Is there any evidence of Buddhism emergine between the traditional and modern dates for Gautama's life?

Is there any evidence of Buddhism emergine between the traditional and modern dates for Gautama's life?


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The traditional dates for Gautama Buddha's life are 563-483 BCE or 480-400 BCE, although according to Wikipedia:

Most historians in the early 20th century dated his lifetime as circa 563 BCE to 483 BCE. More recently his death is dated later, between 411 and 400 BCE, while at a symposium on this question held in 1988, the majority of those who presented definite opinions gave dates within 20 years either side of 400 BCE for the Buddha's death. These alternative chronologies, however, have not yet been accepted by all historians.

That leaves quite a large gap: about 150 years between the traditional and modern dates.

Is there no evidence of Buddhism being practiced in that period? Or is it the case that there was some such practice, but that it predates Gautama and was credited to him post hoc?


About 2500 years ago, a prince named Siddhartha Gautama began to question his sheltered, luxurious life in the palace. He left the palace and saw four sights: a sick man, an old man, a dead man and a monk. These sights are said to have shown him that even a prince cannot escape illness, suffering and death. The sight of the monk told Siddhartha to leave his life as a prince and become a wandering holy man, seeking the answers to questions like "Why must people suffer?" "What is the cause of suffering?" Siddartha spent many years doing many religious practices such as praying, meditating, and fasting until he finally understood the basic truths of life. This realization occurred after sitting under a Poplar-figtree in Bodh Gaya, India for many days, in deep meditation. He gained enlightenment, or nirvana, and was given the title of Buddha, which means Enlightened One.

Buddha discovered Three Universal Truths and Four Noble Truths, which he then taught to the people for the next 45 years.


Siddhartha Gautama’s Life Before Buddhism

According to tradition, Siddhartha Gautama was born in Lumbini in modern day Nepal. His parents were of the Shakya clan and members of the ruler/ warrior caste . As a result, Siddhartha had a comfortable life in his early years. Buddhist stories accentuate the opulence of his early years living in the palace. According to one legend in Buddhism, his father heard a prophecy that his son would either become a powerful king or the Buddha. Not wanting his son to become the Buddha, he did all he could to keep his son from encountering suffering.

Infant Buddha Taking a Bath Gandhara 2nd Century AD. ( CC BY SA 4.0 )

This plan worked for a while. Siddhartha enjoyed a palace lifestyle and was married to a woman named Yasodhara. They had a son named Rahula. Rahula, would later become one of Siddhartha’s followers. After Siddhartha reached adulthood, he became more aware of the suffering that was present outside the palace walls. Buddhist legends say he also came to the realization that this sort of suffering could happen to him as well. This, and the suffering of others in the world, caused him great distress and, eventually, he decided that he could not continue living such a luxurious lifestyle when so many others were suffering.

At a certain age, about 29, Siddhartha left his former life to become a wandering ascetic. Buddhist tradition says that he left in secret, but this is not certain. He joined the Sramanas, wandering ascetics who had formed sects all over India at the time who renounced the world and conventional religion. For years, Siddhartha lived as an ascetic, searching for something, a way to make sense of human suffering. His asceticism was very severe and at one point he almost died. After trying such extreme asceticism, however, he still had not found the answer. Followers of Buddhism believe that he eventually decided that the answer was not to be found in extreme asceticism any more than it was to be found in living an excessively luxurious lifestyle.

Picture of a wall painting in a Laotian temple, depicting the Bodhisattva Gautama (Buddha-to-be) undertaking extreme ascetic practices before his enlightenment. A god is overseeing his striving, and providing some spiritual protection. The five monks in the background are his future 'five first disciples', after Buddha attained Full Enlightenment. ( Public Domain )


Traditional life story

There are multiple accounts of the life of the Buddha within Buddhist literature. These accounts generally agree on the broad outlines of his life story, though there are differences in detail and interpretation. [43] The account below follows the broad outline of Buddha's life, according to traditional sources.

