Siddhārtha Gautama (Buddha)

Page author: Luke Burns

This page published on: 01/01/2020

Last modified: 23/10/2020

The founder of Buddhism.

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Introduction

Siddhārtha Gautama was born as a prince of a region called Kapilavastu (southern Nepal by today’s borders), sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries before the common era (BCE). As a prince, he was raised in a household of wealth and joy. It was not until his late twenties that he encountered suffering, finally witnessing the reality of sickness, old age, and death.

Committed to discovering a solution to these issues, he adopted the life of a monk, and symbolically cut off his long hair. He left his wife and son behind in the night.

After six years of experimentation with the spiritual techniques that were popular at the time, including extreme fasting, he was no closer to finding his solution, and much closer to starvation. When he was at his weakest moment, a young girl gave him food, and he realised that his old methods were not going to help him. Instead, he sat under a tree and made a commitment not to move from that spot until he found freedom from suffering.

He remembered a state of mind he had once enjoyed as a child, a mental attitude of simple and direct insight - this is what he returned to. That night, he was challenged by three visions – first the fear of great army of demons, then the arousal of an array of women, finally, a promise of exceeding riches – if he would give up his efforts. Each time, Siddartha saw through these visions and was unmoved by them.

Finally, in the early hours of the morning, he achieved liberation, and was awakened (Buddha literally means awakened one). He returned to the spiritual seekers he had once followed, and taught them the techniques and insights he had learned. For 45 years he helped to spread his methods, insights, and ideas about the nature of reality. He died at the age of 80 and left behind a group of disciples who continued his practices.

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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