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Buddha

Buddha

LIFE

TEACHINGS

GROWTH OF BUDDHISM

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Though often used in a general sense to identify any individual who has achieved enlightenment without the aid of others, the term Buddha usually denotes the historical founder of Buddhism, Siddhártha Gautama. Scholars generally deem Gautama a historical figure who passed along to his followers the foundations of Buddhist philosophy and practice. Frequently referred to as the Buddha, or the Enlightened One, most Buddhists believe Gautama to be the Buddha for this age (though there have been numerous buddhas throughout history). Accurately reconstructing the precise details of the Buddhas life and teaching, however, proves difficult. The first biographies of his life did not appear until centuries after his death and it is often impossible to ascertain exactly where the biographies reconstruct the Buddhas life according to ideal patterns as opposed to historical realities.

LIFE

Conventionally, the Buddha was believed to have lived circa 560480 BCE, though more-recent scholarship suggests the later dates of circa 485405 BCE. Born in northern India (present-day Nepal), Gautamas father was king of the city of Kapilavastu. Just prior to his birth, Gautamas biographers hold that Gautamas mother dreamed of a white elephant coming into her womb; this in turn led soothsayers to predict Gautamas future as a buddha. Prepared throughout his previous lives for this his final reincarnation, Gautama could walk and talk immediately following his birth. Throughout his youth, however, Gautamas father, śuddhodana, sought to guard him against suffering and prepared Gautama to succeed him as king. Gautama also married during this period and had a son, Rāhula (according to some traditions Rāhula [literally fetter] was not born until the day Gautama achieved enlightenment).

At age twenty-nine, however, Gautamas life profoundly changed when he ventured outside the palace and encountered four signs: an old man, a sick person, a corpse, and a mendicant (Buddhist sources indicate that the gods orchestrated these events). Troubled by what he saw, Gautama then took on the life of an ascetic for the next several years and searched for an answer to the suffering he had encountered. In his search for enlightenment, Gautama excelled in meditation and ascetism (at one point it was said that he lived off a daily ration of one pea). Two teachers, Udraka Rāmaputra and Alāra Kālāma, guided him during this period. Gautama eventually rejected the positions of his mentors, though, and concluded that strict self-denial did not free an individual from suffering.

According to Gautamas biographers, six years after leaving the palace he finally experienced enlightenment. One night he sat under a bodhi tree determined not to leave until he found an answer to the perennial problems of suffering and death. A period of temptation ensued as Māra, the god of desire, assailed him through various means. Gautama resisted these assaults, however, and meditated throughout the night. By dawn, Gautamas meditation culminated in a breakthrough. Though some traditions differ as to the exact nature of his enlightenment that night, the biographers agree that Gautama achieved the status of a buddha; he eliminated the ignorance that trapped individuals in the suffering (duhkha ) associated with the endless cycle of reincarnation.

TEACHINGS

Following this experience, the Buddhas biographers indicate that he basked in his experience for several weeks and stayed near the tree; soon thereafter he preached his first sermon at Deer Park in Sarnath, passing along to others his insight into the dharma (the truth). This first sermon is often referred to as the first turning of the wheel of dharma. Though it is important to note that many of the Buddhas teachings reflect the influence of Hinduism, the Buddha thoroughly modified various Hindu concepts and did not embrace the Hindu caste system. The theme of his teaching revolved around the Four Noble Truths. The first Noble Truth stipulated the reality of suffering. Put simply, suffering persists throughout all the various stages of life. The second Noble Truth indicated that desire (trsnā ) originated from ignorance (avidyā ) and inevitably caused suffering. According to the Buddha, humans mistakenly posit the existence of an autonomous, permanent self (ātman). As such, they inevitably experience suffering as they try to maintain a permanent hold on things that are constantly changing and impermanent. Instead, the Buddhas teachings advanced the doctrine of no-self and insisted on the impermanence of all things. The third Noble Truth, the cessation of suffering (nirvāna, literally blowing out), claimed it was possible to eliminate desire and ignorance and free an individual from suffering. Finally, the fourth Noble Truth pointed to the path that brings about the cessation of suffering, often referred to as the Eightfold Path. The path includes (1) right view, (2) right intention, (3) right speech, (4) right conduct, (5) right livelihood, (6) right effort, (7) right mindfulness, and (8) right concentration. This Middle Path avoids both the extreme of self-denial and the extreme of self-indulgence, and leads an individual to recognize the impermanence of all things.