Conception and birth

On the night Siddhartha was conceived, his mother Queen Maya dreamt that a white elephant with six white tusks entered her right side. [44] [45] As was the Shakya tradition, when Queen Maya knew the time of the birth was near, she left Kapilvastu for her father's kingdom to give birth. However, her son was born on the way, at Lumbini, in a garden beneath a sal tree.

Siddharth was born ten months after his conception. [46]

Siddartha's mother, Queen Maya died soon after giving birth. Siddhartha would be raised by his father, King Śuddhodana of the Shakya clan, and his mother's younger sister, Maha Pajapati.

Life in the palace

Siddhartha's father, King Śuddhodana, gave him the name Siddhartha, meaning "one who achieves his goals".

Soon after his birth, the sages of the kingdom visited the King and prophesied that Siddhartha would either become a great king and military conqueror or he would renounce the material world and become a great spiritual teacher.

King Śuddhodana was determined to see his son follow in his own footsteps and become a great king and conqueror, so he attempted to insulate his son from all outside influences.

In an effort to assure that his son's spiritual nature was never awakened, the King insulated Siddhartha from all pain and suffering. He was surrounded by wealth and pleasure, his every wish granted. Orders were given that no unpleasantness would intrude upon Siddhartha’s life of courtly pleasures and so all signs of illness, aging, and mortality were hidden from him. [47]

Thus, as a young man, Siddhartha wore robes of the finest silk, ate the best food and was surrounded by beautiful dancing girls. He was extremely handsome and he excelled at his studies and at every type of sporting contest. His father arranged for him to marry a young woman of exceptional grace and beauty, Yasodhara. Siddhartha and Yasodhara lived together in peace and harmony for many years, and Yasodhara bore him a son named Rahula.

Yet despite all of this, Siddhartha still had not yet been outside the palace walls. His curiosity grew stronger and stronger and he pleaded with his father to allow him to venture beyond the palace gates. Finally, when Siddhartha reached the age of 29, his father relented and allowed him to visit the world outside.

The four sights

Siddhartha ventured beyond the gates with his faithful charioteer Channa and they had a series of encounters known as the four sights. In these encounters, Siddhartha and Channa first encountered an old man, then a sick man, and then a corpse. From these three encounters Siddhartha began to understand the nature of suffering in the world. Finally, they met an ascetic holy man, apparently content and at peace with the world.

These encounters had a profound impact on Siddhartha. Through the first three sights, Siddhartha came to understand that despite the luxury of his surroundings, and despite the immense wealth and power of his family, both he himself and everyone he loved would eventually have to face the sufferings of old age, sickness and death. And he was powerless to stop this. Siddhartha was also inspired by the holy man who was seeking a path beyond suffering, and Siddhartha resolved that he too would seek that path in order that he could lead his family beyond suffering.

The spiritual quest

Late one night, Siddhartha ordered Channa the charioteer to drive him outside the palace gates to the edge of the forest. Once there, Siddhartha informed Channa that he was renouncing his royal life to become a seeker of truth. As a sign of his renunciation, Siddhartha cut off his long, beautiful hair and discarded his royal robes. Siddhartha instructed Channa to return to the palace and inform his father of his decision, and he walked off into the forest.

Siddhartha sought out the great spiritual teachers of his day. He studied with several teachers, and in each case, he mastered the meditative attainments they taught. But he found that the meditation techniques that he learn from these teachers did not provide a permanent end to suffering, so he continued his quest. He next joined a group of five other ascetics, led by a holy man named Kondañña. For the next several years, Siddhartha practiced extreme austerities along with his five companions. These austerities included prolonged fasting, breath-holding, and exposure to pain. He almost starved himself to death in the process.

Eventually Siddhartha realized that he had taken this kind of practice to its limit, and had not put an end to suffering. In a pivotal moment, as he was near death, Siddhartha accepted milk and rice from a village girl and began to regain his strength. He then devoted himself to meditation, taking in the nourishment that he needed, but not more than that. He would later describe his new approach as the Middle Way: a path of moderation between the extremes of self-indulgence and self-denial.

Enlightenment

At the age of 35, Siddhartha sat in meditation under a fig tree — known as the Bodhi tree — and he vowed not to rise before achieving enlightenment. After many days, he finally destroyed the fetters of his mind, thereby liberating himself from the cycle of suffering and rebirth, and arose as a fully enlightened being.

