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Gautam Buddha ~ India’s gift to the world

reclining_buddha

This week on 27th May was Buddha Purnima – the birth anniversary of the great Prophet from India – Gautam Buddha. Buddha meaning ‘the Enlightened One’. Most of us know about the life story of the prince Gautam who became the prophet of compassion and founder of Buddhism and its best to know the real teachings that will benefit us rather than legendary story. Gautam Buddha is said to be born around 563 BCE and passed away around 483 BCE, most modern scholars agree on these dates.

In Buddhist tradition Gautam Buddha’s birth name was Siddhartha Gautam, this was changed after he went on a quest for the truth behind life and death. Gautam, also known as ??kyamuni or Shakyamuni (“sage of the Shakyas clan”), is the key figure in Buddhism.

The story of the prince who awakened to become the Buddha is one of the most dramatic and compelling stories of all time. Buddha’s teachings are fundamental to a spiritual revolution in the East that took place some 500 years before Common Era (BCE) some 2500 years ago from today.

Buddha’s self discovery of the ultimate universal under the Bodhi Tree was that the cause of human suffering is ignorance. Forty-nine days after Buddha attained enlightenment he was requested to teach. As a result of this request, Buddha rose from meditation and taught the first Wheel of Dharma (Dhamma). The teachings include the Sutra of the Four Noble Truths and his prescribed eightfold noble path, among other teachings.

The Four Noble Truths are:

  1. Suffering is an inherent part of living in this world
  2. The origin of this suffering is ignorance and that is due to attachment and craving
  3. Attachment and craving can be ceased
  4. Following the Noble Eightfold Path will lead to the end of suffering.

The Noble Eightfold Path prescribed by him are:

  1. Right understanding
  2. Right thought
  3. Right speech
  4. Right action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness and
  8. Right concentration

The Buddha never believed in blind faith and taught that his teachings should not be accepted unless they are borne out of our experience. He said ‘Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.’ He taught that all things are impermanent and that all beings suffer from all situations due to unclear mind.

One of the significant stories in the life of Buddha is the story of Angulimaal– the serial killer.   Buddha was once threatened with death by a bandit called Angulimaal. “Then be good enough to fulfill my dying wish,” said Buddha. “Cut off the branch of that tree.” One slash of the sword, and it was done!  “What now?” asked the bandit.

“Put it back again,” said Buddha. The bandit laughed. “You must be crazy to think that anyone can do that. On the contrary, it is you who are crazy to think that you are mighty because you can wound and destroy. That is the task of children. The mighty know how to create and heal.” The bandit was transformed joined his order. Such was Buddha’s abidance in the truth and the fearlessness that comes out of it.

To understand this great master and his teachings, here are some of his famous sayings:

  • Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.
  • Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
  • Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.
  • Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.
  • Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.
  • Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little.
  • He is able who thinks he is able.
  • He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.

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