Who Was The Buddha?
According to tradition, the historical Buddha lived from 563 to 483 B.C., although scholars postulate that he may have lived as much as a century later.
He was born to the rulers of the Shakya clan, hence his appellation Shakyamuni, which means “sage of the Shakya clan.”
The legends that grew up around him hold that both his conception and birth were miraculous. His mother, Maya, conceived him when she dreamed that a white elephant entered her right side (1976.402).
She gave birth to him in a standing position while grasping a tree in a garden (1987.417.1).
The child emerged from Maya’s right side fully formed and proceeded to take seven steps.
Once back in the palace, he was presented to an astrologer who predicted that he would become either a great king or a great religious teacher, and he was given the name Siddhartha (“He who achieves His Goal”).
His father, evidently thinking that any contact with unpleasantness might prompt Siddhartha to seek a life of renunciation as a religious teacher, and not wanting to lose his son to such a future, protected him from the realities of life.
The ravages of poverty, disease, and even old age were therefore unknown to Siddhartha, who grew up surrounded by every comfort in a sumptuous palace.
At age twenty-nine, he made three successive chariot rides outside the palace grounds and saw an old person, a sick person, and a corpse, all for the first time.
On the fourth trip, he saw a wandering holy man whose asceticism inspired Siddhartha to follow a similar path in search of freedom from the suffering caused by the infinite cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
Because he knew his father would try to stop him, Siddhartha secretly left the palace in the middle of the night (28.105) and sent all his belongings and jewelry back with his servant and horse.
Completely abandoning his luxurious existence, he spent six years as an ascetic (1987.218.5), attempting to conquer the innate appetites for food, sex, and comfort by engaging in various yogic disciplines.
Eventually near death from his vigilant fasting, he accepted a bowl of rice from a young girl.
Once he had eaten, he had a realization that physical austerities were not the means to achieve spiritual liberation.
At a place now known as Bodh Gaya (“enlightenment place”), he sat and meditated all night beneath a pipal tree.
After defeating the forces of the demon Mara, Siddhartha reached enlightenment (1982.233) and became a Buddha (“enlightened one”) at the age of thirty-five.
The Buddha continued to sit after his enlightenment, meditating beneath the tree and then standing beside it for a number of weeks.
During the fifth or sixth week, he was beset by heavy rains while meditating but was protected by the hood of the serpent king Muchilinda (1987.424.19ab).
Seven weeks after his enlightenment, he left his seat under the tree and decided to teach others what he had learned, encouraging people to follow a path he called “The Middle Way,” which is one of balance rather than extremism.
He gave his first sermon (1980.527.4) in a deer park in Sarnath, on the outskirts of the city of Benares.
He soon had many disciples and spent the next forty-five years walking around northeastern India spreading his teachings.
Although the Buddha presented himself only as a teacher and not as a god or object of worship, he is said to have performed many miracles during his lifetime (1979.511).
Traditional accounts relate that he died at the age of eighty (2015.500.4.1) in Kushinagara, after ingesting a tainted piece of either mushroom or pork. His body was cremated and the remains distributed among groups of his followers.
These holy relics were enshrined in large hemispherical burial mounds (1985.387), a number of which became important pilgrimage sites.
In India, by the Pala period (ca. 700–1200), the Buddha’s life was codified into a series of “Eight Great Events” (1982.233).
These eight events are, in order of their occurrence in the Buddha’s life: his birth (1976.402), his defeat over Mara and consequent enlightenment (1982.233; 1985.392.1), his first sermon at Sarnath (1980.527.4), the miracles he performed at Shravasti (1979.511), his descent from the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods (28.31), his taming of a wild elephant (1979.511), the monkey’s gift of honey, and his death (2015.500.4.1).
How Did Buddhism Begin?
About 2500 years ago, a prince named Siddhartha Gautama began to question his sheltered, luxurious life in the palace.
He left the palace and saw four sights: a sick man, an old man, a dead man and a monk.
These sights are said to have shown him that even a prince cannot escape illness, suffering and death.
The sight of the monk told Siddhartha to leave his life as a prince and become a wandering holy man, seeking the answers to questions like "Why must people suffer?" "What is the cause of suffering?"
Siddartha spent many years doing many religious practices such as praying, meditating, and fasting until he finally understood the basic truths of life.
This realization occurred after sitting under a Poplar-fig tree in Bodh Gaya, India for many days, in deep meditation.
He gained enlightenment, or nirvana, and was given the title of Buddha, which means Enlightened One.
What Does Buddhism Mean?
Buddhism is considered a religion and a path of spiritual development which is said to lead to an understanding of the true nature of reality.
Many people consider it to be a philosophy tradition or a way of life rather than a religion in the traditional sense because it does not necessitate the worship of a god.
Buddhism encompasses a range of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices such as meditation, which are intended to cultivate awareness, wisdom and compassion.
The teachings are largely based on those of Gautama Buddha, who is known as the historical Buddha. The name, Buddha, comes from the Sanskrit root for the verb, budh, meaning "to know," and as a name, it means “the awakened one.”