According to some accounts, [note 10] after his awakening, the Buddha debated with himself whether or not he should teach the Dharma to others. He was concerned that humans were so overpowered by ignorance, greed and hatred that they would not understand his dharma, which is subtle, deep and hard to grasp. However, while he was contemplating this, he was approached by Brahmā Sahampati, who urged the Buddha to teach, arguing that at least some people will understand the dharma. The Buddha relented, and agreed to teach.

First teaching

After a period of deep reflection, the Buddha sought out his five former companions (with whom he had practiced austerities). He gave his first teaching to this group of ascetics, in which he explained to them his middle way approach and the four noble truths.

The Buddha spent the rest of his life traveling throughout northeastern India and teaching the path of awakening he had discovered. [48] He died at the age of 80 (483 BCE) in Kushinagar, India.

Formation of the sangha

The Buddha gave his first teaching to his five companions in Deer Park near Varanasi (Benares) in northern India. Traditionally, it is said the Buddha "set in motion what the Wheel of Dharma" by delivering his first sermon to the five companions with whom he had sought enlightenment. Together with him, they formed the first saṅgha: the company of Buddhist monks.

All five of his companions became arahants, and within the first two months, with the conversion of Yasa and fifty four of his friends, the number of such arahants is said to have grown to 60. The conversion of three brothers named Kassapa followed, with their reputed 200, 300 and 500 disciples, respectively. This swelled the sangha to more than 1,000.

Return to Kapilavastu to teach his family

Upon hearing of his son's awakening, Suddhodana sent, over a period, ten delegations to ask him to return to Kapilavastu. On the first nine occasions, the delegates failed to deliver the message, and instead joined the sangha to become arahants. The tenth delegation, led by Kaludayi, a childhood friend of Gautama's (who also became an arahant), however, delivered the message.

Now two years after his awakening, the Buddha agreed to return, and made a two-month journey by foot to Kapilavastu, teaching the dharma as he went. When he reached his father's home in Kapilavastu, he taught the dharma to his father and his extended family. During the visit, many members of the royal family joined the sangha. The Buddha's cousins Ananda and Anuruddha became two of his five chief disciples. At the age of seven, his son Rahula also joined, and became one of his ten chief disciples. His half-brother Nanda also joined and became an arahant.

Of the Buddha's disciples, Sariputta, Maudgalyayana, Mahakasyapa, Ananda and Anuruddha are believed to have been the five closest to him. His ten foremost disciples were reputedly completed by the quintet of Upali, Subhoti, Rahula, Mahakaccana and Punna.

Mahaparinirvana

At the age of 80, the Buddha announced that he would soon reach Parinirvana, or the final deathless state, and abandon his earthly body.

The Buddha then asked all the attendant Bhikkhus to clarify any doubts or questions they had. They had none. The Buddha then entered Parinirvana. The Buddha's final words are reported to have been: "All composite things (Saṅkhāra) are perishable. Strive for your own liberation with diligence" (Pali: 'vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā').

His body was cremated and the relics were placed in monuments or stupas, some of which are believed to have survived until the present. For example, The Temple of the Tooth or "Dalada Maligawa" in Sri Lanka is the place where what some believe to be the relic of the right tooth of Buddha is kept at present.


What is valuable in “Buddhist ethics”?

If what I said above seemed obviously wrong, taking the question “what is valuable” seriously might help understand where I’m coming from.

I use “Buddhist ethics” (with scare quotes) to refer to the ethics taught by Consensus Buddhism. (Consensus Buddhism is the American synthesis of the ideals of the 1960s youth movement with Asian Buddhist modernism.) Traditional Buddhist morality is quite different, as I’ll explain in upcoming posts.

If this contemporary “Buddhist ethics” is valuable, it must tell us something that is true, significant, and distinctive. It must include teachings not already understood by (say) a non-Buddhist college-educated left-leaning Californian. If she learned about—and accepted—“Buddhist ethics,” which of her ethical principles or actions would she have to change?