Often, the different parts of the Eightfold Path are grouped under three main headings: moral precepts, concentration, and wisdom. The moral precepts (śila ) usually include basic prohibitions against killing, stealing, lying, sexual promiscuity, and intoxication (these are commonly accepted by most Buddhists, though monks and nuns usually adhere to more stringent guidelines). Concentration (samādhi ) involves various forms of meditation that differ among Buddhist traditions. Generally, however, Buddhist meditation requires careful control of the process of breathing and discipline of the mind. Finally, wisdom (prajñā ) reflects the necessary insights required to eliminate desire and ignorance and achieve enlightenment.

The Buddha would continue to teach throughout northeastern India for the next forty-five years of his life, and he soon attracted a cadre of followers. Many of his biographies say relatively little about this period of the Buddhas life. Tradition indicates that the Buddha formed a magical double of himself, that he ascended to heaven to teach his mother who had died, and that he tamed a wild elephant. The Buddha also formed a monastic order of monks and nuns, though the Buddhist community (sangha ) included laymen and laywomen as well. During this time, other accounts also suggest that the Buddhas authority was challenged by his cousin Devadatta.

At age eighty, the Buddha died. Just prior to his death, the Buddha delivered one final message and lay down between two trees. According to tradition, the Buddhas death signaled his parinirvāna, or his release from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Following this event, his followers cremated his body and distributed his relics to be enshrined in what are known as stupas.

With no named successor, a council of elders formed and orally perpetuated the Buddhas teachings. Centuries later, canonical collections of his teachings were created, such as the Tripitaka. These scriptures contain material directly attributed to the Buddha (buddhavacana ) as well as authoritative commentaries. Elaborate works of art depicting various events from the Buddhas life were also developed. Devotees lavished gifts on relics associated with the Buddha and annually celebrated his birth, enlightenment, and entrance into nirvana. Sites associated with the Buddhas life served as places of pilgrimage. These included his birthplace (Lumbiní), the setting where he achieved enlightenment (Bodh Gayā), the location of his first sermon (Deer Park), and his place of death (Kuśinagara).

GROWTH OF BUDDHISM

Because Buddhismunlike Hinduismoperated outside of the caste system, allowing its followers to interact freely with others, this helped it to spread beyond India and into other parts of Asia following the Buddhas death. Different Buddhist traditions eventually took shape, spreading and elaborating on the Buddhas teachings within various cultural contexts. The Theravāda tradition (literally doctrine of the elders) claims to adhere strictly to the Buddhas original teachings. The Mahāyāna tradition, however, often referred to as the Great Way, recast many of the more traditional positions. In one key example, the Mahāyāna give a higher priority to the bodhisattvathe person who puts off nirvana to help others achieve enlightenmentas opposed to the arhat ideal, in which individuals focus on achieving enlightenment for themselves. The Buddhas life, then, was reread as the quintessential model of the bodhisattva ideal. Numerous other traditions would follow as the religion initiated by the Buddha spread, ultimately attracting followers across the globe. By the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for example, many Westerners became fascinated by the Buddhas life and teachings, as can be seen in the popularity of Siddhartha (1922), a novel by Hermann Hesse. As Buddhism attracted adherents in countries such as the United States, however, many criticized Westerners for promoting superficial forms of Buddhism and of the Buddhas teachings.

At the start of the twenty-first century there were approximately 400 million Buddhist adherents worldwide. Though the various Buddhist schools differ on the exact nature of the Buddhas teachings and how to interpret them, the Buddha remains a venerated figure for all Buddhists; his life and teachings continue to shape the religious sensibilities of numerous followers around the world.

