Who is Buddha?
The word Buddha means “awakened one” or “enlightened one.” Enlightenment is compared to waking up, because we suddenly experience a complete transformation of body and mind when we wake up. A Buddha is a person who has developed all positive qualities and eliminated all negative qualities.
The Buddha, was born a prince, Siddhartha Guatama, some 2,500 years ago in what is now called Lumbini in Nepal. His father, the King, wanted Siddhartha to be his successor and kept him hidden away from all the sufferings and horrors of daily life, in his palace, surrounded by all matter of luxuries.
At 29 years old, on a visit to the city, Siddhartha discovered there was much suffering in the world around him, suddenly recognising the problems of sickness, ageing and death. Being shocked by the suffering of all living beings, and with great compassion, he decided to search for way to end it. He left his family, the palace, his clothes and all his luxuries, and started out on a spiritual quest.
Siddhartha studied under various sages, teachers and contemplatives and followed their practices until he mastered them all, but saw that none of these were going to solve suffering. After about six years of searching, and almost dying from extreme asceticism, he realised that he had not generated new insights, but rather found weakness and self-destruction.
He then sat down in a place now called Bodhgaya (North India) under a Bodhi-tree and vowed not to rise from meditation until he had discovered the truth. Some time later, he became a fully enlightened Buddha. This means that he actualised all positive potentials of a sentient being and rid himself of all negative qualities. With this, he realised the true nature of existence and suffering (emptiness), and how suffering can be ended. Seven weeks after enlightenment, the Buddha gave his first discourse in Sarnath, near Varanasi. Here he taught the Four Noble Truths.
The Buddha once summarised his entire teachings in one sentence:
‘Buddhism’ spread throughout Asia and has more recently found its way to the West. Buddha saw that while everyone is equal in their ability to become a Buddha, people also differ vastly in their preferences, interests and talents. Respecting this, he taught a wide variety of ways to overcome one’s limitations and realise one’s full potential.
Different aspects were emphasized in each culture that adopted Buddhism, and, nowadays we see many different forms of Buddhism – but they all share its basic teachings including the Four Noble Truths.
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