Buddha Shakyamuni (Gautama) lived fr om 566 till 485 BCE in central part of the Northern India. He was born in wealthy aristocratic family of Kshatriya caste in state Shakya with capital in Kapilavastu, on the border of present India and Nepal. In the Buddhist texts it is possible to find description of miraculous conception of the Buddha in a dream, where white elephant with six tusks entered to queen Mayadevi right side, and also a prediction of a sage Asita, that a child would either become a great king or a great holy man. Also, it is possible to find a description of miraculous birth of the Buddha. Not far fr om Kapilavastu in Lumbini garden he entered fr om the side of his mother, made seven steps and said: «I have appeared». The youth of Buddha elapsed in pleasures and delights. He got married and his son Rahula was born. However at the age of twenty nine years the Buddha renounced the throne and family life and started to lead an ascetic itinerant life of spiritual mendicant.
It is important to comprehend renunciation of the Buddha in a context of that time and social environment to which he belonged. Becoming mendicant, he did not left his wife and child to the mercy of fate. Care for them undertook other members of his big rich family. Also it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Buddha, being a member of Kshatriya caste, anyhow once should leave home and go to war. In families of warriors it was considered as a man duty. In ancient India warriors did not take a family to campaigns.
To stop sufferings, the Buddha aspired to comprehend the nature of birth, ageing, illness, death, reincarnation, grief and ignorance.
When prince went hunting for the first time, he was shocked by contemplation of sufferings which overfilled life. He saw ploughed up field where birds pecked worms fr om the earth clods, and was surprised why one live beings could live only at the cost of others' life. But the most important role for spiritual revolution of Siddharta played four meetings: when prince saw a funeral procession and understood that all people and he as well were mortals and neither wealth, nor nobility could protect fr om death. He noticed leper and for the first time realised that illnesses trapped any mortal. Prince saw a beggar asking a handout, and understood transience and illusiveness of wealth and nobility. And then Siddhartha found himself in front of a sage plunged in contemplation. Looking at him, the prince realised that a self-deepening and self-knowledge path – the only way for comprehension of suffering reasons and to get rid of them. It is said that Gods also stay in a wheel of births and deaths and thirst to deliverance fr om them, they have sent to prince the meeting with that entire people to inspire him to take the path of knowledge and liberation.
Having realised all of that, the Buddha came to distinct understanding of truth about sufferings which everyone experienced and of possibilities to get rid of them.
The given episode, concerning the reception of help on a spiritual path, is similar to a fragment of "Bhagavad-Gita" where talk of Arjuna with his charioteer Krishna described. Krishna spoke about necessity to follow the duty of the warrior and to battle in fight against Arjuna relatives. In both stories (in Buddhist and in Hindu) we can see deeper meaning – it is an exit out of limits of our comfortable life, out of limits of everything that habitual and intimate to us to never leave the duty of truth comprehension. In each case, the chariot, probably, personifies consciousness as the mean leading for achievement of liberation, and in this case words of the charioteer mean a motive power impelling our consciousness namely true nature of a reality.
As the wandering spiritual mendicant who vowed celibacy, the Buddha was studied methods of achievement of various levels of intellectual stability and a meditative condition out of forms by two teachers. In spite of the fact that he was capable to reach these deep conditions of perfect concentration, being in which, he did not feel neither sufferings in their rough form, nor even usual secular happiness, but he was not satisfied. These lofty conditions gave only temporary, changeable deliverance fr om the darken sensations, and, of course, did not eliminate deeper universal suffering which he aspired to overcome. Then together with five companions he practiced severe asceticism, but it also didn’t eliminate those deep problems which were connected with dependent circulation of reincarnations (Sanskrit - samsara). Then the Buddha interrupted the six-year fast on river bank Nayrandzhana when girl Sudzhata gave him a bowl with rice in milk.
