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The Life Of the Buddha Photos

O
ne 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 Maya.

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 recluse.

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 Kanthaka.

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 hand.

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 Village.

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.

Introduction to BUDDHISM

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Last modified: 2006-03-22