The Life Of Buddha Essay, Research Paper

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The Life Of Buddha Essay, Research Paper

The Buddah was born in the sixth or fifth century BC in the kingdom of the Sakyas, on the present day border of Napal and India. The tern Buddah is not a real name but only a title. His real name was Gotama. He was the son of the king. His life embodies all the most extreme social circumstances which include starting his life as one in the most exalted position who moves by his own choice to the lowliest and most uncomfortable of all possible social positions. The story of the Buddha’s life begins with the story of a dream that his mother, Mahamaya, had the night before he was born. The dream was about a beautiful white elephant, which entered her womb through her side. When the Brahmans (Vedic priests) were asked to interpret the dream they foretold the birth of a son who would become either a powerful monarch or a Buddha. Ten months after the conception, the queen and her entourage left their kingdom to go visit her parents. In the middle of the trip she gave birth to Gotama in the middle of a park on the night of a full moon in the month of May. The so-called site of his birth lies within the present day borders of Napal. A pillar exists to this day built in commemoration to the Buddha in the place of his birth by Asoka, a 3rd BC Buddhist emperor of India.On the fifth day after his birth 108 Brahman’s were invited to a name giving ceremony. Eight of these Brahman’s were experts in interpreting body marks. Seven of them agreed on Buddha’s future: if he remained home he would become a great monarch, but if he left he would definitely become a Buddha. The 8th Brahman, Kondanna, said that the child would definitely become a Buddha. The child was given the name Siddhartha which means “one whose name is accomplished.” This man later became Buddha’s companion and one of his first five disciples. On the seventh day after his birth his mother died. From this point on he was raised by his aunt. The young prince was brought up in great luxury. His father was always worried that his son would leave home and become a wandering mystic seeking Buddhahood. His father spared no expense trying to bring his son up to appreciate the worldly life, and at the age of 16 Siddhattha married his cousin. Something obviously has to change in Sidhattha’s life. The turning point in his life comes when he is 29 years old. One day while out driving around the town with his driver at the helm, he saw “an aged man as bent as a roof gable, decrepit, leaning on his staff as he walked, and well past his prime.” His driver explained that he was old and all men are subject the ravages of old age. The prince was greatly affected by this sight and he went back to his palace and became very contemplative. Another day, while out doing the same thing, he saw “a sick man, suffering and very ill, fallen and weltering in his own excretion.” His driver explained again that the man was sick and that all men are subject to sickness. On a third occasion the prince saw a dead body and again his driver provided and explanation. At last, the prince saw “a shaven-headed man, a wanderer who has gone forth, wearing the yellow robe. He was impressed with the man’s peaceful demeanor and he decided to go out into the world to find the reason for which a man could attain such absurd peacefulness in the face such horror as exists in the world. These four experiences are referred to as the “four signs.” On the way back to the palace he received word that his wife had delivered him a son, whom he named Rahula, which means “Fetter” or “Bond.” When he received this news he made the decision to make what is known as ,”The Great Renunciation,” which meant for him to give up his princely life and all the privileges and luxuries that came with it. He woke up in the middle of the night and ordered his horse saddled. He then proceeded to go to his sleeping chambers to take a last look at his wife and his sleeping babe. He resolved to come see them again one day. Once he got a reasonable distance away from his palace and crossed an important river, he sent his servant back with his horse. He headed south from there where places of learning and spiritual enlightenment flourished. He went to Rajagaha, the kingdom of the Magadha kingdom where he ran into the king. The young man’s handsome appearance and his serene attitude impressed the king. Upon learning that the young man standing before him was a former prince he tried to give the young prince every possible comfort and to stay and share his kingdom. Young Gotama, now at the age of twenty-nine, rejected the king’s offer explaining that he had no need of these things which he had already renounced. So instead the king struck a deal with Gotama that when he succeeded in his quest and attained enlightenment that would return to Rajagaha again, to which Gotama agreed. So now Gotama’a search for truth begins in earnest. Gotama went from here in a search for teachers. He finds Alara Kalama, a renowned sage, and expresses his desire to attain enlightenment and asks for the sage to take him as far as possible. The sage agrees to take him on as a student. Gotama studied and rapidly mastered Alara” whole system and then inquired to his master how far he had realized his own system.. He was told that he had reached “”he sphere of no- thing.” Gotama soon attained the same mystical state himself . Kalama now declares that he and Gotama are now equals in every respect. He had now learned everything from this mystic that he could. Although he had reached a very high mystical state, he was not satisfied with this plateau. He was in search of nothing less than pure and absolute nirvana, and thus he left Kalama.He then went to Uddaka Ramaputta, another great teacher. This one taught him to attain the “sphere of neither-perception-nor -perception. This was a much higher level of conscienceless than the “sphere of no-thing,” but it wasn’t what he was searching for, so he left.As he was traveling through the Magahda country, he came upon,” a beautiful stretch of land, a lovely woodland grove, and a clear flowing river with a pleasant river flowing by and a village close-by for support.” He was joined there by a group of five other mystics. One of these mystics is Kondanna, the Brahman who predicted at his naming ceremony that he would defiantly become a Buddha. It is around this time that his real struggle for truth begins. He began practicing self-mortification and inflicting much punishment on himself. The following text is a selection from the ancient text the Majjhima Nikaya: Because of so little nourishment, all my limbs become like some withered creepers with knotted joints; my buttocks like a buffalo’s hoof; my backbone protruding like a string of balls; my ribs like the rafters of a dilapidated shed; like pupils of my eyes at the bottom of a deep well; my scalp became shriveled and sunk as a bitter gourd cut unripe become shriveled and shrunk by sun and wind; the skin of my belly came to be cleaving to my back-bone; when I wanted to obey the calls of nature, I fell on my face then and there; when I stroked my limbs with my hand, hairs rotted at the roots fell away from my body. From these experiences his body became so frail and weak that he once fainted and was believed to be dead. From these experiences he came to learn that one could not attain enlightenment by punishing one’s body like that, and so from then on he began to eat the proper amounts of food and to take care of his body.One morning, Gotama was seated under the shade of a banyan tree when he was offered a bowl of milk rice from the daughter of the landowner of a nearby village, which he graciously accepted. This is purported to be his last meal before Enlightenment. He spent the day in a grove of sal trees and in the evening went to the base of a pipal tree, and sat there cross-legged resolved to remain there until he attained Enlightenment. It is at this point that the most difficult part of Gotama’s struggles began: Mara, the evil one, the tempter who is the lord of the world of passion, determined to defeat him and prevent him from attaining enlightenment. He approached Gotama with his demonic hordes. Gotama, however, sat unmoved in meditation supported only by the ten paramitas (virtues). In order to attain buddahood, all bodhisattvas (those who seek to attain Enlightenment) have to perfect during innumerable past lives as a bodhisattvas the 10 paranitas: charity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, effort, patience, truth, determination, wisdom, effort, patience, truth, determination, universal love, and equanimity. Mara was vanquished and fled headlong with his armies of evil spirits. According to the Pali Sutanipata, one of the earliest texts, Mara approached him saying such things as: ” You are emaciated, pale, you are near death. Live, sir, life is better. Do meritorious deeds. What is the use of striving.”Gotama replied,” Lust is your first army; the second is dislike for higher life; the third is hunger and thirst; the fourth is craving; the fifth is stupor and sloth; the sixth is fear; the seventh is doubt; the eight is hypocrisy; the ninth is gains, praise, honor, false glory; the tenth is exalting self and despising others. Mara, these are your armies. No feeble man can conquer them, yet only by conquering them one wins bliss. I challenge you! Shame on my life if defeated! Better for me to die than to live defeated. Mara was overcome with shame and grief and disappeared. Having defeated Mara, Gotama spent the rest of the night in deep meditation under the tree. During the first part of the night he gained the knowledge of his former existence. During the second part of the night he attained “the superhuman divine eye,” the power to see the passing away and rebirth of beings. In the last part of the night he directed his mind to the knowledge of the destruction of all defilements and realized the “Four Noble Truths.” In the words of the Buddha himself, ” My mind was emancipated . Ignorance was dispelled, knowledge arose; darkness was dispelled, light arose.” It is in this way that Gotama at the age of thirty -five, achieved enlightenment. After the Enlightenment the Buddha spent several weeks meditating on the various aspects of the dharma that he had realized, particularly on the most important and difficult doctrine of casual relations, known as the dependent origination. This doctrine views everything as relative and interdependent and teaches that there is no eternal, everlasting, unchanging, permanent, or absolute substance, such as the soul, within or without man. Four weeks after his Enlightenment, while seated under a bayan tree, the Buddha is reported to have thought to himself: ” I have realized this truth which is deep, difficult to see, difficult to understand, comprehensible only to the wise. Men who are overpowered by passion and surrounded by a mass of darkness cannot see this truth which is against the current, which is lofty, deep, subtle, and hard to understand.” His next task was to take what he had learned and teach it to others. At first he doubted that the knowledge that he had gained was possible to transfer to anybody else. He thought that perhaps the comprehension of the knowledge was something far beyond the grasp of effort or pure intelligence. When a prominent Brahman persuaded him otherwise that his knowledge should be shared, he set about the task of finding the appropriate people who would be receptive to his information. He thought of the five companions who had left him a few years before because he had chosen to give up self-mortification as a path to enlightenment.

