He knows all about Buddha, who he was and how he came to make an image so revered by many people around the world.
Over the centuries, the image of Buddha has been depicted so many times that even in the West his effigy is as familiar as any other artistic object. We usually see him sitting on his legs in meditative attitude, with a more or less protruding bulge at the top of the skull and a hairy mole between his eyebrows, covered by a vaporous priestly mantle and his face haloed by a pleasant serenity and sweetness. There is something, however, that surprises sometimes: to be an ascetic who has renounced the pleasures of the world and who knows in depth the human miseries, in certain representations seems excessively well nourished and too satisfied.
It is common belief to consider that the Saints led a hermit life of struggle and sacrifice in search of inner peace, and it was indeed in India that Buddha knew, some five hundred years before Jesus Christ. The idea of purification through suffering was usual among mature or elderly men, horrified and confused by the wickedness of their contemporaries. They often abandoned their families and took refuge in the mountains, covered in rags and with a wooden bowl as their only possession, which they used to beg for food. Before becoming a Buddha, which means “the enlightened One,” Siddhartha Gautama also practiced these bodily disciplines selflessly, but he soon found that they were useless.
A life of the Prince
Siddhartha Gautama was probably born in the year 558 BC in Kapilavastu, walled city of the Sakya kingdom located in the southern region of the Himalayas, in India. Known also with the name of Sakyamuni ( “The Wise of Sakya “), Siddhartha was the son of Suddhodana, King of Sakya, and of the Mayan queen, who came from a powerful family of the kingdom.
According to tradition, Siddhartha was born in the gardens of Lumbini, when his mother was heading to visit his own family. The Mayan Queen died seven days after she had given birth and the newborn was raised by her maternal aunt Mahaprajapati. Siddhartha grew up surrounded by luxury: it had three palaces, one of winter, another of summer and a third for the season of the rains.
Of his years of study, possibly led by two brahamanes, it is only known that he astonished his teachers for their rapid progress, both in letters and in mathematics. Much has been spoken of the sensible character of Buddha; Yet the kingdom of Sakya was scarcely a principality of the Kingdom of Kosala, of which it depended.
Siddhartha married his cousin Yasodhara when he was about sixteen years old, according to some sources, or nineteen or perhaps more, according to others. In some legends it is said that it conquered it in a test of weapons fighting against several rivals. Nothing is known about this marriage, except that he had a son named Rahula who would become a major disciple many years later. Having a male son as a continuation of the dynasty would have made it easier for him to renounce his rights and consecrate him to religious life.
Siddhartha’s life was spent most of the time in the Royal palace, under paternal protection. According to tradition, during his furtive outings to the city, in which he was accompanied by a coachman, the so-called “four Encounters” were produced. On a certain occasion he went out the eastern gate of the palace, met an old man; On another occasion he went out the southern door, saw a sick man; When he did it through the western gate, he saw a corpse, and another day, as he crossed the northern gate, he met a religious mendicant. Old age, sickness and death indicated the inherent suffering of human life; The religious, the need to find a meaning.
At the age of twenty-nine, Siddhartha left his family. He did it at night, mounted on his steed Kanthaka and in the company of his servant Chantaka. Its goal was Magadha, a flourishing state of the south, where cultural and philosophical changes were occurring. It is possible that he also chose that kingdom, about ten days on the way from Kapilavastu, to avoid the possibility of his father requiring him to be repatriated. Once he traveled part of the way, he cut his hair, strippeded his jewels and dressings and gave them to his servant so that, back home, he returned them to his family, with the message that he would not return until he reached enlightenment. The rest of the way made it as mendicant, practice, on the other hand, very well considered in India of the time. It was also common for men already mature and with philosophical inclinations to enter the forest to seek the truth. The most curious thing was that he did it at an early age
In search of sense
Once in Rajagaha, capital of Magadha, the young mendicant caught the attention of the mighty King Bimbisara. The king, accompanied by his entourage, went to visit him at Mount Pandava, where he practiced meditation and asceticism. According to tradition, the monarch offered him how many riches he wanted in exchange for accepting to command his battalions of elephants and his elite troops. Siddhartha informed the king of his noble origin and the purpose of his stay at Rajagaha. King Bimbisara did not reiterate the proposal; He begged only to be the first to know the truth reached if it came to enlightenment.
Siddhartha followed the teachings of two yoga masters, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputa. The first, which was followed by three hundred disciples, had reached the “in which nothing exists” phase; It is believed that his hermitage was in Vaishi. Siddhartha soon reached that same stadium and persuaded himself of the inadequacy of these teachings to liberate mankind from his sufferings. Uddaka Ramaputa had six hundred disciples and lived near Rajagaha. His teachings also did not fill Siddhartha’s cares.
It left then for Sena, a hamlet by the river Nairanjana, place of meeting of ascetics. These practices were perfectly regulated: they included mind control, suspension of respiration, total fasting and a very severe diet, all of which were painful and painless disciplines. By the stories it is known that Siddhartha did not arredró to his hardness and that, on occasion, those around him believed he had died. The most skilled students were subjected to several days without eating anything even lasted months, and it is known that nine disciples of Nigantha Nataputta, founder of the Jainism, were left to starve to reach the final liberation.
After years of austerities and mortifications that did not seek enlightenment, Siddhartha resolved to leave the asceticism, receiving, by the passage, the criticisms of his five companions. To begin with, he bathed in the river Nairanjana to get rid of the dirt he had accumulated in the course of the long process followed. Apparently, he was so weak that he could barely get out of the water. He recovered his strength thanks to the food offered by a girl named Sajata. According to different legends, this young woman was the daughter of the head of the village of Sena; The food he gave the ascetic was a rice soup boiled in milk. Shortly thereafter, already restored, Siddhartha would reach enlightenment.
The following excerpt on the life of Buddha has been extracted from the book Introduction to Buddhism, by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso:
«Siddhartha continued his journey until he reached a place near Bodh Gaya, in India, which he found appropriate for the gathering. It was established there and began practicing meditation called concentration, space-like, of the Dharmakaya, with which it focused in a convergent way in the ultimate nature of all phenomena.
» After training in this practice for six years, he realized that he was about to reach enlightenment. Then, he walked to Bodh Gaya, and there, the full moon day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar, sat in the meditative posture under the Bodhi tree and made a promise not to abandon his meditation until he reached perfect enlightenment. With this resolution, it entered again into the concentration, similar to the space, of the Dharmakaya.
» At dusk, the Mara Devaputra, head of the maras or demons of this world, tried to interrupt his concentration with the incantation of dreadful apparitions. He manifested hosts of terrible demonic spirits: Some were shooting spears and arrows, others threw fireballs, stones, rocks and even whole mountains.
» However, Siddhartha remained undisturbed. Thanks to the power of its concentration, the fiery fires were transformed into offerings of rainbow lights, and the weapons, rocks and mountains, in a refreshing rain of flowers.
» In seeing that he could not distract Siddhartha from his meditation, Mara Devaputra tried to do so by manifesting innumerable beautiful maidens, but with it he only managed to enter into a state of even deeper concentration.
In this way, he defeated the demons of this world and, therefore, later received the name of the victorious Buddha.
» Siddhartha continued to meditate until dawn, when he reached the concentration akin to Vajra. With this concentration, which is the last mind of a being with limitations, he removed from his mind the most subtle veils of ignorance and, at the next moment, became a Buddha, a being fully enlightened or awakened».