Life of the Buddha

14 years 9 months ago - 14 years 9 months ago #20731 by Garm
Life of the Buddha was created by Garm
Part 1

I noticed that we have not covered the life of the Buddha. For anyone who may be interested in this rite and may not be familiar, I think we should briefly outline his story. Interesting enough I asked some people at my office what they knew about the Buddha. I was surprised at the answers - such as \"he's the fat China guy who gives you luck when you rub his tummy\" Or it's the statute of the god that the Chinese pray to...:blink:

I prefer the humanist view; there are plenty of stories that tell the life of the Buddha through the use of mythos. I subscribe to the more likely course that the Buddha was a common human being, with a birth date and a death date just like you or me. This is the story I shall tell here, condensed from Understanding Buddhism by Gary Gach.

Over a millennia, the Buddha’s life story has been used as a tale for teaching, mingling fact with legend, and even myth. Taking myth as sacred story, Joseph Campbell has said, “The closest we have to planetary mythology is Buddhism. In it all things are potentially Buddha things.”

One full-moon night in May, around 560 B.C.E., a woman gave birth. Her name was Mahamaya, she was on her way to her fathers house to lie in waiting, as was the custom in India in those times. She returned home to present her husband his son. This was no ordinary son. Mahamaya was a queen, married to King Suddhodana, the ruler of the Shakya people. Their son would be the prince of their prosperous kingdom. They named him Siddhartha, meaning “a wish fulfilled” or “aim accomplished”. According to custom a soothsayer made a prediction that Siddhartha would rule over all the land, but only if he were kept from the reality of decay and death. Otherwise, he’d be a great mystic saint.

The King adored his son and wanted him to inherit and rule over his kingdom so he kept him within the palace walls. He kept his sons environment completely devoid of the realities of the outside world, sick people, the elderly, even dirt and withered leaves were all whisked away from view.

The King brought in the finest tutors to teach his son to be a warrior king. The prince was a prodigy; he soon knew more than his teachers. He was unequalled in literature and math. He surpassed everyone in swimming, running, archery and fencing. One legend has it that in a huge athletic competition he won the hand of one of the most beautiful of maidens, Yashodhara (Keeper of Radiance), who became his bride. He could strategize, command respect, and win any battle. On top of all this he got along with everyone and proved to be a compassionate and loving husband.

As time passed Siddhartha wanted to know more about the world outside the palace walls. To keep his son happy, the king granted his wish, yet made sure everything outside was as controlled as it was inside.

Everywhere Siddhartha went, he saw prosperity and happiness until, somehow, a decrepit form passed through all the young healthy people the king had arranged for him to see. Siddhartha asked his servant Channa “What is this!?” The faithful servant told him that although he had white hair down to his knees, this was a man, an old man, using a staff to walk, and this is what happens to everyone eventually. All the way back to the castle, Siddhartha brooded, and when the king heard about this, he increased the budget for his son’s lavish lifestyle to help take his mind off of what he encountered.

A second time out, Siddhartha chanced upon a maimed fellow with bloodshot eyes, groaning through a frothy mouth. “What is this!?” Siddhartha asked, and was told by his faithful servant that this was a person that had become ill, but that Siddhartha needn’t worry since the Prince ate a good diet and exercised. Siddhartha returned home brooding, and so the king plied him with even more opulent luxuries.

A third time out, Siddhartha chanced upon a funeral procession, mourners sobbing and waving their arms in all directions, while at the head of the procession a body was being carried, utterly still, as if sleeping. Siddhartha saw and faithful servant Channa explained what death is-that nothing could be done for it, and that it happens to everyone. No point in worrying, he said, just hope for a long life.

What a shock! Old age and sickness were bad enough. But now this, their final resolution! The ultimate destination of us all. Is there anyone for whom the first encounter with death isn’t one of the most unforgettable, difficult moments of their life?

On another trip outside Siddhartha happened to see a man with shaven head, clad only in an orange sheet the color of liquid sunshine, walking slowly, holding only an empty bowl, his entire manner radiating majestic tranquility and serene joy. “What is this?” Siddhartha asked, and was told that this was a monk, who’d renounced the world in search of spiritual truth. This silent monk seemed to be telling him, yes, there is an answer to the questions burning inside him since he’d so starkly witnessed human suffering for himself. An answer he’d never find as long as he numbed his mind with endless sensual indulgence.

As fate would have it, Siddhartha’s bride bore a child, whom he named Rahula. The king took the occasion to through a blowout celebration to keep Siddhartha close to home. But after the sumptuous feast, as Siddhartha was being entertained by the finest dancing girls in all the land, he yawned, laid down and fell asleep. Well no point in entertaining someone who wasn’t paying attention, so the dancing girls stopped, laid down too, and napped. When Siddhartha opened his eyes again, he saw these women who just moments ago had been the quintessence of beauty, now sweaty, sprawled in awkward positions, once lovely faces now drooling or gnashing their teeth in their sleep. So much for the pleasures of the material world!

Stealthily, he got up and tiptoed out. Passing by his wife’s chamber, he took one last lingering look at his beloved ones, and then was gone-gone in search of the answers to the human riddles of disease, decay, and death, in search of the ultimate meaning of life.

So Siddhartha gave his royal robes and jewels to his faithful servant. Before giving him his sword he shaved his head, leaving only a top-knot, severing his ties with his family and caste. And he set out for the forest.
Last edit: 14 years 9 months ago by Garm.