Upon finding them, he told them that he was an arhat, ” a perfected one,” that he had realized the immortal and that he wished to teach it to them. These wandering mystics didn’t believe him at first. It took quite a bit of convincing before they finally took him at his word. When they did come to accept what he said they began to refer to him as Reverend Gotama. The Buddha then delivered his first sermon, which can be translated to mean the ” Sermon on Setting the Wheel of Truth in Motion.” An ancient stupa ( a building containing a religious relic) still exists on the place where this sermon was supposed to have happened. The substance of the first sermon is this: a man who has left home and gone forth should not follow two extremes, namely self- indulgence and self-mortification. Avoiding these two extremes, the Buddha has discovered the middle path leading to vision, to calmness, to awakening, to nirvana. This middle path is known as the Noble Eightfold Path consisting of right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right mode of living, right endeavor, right mindfulness, and right concentration. The first Noble Truth is that man’s life is full of conflict, dissatisfaction, sorrow, and suffering. The second Noble Truth is that all this is caused by man’s selfish desire. The third Noble Truth is that there is emancipation, liberation, and freedom for human beings from all of this, which is nirvana. The fourth Noble Truth, the Noble Eightfold Path, is nirvana. At the end of the sermon these five mystics were admitted by the Buddha as monks and became the first members of the sangha (community or order). A few days later this sermon was followed by another, the Anatalakkhana-sutta, which dealt with the doctrine of no self. At the conclusion of which all five monks became arhats, or Buddha’s themselves. The Buddha spent about three months in the same region and in this course of time a wealthy and influential young man named Yasa became a member of his order. His father and mother as well as his wife were also converted. Soon after, four of Yasa’s close friends followed his example and entered the order. Enthusiasm for this new order was growing quickly and soon fifty of their friends entered the order. All of these people attained enlightenment in a short amount of time and Buddha soon had 60 disciples who were had attained enlightenment. The Buddha addressed his followers in the following manner: “Bhikkhus, I am freed from all fetters, both divine and human. You, too, are free from all fetters both divine and human. Wander forth, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world .Let not two of you go by the same road. Teach the Dhamma, which is good at the beginning, good in the middle, and good at the end .. There are people who will understand the Dharmma. I, too, will go to Uruvela to teach the Dhamma. From this point the Buddha set out to Urvela. On the way he converted thirty young men, who entered the order. In the region of Urvela he also converted three leading mystics as well as their followers. To these mystics he delivered the famous,” Fire Sermon.” This sermon states that a man’s life is burning with the fire of lust, the fire of hate, and the fire of delusion. From Uruvela the Buddha went on to Rajagaha, to fulfill his promise to King Bimbisara. Many people, including the king, became his disciples. From there the Buddha went back to Kapilavatthu, the city of his birth, at the request of his father, with a large number of his disciples. In this city which he had at one time reigned over as a prince and lived in great splendor and wealth, he now went from house to house begging for food. This upset his father, the king, quite a bit, but he was somewhat relieved when he learned that this was the custom of all Buddha’s. He then hosted the Buddha and all his monks to come and eat a meal at the palace. A large number of people, including his father and aunt as well as many people in the same clan, became his followers. All of the women in the palace came to pay homage to him except his wife. She said that he would come and visit her if she had any virtue, and then she would fall down and worship him. The Buddha came to visit her, at which point she fell on her knees and clasped his ankles with her hands. Many years pass and the Buddha’s message is embraced wherever he goes. His cousin, Devadetta, was one of the Buddha’s rivals from the early days. He joined the order but was never sincerely devoted to the Buddha. He became quite popular and influential in the order. About eight years before the Buddha’s death he suggested the idea that, in light of the Buddha’s advancing years, that the leadership of the order should be handed over to him . The Buddha rejected the idea, however, saying that he would not pass the leadership of the order over to anyone. Instead he wanted the order to be run according to democratic principles. He himself wrote a constitution which laid down the rules to guide the spiritual and material life of the monks and nuns and to regulate the structure and dynamics of monastic life. After Devadetta had been rejected like this he crafted in his mind three elaborate attempts on Buddha’s life, all of which failed. After his failures he tried to break up the order into different sects, one