Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Who is a Buddha

What or who is a Buddha? Dictionary says a Buddha is one who has achieved a state of perfect spiritual enlightenment. The one we refer to as Buddha today is Siddhartha Gautama, the Indian mystic and founder of the religion, Buddhism. He began preaching after achieving supreme enlightenment at the age of 35. These were the bare facts that I knew about Buddha or even Buddhism till today. But an extraordinary compulsion to know more drove me on to do some research. I have always been interested in all forms of esoteric arts (read mysterious philosophy) and well....... here is some of the interesting things I came across in this vast sea of the web in search of enlightenment.....

Buddha is a person who has developed all positive qualities and has eliminated all the negative qualities. He was an an "ordinary" human like you and me before he/she became enlightened or awakened. Enlightenment is compared to awakening, as a person suddenly makes a complete transformation in body and mind. The historical Buddha, Shakyamuni or Gautama Buddha, lived about 2,500 years ago in India. However, he was not the first Buddha, and will not be the last either.

The historical Buddha, Shakyamuni or Gautama Buddha, lived about 2,500 years ago in India. However, he was not the first Buddha, and will not be the last either. The Buddha is not the creator of the universe, is not omnipotent (all-powerful). The state of Buddhahood can be reached by every living being, if only the soul is willing and seeks enlightenment.


Prince Siddharta Gautama was born some 2,500 years ago as a prince in what is now called Lumbini in Nepal. His father asked a sage living in his kingdom for advice on his son. The sage predicted that Gautama would become either a great King or a great spiritual teacher. The King wanted his son to be his successor and tried to keep his son far away from all matters of life that could incline him to a spiritual life. Gautama usually spent his life in his father's palace, surrounded by all possible luxuries of the time. He proved to be a special child, being quite intelligent as well as an excellent sportsman. He married a beautiful woman he loved, and they had a son.

When he was 29 years old, he discovered there was much suffering in the world around him. Traditionally it is explained that he suddenly recognised the problems of sickness, old age and death when visiting the city. Being shocked by the suffering of all living beings, he decided to search for way to end it. He left his wife and child, the palace and even his royal clothes, and started out on a spiritual quest.

Gautama studied under various teachers and followed their practices until he mastered them all. His first teacher was Alara Kalama who taught a form of meditation leading to an exalted form of absorption called "state of nothingness", a state without moral or cognitive dimension. Gautama saw this was not going to solve suffering, and continued his search.

The next teacher was Udraka Ramaputra who taught him meditative absorption leading to “the state of neither perception nor non-perception”. Again, Gautama realised this was not the state he was looking for. (Both Alara and Udraka are by some scholars considered Jain followers.)

Next, he tried extreme ascetic practices at Uruvilva, with five other ascetics who turned into his followers. In the end, Gautama nearly died of starvation. After about six years of searching, he realised that just wearing one's body does not generate new insights and it will ultimately lead to self-destruction. When he decided to give up extreme asceticism, his students left him.

He then sat down in a place now called Bodhgaya (North India) under a Bodhi-tree and decided not to get up anymore until he discovered the truth. Just a short time later, he became a fully enlightened Buddha. This means that he actualised all positive potentials of a sentient being and rid himself of all negative qualities. With this, he realised the true nature of existence and suffering (emptiness), and how suffering can be ended. (On the left is a descendant of the original Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya.)

Seven weeks after enlightenment, the Buddha gave his first discourse in Sarnath, near Varanasi. Here he taught the 4 Noble Truths. The Buddha continued to teach during his life, until passing away at the age of 81.

The Buddha once summarised his entire teachings in one sentence:

"I teach about suffering and the way to end it".

What are these four noble truths?


According to the Buddha, whatever life we lead, it has the nature of some aspect of suffering. Even if we consider ourselves happy for a while, this happiness is transitory by nature.


The reason that we experience suffering comes ultimately from our mind. According to Buddhism, our main mental problems or root delusions are: attachment, anger and ignorance. Because of these delusions, we engage in actions that cause problems to ourselves and others. With every negative action (karma) we do, we create a potential for negative experiences.


This is the most positive message of Buddhism: although suffering is always present in cyclic existence, we can end being in cyclic existence and enter Nirvana, which is a state beyond all suffering. The reasoning behind this Third Noble Truth is the fact that as suffering and the causes of suffering are dependent on states of our own mind, then if we can change our own mind, we can also eliminate suffering.


If we can control our body and mind in a way that we help others instead of doing them harm, and generating wisdom in our own mind, we can end suffering and problems.

The Buddha summarised the correct attitude and actions in the Eight-fold Noble Path:

1. Correct thought: avoiding covetousness, the wish to harm others and wrong views (like: actions have no consequences, I never have any problems, there are no ways to end suffering etc.)

2. Correct speech: avoid lying, divisive and harsh speech and idle gossip.

3. Correct actions: avoid killing, stealing and sexual misconduct

4. Correct livelihood: try to make a living with the above attitude of thought, speech and actions.

5. Correct understanding: developing genuine wisdom.

The last three aspects refer mainly to the practice of meditation:

6. Correct effort: after the first real step we need joyful perseverance to continue.

7. Correct mindfulness: try to be aware of the "here and now", instead of dreaming in the "there and then".

8. Correct concentration: to to keep a steady, calm and attentive state of mind.

The above information has been taken from and all the above content rightfully belongs to them.

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