SEE ALSO Buddhism; Hinduism; Orientalism; Reincarnation; Religion; Visual Arts

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bechert, Heinz, ed. 1995. When Did the Buddha Live?: The Controversy on the Dating of the Historical Buddha. Delhi, India: Sri Satguru Publications.

Foucher, A. 1949. La vie du Bouddha. Paris: Payot. Trans. Simone Brangier Boas as The Life of the Buddha, according to the Ancient Texts and Monuments of India (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1963).

Lamotte, Étienne. 1988. History of Indian Buddhism: From the Origins to the Saka Era. Trans. Sara Webb-Boin under the supervision of Jean Dantinne. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: Université Catholique de Louvain, Institut Orientaliste.

Ñāamoli, Bhikku, trans. 1972. The Life of the Buddha, as It Appears in the Pali Canon, the Oldest Authentic Record. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society.

Strong, John S. 2001. The Buddha: A Short Biography. Oxford: Oneworld.

Joseph W. Williams

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Buddha

Buddha

Born: c. 563 b.c.e.
Kapilavastu, India
Died: c. 483 b.c.e.

Kusinagara, India
Indian religious teacher and philosopher

The Buddha was an Indian philosopher (seeker of wisdom), religious teacher, and the historical founder of Buddhism. He is regarded by some as a human spiritual teacher (concerned with religious values) and by others as an all-knowing supreme being.

Early years

The Buddha, or "enlightened one" (free from ignorance and misunderstanding), was born Siddhartha Gautama in northern India near the town of Kapilavastu. His father was ruler of a poor Indian tribe, the Shakyas. His mother died seven days after giving birth to him. Some legends say that he was able to walk and talk at birth. It is also written that he first fell into a state of meditation (focusing all of one's thoughts on something) as a boy while sitting under a tree watching his father plow a field. Meditation was to become an important part of his life.

It is said that Gautama's father, in order to prevent him from worrying about the problems of suffering, death, and injustice, built a special palace for him surrounded with distracting luxuries. Gautama eventually married and had a son. But he continued to dwell on the great religious questions, and at the age of twenty-nine he made a bold move. He officially gave up his worldly commitments, left his family, and began a search for the answers to the questions that bothered him.

Gautama is said to have experimented with many different teachings for seven years but found none of them acceptable. He set them all aside, and at last, in a single night of deep meditation, he achieved a major breakthrough, an absolutely clear awareness of the real questions of life and the unique religious means for dealing with them. This enlightenment confirmed the truth of his insight, and at this point he became the Buddha.

The Buddha's teaching

It is told that at the moment of the Buddha's enlightenment he was entitled to its immediate rewardscomplete salvation (freedom from sin) and spiritual release from the bonds of existence. This would have meant that his doctrine (teachings) would never have been made known to other men. Another problem was how to communicate the teachings properly. After debating these issues, the Buddha decided to bring the message to others out of his love and concern for all men. This legend shows that the formal teaching is just the beginning. Understanding the teaching and putting it into practice varies greatly, depending on the ability of those who hear it, their needs, and their historical and cultural situation. In a sense, the history of Buddhism, in all its different forms, is proof of this fact.

The teaching is basically optimistic (hopeful about the future). It holds that every human beingregardless of his social position or past lifecan through his own efforts obtain control of himself, of his ideas and passions, and of his destiny. Its main principles are caring for others, love, and nonin-jury to living creatures, and they place great importance on the obligation of all people to promote friendship and peace. The teachings are universal standards of behavior that have obvious benefits in terms of improving interpersonal relationships and social order. Buddha's political teachings were drawn from those of his own clan. The king had the obligation to care for his people and, especially, to set high moral standards. A man who cannot do this is not worthy to rule. (In the traditions the Buddha is represented as consulting frequently with the leaders of the great states and petty kingdoms, teaching his beliefs and seeking to end all warfare.)

