"Started out as a prince, but rejected the
pleasures of the world to seek enlightenment"
Buddha, the Indian philosopher and founder of Buddhism, was born in Kapilvastu, India, just inside present-day Nepal, over 2500 years ago. The whole life of Buddha can be seen in an illustrated form.
Siddhartha Gautama, known as Buddha, the "Awakened," was the son of the ruler of Sakya-land, a region lying to the northeast of India, now Nepal. The date of his birth is placed about 557 BC.
The New Birth
Buddha showed an early inclination to meditation and reflection, displeasing his father, who wanted him to be a warrior and ruler rather than a religious philosopher. Yielding to his father's wishes, he married at an early age and participated in the worldly life of the court. But the four encounters mainly a sight of a decrepit old man, a severely ill man, and a corpse being carried to the funeral pyre by mourners brought a disenchantment with his life of pleasure. He was born a warrior prince, but at the age of twenty-nine, after having married and had a son, he determined to renounce the world. Abandoning his family and possessions, he gave himself up to asceticism and concentration of thought, and started the search of knowledge to satisfy his spiritual quest.
Wandering as a mendicant over northern India, Buddha first investigated Hinduism. He took instruction from some famous Brahman teachers, but he found the Hindu caste system repellent and Hindu asceticism futile. After seven years, he concluded that this method brought him no nearer to the wisdom he sought as a means of escaping rebirth into a life which he had found not worth living, and for a time he tried starvation and self-torture. This also availed him nothing; when suddenly, sitting under the sacred fig-tree at Bodhi Gaya, he became illumined and saw the Great Truths. Henceforth he was "Buddha."
Gautama's first aim had been merely his own salvation; but moved by pity for mankind he resolved to bestow on others the Four Great Truths and the eight-fold path. Beginning his sermon at Benaras, he traveled along with his followers, through the valley of the Ganges River, teaching his doctrines, gathering followers, and establishing monastic communities that admitted anyone regardless of caste.
Buddha was one of the greatest human beings, a man of noble character, penetrating vision, warm compassion, and profound thought. After 45 years of missionary activity Buddha died in Kusinagara, Nepal but Buddha's teachings have influenced the lives of millions of people for nearly 2500 years.