BUDDHISM

The Early Life of the Buddha, The Ascetic Life & Enlightenment

The Early Life of the Buddha, The Ascetic Life & Enlightenment

buddhaThe Buddha is the first of the Three Refuges.

The birth of the Buddha has been much mythologised and there are many stories about it. It is believed his father was King Suddhodana and his mother was Queen Maha Maya, and that the Buddha was born in the 6th century BC in Lumbini, a city in modern day Nepal.

When Siddhartha was a boy, he saw four signs: an old man; a sick man; a dead body; and a penniless holy man. The suffering of the first three people he saw made him realise how privileged his wealthy upbringing had been, shielding him from suffering and pain. The fourth sign, the holy man who was a beggar and had renounced all worldly goods, made him feel that this was the path he should follow.

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The Buddha’s ascetic life

asceticAn ascete is someone who avoids fleshly pleasures and lives a life of strict self-discipline. Renouncing his royal riches, Siddhartha became an itinerant holy man with no possessions and no home. During his travels, he saw many more instances of human suffering and unhappiness. He sought the company of holy men to try to learn how to avoid suffering, old age and death, but nobody could teach him how to do that.

Then Siddhartha met an Indian ascetic who taught him to live with even tougher self-discipline. Siddhartha also started to meditate, but this still did not fulfil his desire for enlightenment. After living in this way for six years, he still felt unable to escape worldly suffering. He then relaxed the strictness of his life, and lived in the Middle Way, neither in abject poverty or extravagant wealth.

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The Buddha’s enlightenment

bodhi treeThe Buddha at last achieved enlightenment one day as he sat under the tree of awakening, the Bodhi Tree. Enlightenment came to him as he was in profound meditation. At this moment, he became the Buddha.

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