The historical Buddha was born 2,500 years ago near the border of Nepal and India. He was a prince. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of a small kingdom. His mother, Maya, gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama, his real name, in Lumbini, a forest en route to her family home. Without anymore reason to go she turned back and returned to Kapilavastu, the capital.
Soothsayers had predicted that he would become either a great king or a great spiritual leader. King Suddhodana, worried that his son would not ascend the throne, gave Siddhartha every comfort possible to ensure he would be groomed to become the next king.
At the age of 28, having married and awaiting the birth of his child, Siddhartha had decided to venture outside into the world to see his kingdom. There, he saw for the first time sickness, old age and death. He also saw the serenity of an ascetic among this reality.
Deciding to search for this happiness he left his family and duties. Now known as Shakyamuni, The Sage of the Shakya Clan, he sought the best teachers of the time, mastered their teachings. But he did not find the happiness he had seen in that ascetic he had met on that fateful trip. Deciding that that extreme asceticism is no better than decadence he changed his approach and followed a more moderate practice – The Middle Way. After intense meditation he became fully enlightened and found the happiness that he had sought.
At age 35 now known as Buddha, The Enlightened One, he spent the next forty-five years teaching the way which brings about liberation from suffering.
The founder of Buddhism was a historical figure from two-and-a-half millennia ago. Siddhartha Gautama, which is his birth name, was born a prince of the Sakya Clan. He was born in Lumbini, a forest, while his mother, Maya, was returning to her family. With no more reason to continue the journey she returned to Kapilavastu, the capital of the Sakya Kingdom.
All the soothsayers predicted that Siddhartha would either become a great king or a great leader of the world, except one. This lone soothsayer predicted that he would definitely become a great leader of the world. Worried, Siddhartha’s father, Suddhodana, wanted to make sure his son would succeed him as king by sheltering him from ugliness of the world. The king was able to shelter his son until he was 29. Siddhartha was about to marry and to have a son. Finally given some freedom he saw the outside world – reality – for the first time. What is saw was sickness, old age and death, the truth of existence his father had wanted to conceal from him. Siddhartha also saw an ascetic who was radiant with happiness and contentment. Siddhartha wondered how this could be.
Around the time of his son’s birth he had decided to find the truth and happiness which does not rely on the things of the world. He left his palace and comfortable lifestyle to seek and follow the best teacher of the day. Siddhartha, now called Sakyamuni (The Sage of the Sakya Clan), mastered two of the leading ascetics’ teachings in a short time. And was offered successorship, both of which he declined. He left them behind and continued to seek enlightenment on his own. Following a routine of extreme asceticism he slowly wore his body down to the point of dying. Concluding that he may well find enlightenment at the point of death he also realised this would mean nothing if no one can know and find the truth. Siddhartha decided that both decadence and asceticism were unrealistic ways to the goal, and that the only way is one which is neither self-indulgent nor self-deprivating. This is The Middle Way of Buddhism.
At age 35, with his health restored and with full concentration of mind and body he became enlightened, and he, now called The Buddha (The Enlightened One), taught the way to enlightenment to others for the next forty-five years until his death at age 80.