Calmer than anyone anywhere, the Indian Sage Siddhartha Gautama became known as “The Buddha” by practically inventing pacifism. Born a rich prince and into a life of luxury, the young Gautama bailed on his birthright and all the trappings that came along with society and decided to go on his own journey.
Initially, Buddhism made some rapid strides mainly due to its simplicity and its appeal to the reasoning mind. Even in the beginning, Buddhism was a force to be reckoned with, by gaining many followers, and is still considered the fourth largest religion in the world. With over 600,000 adherents worldwide, its influence is as strong as it was since its inception over two thousand years ago.
Sometime between 600 and 623 BC, within sight of the snow-capped Himalayas, Queen Mahayama, Princess of Koliyas and wife of Suddhodana Gotama, ruler of the Nepalese frontier, gave birth to a son, Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who the world would, later on, know as Buddha. Queen Mahayama passed away seven days after the child’s birth and the babe was cared for by his maternal aunt Pajapati Gotami.
The Enlightened One
Buddha or “the enlightened one” sought out the path to spiritual development, which led him to attain insights into the true nature of reality. But, to do this he left his life of luxury behind and walked into the wilderness where he meditated for years, without being in contact with other inhabitants. And after years of serious contemplation, Buddha finally reached the state which he, later on, referred to as Nirvana, by applying himself to the mindfulness of in and out-breathing. “Nirvana” is the main goal behind every Buddhist’s quest for enlightenment.
Four Noble Truths
The Buddha’s teachings are summarized with The Four Noble Truths, which form the basis of his first sermon, and the Eightfold Path, which provides the basic guidelines for how his followers should live their lives.
Buddhist canon consists mainly of a corpus of manuscripts that cover the words of Buddha on subjects ranging from philosophical to devotional and also monastic matters. After the death of Buddha, his teachings were passed on by his devotees in written form. The Ripitaka, also referred to as “The Three Baskets” is the complete collection of Buddha’s sayings, what he taught to his followers, and his instructions and rules on how Buddhist monks should lead their lives. The Ripitaka was written on palm leaves, which were then collected in baskets by Buddha’s followers.
Today, Buddhism has spread from its roots to virtually all corners of the globe, and while each of the major divisions within Buddhism has its own distinct version of canonical scriptures they all follow the basic tenants of Gautama Buddha which were laid out centuries ago.