Siddhartha Gautama (India, between the 6th and 4th centuries BC). Known as Buddha (“enlightened”) he is a sage of Indian origin, on whose philosophy Buddhism was founded. Contrary to what the West has thought, he is not a God, but a historical person, of whose existence there is no doubt. Likewise, his followers claim that his nature could not be another, for the path to the state of enlightenment, also called the Buddha state, is made to be traveled and reached by humans.
As for the exact years in which its existence passed, there is a historical debate. However, in 1998, researchers came to the consensus that his death would surely have occurred around 400 BC. However, the subsequent discovery of a possible Buddhist temple dating back to 550 BC suggests that Buddha’s life is likely to have passed many years earlier, getting closer to theories that refer to the 6th century BC, such as the time in which Sidarta lived Gautama.
According to historians, Sidarta belonged to a clan named Shakyas, which inhabited present-day Nepal, known at the time as Lumbini. From a young age, a holy man had prophesied that Sidarta would become a great political or spiritual leader. His mother passed away seven days after he brought him into the world.
His father built a palace in which he surrounded him with opulence and pleasures, taking him away from all human pain and suffering. At the age of 16 he was married to his cousin Yasodara, with whom he had a son whom they named Rajula. For 29 years he was prince of the palace, until – according to the Buddhists – he began to feel that the purpose of life was not the accumulation of material goods.
The four encounters
The story goes that one day the prince decided to leave his palace, producing what the Buddhists know as “the four encounters”. The first, he narrates how Sidarta first saw an old man, which would cause in his mind the awakening of many questions, which he would try to answer by further exploring the world.
His later encounters were with a sick man, a decomposing corpse and an ascetic. Without references that would allow him to understand what his eyes saw, his coachman was the one who explained what they were finding. In this way, he told him that people grew old, became sick and died, and that there were people, like ascetic, who gave up the world, to get rid of the natural fear of the inevitable acts of death and suffering.
The Way of the Middle
At the age of 29 he left his palace, his wife and son, and gave himself up to a life as an ascetic in order to free himself and overcome the suffering he had learned was inherent in the human. Siddhartha spent the following six years in a thorough study of the teachings of some teachers, as well as surrendering to meditation and fasting, with great strength enduring pain, hunger, and thirst. According to his followers, the extremism of his fast led him to the limit of the dwarfing, one day bathing in a river he had no bodily strength to fight with the current.
Siddhartha nearly drowned, a fact that made him rethink his spiritual path, realizing that just as the accumulation of riches was not the way to enlightenment, neither was extreme asceticism, but that the human had to seek balance or “Middle Way” as it is known for Buddhism.
Birth of the Buddha
Siddhartha then perched under the Bodhi tree and entered a deep state of meditation, determined to find answers to all his questions. He meditated for several days, in which he managed to purify his thoughts, review his current life, as well as his past existences, and defeat the evil demon Mara, who presented himself in his thoughts to rob him of his right to enlightenment.
Siddhartha then reached the state of enlightenment, managing to see all that had happened in the universe, finding answers to all his questions and becoming Buddha, who attained awakening. In principle, Buddha did not intend to convey what he had learned, so Brahma, the king of the gods, convinced him. Buddha rose and set out on his teaching journey.
The Dharma and his last teaching
For the rest of his life he devoted himself to preaching his teachings known as Dharma, which explain the pillars of Buddhism included in the principles of the Four Noble Truths and the Ctuple Path, whose aim is to lead man on the path of Lighting. His first disciples founded communities of monks, called Sangha, where anyone – regardless of race, sex or social class – could participate in order to seek to find within themselves the Buddha state.
He is believed to have died at the age of eighty, not before transmitting his last teaching, given to the disciples who accompanied him, and which consisted of the guideline of not following any leader. His legacy has been preached for generations in all corners of the world, being considered one of the most influential figures in history.
Image source: taringa.net
July 17, 2019
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