Teaching attracts followers

The traditions relate that the Buddha first preached his doctrine (Dharma) in Benares, India's great holy city. He began his missionary work soon after with a handful of followers, offering the teaching to all who would hear and understand. The lives and practices of this little band were at first centered on the spiritual authority of the Buddha himself. As the number of followers grew, the loosely structured community (Sangha) became more organized. It seems probable that by the time of the Buddha's death, at the age of eighty, a number of basic institutional patterns had been set. These included a code of rules to keep order and a collection of the Buddha's sayings. The major ceremonies included the twice-monthly uposatha, a gathering of the monks to recite the rules. Women were admitted to the order. Within the community all barriers of class, race, sex, and previous background were ignored under the impact of the universal message of the teaching.

Despite this appearance of routine organization, the Buddha in one of his last sermons is shown as rejecting all forms of religious authority: "Be lamps unto yourselves, O monks." The main purpose of the rules was to guard the independence of each monk in his own spiritual quest. All those who had become official monks had an equal vote on matters affecting the welfare of the community. When disagreements within the group could not be resolved, those who disagreed simply left and formed a new community. Monks guilty of breaking the code of rules were expected to confess and to punish themselves. The Buddha is occasionally represented as being confused and disgusted by the often selfish behavior of the monks. On at least one occasion he took time to wash and care for a sick monk who had been neglected by the others. His own cousin, Devadatta, is believed to have started a movement to replace the Buddha as head of the order.

Although most of the Buddha's followers devoted their entire lives to the teachings, the power of the Buddha's personality also attracted many lay (nonreligious) followers, known as the "householders." The tradition relates that the Buddha said only that it was harder for the lay followers to attain final salvation, or nirvana, but this did not stop its members from trying. Lay devotees promised to follow the five rules (no killing, stealing, lying, having sex outside of marriage, or consumption of alcoholic beverages) for the sake of "well-being in this world and the next."

Buddha's influence today

The most striking feature of Buddhism is the wide variety of faiths and practices its teachings have inspired. In Tibet the political system was ruled until recently by spiritual leaders, the Dalai and Panchen Lamas, who were regarded as supreme versions of the Buddha. Tibetan Tantrism is a combination of Buddhist and primitive teachings. In China and Japan, Zen Buddhism represents a special meditation-based adaptation that has been strongly influenced by Chinese values. In Sri Lanka Theravada Buddhism has served as an effective state religion, and is often combined with primitive animism (belief in spirits) and magic.

In looking for a single point of unity in all of these different forms of Buddhism, it is to be found only in the Buddha himself, who persists in all the traditions as a model of spiritual perfection and saving power.

For More Information

Armstrong, Karen. Buddha. New York: Viking, 2001.

Carrithers, Michael. The Buddha: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Roth, Susan L. Buddha. New York: Delacorte Press, 1994.

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Buddha

Buddha (Pāli, Skt.; Chin., fo; Jap., butsu; Korean, pul)
1. An enlightened person, literally, ‘one who has awakened’ to the truth. Traditional Buddhism teaches that there are two sorts, samyaksaṃbuddha (see SAMMASAMBUDDHA) and pratyekabuddha; and that Gotama is one in a series of the former kind. Mahāyāna Buddhism extends the notion of a buddha into a universal principle: all beings possess a ‘buddha-nature’ and are therefore prospective buddhas.

2. Title applied to Gotama (Skt., Gautama), the historical founder of Buddhism (hence, the Buddha Gotama or Gotama Buddha).

Gotama Buddha is also known, especially in Mahāyāna, as Buddha Sākyamuni (i.e. the Wise One, or Sage, of the Śakya clan). There are uncertainties about his dates. According to the Long Chronology, he lived just over 200 years before Aśoka, giving approximate dates of 566–486 BCE. According to the Short Chronology, he lived 100 years before Aśoka, i.e. c.448–368. He was born Siddhārtha Gotama or Gautama, in Kapilavastu, in modern-day Nepal. After his enlightenment, he became known as the Buddha, the Enlightened One. Although many stories of his life are told, and immense bodies of teaching are attributed to him, it is not possible to reconstruct his biography or his own teaching with any historical certainty—nor, from a Buddhist point of view, is it in the least desirable. The Buddha is a physician who diagnoses illness and suggests treatment; but the worth or the value lies, not in the biography of the physician, but on whether the patient is cured.

