How Siddhartha Gautama Became Buddha
Mahayana Buddhism: How Siddhartha Gautama Became Buddha
Siddhartha Gautama was the son of King Shuddodana Gautama, ruler of a country now known as southern Nepal (Boeree, 1999). A soothsayer, Asita, predicted that Siddhartha would either grow to become a king or a sage (“How Siddhartha Gautama”), and to ensure that Siddhartha would become king and not aspire for the religious life, the king ensured that Siddhartha lived a sheltered life and would not witness any suffering.
Siddhartha was wandering the palace one day when he saw an old man, a sick man, and then a dead man. These confused him as he had never seen suffering prior to this. He also later saw a monk who wore a happy and peaceful expression, which inspired him to seek a way to overcome suffering.
At the age of 29, he renounced his wealth and left the palace and his family. He initially studied with two of the famous gurus of the time but was dissatisfied with their practices.
This led him to practice ascetism with a group of ascetics who believed that self-mortification and the desires of the flesh can elevate man to a high spiritual state (“Ascetism,” 2008). He practiced this for six years and did so with much intensity and sincerity that the five ascetics he practiced with became his followers. He intensified his efforts even more by refusing to eat and drink until he became so thin and unhealthy.
This made him realize that extreme ascetism was not helpful and thus, sought the middle way, which is “a path away from all extremes (“Who was Buddha,” 2006). He again started to eat, drink, and bathe. This made his followers think that he had abandoned the ascetic way of life and so they left him.
Siddhartha decided to sit under a fig tree in the town of Bodh Gaya (Boeree) and meditate for as long as necessary for him to receive the answers to the problem of suffering. He began by recalling his previous lives and then seeing everything that went on in the universe. It was also said that during this time, Mara, the evil one, tried to make Siddhartha fail by sending Siddhartha storms and demons. He also sent his daughters to tempt Siddhartha and then he appealed to Siddhartha’s pride.
Siddhartha successfully overcame all the temptations and on the full moon of May, he finally “understood the answer to the question of suffering” (Boeree). He then became Buddha, that is, he who is awake.
Ascetism. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica
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