the founder of Buddhism
Siddhartha Gautama was born
near the town of Kapilavastu, in the foothills of
the Himalaya in what is now Nepal. He spent his
youth living in luxury in the palace of his
father, the warrior prince Suddhodhana. When he
was about 20 years old, he married the princess
When Gautama was about 29, he
had a series of four visions. In the first
vision, he saw an old man. In the second, he saw
a sick man, and in the third, a corpse. In the
fourth vision, he met a wandering holy man. The
first three visions convinced Gautama that life
involves aging, sickness, and death. The vision
of the holy man convinced him that he should
leave his wife and son and seek religious
enlightenment, which he believed would free him
from life's suffering.
The Search for
Gautama spent six years living
the life of a wandering monk, and sought
enlightenment by practing extreme forms of
self-denial and self-torture. He lived in filth
and many days ate only a grain of rice. He
finally decided, however, that this was not the
way to achieve enlightenment.
One day, Gautama wandered into
a village near Gaya and sat under a shady bodhi
tree to meditate. Several hours later,
enlightenment came. He learned from his
enlightenment that people could find release from
the suffering of life in nirvana, a
state of complete happiness and peace. To achieve
nirvana, people had to free themselves of all
desires and worldly things.
As people learned of Gautama's
experience they began to call him Buddha,
meaning enlightened one. He spent the
rest of his life preaching the message of how to
overcome suffering. This message he called the dharma,
which means saving truth.
Buddha preached his first
sermon to an audience of five holy men in a park
near the holy city of Banaras (Benares). As the
number of his followers increased, he organized
them into a religious community of monks, nuns,
As Buddha's fame increased,
stories spread among his followers that
dramatically described his magic powers,
religious insight, and compassion. His followers
believed that Buddha had lived many lives before
he was born as Gautama. A number of stories
describe events that occurred during these lives.
Known as jatakas, these stories helped
people understand Buddha's message.
About 483 B.C., at the age of
about 80, Buddha became ill and died. His
disciples gave him an elaborate funeral, burned
his body, and distributed his bones as sacred
The site of the bodhi tree
under which Buddha achieved enlightenment is now
part of a temple complex known as Bodh Gaya.
World Book Encyclopedia.
Chicago:World Book-Childcraft International,
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