartha. He was born on the borders of Nepal about 620BC and died 543BC.
He was a Prince, and his father a King, or leader of a Clan.
He was given the best education as his father wanted him to take over his role on his death. For that reason he kept his son in seclusion, not wanting him to know about the problems of his subjects, which lay beyond the Palace grounds. He was married at the time, with a child but yearned to experience what lay beyond the confines of his palatial surroundings.
Siddhartha was 29 years old when he disguised himself, and went out among the people. He was so shocked when confronted by all the suffering caused by sickness, old age and death including the poverty, hunger, diseases, and hopelessness of the people around him, he decided to renounce his Princedom to become an Ascetic, and seek the ultimate cure for the sufferings of all Mankind.
From then on he attempted to experience for himself how he could gain the perfect balance within his own life physically, emotionally, mentally and Spiritually! He sought what he called ‘The Middle Path’ between the extremes of one’s nature. So he experimented on himself first to find what constituted physical balance by first starving himself until his body looked like a skeleton and felt unhealthy, then he tried over-eating (hence the fat bellied laughing Buddha statuettes we see today) after which, he decided to listen to the signals his body was giving him which was screaming out for some balance!
Then he sought to balance his thoughts and feelings which he found were unruly making it hard for him to focus his mind in the present moment! Eventually, after much experimentation in meditation, self-analysis, and reflection on all that he had learned about the nature of human beings, he came to the conclusion that the path of Non-Attachment was the ‘Key’! He believed the root cause of attachments was selfishness. Not meaning just the tendency to seek gratification, but actually meaning self-centredness and self-attachment. So, to free ourselves from pain, we must overcome our attachment to that which desires – the ego! He stated that the ‘ego’s world is entirely illusory!
He seemed to know intuitively that beyond that, Spiritual balance was about total Compassion for not only human beings, but all forms of life, together with the utmost Faith and Trust in the ‘Life Force’ that was sustaining him which he had already attained.
Then after much travel through many close Countries absorbing all this information, he settled under the ‘Bo Tree’ and meditated on overcoming his own personal ego for 40 days and nights, finally attaining the state of Buddhahood or ‘Bodhi’ which means a totally Compassionate and Enlightened Being.
Brahmanism, a religion which had evolved from the ancient Veda Texts was the dominant faith in the Indian subcontinent in the 6th Century BCE.
Although revered for his Wisdom, he was neither a Messiah or a Prophet, and did not act as a medium between God and man. Siddhartha was the first to challenge its teachings with philosophic reasoning and not through divine revelation, which marks Buddhism even more as a philosophy than a religion.
He concerned himself with the question of the goal of life examining the concepts of happiness, virtue, and the ‘good life’!
From then on he taught his 4 Noble Truths: which comprised of:
1. The Truth of Suffering – which is an inherent part of one’s existence. The
2. Truth of the Cause of Suffering – which is desire, a craving for sensual pleasures, and attachment to worldly possessions, and power.
3. The Truth of the End of Suffering – by detaching oneself from all cravings and attachment.
4. The Path which leads to the End of Suffering – to eliminate desire and overcome the ego!
From there, he taught the ‘8 Fold Path’ which are the steps which lead to Liberation from ‘The Wheel of Birth and Death’ as he put it!
These are the Truths he taught his closest pupils strictly by word of mouth until they could remember in clear detail his every word!
- Right View – The belief that there is an afterlife, and not everything ends with death. A belief in the principles of Karma (Cause and Effect), and Rebirth.
- Right Intention – Aims at peaceful renunciation, non-sensuality, non-ill will (to loving kindness), away from cruelty (to compassion) Moral Virtues!
- Right Speech – No lying, no rude speech, no gossiping about others, and speaking of that which leads to salvation.
- Right Action – No killing or injuring, no thieving, no sensual misconduct such as sexual involvement with someone married, or with an unmarried woman under the protection of parents or relatives.
- Right Livelihood – For lay people – explained as abstaining from ‘wrong livelihood’ apart from the basic need to sustain life and some harmless pleasures, not becoming a source or means of suffering to others by cheating them, or harming or killing them in any way! (Meditation)
- Right Effort – Guarding against sensual thoughts – aims at preventing unwholesome states that disrupt meditation.
- Right Mindfulness – Never be absent minded, be conscious of what one is doing – encourages mindfulness about the impermanence of the body, feelings and mind, as well as to experience the five ‘skandhas, the five hindrances, the four True Realities, and seven factors of awakening.
- Right Concentration – Total focus of concentration, correct meditation – explained as the four jhanas!
After his death, his teachings were passed down orally for some 400 years, before being written down in the ‘Tipitaka’ (Three Baskets)
(There was a rather fictitious story about the extent of the Buddha’s wisdom when approached one day by a very sensuous soul. Most enlightened one he said, I have a request, I have this over-whelming urge to seduce every woman I meet. Can you help me achieve this? The Buddha replied most certainly, but you must strictly adhere to the instructions I give you. You must follow to the letter the written instructions I give you now! Practice this religiously every day for one year, after which you will be able to seduce as many women as you wish. The man became very excited with his new found formula and thanked the Buddha profusely as he left! (However, The Buddha knew if he followed through on his strict instructions, he’d lose any such desire!)
When The Buddha had finally conquered his personal ego and attained total Enlightenment, he became known as The Compassionate Buddha. He had realized that even the word ‘ego’ was illusory!
This is a quote said to be from the Buddha himself:
I Buddha who wept with all my brother’s tears, whose heart was broken by a whole world’s woe, laugh and am glad, for there is liberty! Ho! Ye who suffer, know ye suffer from yourselves, none else compels. None other holds you that ye live and die, and whirl upon the wheel and hug and kiss its spokes of agony, its tire of tears, its nave of nothingness. Behold, I show you truth. Lower than hell, higher than heaven, outside the utmost stars, further than Brahm doth dwell, before beginning and without end. As space eternal, as surety sure, is fixed a power divine which moves to good. Only its laws endure!
Knowing that we all come from the same source, he reasoned that once we began to recognize ourselves as a separate entity an ‘I’ different from all other ‘I’s, that was the first fall into ignorance. After which came desire and attachment, followed by anger if one’s desire was thwarted, including the fear of loss, and lastly the greatest fear of all fears, the fear of death!
One final metaphor covering our journey through life, reads like this:
“On our journey through life, we come to the ‘River of Emotion’ which is a fast flowing river with many rapids and whirlpools. Moored nearby is the ‘Boat of Intellect’ which we need to row across this river. Once having reached the other side which is the’ Land of Intuition’, we need to leave the ‘boat of intellect’ and walk on armed with just Courage and Faith, to attain what the Buddha called Enlightenment”!
It is believed that the Buddha, once having attained this state of awareness, no longer needed to go through the laborious process of thinking things through as he had become fully attuned with his ‘higher Intuition’ which is a state of complete ‘Inner Knowing’!