The Events in the Life of Siddatta Gautama Which Illustrate his Religious Development
Siddatta 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. Siddatta 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.
Siddatta 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. When Siddatta was born, he was born out of the
side of his mother and he immediatley took seven steps towards each
quarter of heaven, and at each of these steps sprung up a lotus
flower. Siddatta's mother died seven days after his birth, and his
aunt brought him up.
There is a tradition that a seer predicted that Siddatta would become
a great religious leader. His father tried to stop this by keeping all
ideas of suffering from his son. Siddatta lived a royal life and
married a princess called Yasodhara. They had a son called Rahula.
When he was 29, Siddatta went riding with his charioteer 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 (everyone grows old), a
sick person (everyone may face disease), and a corpse (everyone has to
die). Siddatta realised that suffering came to everyone. He also saw a
holy man (one who has devoted himself to the spiritual life; a Sadhu.)
He decided to leave his home, rid himself of his fine clothes and
become a Sadhu to try and find a cure for the world's suffering.
Siddatta went to two Brahmins and trained in meditation 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
and treating the body with the strictest discipline. Siddatta assumed
that the only way to gain spiritual insight was to treat the body
severly, until physical needs were reduced to an absolute minimum. He
lived this way for...