is the fourth largest religion in the world, being exceeded
in numbers only by Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.
It was founded in Northern India by the Buddha, Siddhartha
Gautama. He was born circa 563 BCE in Lumbini which
is in modern-day Nepal. At the age of 29, he left his
wife, children and political involvements in order to
seek truth. It was an accepted practice at the time
for some men to leave their family and lead the life
of an ascetic. He studied Brahmanism, but ultimately
rejected it. In 535 BCE, he attained enlightenment and
assumed the title Buddha (one who has awakened).
Buddha's original name was Siddhartha. It meant one
who had accomplished his aim. Gautama was Siddhartha's
family name. Siddhartha was known all over the world
as Buddha, the Enlightened. He was also known by the
name of Sakhya Muni, which meant an ascetic of the
The Buddha who is the founder of the Buddhist religion
is called Buddha Shakyamuni. "Shakya" is
the name of the royal family into which he was born,
and "Muni" means "Able One." Buddha
Skakyamuni was born as a royal prince in 624 BC in
a place called Lumbini, which was originally in northern
India but is now part of Nepal. His mother's name
was Queen Mayadevi and his father's name was King
Shuddhodana. Siddhartha spent his boyhood at Kapilavastu
and its vicinity.
He was married at the age of sixteen. His wife's name
was Yasodhara. Siddhartha had a son named Rahula.
At the age of twenty-nine, Siddhartha Gautama suddenly
abandoned his home to devote himself entirely to spiritual
pursuits and Yogic practices. A mere accident turned
him to the path of renunciation.
One day he managed, somehow or the other, to get
out of the walled enclosure of the palace and roamed
about in the town along with his servant Channa to
see how the people were getting on. The sight of a
decrepit old man, a sick man, a corpse and a monk
finally induced Siddhartha to renounce the world.
He felt that he also would become a prey to old age,
disease and death. Also, he noticed the serenity and
the dynamic personality of the monk. Let me go beyond
the miseries of this Samsara (worldly life) by renouncing
this world of miseries and sorrows. This mundane life,
with all its luxuries and comforts, is absolutely
worthless. I also am subject to decay and am not free
from the effect of old age. Worldly happiness is transitory".
Gautama left for ever his home, wealth, dominion,
power, father, wife and the only child. He shaved
his head and put on yellow robes. He marched towards
Rajgriha, the capital of the kingdom of Magadha. There
were many caves in the neighboring hills. Many hermits
lived in those caves. Siddhartha took Alamo Kalamo,
a hermit, as his first teacher. He was not satisfied
with his instructions. He left him and sought the
help of another recluse named Uddako Ramputto for
spiritual instructions. At last he determined to undertake
Yogic practices. He practiced severe Tapas (austerities)
and Pranayama (practice of breath control) for six
years. He determined to attain the supreme peace by
practicing self-mortification. He abstained almost
entirely from taking food. He did not find much progress
by adopting this method. He was reduced to a skeleton.
He became exceedingly weak.
According to Buddha "Dharma" means "protection".
By practicing Buddha's teachings we protect our self
from suffering and problems. All the problems we experience
during daily life originate from ignorance, and the
method for eliminating ignorance is to practice Dharma.
Practicing Dharma is the supreme method for improving
the quality of our human life. The quality of life
depends not upon external development or material
progress, but upon the inner development of peace
and happiness. For example, in the past many Buddhists
lived in poor and underdeveloped countries, but they
were able to find pure, lasting happiness by practicing
what Buddha had taught.
Buddha went to Sravasti, the capital of the kingdom
of Kosala. Here a wealthy merchant gave him for residence
an extensive and beautiful forest. Buddha spent many
rainy seasons there and delivered several grand discourses.
Thus Lord Buddha preached his doctrine for over forty-five
years traveling from place to place.
Buddha died of an illness brought on by some error in
diet. He became ill through eating Sukara-maddavam,
prepared for him by a lady adherent named Cundo. The
commentator explains the word as meaning 'hog's flesh'.
Subadhara Bhikshu thinks it means something which wild
boars are fond of and says that it has something of
the nature of a truffle. Dr. Hoey says that it is not
boar's flesh but Sukarakanda or hog's root, a bulbous
root found chiefly in the jungle and which Hindus eat
with great joy. It is a Phalahar that is eaten on days
Buddha said to Ananda, "Go Ananda, prepare for
me, between twin Sal trees, a couch with the head northward.
I am exhausted and would like to lie down". A wonderful
scene followed. The twin Sal trees burst into full bloom
although it was not the blossoming season. Those flowers
fell on the body of Buddha out of reverence. Divine
coral tree flowers and divine sandalwood powders fell
from above on Buddha's body out of reverence.
Lord Buddha said, "Come now, dear monks. I bid
you farewell. Compounds are subject to dissolution.
Prosper ye through diligence and work out your salvation".