After renunciation of asceticism the Buddha meditated in loneliness in jungle to overcome fear. The subconscious fear is the strongest display of egoism and affection towards nonexistent "I", it is even stronger than something that attained a full enlightenment at the age of thirty five years. The Buddha attained enlightenments under the Bodhi Tree in a place named nowadays Bodh Gaya after he had reflected all attacks of Mara. Envious God Mara tried to prevent the Buddha fr om attaining enlightenment, showing himself in terrifying or attractive images to break peace of the Buddha meditation under the Bodhi Tree.
According to early sources the Buddha attained enlightenment by finding of three kinds of knowledge: the full knowledge of his own past lives, full knowledge of karma and the past lives and reincarnations of all beings and full knowledge of the Four noble truths. According to later sources, when he attained enlightenment he reached omniscience.
After attaining of liberation and enlightenment Buddha did not dare to teach others. He felt that nobody could understand this path. But Hindu Gods Brahma and Indra begged him to teach the Dharma. Addressing to the Buddha with a request, Brahma told that if the Buddha would refuse to teach the Dharma, the world would suffer infinitely, and that, at least, some people would understand his words.
The Buddha agreed to the request of Brahma and Indra and went to Sarnath, where in Deer Park he taught his five companions to four noble truths.
Soon Buddha came back to Magadha, a kingdom wh ere Bodh Gaya was located. He was invited to the capital Rajagaha (modern Rajgir) – by King Bimbisara who became his patron and disciple. During this visit two friends Sariputta and Maudgalyayana joined Buddha’s growing Sangha and become his foremost followers.
These days nobody among us is able to make supernatural actions. Nevertheless, to gain a victory over the opponents, the Buddha willingly used supernatural forces, rather than logic. This means that if minds of other people are closed to reasonable arguments, the best way to prove validity of your understanding will be demonstration of the level of comprehension in practice. Jataka about disgrace of six Brahmaic teachers.
In spite of the fact that after he attained enlightenment the Buddha was beyond the experience of usual uncontrollable death, nevertheless at the age of eighty one years he decided that it would be useful to give to his followers the doctrine about inconstancy and left his body. Before that, the Buddha gave an opportunity to his devout attendant Ananda to ask him to live and teach further, but Ananda didn’t understand the hint of the Buddha. This means that the Buddha teaches only when he is asked about it and if nobody asks or nobody is interested in the teaching then he leaves for other places, wh ere he can benefit more. Presence of the teacher and the teaching depends on pupils.
Then, in Kushinagar, in the house of Chunda, the Buddha became mortally ill after he ate food which Chunda gave to him and the group of his monks. When the Buddha was near the death he told to the monks that if they still had any doubts or the unsolved questions, they should rely on the Dharma which he gave, and on own internal discipline. Now this would be as a teacher for them. Thus, the Buddha specified that each person should comprehend essence of the teaching for himself. There was no absolute authority, capable to answer all questions. Then, the Buddha left this world.
Chunda absolutely went mad, thinking that it was he who poisoned the Buddha. However Ananda consoled him and told that, actually, he created huge positive force or "merit" as he brought to the Buddha last meal before he left.
The Buddha was cremated, his remains were placed in stupas - structures wh ere sacred relics were stored - at special places, which became the main Buddhist centers of pilgrimage:
• Lumbini, wh ere Buddha was born,
• Bodh Gaya, wh ere Buddha attained enlightenment
• Sarnath, wh ere he first taught the Dharma,
• Kushinagar, attained Parinirvana and left this world.
OUM.RU club organizes annual pilgrim tours Visiting sacred Buddha Shakyamuni and great yogis and yoginis sites, and also specialized yoga tours for beginners and experienced yoga practitioners, wh ere great attention is paid to study pranayama technics and to meditate in places wh ere great yogis of the past practiced technics self-perfection.
To the glory of Tathagatas! :)
For the benefit of all living beings :)
Author of this article is the tutor of the OUM.RU club Ekaterina Androsova
For writing of this article were used materials from the website of Buddhologist Alexandr Berzin - http://www.berzinarchives.com, and also an article "Introduction to the Buddhism" by professor Torchinov Е.А.