I can’t think of any. Can you?

It’s common to say “the essence of Buddhist ethics is compassion for all sentient beings” as if this were some sort of revelation. But compassion is central to most systems of ethics. More specifically, ethicists describe contemporary secular leftish morality as a “universalist ethics of care” compassion for all sentient beings is its essence also. Ahiṃsā (non-harming) is impressive Buddhist jargon, but non-harming is the fundamental principle of current secular liberal morality, according to current mainstream academic thought.

One might point to Buddhist ethical teachings that contradict mainstream secular morality, like the precept against drinking alcohol, or vegetarianism. But most Western Buddhists ignore the alcohol precept—not because they are immoral people, but because they think it doesn’t apply to them. Also, many other religions prohibit drinking alcohol (including Islam and some Christian sects). Vegetarianism is not a distinctively Buddhist practice either, and is not even a general Buddhist teaching. The Buddha himself supposedly continued to eat meat throughout his life.

Some might bring up karma. But that theory—by itself—doesn’t say anything about what you should do, it only says how you will be rewarded or punished. It isn’t even ethical if the theory were accurate, doing “good” in order to have a better next life would just be personal self-interest, not motivated by ethical considerations at all. Anyway, it’s crude and silly, and I doubt many Western Buddhists genuinely believe it.

What use is “Buddhist ethics” if it doesn’t make you do something you wouldn’t have done anyway?


The Teacher

After his awakening, the Buddha remained at Bodh Gaya for a time and considered what to do next. He knew that his great realization was so far outside normal human understanding that no one would believe or understand him if he explained it. Indeed, one legend says that he tried to explain what he had realized to a wandering mendicant, but the holy man laughed at him and walked away.

Eventually, he formulated the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, so that people could find the way to enlightenment for himself. Then he left Bodh Gaya and went forth to teach.


Buddhism in Malaysia

“The Buddha had exercised a profound influence on human civilization, and his teachings and example had provided the ethical and moral underpinnings of many societies. His teachings were based on the law of release from suffering, leading to spiritual enlightenment.”

United Nations
General Assembly
54th Meeting, 2000.

Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang
Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas


The Kek Lok Si Temple’s main seven-storey pagoda – the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas – was opened in 1930. This famous landmark incorporated both Mahayana and Theravada architectural elements brilliantly – with an octagonal Chinese-style base, a Thai-style mid-section, and crowned by a Burmese-style stupa – reflecting the three predominant Buddhist traditions in Penang at that period.

Buddhism is the second largest religious denomination in Malaysia after Islam. There are approximately 5.4 million Buddhist adherents in the country, comprising 19.2% of our population of 28.3 million (January 2011 estimates). The majority of them are ethnic Chinese who follow the Mahayana tradition.

Most Mahayana Buddhist temples in Malaysia adopt the classical ‘Chinese temple’ architectural style. The Mahayanists conduct their services in Mandarin and in various other Chinese dialects, although some urban-area temples have been preaching in English. The practice among the majority ethnic Chinese who profess themselves as Buddhists is actually a mixture of Buddhism and Chinese beliefs and traditions.

Penang
The famous Kek Lok Si Temple was built over a century ago. The vast temple complex is among the largest Buddhist monasteries in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

“…in these days of challenge, it is fitting that men of goodwill, irrespective of race or creed, should ponder on the teachings of Lord Buddha, which lead us to the path of enlightenment and peace…”

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj
Wesak Day Message, 1956

Theravada Buddhists include ethnic Chinese, Siamese (or Thais), and smaller numbers of Burmese, Sinhalese and Indians. The many ethnic groups of Theravadins usually establish temples in the style of their own traditions, and catering mainly to their own indigenous groups. The ethnic Thais for example establish ‘wats‘ or Thai-style temples, have resident Thai monks, and conduct their rituals in Thai Language.

The Sinhalese (Sri Lankan Buddhists) migrated to then Malaya a century ago when both Malaya and Ceylon were under British colonial rule. They brought with them Sinhalese Buddhism with its unique traditions that survive to this day in a few Sri Lankan viharas (temples) dotting the country.

