The Brahmans became the mainstay of society and they took full advantage of it to enrich themselves and live a life of ease, vice and comfort. The true ‘dharma’ of the mind and soul was lost in fright of not doing the prolonged rituals as prescribed by the ‘Pandits’, who were the only ones that read the Vedas, etc., in Sanskrit and did not encourage anyone to go into deep study of the various ‘Purans’, etc. Truth became a haze.
So was born Siddhartha to the Sakya Kings of Kapilavastu. Mahamaya his mother wanted the birth to take place in her own father’s kingdom at Devadaha. The queen had a dream of a white elephant with six trunks entering her body before she became aware of this child in her body. The astrologers predicted that this child would be a great prophet or emperor and the king in great joy made all arrangements to send his pregnant wife to her father’s house where she wanted to have the baby.
The road between Kapilavatsu and Devadaha was made smooth and water vessels and banners and banana leaves put at different intervals. She went in a palanquin, but on the way at ‘the Lubmni grove’ she gave birth to a son, they say a spring appeared on its own and the child was bathed in it. But Mahamaya died seven days later and the child was brought up by his stepmother and an aunt named Mahapriyapati Gotami who fed him milk from her own breast. He is said to have been born in 507 BC.
Siddhartha was brought upon great luxury and was married off at the age of sixteen to Yasodhara also known as Gopa or Bimba. A son was born to them when Siddhartha was 20 years old and was named Rahul. But family life was not for Siddhartha who also became known as Gautama. Once while going out with his charioter Chhauna and touring the city he saw an old man having been abandoned by his kith and kin.
He saw another old man suffering from the agony of a disease and was told by Chhauna that that was the fate of all in the end. Then he saw a dead man being carried by his weeping relatives and the fourth incident that affected him was a mendicant who had given up the world and was searching for the ‘Truth’! All this rackled in the mind of Gautama and even when a child was born to him he felt that he could not lead a life of luxury.
They say that he left his wife and child sleeping and went with his charioter — but it is also mentioned in the Majjhema Nikaya that he renounced the world in front of his weeping mother and father and went into a world of the homeless.
He sat at the feet of Alara and Uderaka at Rajagriha now in Bihar and learnt the art of concentration of mind: neither consciousness nor non-consciousness. From there he went to Urvela and practiced extreme penance and was reduced to a mere skeleton — but in spite of his great suffering he gained no enlightenment.
He then started to keep away from sensual desire and food but to no avail. Thereafter he started to take food. One day he sat under a peepal tree at Gaya again in Bihar and vowed not to get up from there until he got that peace of mind for which he had been trying all his life. Although he had to face a lot of hardships he did not budge from his meditation. Ultimately after 19 years Gautama suddenly got his enlightenment and came to be known as the Buddha, the enlightened one. This happened when he was 35 years of age — after which he just wanted to teach the people the true way to “Nirvaan” or complete happiness.
After realising that ‘Ahimsa’ was the chief aspect for attaining peace he decided to preach what he had learnt after years of meditation. He travelled all over the country. He gave his first sermon at Somnath at Banaras. This was the “Dharma Chakra” Pravartana or the turning of the wheel of law. He travelled to his native land and his own son also became a monk.
His teaching embraced all sects and castes and that there was no one high or low. He spoke in Pali which was easily understood by the common people who were fed up by the arrogant Brahmins who used to conduct their everlasting rituals in Sanskrit — which were hardly understood by the common man and as was the case of Purushram who killed the Kshatriyas because of their highhanded behaviour Buddha overcame the tyranny of the Brahmans.
But his teachings were all taken from the Hindu system and he lived and died as Hindu with a great thrust towards diminishing the rituals or prolonged worship of the many facets of the Hindu Gods. All was in the brain and in the words of wisdom that one thought and translated into action to all living beings — this then was the message taught by the Buddha who laid down the rules of behaviour thus:
His favourite sutra was the following Four Noble Truths — which exphasised the fact that life was full of pain — suffering due to desire — the removal of which would bring tranquility and peace.
(1) The first truth is the existence of review. All here is transient — sorrowful and full of pain.
(2) The second truth is the cause of sorrow. Desire is the cause of evils and hence it must be removed.
(3) The third truth is sorrow ceasing. Sorrow can be ended only by the elimination of desire. When sorrow ends — there is perfect bless. Life and death ends.
Buddha taught the eight-fold way namely:
(1) Right views,
(2) Right intentions,
(3) Right speech,
(4) Right action,
(5) Right living,
(6) Right effort,
(7) Right mindfulness, and
(8) Right concentration.
His guide on right living was:
(1) Let not one kill any living being
(2) Let one not take what is not given to him
(3) Let one not speak falsely
(4) Let one not drink intoxicating drinks
(5) Let one not be unchaste
According to Buddha a man should overcome anger by kindness, evil by good. Victory breeds hatred for the conquered who are unhappy. Never in the world hatred ceases by hatred, hatred ceases with love.
He discouraged questions as to what and wherefrom and where for — the world had come and good humouredly told a disciple that even Brahma would not know as to where He would go and from whence He came. A person should pay attention to this life and try to live a life of compassion — truth and renunciation.
He and his Bhikshu went each alone from house to house with their bowls and took what was given as food and never did ask for alms. They wore just one orange or yellow cloth and kept themselves submerged in study.
Buddha taught that saintliness and contentment were to be found not in the knowledge of the Universe — in God — but in selfless and virtuous labour. He sent his disciples to all the lands to preach this gospel — telling them that the rich and the high are all one and that all castes unite in this religion as the rivers in the sea.
Buddhism spread outside the shores of India in the South-East Asia — China, Indonesia, Burma, Tibet and Thailand but slowly lost its hold in its parent country where the original teachings of the Vedas and Puranas and the Upnishads came back. Still Buddhism holds a great attraction for the Hindu and Buddha has thus become the ninth incarnation. Buddha is accepted as a Hindu although his teachings became known as Buddhism. He founded many Sanghs which spread his teachings.
India has always thrown up a person required to balance the sea saw of life and accepts life as it is, tilting the balance to the required level of that time.
They say that perhaps idols of the other Hindu gods were made after Buddha whose disciples cut beautiful figures and heads of Him which the Hindus followed in relation to their own Gods.
Buddha left behind a lot of Sangha, and great and beautiful monasteries and universities were built for learning and concentration like Nalanda at Bihar and great scholars from abroad came to study there — they have left a lot of description of the great influence — Buddhism had a great influence on the kings that came after Gautam Buddha — like Ashoka who embraced Buddhism after the great battle and killings in Kalinga, what is now known as Orissa. Then Kaniska and Harsh all propagated this religion far and wide.
Buddha was a man of strong will and a great debater and put his opponent on the defensive. The teachings he taught were known as Hineyanism and later a lot of branches took off from these — like it happens in all religions and today Buddhism practised in different spheres differs to quite an extent from each other.
Buddha died at the age of 80 at Kushinagar identified with Kasia in Deoria is UP.