Buddha lived and taught in the northern Indian subcontinent sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries B.C.E.
He shared his insights into the nature of life in order to help all sentient beings find relief from their suffering. The path to doing this ultimately leads to enlightenment, or Buddhahood.
Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to Insight into the true nature of reality.
Buddhist practices like meditation are means of changing yourself in order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and wisdom.
The experience developed within the Buddhist tradition over thousands of years has created an incomparable resource for all those who wish to follow a path — a path which ultimately culminates in Enlightenment or Buddhahood.
An enlightened being sees the nature of reality absolutely clearly, just as it is, and lives fully and naturally in accordance with that vision.
This is the goal of the Buddhist spiritual life, representing the end of suffering for anyone who attains it.
Buddhism is a major world religion with about 500 million practitioners worldwide. It is a sister tradition to yoga because both evolved from the traditions and spiritual teachings of ancient India.
As such, there are many commonalities between Buddhist and yogic teachings
What Are The 3 Main Beliefs Of Buddhism?
The aim of The Buddha was to escape suffering and reach a level of enlightenment. Being a Buddha means breaking away from the cycle of rebirth and achieving nirvana — an eternal state of peace, happiness, and enlightenment — through meditation.
So whether or not you think about balancing your dosha, here are three powerful elements of Buddhist philosophy, "The Noble Truths", and how you can incorporate them into every day. They might just change your life...
Dukkha: Life is painful and causes suffering.
Many people might say that Buddhism is pessimistic or negative.
This is a common result of learning that one of the Noble Truths is translated as "Life is suffering." But there's more to this statement. It's not just telling us, "Life is tough, so deal with it." So what is it telling us?
We actually can create more suffering in our lives by trying to avoid or suppress difficult emotions.
Yes, our lives are inevitably punctuated with various unpleasant feelings: loss, sadness, fatigue, boredom, anxiety appear and reappear during our lives.
But attaching or clinging to particular expectations, material items, and states of being is often a cause for acute frustration, disappointment, and other forms of pain.
So rather than fear our suffering or seek an ultimate resolution to it (and become frustrated by our lack of finding one), we can learn simply to recognize our suffering.
How we can use this belief every day: Try not to buy into the idea that you're broken. Expect that death, aging, sickness, suffering, and loss are part of life. Practice acceptance in the face of strife.
Stop attaching to the idea that life should be easy and pain free, both emotionally and physically. This is a misconception made popular by the fashion, beauty, and pharmaceutical industries.
Illness, heartbreak, loss, disappointment, and frustration are parts of life that can be mitigated by practicing "non-attachment."
Try to embrace imperfection, to let go of this belief that life should be a certain way. Open your heart to uncertainty.
Anitya: Life is in constant flux.
Anitya or "impermanence" means that life as we know it is in constant flux. We can never access the moment that just passed, nor can we ever replicate it.
As each day passes, our cells are different, our thoughts develop, the temperature and air quality shifts. Everything around us is different. Always.
When we are feeling especially uncomfortable, the concept of impermanence can be, paradoxically, comforting. In other words: if nothing is permanent, we know our pain will pass.
But when we are experiencing joy, the idea of impermanence can be incredibly fear-inducing.
If we accept the idea of impermanence at face-value, it can be incredibly liberating. In the West, about 100 years after the Buddha expressed this idea, Greek philosopher Heraclitus mirrored the belief when he famously said, "You can never step in the same river twice." All we have is the present moment.
How we can use it in our everyday lives: Celebrate the idea of change.
Accept that everything is constantly changing. It's kind of amazing, when you just think about it! And even when the idea of impermanence might feel scary, it helps us appreciate everything we are experiencing in the present: our relationships, body, mood, health, the weather, our favorite shoes, our jobs, our youth, our minds.
So let's savor those moments we do enjoy and know that the ones we don't enjoy will pass.
Anatma: The self is always changing.
When I ask clients what they want to get out of therapy, they commonly answer, "I want to find myself." Our culture has led us to believe there's a concrete, constant "self" tucked away somewhere in us. Is it between our heart and liver? Or somewhere unknown in our brain? Who knows!
Buddhism, however, assumes there is no fixed, stable "self." In line with Anitya (impermanence), our cells, memories, thoughts, and personal narratives — all of the "matter" that ultimately comprises our identities — change over time.
Sure, we all have personalities (though they can change over time). We have names, and jobs, and other titles that we use to identify ourselves, to feel a sense of "self."
But the idea of a constant self is yet another story our culture has told us. It is a story we can change, and thereby accept the idea that we ourselves can change — at any time, in any place. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Thanks to impermanence, anything is possible."
Instead of focusing on "finding ourselves," we ought to focus on creating the self we wish to be at every moment.
It's possible for us to be, and feel, different today than we were and felt yesterday. Being depressed today doesn't mean we'll be depressed forever. We can forgive others. We can forgive ourselves.
Once we let go of our attachment to the idea of the constant "self," we can rest more comfortably with the constant change present in all of life. In each new moment, we ourselves are new.