Kuala Lumpur
Colourful and joyous Wesak Celebration at the Buddhist Maha Vihara. Built in 1894, it is the largest Sri Lankan Monastery in Malaysia.

In recognition of the Malaysian Buddhist community’s contribution towards nation building, public welfare and social harmony, the Wesak Full-moon Day was officially declared a public holiday in 1962 throughout the newly-independent Federation of Malaya.

The International Buddhist Flag was adopted by Buddhists world-wide in 1950 as the common symbol of their faith. It is commonly hoisted on Wesak Day and important Buddhist events.

Artifacts

Archaeological evidence, as well as official Chinese imperial records and Indian sources, confirm the existence of several Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms in Malaysia from the 3rd to 13th Centuries CE. The earliest of these Indianized kingdoms was probably Kedah-Langkasuka in northern Malay Peninsula.

Kedah, lying half-way between China and the Middle-east, was an important entréport in the “Maritime Silk-route”. The foundations of ancient stupas have been uncovered in Sungai Mas. The famous Chinese traveler-monk, Yi Jing, stopped over there on his sea voyage to Nalanda, India in 671 CE. Kedah later became a vassal of Srivijayafrom the 7th to 11th Centuries CE. The Maharajas of Srivijaya were Buddhists, and they were responsible for building many of the monuments in Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, and Java, including the famous Candi Borobudur (in Central Java).

In 607CE, a Chinese embassy of the Sui Dynasty recorded the presence of the Buddhist kingdom of Che-tu (literally, “red-earth”). Located in the interiors of modern-day Kelantan, the kingdom supplied gold and jungle produce to Langkasuka and Champa (Southern Vietnam). Terracotta figurines of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas from the Mahayana School were found in the districts of Tanah Merah and Gua Musang in Kelantan.

Stone Buddha Image

Carved Granite Stone
Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum

The style of this artifact possibly dates it to the 6th or 7th Century CE. This well-crafted tablet was possibly made for temple decoration or as votive offering to the temple from devotees.

Buddhagupta Inscription

Carved Granite stone. 5th Century CE
Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum

Sanskrit inscription in Pallava Script. It tells of a trader named Buddhagupta giving thanks for his safe voyage from afar. Note the seven-tiered Chhattra (parasol) honouring the Buddha’s Doctrine.

Buddha Figurine

Bronze
Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum

Seated Buddha

Terracotta. 5th Century CE
Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum

Buddha Throne Chair

Bronze. 9th Century CE
Bujang Valley Archaeological Museum

In the rich archaeological site of Bujang Valley in Kedah, researchers have uncovered foundations of Buddhist temples and stupas possibly dating from 110CE. That would make them the earliest archaeological evidence of Buddhist presence in maritime Southeast-Asia (Nusantara).

Ruins of an ancient Stupa unearthed in Bujang Valley, Kedah.

Objects unearthed from this site include beads, pottery and coins, which are useful indicators of the time-line and trade patterns in ancient times. The Bujang Valley, Lower Perak and interiors of Kelantan yielded rich Buddhist artifacts such as sun-baked clay votive tablets, bronze and terracotta images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and occasionally, stone inscriptions by local rulers and travelers.

The stone inscriptions found in Bujang Valley are particularly important. They are mostly in Sanskrit and written with the Pallava script. The Buddhagupta Inscription (dating to the 5th Century CE) shows that trade was robust between Kedah and the Indian subcontinent. It also indicates active religious exchanges between the two lands, and Buddhism being the predominant faith in the region then.

Leaders & Pioneers

Ven Dr. K Sri Dhammananda Nayaka Thera (1918 – 2006) served as the Senior-most Sri Lankan Monk in Malaysia, from 1965 to 2006.

Malaysia is blessed with many visionary pioneer Buddhist leaders from both Theravada and Mahayana traditions. The most well-known Theravada missionary monk in Malaysia was Venerable Dr. Kirinde Sri Dhammananda Nayaka Thera. The Venerable came from Sri Lanka to Malaya in 1952, and began his tireless efforts to propagate Dhamma. He gave numerous talks throughout the country and authored more than 50 publications on Buddhism. His hard work paid off handsomely as it transformed how Buddhism was perceived and practised in Malaysia – from a backward, antiquated, traditional belief, to a contemporary, proactive religion suited to modern needs and lifestyles.

