Gautama Buddha is the man who holds the title of the Buddha, a Sanskrit word meaning “the one who is enlightened”. Gautama was born as Siddhartha Gautama in the 5th century B.C. in Lumbini, Nepal. His father, King Suddhodana, was the ruler of a small kingdom and upon Gautama’s birth, wise men predicted that he would either be a good ruler or a spiritual leader. Wanting his son to not seek the path of spirituality, King Suddhodana kept him shielded from the outside world and the harsh realities it held. Thus, Gautama grew up lavishly happy, with no concept of death, sickness or old age.
But as an adult, his curiosity got the best of him and one day, he sneaked out of the palace hoping to explore the wonders of the world around him. Instead, on his path, he encountered an old man, a sick man and a corpse, all the things that he never had any idea existed. This came as a massive shock to him but also prompted him to search for the meaning of life.
To find the answer, he left his grand home and started his journey to a life of asceticism. Practicing asceticism meant he would live minimally, denying himself physical and mental desires, even starving himself to the brink of death. But after six years of this, he was still stuck in that hindering rut.
Eventually he realized that the answer must be found within him. That is when he began meditating beneath a fig tree(which would later be known as the Bodhi tree) at Bodh Gaya in modern-day Bihar, India. He did not stop till, 49 days later, he finally found the answer, which then became his Enlightenment.
After reaching enlightenment, he desired to spread his knowledge to others. But he soon realized that what he had found was so out of the ordinary that merely teaching it to people would be futile. Instead, he decided to lead them to the path of enlightenment so they could attain it themselves.
According to Gautama’s teachings, enlightenment could be found by the Four Noble Truths: suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering and the path. To explain shortly, every life has suffering and they are mainly caused by our flawed mindsets. Thus, if we can change our way of thinking we can end what causes us to suffer. Then, by living fairly, meditating, gaining more knowledge and wisdom, we can follow the path to enlightenment. A person who desires to reach this mindset should also be removed from all negative desires, such as greed, envy and hatred, and should instead practice patience, empathy and humility.
Gautama then set out to propagate his findings through most of northern India. He carried out sermons and went from village to village, teaching and gaining devotees along the way. In later ways, he also reunited with his father and son, who he’d left behind. At the age of 80, Gautama died in Kushinagar, India, in about 483 BCE.
Even after passing away, his teachings were carried on through generations.They were also compiled by his followers and officially named Buddhism, hence earning Gautama the title of the “Buddha”.
The Buddha never considered himself a god, but a mere man who was spreading his beliefs and findings to the world. Yet, he remains one of the most prominent individuals to ever exist and the core of Buddhism.
Contributed by TANZEEM HOSSAIN