The History and Philosophy of Buddhism
The Buddha is most recently believed to have been born in the year 623 or 624 BCE. Though many religious historian s have preferred birth dates ranging from 567 to 487 BCE. Though in truth, no one knows for sure. The Buddha’s given name was Siddhartha Gautama, Siddhartha meaning “one who has achieved his aim."
It was prophesized that Siddhartha would either become King of the world or, if exposed to human sufferings; would become a great religious teacher. Siddhartha’s parents protected him from the outside world and human sufferings, they surround him only with youthful, healthy people so he would not be aware of illness, the effects of aging or death. Sometime around Siddhartha’s 29th year, he began to venture out from the protective confines of his home and witnessed first hand, the things his parent’s tried to keep from him. He saw an elderly man, crippled with age, a sickly man crippled and depressed by illness, a corpse and holy man who was content with the world. This became know as the “The Four Sights” in Buddhist literature.
After having witnessed human suffering, Siddhartha left his wife and infant son to pursue a spiritual quest. He first studied with a great religious teacher and for 6 years learned meditation, but found that mediation did not quench his thirst for spiritual freedom. He then began practicing a life of absolute simplicity and surrounded himself with all that was unpleasant. He denied himself of all but what was absolutely necessary to sustain life. He fasted, only to consume a grain of rice a day. Only on the brink of starvation and death, did Siddhartha realize the path to spiritual enlightenment, was not through intense suffering or grand pleasantries, but a moderation of the two. Through this realization, he was then spiritually enlightened and at age 35 became known at The Buddha or “The Awakened”.
The Buddha went on to teach spiritual enlightenment for the next 45 years, it is
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