The Mahayana tradition also produced many illustrious monks that served the Buddha-Sasana assiduously. They include the late Venerables Chuk Mor and Seck Kim Beng. Both were born and ordained in mainland China, but came to serve the Chinese migrant population in Malaysia.

Malaysian Contribution to Buddhism

Although Malaysia is not a Buddhist country, it is nevertheless contributing immensely to Dharma propagation throughout the world. Malaysian devotees have assisted in the building of many temples and learning institutions in foreign countries. Malaysian organizations are also publishing and reprinting numerous Dharma books for free distribution to Buddhist communities locally and abroad.

Due to a shortage of Buddhist monks and nuns in Malaysia, the laity has taken up a major role in spear-heading the growth of Buddhism in the country. Laymen and laywomen are actively teaching Dharma and meditation. Buddhist Youth groups are also dynamic and frequently engage in Dharma learning and propagation.

Several World Buddhist Conferences and other international congregations have been held in recent years in Malaysia, reflective of our country’s religious tolerance and harmony.

Quick facts on Buddhism

Buddhism is a noble way of life based upon the teachings of Gautama Buddha, our Enlightened Teacher.

The Buddha taught that Life entails suffering, but suffering can be overcome with right effort.

The Way to overcome suffering is the ‘Middle-Path‘ – the cultivation of morality, mental development, and the attainment of insightful wisdom.

Buddhists observe Wesak Full-moon Day in May to mark 3 important occasions – the Buddha’s birth in 623BCE, His Enlightenment in 588BCE, and His passing away (Parinibbāna) in 543BCE.

On Wesak Day, Buddhists throng temples to offer alms and to serve the community. Wesak Day can be observed meaningfully with heightened mindfulness, compassion, and thoughtful acts of kindness.

“Avoid all evil cultivate every good purify one’s own mind. This is the teaching of all Buddhas.”Dhammapada verse 183.

It has been 2,600 years since the Buddha attained Enlightenment in 588 BCE. Today, Buddhism is still a potent and dynamic force for personal and social transformation. Its compassionate philosophy and wholesome way of life is increasingly being practised and appreciated by millions of people around the world.

The aim of this noble Buddhist way of life is to live with wisdom and in harmony with all beings, to help relieve the suffering of others, and ultimately, to attain liberation from all strife and afflictions.


Buddhism in Ancient Arabia & Israel

I have not read the article in full, but would like to make a few comments. During the time of the birth of Jesus Christ who was Jewish, there was no Jewish custom to visit a new born baby carrying gifts. But this was and is a custom among Tibetian Lamas. When a holy man (a Lama ) dies they check and follow the stars to find where this Lama has reincarnated. These are the three kings who bore gifts to the baby. As per the Tibetan traditional the holy men make a note of where the baby is, untill the child is old enough to learn the teachings. The Lost Years of Jesus was when the holy men brought Jesus and taught him Buddhism. Jesus was a new person on his return, he started preaching what he recently learnt. These teachings was what formed the core of Christianity with additions, twists and turns from the church.

Please watch “WAS JESUS A BUDDHIST MONK ” a documentary by BBC.

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Timeline of Buddha’s Life

Although earlier experts placed Buddha’s life at 490 B.C. to 410 B.C., the latest archeological evidence places Buddha’s Birth at 563 B.C. and his Paranirvana at 483 B.C. Dating relates to birth relics recently found, and his Paranirvana dates can be easily reinforced by his funeral relics scattered throughout India and Asia.

Stupa drum panel showing the conception of the Buddha: Queen Maya dreams of white elephant entering her right side. Wiki Commons.