Buddhist biographies are late (see e.g. Buddhacarita, Lalitavistara). They, and texts in the Pāli canon, suggest that Gotama was brought up in a royal household (perhaps son of the rāja of Kapilavastu), and that he married (perhaps more than one wife). His wife Yaśodharā bore a son, Rāhula. Although his father tried to protect Gotama from disturbing experiences, he ordered a carriage and saw, on separate occasions, a sick man, an old man, and a dead man. Disturbed by the thought that these conditions awaited him, he wondered how to escape them. On a fourth trip, he saw an emaciated religious ascetic. Gotama abandoned his wife and son, and embarked on extreme asceticism. He discovered that such practices attain their goal—but no more than their goal; and these goals do not lead to escape from suffering and death.

In disillusionment at the limited attainments of asceticism, Gotama reverted to ‘the middle way’ (a characteristic name for ‘Buddhism’) and sat beneath a tree (Bo Tree), concentrating on ‘seeing things as they really are’. He passed through the four stages or layers of progressive insight (jhānas), and reached enlightenment.

His initial response was to remain where he was, but eventually he was prevailed upon (by the god Brahmā) to share the truth, on the grounds that humans are like lotuses in a pool: all are rooted in mud; most are swamped below the surface; but a few are struggling to the light and some have already blossomed. The Buddha agreed to teach according to the capacity of his audiences (upāya-kauśalya).

The rest of his life (when he had in fact attained nirvāna, but the residual appearances of karma kept him in apparent form on this earth) was spent wandering, with an increasing band of disciples, in the area of the larger Ganges basin. According to Majihima Nikāya, his last words before death were, ‘Decay is inherent in all compounded things, so continue in watchfulness’ (or ‘… work out your own salvation with diligence’).

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Buddha

Buddha (bōō´də, bŏŏ–) [Skt.,=the enlightened One], usual title given to the founder of Buddhism. He is also called the Tathagata [he who has come thus], Bhagavat [the Lord], and Sugata [well-gone]. He probably lived from 563 to 483 BC The story of his life is overlaid with legend, the earliest written accounts dating 200 years after his death (see Buddhist literature).

Early Life

His given name was Siddhartha and his family name Gautama (or Gotama). He was born the son of a king of the Sakya clan of the Kshatriya, or warrior, caste (hence his later epithet Sakyamuni, "the sage of the Sakyas" ) in the Himalayan foothills in what is now S Nepal. It was predicted at his birth that he would become either a world ruler or a world teacher; therefore his father, King Suddhodana, who wished Siddhartha to succeed him as ruler, took great pains to shelter him from all misery and anything that might influence him toward the religious life.

Siddhartha spent his youth in great luxury, married, and fathered a son. The scriptures relate that at the age of 29, wishing to see more of the world, he left the palace grounds in his chariot. He saw on successive excursions an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and a mendicant monk. From the first three of these sights he learned the inescapability of suffering and death, and in the serenity of the monk he saw his destiny. Forsaking his wife, Yashodhara, and his son, Rahula, he secretly left the palace and became a wandering ascetic.

Enlightenment

Siddhartha first studied yogic meditation under the teachers Alara Kalama and Udraka Ramaputra, and after mastering their techniques, decided that these did not lead to the highest realization. He then undertook fasting and extreme austerities, but after six years gave these up fearing that they might cause his death before he attained illumination. Taking moderate food, he seated himself under a pipal tree at Bodh Gaya and swore not to stir until he had attained the supreme enlightenment. On the night of the full moon, after overcoming the attacks and temptations of Mara, "the evil one," he reached enlightenment, becoming a Buddha at the age of 35.

