Life of the Buddha
Buddha, “the Awakened One”, is a descriptive name for all those who have attained Enlightenment, the goal of Buddhist spiritual practice. Buddhists believe that everyday human beings are asleep and unaware of the human condition, but the Buddha are those who are awakened to the true nature of reality as taught in the Four Noble Truths.
The name of the historical Buddha is Siddhartha Gautama; Siddhartha (meaning ‘one whose goal is accomplished’) and Gautama his family name. He was born into a noble family of the Sakya clan and therefore he is also known as Sakyamuni (the sage of the Sakyas). His father was a king of Kapilavastu, a city in the south of present-day Nepal. The name Buddha became his title after his Enlightenment/ awakening.
The exact dates of Buddha’s life are still uncertain and debated across the Buddhist world: 624-544 BCE (before current era) in Sri Lanka and southeast Asia, 448-368 BCE in east Asia, 566-486 BCE or 563-483 BCE in secondary Western literature, and according to recent scholarship c.485-405 BCE.
The Buddha was born in Lumbini, a park not far from Kapilavastu; the fortune tellers saw his 32 marks of a Great Being and foretold that he would be either a Universal Monarch or a Buddha. He spent this first 29 years in the royal palace in Kapilavastu and accepted the prevailing Indian worldview about the cycle of life and death, transmigration, karma, and liberation. He was concerned about the problem of human suffering and how to resolve it. He married and had one son.
At 29 he went forth to seek liberation from human predicament: practiced asceticism, fasting, breath control, concentration and finally developed his own style of practice.
In Bodhgaya at the age of 35, he attained awakening and liberation (Nirvana), and liberation from its suffering (Dukkha). After this enlightenment, the Buddha went to Sarnath where he delivered his first discourse on the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Noble Path.
After his awakening, he attracted many followers and established a monastic order (Sangha) of monks and nuns. The remaining 45 years of this life he spent as a wandering teacher traveling through north-east India. The Buddha taught that others could replicate his experience.
The Buddha died in Kusinagara at age 80 and was cremated outside this town. His teaching (Dharma) was memorized by his disciples and transmitted orally until it was written down several centuries later.