563 B.C. Conception to the Sakyas

Sakyamuni (Shakyamuni) Gautama Buddha’s conception — in much of Asia, conception is the celebratory date, rather than the actual date of birth. [2] Famously, Queen Maha Maya, Buddha’s mother, had a conception dream of a white elephant with six tusks descending from heaven to enter her womb. His title Sakyamuni (pronounced Shakyamuni) literally means ‘sage’ of the Sakyans — where Sakya was his father’s kingdom or oligarchic republic (located in modern-day Nepal). Muni literally means “sage.” Śākyamuni (शाक्यमुनि) is title of Buddha fist cited in Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter VI).

According to legend, Baby Buddha took seven steps to each of the directions immediately after his miraculous birth.

563 B.C. Siddartha’s Birth in Lumbini Nepal

Buddha was actually born Prince Siddartha, in Lumbini Nepal. According to tradition:

“ Buddha emerged from his mother’s side, as she stood leaning against a tree, in a painless and pure birth. ” [2]

He was named Siddartha (or Sarvathasiddha) — literally meaning “a man who achieves his goals” — by his father the king, who was determined he would be a great worldly king and conqueror, not a Buddha as predicted by the sages. His mother passed away, and he was brought up by his aunt Mahaprajapati.

Siddartha Buddha grew up in the palace and was an expert in martial arts.

548 B.C. Siddartha’s marriage to Yasodhara

His father the king determined he must be sheltered from the suffering of the world to remove any causes that might arise compassion in the young prince. True to his father’s aspirations, he was brought up a privileged prince, sequestered in the palace. He was married to young Yasodhara, who conceived their son Rahula.

Siddartha grew up in Kapilavastu, the capital, and became very accomplished in “kingly arts” including the martial arts.

Siddartha leaves the palace and sees the four sights: poverty, illness, old age and death.

534 B.C. Buddha sees the four sights: suffering

True to predictions of the sages — and despite his father’s fiercely protective tactics — Prince Siddartha escaped the palace and saw the four sights of suffering: poverty, illness, old age, and death. He also saw religious ascetics. His “existential crisis” [2] led to his life’s mission — to release the world from all suffering.

Buddha determines to leave his wife Yasodhara and son Rahula to seek Enlightenment — to release them from ultimate suffering in Samsara. Later, they both become his followers.

534 B.C. Siddartha leaves home

With compassion awake in the young Prince Siddartha, he became driven to overcome the suffering of Samsara. In a dramatic moment, Siddartha determined to leave home — quietly leaving the palace to avoid his father’s guards. He knew he must abandon his conventional, privileged life, to seek the answers that would save all beings from the eternal cycle of suffering.

Dramatically, he left his beloved wife and child — knowing he must for the ultimate benefit — cut his hair and left behind even his inseparable horse. Cutting his hair was a symbol of leaving behind his ordinary life. He traveled south, seeking out other spiritual seekers, and ended in Magadha (current Bihar) where he begged on the streets.

Buddha Tarot by Robert Place features the life and journey to Enlightenment of Siddartha Buddha as the major Aracana, in place of the “fool’s journey” to spiritual enlightenment. On the top (left to right) are the white elephant that descended to Queen Maha in the conception dream, Siddartha leaving the palace on his horse, Siddartha cutting his hair to become an ascetic, then Buddha’s first sermon.

533 B.C. Siddartha Meditates in Magadha

Like most spiritual seekers, Siddartha sought out and trained with many meditation teachers — notably “the masters Ālāra Kālāma and Uddaka Rāmaputta ” [2]

He learned and mastered with the best of the great sages of the time, attaining great realizations, but not the ultimate solution. He determined they did not have the final “permanent” solution, and decided he must seek the solution on his own.

Buddha as the ascetic. Buddha starved himself eating only a grain of rice a day, seeking the answers through the ancient practices of asceticism.

532-5238 B.C. Siddartha the Ascetic

Asceticism was an extreme form of practice that included living in the wild without protection, extreme fasting — basically, an attempt to “ down the physical influence of one’s being and release the soul, an insubstantial essence in each individual. ” [2]

He continued this until he was nothing but dry skin and bones, close to death.

In Robert Place’s stunning Buddha Tarot, card XIV illustrates the moment of insight of the Buddha, after he had endured starvation and ascetic practices, that the “middle way” is the path to Enlightenment. Here, he is offered a bowl of rice at just that moment.