of which he tried to lead. All of these newly ordained monks who were misled by Devadetta were later on brought back to the Buddha. After this final and ultimate failure Devadetta became seriously ill and died after nine months of illness.At the age of 80, after he had accomplished his everything he had set out to do, including establishing Buddism as a major discipline, he set out with a group of monks on his last journey, to Rajagaha to the north. Here he became seriously sick. He thought dying without preparing his monks for his passing was the wrong thing to do. So therefore he fought his illness and bore all the pain that came with it, and finally conquered what ailed him. His health, however, was still poor. The Buddha made it known that he was planning on dying in three months. He called for an assembly of all the monks in the area. He told them to follow the good that he had taught them and spread it abroad for the good of the many, the compassion of the world. The Buddha set out again and visited several towns and villages. He finally came upon Pava and stayed with his devoted follower, Cunda the goldsmith. It was here that he ate his last meal. After the meal the Buddha became violently sick, but he bore his pains without complaint. The Buddha arrived in Kusinara towards evening. He lay between two sal trees. He laid on his right side with one leg over the other. This was the night of the full moon in the month of May, just as it was on his birth. One of his most devoted attendants, Ananda, cried out, ” My master is about to pass away from me- he who is so kind to me.” Buddha replied,” No, Ananda, don’t weep. Haven’t I told you separation is inevitable from all near and dear to us. Whatever is born, produced, conditioned, contains within itself the nature of its own dissolution. It cannot be otherwise.” The Buddha addressed his monks and told him that his time was almost up. He then asked him if there was anything else that needed him to clarify. They all remained silent. Then the Buddha addressed his monks for the final time. He said,” Then, I address you now: transient are all conditioned things. Try to accomplish all things with diligence.” A week later his body was cremated. A dispute of the relics of the Buddha arose between the Mallas and the rulers of several different kingdoms. It was settled by an old Brahman who pointed out that it was wrong to quarrel of the relics of a man who had preached nothing but peace. With consent from all parties, the relics were divided up into eight portions to the satisfaction of all. Stupas were built over all the relics, and great feasts were held in honor of the Buddha. This is the legend. This is the myth. Some say it is prophecy. It is without a doubt the word and philosophy by which many direct their lives. Is it merely a tale, loosely based upon real historical events, which reflect the philosophies of those who wrote her. These tales have been shaped by the distortion of time, and the legends have been shadowed by the thousands of years of tradition and dogma. This is a story, which is in essence historically more of less accurate, but which has much insight. One of the more trivial problems that I had with this story was how the Buddha attained his enlightenment. It seems that he sat in a grove of sal tree’s and resloved to remain there until the attained his goal. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I suppose he was pretty sure he was about to be thunderstruck when he made this decision. Did he feel himself warming up to the proposition, or did it come in degrees. Did he carry a Snickers bar with him in case enlightenment didn’t work out to the schedules that his body demanded? The part about Buddha attaining enlightenment is my favorite part. Mara approached him and said,” You are pale, emancipated, weak and near death. Give up to me and live! Is not life better than death?” The Buddha sat there, battered of body, crossed-legged, and essentially challenges Mara, the evil one, to a mortal combat. Mara didn’t like the prospect of Buddha attaining enlightenment at all. The Buddha sat there supported by the ten paramitas, or virtues. He vanquished Mara and her dark armies. As she flew into the abyss with her legions behind her, the Buddha meditated for the rest of the night. In the latter part of the night he gains the, “superhuman divine eye.” With this he can see the passing away and rebirth of spirits. I guess he didn’t realize he had that particular superpower until he was in range of being able to see the death of some type of organism. First off all, it is interesting to note the comparision between Jesus Christ at the conclusion of his forty day fast during which time the devil tried to tempt him. Jesus himself was in an extraordinarily emaciated state at the time of which the devil tried to tempt him with bread and all manner or worldly pleasures. He also rebuked the devil in the same manner as the Buddha did. It is interesting to note the comparisons between these similar stories in differing religions which happened at different times in different places but all have a similar element ringing true. I believe there is also a tale in Hinduism that involves forty days of conflict followed by enlightenment.


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