With this new realization, Siddhartha bathed in the river Niranjana near Bodhagaya, in state of Bihar in Northern India. Determined Siddhartha, then, sat in meditation on a grass mat under a Banyan tree and practiced one-pointed focused meditation. He continued this practice until he attained bodhi (Enlightenment or Knowledge) at the age of 35. His inner heart radiated with the light of spiritual Knowledge (brahma-jnana). He realized the Truth and experienced Inner Peace (Shanti). This experience is known as "the Great Realization or Enlightenment" (Buddhahood). From that point on Siddhartha was known as Lord Buddha and Tathagata (literally, "thus gone like that"). Having attained Buddhahood, the all knowing state, Siddhartha Gautama spoke these words:
"I have run through a course of many births looking for
the maker of this dwelling (body) and have not found
him. Painful is birth again and again. Now you are
seen, O Builder of the house (body), you will not build
the house again. All your rafters are broken, your
ridgepole is destroyed, the mind, set on the attainment
of nirvana (enlightenment,) has attained the extinction
of desires." (Dhammapada, Jaravaggo: 8-9)
Lord Buddha explained that the word "Buddha" means to be filled with unbounded knowledge as vast as the infinite space. He further said,
"I Gautama have attained this state and if you try
wholeheartedly you also can attain this state."
The Early Teachings of the Buddha
After his great enlightenment (Nirvana), Siddhartha, now called the Buddha, proceeded to share the path to Nirvana with others. He gave his first sermon, "Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Law," in Rishi Pattam of Sarnath, near the city of Banaras in northeastern India. In response to this, five men became his disciples. During the remaining 45 years of his life he spread his message to all, from kings to poor alike, by traveling through neighboring states, such as Avadha, and Bihar. Most of his teaching took place in the state of Bihar and Ayodhya.
In his first sermon, the Buddha taught:
"Mendicants should avoid these two extremes: First,
avoid sensual pleasures and second, refrain from
pain-inflicting austerities. Avoiding these two extremes
I have found the Middle Way. This path leads to
knowledge and truth. Also this is the bestower of
Prasenajit, the king of Koshel kingdom, Bimbsara, the king of Magadha, and Ajatshatru accepted this message and became the disciples of Lord Buddha. The Buddha established a community of his mendicant disciples. He gave his congregation of mendicants this three-fold proclamation: "I take refuge in dharma; I take refuge in Buddha; I take refuge in Sangha (the community of monks)." In the time of the Buddha, Sanskrit was the established language of sacrament, therefore the word dharma is used; however, in later times, Pali and Prakrit became the languages of the common people and the Sanskrit word dharma became dhamma in the Pali language.
In accord with Lord Mahavira of Jain dharma, Buddha was also a great proponent of non-violence. He was always eager to sacrifice his own life for the sake of protecting the life of other beings. He once said to a king: "If you think you will attain heaven by sacrificing some helpless animal, then you should be able to find the greater reward by sacrificing a human being. Oh, King! Cut the shackles of that animal, and free the animal!
Instead, sacrifice me. I ask you, will it not be, that you will acquire a greater merit through human sacrifice?" The king was shocked.
Many years had passed after Buddha had left Kapilvastu. His father, King, Shudhodhana, became anxious after not seeing or heard from his son for such a long time. He was eager to meet with him and sent many letters through various channels in order contact him. Finally, the king sent Buddha's childhood friend, Kalaudai, as an ambassador to carry a letter to him. When Kalaudai reached Buddha, he himself undertook the vow of a mendicant as a follower of Buddha and never returned to the king. After six months had passed, Kalaudai finally gave the letter to Buddha and told him the news of his father. The Compassionate Buddha and his entourage set out for Kapilvastu on the day of full moon in the month of March, which is considered an auspicious time to travel. The whole city of Kapilvastu was overjoyed by the return of the prince, who was now the great Buddha.
After meeting with his ascetic son, the King became overwhelmed with emotions. He escorted his son to the palace along with his followers. All the townspeople came to see the great Buddha, but his wife Yashodhara could not gather the courage to see this sight — her husband as an ascetic. After persuasion by his father Buddha proceeded toward the inner quarters of the palace of Yashodhra. She came to meet him, and overwhelmed with emotions, fell at her Lord's feet. Lord Buddha soon left the palace and the kingdom of King Shudhodhana. As the time passed both Yashodhra and the King were initiated into the Dhamma (the Path) by the Buddha. The Buddha's step-brother Nanda was to be consecrated as the heir of the kingdom after the king Sudhodhana. But Nanda became deeply impressed by the sacred teachings of the Buddha, and in the middle of the celebrations of his consecration and wedding ceremony, he decided to be initiated by the Lord Buddha. That very day he chose the life of a mendicant, instead of that of a sovereign king.