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14 years 9 months ago #20749 by Garm
Replied by Garm on topic Re:Life of the Buddha
Part 2

Now in those days, India’s wild forests and mountains were dotted with various seekers of the truth. Siddhartha studied under one renowned forest teacher after another. In a short time he learned all that his teachers had to offer, but it wasn’t what he was looking for. He’d learned to transcend his senses, and thoughts, his materiality, and even his own consciousness. But while these techniques transcended reality, they didn’t unlock it. They offered temporary bliss, but not permanent peace.

Siddhartha tried the ascetic path of self-denial to the point of self-mortification. He lay on a bed of nails. He progressively reduced his diet until he was down to one grain of rice a day. Soon, he came to the brink of self-annihilation.

One day a young girl passed by with food her mother had given her as an offering to the forest gods. She saw Siddhartha, nearly unconscious, and put some rice milk to his lips, and he drank. By so doing, he renounced not only asceticism but also extremism. He realized that that he couldn’t achieve his goals his mind was in a trance and his body was too weak to grasp and carry on the truth. He was on to an ideal now known as the middle way. We all meet with varying forms of extremism in ourselves and others, the Buddha would say listen to all sides, then find a harmonious middle road.

Meditating in a healthy body allowed him to look at things around him with clarity. He saw that each and every thing was not independent. Food might come from a leaf. The leaf came from the sun and the earth beneath, and the water from the cloud. And where did each of these come from? They were all interconnected. Interdependent
and inter-reacting.

Looking further he saw that nothing in life lasts. Nothing is permanent. The cloud passes away in the sun. The leaf falls to the earth. Similarly, he too, was part of not only the interdependence but also the impermanence of all life. These realizations made hime appreciate each moment to the fullest. And why not? Why not live each moment to the fullest when each moment only occurs only once, and each instant potentially contains the whole of life?

The meaning of suffering and death was becoming clear at last. Before sundown, looking at the evening star beside the full moon of May, he felt that tonight he’d make his final, ultimate breakthrough.

Sitting beneath the sheltering leaves of a banyan fig tree, oblivious to all distractions, gazing deeper and deeper into his mind and the mind of creation, the heart of life. In the darkest night, he penetrated the enigma of life, that we are born to die, thus inevitably bound to suffer. Mortality leads to cravings that can never be fulfilled – and perpetuates false mind-sets of self that only produce more suffering. He saw clearly now the jail in which we entrap ourselves and which we ourselves police.

He understood that what we call our life is but a wave, not the ocean. He became one with that ocean, and all the rivers and raindrops that feed it. He became enlightened. He aw the morning star as if for the first time, his mind as clear now as mirror, his heart, as wide as the world, was over-brimming with the understanding and love. Now he was fully awake.

After some time, he stood up and took his first steps, just walking lovingly around the tree that had sheltered him. He might have remained beneath the tree in perfect nirvana for the rest of his days. Yet his enlightenment showed him how the seed of enlightenment are within the hearts of everyone. His love for all beings and compassion for their needless suffering was bound up, part and parcel, with his awakening to life’s ultimate meaning. So he returned to the companionship of his fellow human beings.

While he was walking, five of his former followers saw Siddhartha coming and they turned their backs to him. They remembered him as having copped out on the rigors of the ascetic path. But as he drew nearer, they could recognize in their own hearts that he was transformed. Supreme Enlightenment was evident just from his presence. They let go of their judgments and preconceptions, and welcomed him. They could see he merited being called “Buddha.”

That night he gave his first talk, known as “The Turning of the Wheel of Truth.” Explaining his discovery, he introduced four premises, known as the Four Noble Truths (see thread), defining the origin of and liberation from suffering, with a practical personal program for liberation known as the Eightfold Path (see thread). While thinking it over, one of the companions got it and awoke on the spot. Nothing to memorize or take on faith, instead he awoke to the truth resounding within himself.

It was decided that these teachings would be called “Dharma,” the path. Those on the path would be called “Sangha.” And Siddhartha would be known as “The Buddha,” the one who shows others the path in this world. Thus began the Buddha’s course of teaching – it was to be a journey lasting the next 45 years.

Buddha’s end was unexpected. Some food he’d been given as alms was bad. Eventually, he had to lie down. Just as he’d taught meditation while sitting, standing, and walking, now he taught while on his side. Naturally, many in the community feared they couldn’t go on without him, but he reassured them it wasn’t necessary for him to be there personally for them to practice his teachings for themselves. “The Dharma is the best teacher,” he said.

“Even if I were to live for aeons,” he told them,” I’d still have to leave you because every meeting implies a departure, one day.” With his faithful disciples by his side, he died the way he’d lived for nearly 50 years, an exemplary spiritual teacher beyond compare. It was said that, as with his birth, and his enlightenment, his final nirvana was on the night of the full moon in May.

-Truth (dharma) is everywhere. It doesn’t spread; rather, people awaken to it.


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14 years 9 months ago #20750 by Garm
Replied by Garm on topic Re:Life of the Buddha
On an intresting note:

In the Buddha's time, it was forbidden for women (and slaves) to read Hindu scriptures; nor could women even pray on their own. In defiance of the Brahmins, the Buddha ordained nuns, starting with his own stepmother and then his former wife Yashodhara. His order of nuns is one of the earliest women's associations in the world.

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