Siddhartha Gautama and His Religious Development
Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Buddha or 'the enlightened one' was
born about 560 BC and died at the age of eighty. He was the founder of
the Buddhist religion. Siddhartha lived in north-eastern India, an
area which followed the Hindu religious tradition, which was, in those
days a great variety of Indian traditions and practices.
Indian society was then divided up by the Hindu caste system. The
highest caste were the Brahmins or priests, with the next caste down
being the Kshatriyas, who were rulers or soldiers.
Siddhartha was born in a place called Lumbini, into the Shakya clan.
He was a prince, and was therefore in the Kshatriyas caste. The story
of his birth to Queen Maya, wife of Raja Shuddhodana of the Kingdom of
Kapilavastu, said that his mother had a dream that eight Brahmins or
priests said was a good omen. They said the child would be holy and
achieve perfect wisdom. Siddhartha's mother died seven days after his
birth, and his aunt brought him up.
There is a tradition that a seer predicted that Siddhartha would
become a great religious leader. His father tried to stop this by
keeping all ideas of suffering from his son. Siddhartha lived a royal
life and married a princess called Yasodhara. They had a son called
When he was 29, Siddhartha went riding and saw four things that made
him think about his life and want to change it. He saw three examples
of suffering: an old man, a sick person, and a corpse. Siddhartha
realized that suffering came to everyone. He also saw a holy man, or
Sadhu. He decided to leave his life of luxury and become a Sadhu to
try and fin a cure for the world's suffering.
Siddhartha went to two Brahmins, but was not happy with their
teaching. He then tried living in the forest with Sadhus who tried to
become better spiritually by living very simply. He lived this way for
six years and nearly starved himself to death, but did not find an
answer to suffering.
He was now 35 years old, and had not found an answer to the question
of suffering. Siddhartha decided to sit under a tree and meditate
until he had an answer. The tree he sat under was a papal tree.
The first thing that happened as he sat under the tree was that a
devil figure called Mara tried to frighten him away from his
meditation. The story then goes that the Hindu earth goddess
Vasundhara appeared and helped him. The devil then left and Siddhartha
carried on meditating until he became enlightened, and experienced the
peace of Nirvana. He had found a whole new way of seeing and relating
Siddhartha now became called the Buddha, or enlightened one. He
decided he had to tell other people how to overcome suffering and find
peace. The first people he told were the Sadhus he had lived with in