By Thangjam Sanjoo Singh
In the major world religions, there is someone who is regarded as the great leader or teacher of that religion. Some of these teachers are called Founders, Son of God and Prophet of God depending on their efforts for the development of new faith. There are also a few religions where they regard themselves as the God, who was reborn in humans from their sins.
The Buddha however, the founder of Buddhism is an enlightened and the fully awakened being who is neither a god nor a prophet of god, nor a messenger but a compassionate teacher who taught compassion, love, good will and showed the way to achieve ultimate happiness, unborn, undying, deathlessness which everyone is capable of achieving, the Buddha-nature, complete silence and inner peace. This is the nature of the mental state that every one of us has a capability to achieve – the state of Buhhdahood – depending on individual effort and perfection. The recent historical Buddha, however, was born in 2635(AD 2012+543= Buddhist era 2555+80) years ago in Lumbani in present day Nepal and lived and died as a human. He had transformed himself from an ordinary human being to supra-ordinary human being through mental training.
Buddhism does not put much emphasis on the Buddha’s biography but concentrates on his teachings. Nevertheless, simple collections of his life scattered in the Buddhist scripture suggests that The Buddha’s given name was prince Siddhartha, family name Gautama and was born to one of the leading men of the Kingdom of Kapilavatthu. It is said that he was provided with every pleasure he could desire. He was married at the age of 16 to Yasodharna and at the age of 29 years had a son called Rahula. One night the Prince Siddharttha Gautama walked out of his comfortable life and became an ascetic ‘a holy man’ (brahmacariya) on the quest of finding the way to liberation and to complete inner peace.
The scripture suggests that when Prince Siddhartha had a chance to see the world outside the palace life, he saw human life as a cycle of suffering which began with trauma of becoming and proceeded inevitably to aging, illness, sorrow, corruption and death. Realizing this universal fact that no one is exempt from this, he crept away in his 29th year of age without saying goodbye to his wife, his son and his family. It was as though he did not trust himself his own determination to leave palace in search of salvation in case his wife requested him to stay. Further, no one can achieve higher knowledge without sacrifice. Once the Siddhartha left the luxurious life, he travelled in his quest of understanding the true nature of life for six years.
The scripture records his quest in different discourses, particularly in Pali scripture that provides detailed information about his practice of austerity during his search, his determination and dedication. The scripture also says that he had strong faith and confidence in finding the goals of his quest. His dedication and determination was firm and unshakeable towards his quest of finding the ultimate reality of nature despite physical difficulties and being abandon by his fellow ascetics etc. As a result of this determination and dedication, after six years of austerity practice his eyes opened wide, ultimate light arose in him and ever since he was known as the Buddha which means fully awakened one, perfectly enlightened, the knower of the world and its condition.
The Buddha is not the name of a person but a title of a man who is fully awakened. Buddha from the root budh- means awakened. This, it literally means one who has fully awakened by completely extinguishing all sensual by completely extinguishing all sensual pleasures, (bhaggarago), hatred (bhaggadoso) and delusion (bhaggamoho). After the enlightenment, the Sakyamuni Buddha, the sage of the Sakyaclan, travelled to cities and villages sharing his teaching which was based on social, individual and psycho-phenomenal exercises to human kind. The Buddha continued his journey until he was 80 years of age to share and spread the teaching that offers the path that leads to the end of suffering.
*** The writer is a lay Buddhist and a vocalist of a Rock Band called ‘No Name’