Buddhism: A Way of Life

The Shakyan clansmen dwelt along the Rohini river which flows along the Southern foothills of the Himalayas. Their king, Suddhona Gauthama, established his capital at Kapilawastu and there had a great castle built and ruled wisely, winning the acclaim of his people. The chief Queen of this king was Maya. She was the daughter of the King’s uncle who was also the King of a neighbouring District of the same Shakya clan . For twenty years, they had no children. But one night, Queen Maya had a wonderful dream, in which she saw a white elephant entering into her womb through the right side of her chest, and she became pregnant.

The king and the people looked forward with anticipation to the birth of a royal child. According their customs, the Queen returned to her parents’ home for the birth and on her way, in the beautiful Spring sun- shine, she took rest in the Garden called Lumbini. Queen Maya gave birth to a prince . Heaven and Earth rejoiced the joy of the king was extreme and he named the child Siddhartha, which means “ Every wish  fulfilled”. In the palace of the king, however, delight was followed quickly by  sorrow because, after seven days of the birth of  the prince, the lovely Queen Maya died. Consequently, her younger sister Maha Prajapathi became the child’s foster mother and looked after him with much love and care.

Meanwhile, a hermit called Asitha, who lived in the mountains, not far away, came down to the palace and was shown the child. He then predicted “this prince, if he remains in the royal palace, when grown up will become a great king and subjugate the whole world. But if he forsakes the court life to embrace a religious life, he will become a Buddha, the savior of the world.”

The king was increasingly worried as he recalled the hermit’s prophecy and attempted in every possible way to cheer the prince and to turn his thoughts in other directions. King arranged the marriage of the prince at the age of 16 years to the princess Yasodhara. She was the daughter of king Suprabuddha. This royal couple spent 13 years in the palace enjoying all comforts and luxuries. At the age of 29 years, the prince Siddhartha and Queen Yasodhara  were blessed with a son who was named Rahula. On that specific day, prince Siddhartha left the royal palace in search of a solution to all human sufferings. He made an intense and incomparable struggle for six years to realize the true causes for all human sufferings. At the age of 35 years, he found the path to Enlightenment. From that time on, he was known by the name the Perfectly Enlightened One. After his enlightenment, Gautama the Buddha delivered his first sermon to a group of five ascetics, His old colleagues, in the Deer Park at Isipathana (modern Saranath) near Benares.  From that day onwards, for forty five years, he taught all classes of men and women, kings and peasants, Brahmins and outcasts, bankers and beggars, holy men and others without making the slightest distinction between them. He recognized no differences of caste or social groupings and hence, the Way he preached was open to all men and women who were ready to understand and follow it. At the age of 80 years, the Fully Awakened One passed away at Kusinara (in modern Uttar Pradesh in India).

Among the founders of religions, the Buddha was the only teacher who did not claim to be other than a human being, pure and simple. Other teachers were either God, or his incarnations in different forms, or inspired by God. The Buddha attributed all his realization, attainments and achievements to human endeavor and human intelligence. He said a man and only a man can become a Buddha.

Every man has within himself the potentiality of becoming a Buddha, if he so wills it and endeavors. Therefore, we can call the Buddha, a man par excellence.

The Buddha is not a savior in the same sense that others believe in a savior, yet Buddhists regard him a savior since he has shown the perfect path for humanity to save them.

To great philosophers and unbiased thinkers, he is a teacher who understood worldly conditions in their proper perspectives. To moralists, he has the highest code of discipline and he symbolizes perfection. To rationalists, he is the most liberal- minded religious teacher who understood vexing human problems. To free thinkers, he is a religious teacher who encouraged people to think freely without depending on religious dogmas. To agnostics, he is very intelligent, kind, understanding and peace- loving man. To Hindus, he is an incarnation of their god.  To socialists, he is a social reformer. To religious devotees, he is a holy man. The Buddha, on one occasion, revealed who the real followers of his teachings are.

“There may be many disciples who stay with me, follow me by holding my hand or clinging to my  robes, thereby thinking that they are close to me. On the other hand, there may be some other disciples who are far away from me and they have not   even seen me, but if their minds are pure, even though they are staying far away, they are indeed very close to me. Those who stay with me but exist only with polluted minds are in fact not at all close to me.”

The aim of Buddhism is to release human beings from worldly sufferings within the cycle of births and deaths and guide them to achieve this liberation, without becoming slaves to certain beliefs and practices that people uphold in the name of religion. Buddhism is the direct result of most intensive research, voluntarily conducted over a long period of time by a most kind- hearted, noble prince, who was imbued with infinite love and deep compassion for suffering beings. It is not a message that is received from heaven. It should best be described as a mental therapy.

If you can understand the nature of your mind, you can easily understand what Buddhism is. You may go around the world in search of Buddhism, but only when you concentrate and reflect on yourself, you will be able to find it. This is the method prescribed by the Buddha for self- realization. It is a fact that people have different mental capacities in realizing anything. Some are able to grasp anything quickly while some others are unable to realize the same at all. Hence, those who strive to realize the Teachings of the Buddha will surely succeed someday in their efforts in becoming true winners of the struggle to put an end to this endless process of births and deaths.

Our values in life will change. What is important in life? What is motivating us? What is the driving factor in our lives?

If we really contemplate death, it may cause us to reconsider our values. It does not matter how much property we have, for we cannot take any of it with us. Even our own body has to be left behind for others to dispose of, in one way or  another since  it is  just a heap of refuse left behind.

The quality of life is more important than mere material acquisitions. The quality of life is primarily the quality of our minds. How we are living today may be more important to us than many other external things. But death and the quality of the mind control the condition for rebirth. This is one thing we take with us. This is the one inheritance that we do not leave behind for others.

All that we follow us will be the qualities that we develop within us, the qualities of mind, the spiritual qualities and the good or bad qualities. These are all that we inherit. These are the conditions which will determine our rebirth and shape the future. These in turn will give rise to a new value in our lives. We may enjoy the millions we have already gained but it is more important that we live peacefully and start to build up some virtuous qualities. It is not just a matter of being successful; it is how we become successful.

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