Buddhist Beliefs, Practices and Experiences

Life of Buddha

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The historical Buddha was born in the 6th century B.C.E. in what is now Nepal to a royal family and was named Prince Siddhartha Gautama. His father was the noble King Suddhodana of the Kingdom of Kapilavastu, and his mother was lovely Queen Maya who died seven days after her son’s birth. In the Shin and other Mahayana traditions, Siddhartha Gautama is viewed as the incarnation or Tathagata of Amida, meaning the "One Thus Come" from Immeasurable Life and Light.

Growing up with power, wealth and fame, at the age of twenty nine, he left his life of privilege and luxury to discover spiritual freedom from humanity’s endless suffering. Struggling with his decision, he left behind his wife and only child under the care of his father and the court, and became an ascetic wanderer for the next six years. During that time, he studied under the best spiritual teachers of the times. Finally, after rejecting ascetic practices, he discovered the Middle Way, and then one day he resolved to attain Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. After going through temptations and inner strife, alas, he manifested enlightenment for the sake of all of us and transformed into the Buddha, the Awakened One. One scripture recounts this historical event as follows.

 

“At the moment of awakening, the Buddha exclaimed, ‘Wonder of wonders, all living beings are truly enlightened and shine with wisdom and virtue. But because their minds have become deluded and turned inward to the self-centered ego, the fail to understand this.”

 

He is also referred to as Shakyamuni, Sage of the Shakya clan, and the King of Truth (Dharma), and the Light of the World. Unlike the popular western image of him as a fat and happy sage, the scriptures recount his physical appearance as quite extraordinarily attractive, fairer skinned, athletically built and he possessed a magnetic charisma and a quick wit.

 

For the next forty-five years, he taught his core teaching of the Four Noble Truths, which affirmed the human condition, its limitations and its potential for evolutionary achievement.

 

  1. Life is dukkha (suffering and unsatisfactoriness)
  2. dukkha is caused by craving (which is the result of a dualist mind-set)
  3. dukkha can be transformed into Nirvana (peace and a non-dual mind-set)
  4. The path to realize Nirvana (the Eightfold Path)

 

Later in his life as his disciple grew spiritually mature and numerous, he taught the bodhisattva practices of the Six Perfections which include that following practices.

 

  1. Generosity
  2. Ethics
  3. Patience
  4. Zeal or Energy
  5. Meditation
  6. Wisdom

 

He lived his life as an example of beauty, love and naturalness. Throughout his noble life, he taught and served others in multiple ways regardless of race, caste, age, class, gender or species. He taught the cultivation of the mind, the practice of ethical living and wisdom. He said, "Consider others as yourself," and "cease to do evil, learn to do good and purify your mind."

 

After many years of teaching, one day on Mt. Vulture in Rajagrha, he finally told the Sacred Story of Amida to his disciples Ananda and Maitreya. This historical event and mythic story was later recorded down in the scripture called The Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life. In this text the Buddha taught,

 

“All sentient beings who have heard the nembutsu, rejoice in received faith, remembering her even once and sincerely transfer the merit of virtuous practices to that realm, aspiring to be born there, will attain birth and dwell in the stage of non-retrogression.”  --Chap. 22

 

On his eightieth birthday, in a grove near Kushinagar, he passed away peacefully into Parinirvana. His last words were, “... be a lamp unto yourselves, look for no other refuge. Let the truth be your map and your refuge ... work out your own salvation with diligence.”

 
 
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Copyright 2006. G.R. Lewis, All Rights Reserved

The author grants permission to copy this document for personal uses only.