528 B.C. Siddartha risks death at Varanasi

Pushing his practice to the extreme, he tried every extreme meditation and practice — together with five other ascetics — only to nearly die of starvation. Finally, he realized the “middle way” was the correct path to Enlightenment — neither the extreme of deprivation nor its opposite of luxury. Barely able to move, he accepted a tiny bowl of mik, rice from a devotee named Sujata. From that moment, he pioneered the “Middle Path” now known as “Buddhism.”

Mara’s army is swept away by a flood of merits. The Earth Mother rings out her hair releasing the torrent. In each of Buddha’s many lifetimes as a compassionate Bodhisattva, he accumulated drops of merit — released now as an epic flood on the day of his Enlightenment.

528 B.C. Awakening at Bodh Gaya

At Buddhism’s most “famous” site, Bodhgaya, Siddartha found the liberating path. Rejected by the five ascetics, he ate modest meals, recovering his strength, then moved to a new meditation site under the most famous tree in history — the Pipal Tree of Bodh Gaya. [A decedent of this tree is still honored today in Bodhgaya.]

He withdrew into his mind, pioneering a new “middle way” of meditating. He endured trials under the tree, tempted by the Mara and his legions and armies. [Mara and his legions, assailing the Buddha under the tree, can be thought of as the struggle Buddha faced internally with his own attachments and past karmic imprints.] Finally, he awakened, and Mara and his legions vanished. Famously, the symbol of this is Buddha touching the earth as his witness. He attained Bodhi — Awakening — and became the Buddha, the Awakened One.

The Buddha teaching — his first teaching was on the Four Noble Truths.

528 B.C. First Teaching at Sarnath

Buddha “turned the first wheel” of teaching, determined to help others with his perfect methods. His first pupils were the five ascetics who had earlier rebuked him. His first teachings were the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path:

Buddha first taught the Four Noble Truths, the Truth of Suffering, metaphorically, the “disease” we are treating.

“What, monks, is the truth of suffering? Birth is suffering, decay, sickness and death are suffering. To be separated from what you like is suffering. To want something and not get it is suffering. In short, the human personality, liable as it is to clinging and attachment brings suffering.” [3]

Overcoming suffering relied on the Eightfold Path:

“This is the noble eightfold way, namely, right understanding, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right attention, right concentration, and right meditation.” — Shakyamuni Buddha at Deerpark

The Buddha continued to teach for 45 years to a growing group of committed monks and lay disciples.

528-483 B.C. Countless teachings, Turning the Wheel

Buddha traveled with a growing entourage of disciples, teaching for the next 45 years. These precious teachings, recorded by his pupils, became a vast body of Pali Sutta, and later Mahayana Sutra — the largest collection of spiritual teachings in history. His teachings would spread throughout India, China, Japan, Korea, and all of Asia — and ultimately around the world.

Shakyamuni Buddha practiced the eightfold path and taught it to his disciples. He attained Enlightenment.

483 B.C. Paranirvana at Kusinagara, Malla

At the age of 80, he decided it was time for him to leave the teachings to his Sangha of disciples. He gave his last teaching. He asked his disciples if they had any last questions for him before he left.

Finally, he said, “Things that arise from causes will also decay. Press on with due care.”[3]

He lay down on his right side, with his hand under his face — in the pose made famous by the Sleeping Buddha statue — and passed into the peace of ultimate Paranirvana.

Vesak 2021 May 26 Happy Birthday Buddha! May All Beings Be Happy!

NOTES

[3] The Vision of the Buddha: The Path to Spiritual Enlightenment, by Tom Lowenstein.


Final Thoughts

Meditation has been a part of warriors and fighters combat rituals since the onset of time. That said, its presence in traditional and modern martial arts is not a surprise.

But, the most amazing fact is that many people link martial arts with aggression. Yet, the history of traditional martial arts and the modern approaches to it are showing us the opposite.

The benefits of meditation are always emerging. That said, we are interested to see what the future will bring us. For sure, there is a lot coming the martial art way.


Watch the video: Did the Buddha Exist?