Biography of The Buddha Siddhartha Guatama Part 2
About the famous religious figure Siddhartha Guatama, history and biography of the Buddha.
MESSIAHS AND PROPHETS
SIDDHARTHA GAUTAMA (BUDDHA) (c. 563-483 B.C.)
At last he sat down cross-legged under a pipal tree at Buddh Gaya in India and vowed to meditate until enlightenment came to him. At midnight he gained knowledge of all his past lives and incarnations. He then received the divine eye to see in all living things the constant stream of death, life, and rebirth--the incessant replenishment of the cycle of suffering. By dawn he knew that this would be his last incarnation--that death would bring final surcease and he would be born no more. He rose with the first light as the Buddha, or Enlightened One.
He set out to teach others how to achieve nirvana, the perfect peace. He taught that life is pain, that pain begins with desire, and that all physical cravings must be stilled before wisdom can come. He also preached the Eightfold Way, an ethical system for avoiding extremes and living so that rebirth might be avoided.
For the next 40 years he wandered through northern India. Followed by his band of monks, he taught through conversation, questions, and parables. Once he returned to his father's palace. His reputation having preceded him, he was received with great honors. But when he inducted his now grown son and others in the line of kingly succession into the monastic order, the king made the Buddha promise always to consult parents before accepting novices into the life-denying Buddhist order. Parental consent has been a necessary first step for Buddhists ever since.
In his last years the Buddha bowed to pressure to admit women as nuns. He remarked that the pure religion would last for eternity, but with women only about 500 years. That's about how long it did last in its original form. Buddhism has long since disappeared from India, having been absorbed back into the older Hindu faith. It exists in many forms in the Far East, though the early teachings have been greatly diluted.
The physical Buddha lived to the age of 80, then declared he would live no more. In a grove near the holy city of Benares, it is said, he took the hand of his beloved disciple Ananda and declared: "Whatever is born bears within itself the seeds of destruction. Compound things are impermanent. Work out your own salvation with earnestness."
With that he lay on his side facing west with his head to the north, his right leg propped up on his left. And in this position he attained what he had sought all along--the state of total extinction.
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