Yashodhra, gripped with love for her husband, desired that if Buddha would stay in Kapilvastu a little longer so that she would be able to see him more often. One day as Buddha turned back from the kingdom after begging for alms Yashodhra sent Rahul, her son, to see the Buddha, his father. Rahul uttered the words his mother had instructed and asked: "Dear father, give me my inheritance rights". In response, when the Buddha returned to his ashram he told his disciple Sariputra to give Rahul the honor of renunciation. Thus at a very young age, Rahul became a renunciate and a part of the community. The King was very distraught when he heard about this.
At that time there was a sanyasi (renunciate) named Sanjaya who was residing with his disciples in Rajgraha. Two of his disciples were Sariputra and Modgalyayna, both sincere students who were always engaged in spiritual practices. When they heard about the essential truths and knowledge taught by the Buddha, they quickly became his disciples. Buddha proclaimed: "These two will be my chief and most trusted disciples." In time the Buddha's words came true. Devadatta and Ananda, cousins of the Buddha, also became his disciples. At the age of sixty the Buddha appointed Ananda as his chief attendant. Ananda remained in Lord Buddha's service wholeheartedly until Buddha's passing away from this material world.
Towards the Setting Sun (End of Buddha's Life)
Buddha continued to teach the path to ultimate freedom which is achieved by following the truth, practicing nonviolence, and maintaining purity of conduct. He gave understanding to people with regard to purity of the self and the Inner Light. In 483 B.C.E., at the age of 80, while in Kushinagar (in the Gorakhpur district in the state of Uttar Pradesh), the Buddha left his physical body and attained Mahparanirvana (Great Freedom).
In the last moments of his life he gave final words to his disciples:
"O Mendicants! Be a lamp to thyself and take refuge in
yourself Be your own support and make Dharma (the
path of the Buddha) your lamp, taking refuge in it."
Doctrines of Buddhism
When we look at the fundamental doctrines of Buddhism we can see that they were derived from the prevailing Sankhya darshana (Sakhya Philosophy) and the latter Upanishads.
This is validated by the reference from Lokamanaya Balgangadar Tilak, a religious leader and great scholar of Indian philosophy:
"This has been established indisputably that just as Jain
Dharma, so also Buddha Dharma is a son of the Vedic
Dharma. As a son, after taking his inheritance from
his father follows his individual path, in the same way
the Buddha Dharma separated from the Vedic
Dharma. In other words, Buddhism is not a stranger
or foreign to Vedic Dharma. Moreover, it is a branch
arising out of the prevalent Brahman-Dharma."
The essentials of the teachings of Buddha Dharma are understanding the nature of the self and the purity in action, conduct, and thought. The Buddha declares:
"Abandonment of all evil deeds and sins, accumulation
of all meritorious deeds, and purification of the mind
and conduct is the discipline of Buddha."
The Buddha emphasized that the middle path is the most desirable path. To have pure conduct one must avoid both of the extreme paths: intense austerities and sensual pleasures. The Buddha condemned violent acts such as animal sacrifices. He also protested against needless rituals, the self-claimed superiority of the pundits (priest class) and brahmins, and the inequity of the caste system. He advocated a path that was pure, simple and based on the principles of moral conduct. The Buddha taught that by treading this path people can attain freedom and go beyond the cycle of birth and death (samsara).
Lord Buddha and his Path of Four Noble Truths
1. In this world there is suffering.
2. This suffering has a cause.
3. There is a way (cure) to become free from suffering.
4. The Eight-fold path is prescribed to attain freedom.
In order to escape the cycle of death and birth and the suffering
of the world a person should follow the Eight fold path.
This Eightfold path is as follows:
1. Right view
2. Right intent
3. Right speech
4. Right conduct
5. Right livelihood
6. Right effort
7. Right vigilance (Mindfulness)
8. Right Samadhi (Concentration)
The Essence of Buddha's Teaching is as Follows:
1. Do not criticize others. Do not speak ill of others.
2. Do not commit any kind of violence.
3. Control yourself by choosing right moral conduct.
4. Eat in moderation.
5. Live in solitude.
6. Yoke the mind to meditation (Yoga).
- Swami SantSevi Ji Maharaj