The Life Of the
One of the greatest epoch-making events in the
spiritual history of mankind was marked when the "Light of Asia"
appeared brightly and the Spring of Great Wisdom and Compassion gushed up
in central India. This event has served to enrich the human mind to
this very day.
A long time ago, there existed a kingdom called
Kapilavastu, located at the foothills of the Himalayas, to the North of
River Tapti. The ruler of this Kingdom was King Suddhodana of the
Sakya clan. His clan-name was Gautama and his consort was Queen Maha
For twenty years they had no children, but one
night Queen Maya had a strange dream in which she saw a white elephant
entering into her womb through the right side of her chest. She
became pregnant shortly after this dream. The King and the people
looked forward with anticipation to the birth of a royal child.
According to their custom, the Queen returned to her parents' home for the
birth, and on her way, in the beautiful spring sunshine, she took a rest
in the Lumbini Garden.
All around her were Ashoka blossoms. In delight
she reached her right arm out to pluck a branch and as she did so a prince
was born. All expressed their heartfelt delight with the glory of
the Queen and her princely child; Heaven and Earth rejoiced. This
memorable day was the eighth day of April.
The King was full of joy and named the child,
Siddhartha, which means "Every wish fulfilled."
In the palace of the King, however, delight was
followed quickly by sorrow, for after several days, the lovely Queen Maya
suddenly died. Her younger sister Mahaprajapati, became the child's
foster mother and brought him up with loving care.
A hermit named Asita, who lived in the mountains
not far away, noticed a radiance about the castle. Interpreting the
radiance as a good omen he came down to the palace and was shown the
child. He predicted: "This Prince, if he remains in the
palace, when grown up will become a great king and subjugate the
whole world. But if he forsakes the court life to embrace a
religious life, He will become a Buddha, The Savior of the World."
At first the King was pleased to hear this
prophecy, but later he started to worry about the possibility of his only
son leaving the palace to become a homeless
At the age of seven, the Prince and his father
went out of the castle with his father and saw a farmer plowing his field
when the Prince noticed a bird descending to the ground and carrying off a
small worm which had been turned up by the farmer's plow. He sat
down in the shade of a tree to think about what he saw and whispered to
himself: "Alas! Do all living creatures kill each other?"
The Prince, who had lost his mother so soon after
his birth, was deeply affected by the tragedy of these little
creatures. This spiritual wound deepened day by day as he grew
up. Like a scar on a young tree, the suffering of human life became
more and more deeply entrained in his mind.
The King was increasing worried as he recalled the
hermit's prophecy and tried every possible way to cheer up the Prince and
to turn his thoughts in other direction. When the Prince was nineteen
years old, the King arranged for the Prince to marry the Princess
Yashodhara, daughter of Suprabuddha who was the Lord of Devadaha Castle
and brother of the late Queen Maya.
For ten years after the marriage, the Prince was
immersed in music, dancing and pleasure in the royal pavilions of Spring,
Autumn, and the Rainy Season, but his thoughts always returned to the
problem of suffering as he pensively tried to understand the true meaning
the human life.
"The luxuries of the palace, this healthy body,
this rejoicing youth! What do they mean to me?" he thought, "Some day we
may be sick, we shall become aged; from death there is no escape, Pride of
youth, pride of health, pride of existence -- all thoughtful people should
cast them aside."
A man struggling for existence will naturally look
for something of value. There are two ways of looking-- a right way and a
wrong way, If he looks in the wrong way he recognizes that sickness, old
age, and death are unavoidable, but he seek the opposite.
If he looks in the right way he recognizes the
true nature of sickness, old age and death, and he searches for meaning in
that which transcends all human sufferings, In my life of pleasures I seem
to be looking in the wrong way. Thus the spiritual struggle went on
in the mind of the Prince until the Prince reached the age of 29 and his
only child, Rahula, was born. The birth of his child brought the
Prince's struggle to a climax, for the Prince then decided to leave the
palace and look for the solution to his spiritual unrest in the homeless
life of a mendicant. He left the castle one night with only his
charioteer, Chandaka, and his favorite horse, the snow-white
His anguish did not end and many devils tempted
him saying: "You would do better to return to the castle for the
whole world would soon be yours." But he told the devil that he did
not want the whole world, so he shaved his head and turned his steps
toward the south, carrying a begging bowl in his
The Prince first visited the hermit Bhagava and
watched his ascetic practices, he then went to Arada Kalama and Udrake
Ramaputra to learn their methods of attaining Enlightenment through
meditation; but after practicing them for a long time be became convinced
that they would not lead him to Enlightenment. Finally he went to
the land of Magadha and practiced asceticism in the forest of Uruvilva on
the banks of the Nairanjana River, which flows by the Gaya
The methods of his practice were unbelievably
rigorous, he spurred himself on with the thought that "no ascetic in the
past, none in the present, and none in the future, ever has practiced or
ever will practice more earnestly than I do."
Still the Prince could not realize his goal.
After six years in the forest, he gave up the practice of asceticism, he
went bathing in the river and accepted a bowl of milk from the hand of
Sujata, a maiden, who lived in the neighboring village. The five
companions who had lived with the Prince during the six years of his
ascetic practice were shocked that he should receive milk from the hand of
a maiden; they thought him degraded and left him.
Thus the Prince was left alone. He was still
weak, but at the risk of losing his life, he attempted yet another period
of meditation, saying to himself, "Blood may become exhausted, flesh may
decay, bones may fall apart, but I will never leave this place until I
find the way to Enlightenment."
It was an intense and incomparable struggle for
him. He was desperate and filled with confusing thoughts, dark
shadows overhung his spirit, and he was beleaguered by all the lures of
the devils which he patiently examined them one by one and rejected them
all. It was a hard struggle indeed, making his blood run thin, his
flesh fall away, and his bones crack.
But when the morning star appeared in the eastern
sky, the struggle was over and the Prince's mind was a clear and bright as
the breaking day. He had, at last, found the path to
Enlightenment. It was December 8, when the Prince became a Buddha at
thirty-five years of age.
For the next forty-five years the Buddha went
about the country preaching and persuading men to follow his way of life,
he continued teaching his disciples until his last moment. Thus he
entered into perfect tranquility (Nirvana) after he had completed his work
as the world's greatest teacher.