Gautama Buddha was an Indian spiritual leader who lived between approximately 563 BC and 483 BC. Born Siddhartha Gautama (Sanskrit, Siddhattha Gotama Pali -- the "wish-fulfiller"), he later became the Buddha (lit. Enlightened One). He is also commonly known as Shakyamuni or Sakyamuni (lit. "The sage of the Shakya clan") and as the Tathagata (lit. thus-gone one), emphasizing the nature of a Buddha to go about in the world without adding or subtracting anything from his experience.) Gautama was a contemporary of Mahavira.

Gautama is the key figure in Buddhism. Accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules, were summarized after his death and memorized by the sangha. Passed down by oral tradition, the Tipitaka was written about one hundred years later.

Table of contents
1 Overview of the Buddha's Life
2 Personality and character
3 External links

Overview of the Buddha's Life

Siddhartha Gautama was born in Lumbini (a Himalayan town modernly situated near the Nepalese side border) under the full moon of May to the clan of the Shakyas. During the birth celebrations, a seer announced that this baby would either become an emperor or a Buddha. It is said that, before being born, Gautama would visit his mother during a vision in the form of a white elephant.

At the age 29, Gautama became unsatisfied with his life. Upon being escorted by his attenant Channa, he came across the "four sights": an old crippled man, a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and finally an ascetic; thus inspired, Gautama chose to become a monk.

Abandoning his inheritance with the disgust of knowing his fate was in the first three sights, he chose the robes of a mendicant monk and headed to southeastern India. He began training in the ascetic life and practicing vigorous austere practices. After 6 years, and at the brink of death, he found that the severe ascetic practices did not lead to greater understanding. Once discarding them and concentrating on meditation, he discovered the middle way, a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. Under the fig, now know as the Bodhi tree, he vowed never to leave the position until he found Truth. At 35, he attained Enlightenment under the full moon month of May; now known as Gautama Buddha, or simply "The Buddha". He claimed he had realized complete Awakening and insight into the nature and cause of human suffering along with the steps necessary to eliminate it. This supreme Awakening, possible to any being, is called the state of Bodhi and at this point, he won Nirvana.

He emphasized that he was not a God but that the position of Buddhahood is reserved for the human, in whom possesses the greatest potential for Enlightenment. Explained by Gautama Buddha, he also stated that there is no intermediary between mankind and the divine; distant gods and God are subjected to karma themselves in decaying heavens. The Buddha is solely a guide and teacher for those sentient beings who must tread the path themselves, attain spiritual Awakening, and see truth & reality as it is. The Buddhist system of insight, thought and meditation practice was not divinely-revealed, but rather, the understanding of the true nature of the human mind which could be discovered by anyone for themselves. Penetration of this reality accompanies the shocking truth that ignorance can be eliminated.

For the remaining 45 years of his life, he traveled the Gangetic Plain of central India (region of the Ganges/Ganga river and its tributaries), teaching his doctrine and discipline to an extremely diverse range of people, from nobles, street sweepers, outcastes, and including many adherents of rival philosophies and religions. He founded the community of Buddhist monks and nuns (the Sangha) to continue the dispensation after his Paranirvana or complete Nirvana.

Gautama Buddha realised that his bodily end was fast approaching. He told his disciple Ananda to prepare a bed between two Sal trees. Just before his passing, a 120 year-old mendicant monk named Subhadra, walked by. Being earlier turned away by Ananda, Buddha overheard this and called the Brahmin to his side. He was admitted to the Sangha (Buddhist order) and immediately after, Gautama passed away on that full moon day in May.

After intermittent illness, Gautama Buddha passing at Kushinagar under the full moon month of May, India at the age of 80. His last meal was a mushroom or truffles delicacy which he had received as an offering from a blacksmith. Vegetarianism is for Buddhists an ideal rather than a mandate, and monks and nuns in particular are enjoined to accept all offerings of food made to them (unless they see, hear, or suspect an animal has been killed especially to satisfy hunger). The Buddha's final words were, "All conditioned things are subject to impermanence. Strive on with diligence".

Personality and character

The Buddha as presented in the Buddhist scriptures is notable for such characteristics as:

External links