Shakyamuni Buddha

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A Buddha is a person who has developed all positive qualities and got rid of all negative qualities. The Buddha was an “ordinary” human like you and me before he became enlightened. Enlightenment is quite like awakening, just as a person who is sleeping suddenly waking up and experiencing a complete transformation of body and mind.

You could say that a Buddha represents the very peak of evolution, as he/she is omniscient or all-knowing because he/she has achieved a very clear mind.  So when one’s mind is completely purified, one becomes a Buddha.

Shakyamuni Buddha

Shakyamuni Buddha is one among the thousand Buddhas of this eon. These Buddhas were not Buddhas from the beginning, but were once sentient beings like ourselves.  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.

He taught that during this eon (a very long time, maybe comparable to the life-time of the universe as we know it), there would be 1,000 fully enlightened Buddhas who would introduce Buddhism (after it has been totally forgotten).  The numbers one to three in this eon were Krakucchanda, Kanakamuni, Kashyapa, then came Shakyamuni, and the next Buddha who will come is called Maitreya.

Birth, Childhood and Growing Up

Prince Siddharta Gautama was born some 2,500 years ago as a prince in what is now called Lumbini in Nepal.  At his birth, many special signs appeared.  His father, the King 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 him 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 the 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.

Discovering Suffering

When Gautama was 29 years old, he discovered that outside of the palace, there seemed to be much suffering in the world around him.  While visiting the city, he began to observe the problems of sickness, old age and death.

This affected him very deeply and having been shocked by the suffering of all living beings, he decided to search for a way to end it.  He left his wife and child, his riches, the palace and even his royal clothes and servants, and started out on a spiritual quest.

Searching For The Truth

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 “the state of nothingness”, a state without moral or cognitive dimension.  Gautama saw this was not going to solve all the suffering so he continued his search.

His next teacher was Udraka Ramaputra who taught him meditative absorption leading to “the state of neither perception nor non-perception”.  Again, Gautama realised that it was not the state he was looking for.  Next, he tried extreme ascetic practices at Uruvilva in North India, 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 down his body did not generate new insights, but rather led to weakness and self-destruction.


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.  After meditating for awhile, 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.

Seven weeks after enlightenment, the Buddha gave his first teaching in a place called Sarnath, near Varanasi.  Here he taught the Four Noble Truths.  The Buddha continued to teach during his life, until he passed away at the age of 81.

This is the story of Buddha Shakyamuni.

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