Founding of Buddhism

Leaving what was now the Bodhi Tree, or Tree of Enlightenment, he proceeded to the Deer Park at Sarnath, N of Benares (Varanasi), where he preached his first sermon to five ascetics who had been with him when he practiced austerities. They became his first disciples. The first sermon, known as "the setting into motion of the wheel of the dharma," contained the basic doctrines of the "four noble truths" and the "eightfold path."

For the remainder of his life he traveled and taught in the Gangetic plain, instructing disciples and giving his teaching to all who came to him, regardless of caste or religion. He spent much of his time in monasteries donated to the sangha, or community of monks, by wealthy lay devotees. Tradition says that he died at the age of 80. He appointed no successor but on his deathbed told his disciples to maintain the sangha and achieve their own liberation by relying on his teaching. He was cremated and his relics divided among eight groups, who deposited them in shrines called stupas.

Bibliography

See E. J. Thomas, The Life of Buddha as Legend and History (3d ed. 1952, repr. 1960); A. C. A. Foucher, The Life of the Buddha (1963, repr. 1972); D. J. and I. Kalupahana, The Way of Disshartha (1987).

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Buddha

Buddha (Enlightened One) Title adopted by Gautama Siddhartha (c.563–c.483 bc), the founder of Buddhism. Born at Lumbini, Nepal, Siddhartha was son of the ruler of the Sakya tribe, and his early years were spent in luxury. At the age of 29, he realized that human life is little more than suffering. He gave up his wealth and comfort, deserted his wife and small son, and took to the road as a wandering ascetic. He travelled south, and sought truth in a six-year regime of austerity and self-mortification. After abandoning asceticism as futile, he sought his own middle way towards enlightenment. The moment of truth came in c.528 bc, as he sat beneath a banyan tree in the village of Buddha Gaya, Bihar, India. After this incident, he taught others about his way to truth. The title ‘buddha’ applies to those who have achieved perfect enlightenment. Buddhists believe that there have been several buddhas before Siddhartha, and there will be many to come. The term also serves to describe a variety of Buddha images.

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Buddha

Buddha a title given to the founder of Buddhism, Siddartha Gautama (c.563–c.460 bc). Born an Indian prince in what is now Nepal, he renounced wealth and family to become an ascetic, and after achieving enlightenment while meditating, taught all who came to learn from him.
Buddhism, founded by him, is now a widespread Asian religion or philosophy. It has no god, and gives a central role to the doctrine of karma. The ‘four noble truths’ of Buddhism state that all existence is suffering, that the cause of suffering is desire, that freedom from suffering is nirvana, and that this is attained through the ‘eightfold path’ of ethical conduct, wisdom, and mental discipline (including meditation). There are two major traditions, Theravada and Mahayana.

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Buddha

Bud·dha / ˈboōdə; ˈboŏdə/ (often the Buddha) a title given to the founder of Buddhism, Siddartha Gautama (c.563–c.460 bc). Born an Indian prince, he renounced wealth and family to become an ascetic, and after achieving enlightenment while meditating, taught all who came to learn from him. ∎  [as n.] (a buddha) Buddhism a person who has attained full enlightenment. ∎  a statue or picture of the Buddha.

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Buddha

BuddhaBarbuda, barracuda, Bermuda, brooder, Buxtehude, colluder, deluder, excluder, intruder, Judah, Luda, Neruda, obtruder, Tudor •mouthbrooder •Buddha, do-gooder •Kaunda, Munda •judder, rudder, shudder, udder •numdah •asunder, blunder, chunder, hereunder, plunder, rotunda, sunder, thereunder, thunder, under, up-and-under, wonder •husbander • seconder • Shetlander •mainlander • Greenlander •Queenslander • midlander •Little Englander •Highlander, islander •Icelander • Hollander • lowlander •Newfoundlander • woodlander •colander • Canada • Kannada •ambassador • forwarder •birder, Gerda, girder, herder, murder

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