Siddartha Gautama Shakyamuni
The historical first earthly Buddha. The date of his birth is uncertain as record keeping 3,000 years ago is faulty. Historically his passing into Nirvana is February 15 each year. The son of a regent King of the Shakya Tribe in the northern region of India located at the foothills of the Himalayas.
His family name was Gautama [ best cow ] Shakya was the Tribes name to which as added “muni” was added which means Sage. Years later long after his death the name Siddhartha or “goal achieved” was also added. He is said to have been born Lumbini Gardens which still exist today in what is now the village of Paderia in Nepal. It is of course a tourist site of great historical value as people from all over the world visit, yet it is truly a humble site and not like visiting some great temple or shrine. His mother Maya died on the seventh day after his birth the Cause of her being finished on mother earth. The young boy was raised by his father, his mother’s sister and the various servants. It is said he appeared in the world with a strong balance of both the male and female aspects of Being. His father ensured he had the best of everything including several properties, and in the Indian tradition selected for him a lovely wife, Yashodhara who gave him a son, Rahula. But, he was bothered by the fact that he lived amongst the very privileged few and leaving his family in the care of his father he went out to discover the world for himself. Shortly thereafter he decided an even more radical lifestyle that of a religious recluse. After six years of this extreme lifestyle he had an “awakening” in that he realized this was not the correct pathway to freedom he was seeking. Going to the nearby town of Gaya he began a series of what we now call Meditations working out in his mind the balance between the riches he was born into and the life he had lead in the caves and hillsides. Scholars generally agree he was away from his family for a total period of about ten years. This must have been a difficult time for his wife and son, but they soon also left the palace of his father and journeyed throughout India as family and followers. In his enlightened state he began to visit government leaders, others Tribe elders and the general population with his profound outlook on the reality of life which became known as the Middle Pathway to enlightenment. The fact that he had taken the energy from the Bodhi or Fig tree his awakening became known as bodhi, which was translated into “awakened” which is another reason we hear of the Tree of Light. Having attained a World beyond the World of Realization he had gone back to the five other recluses he had shared the caves and forests with shared with them his balanced reality explaining that life is a series of birth, sickness, old age and death. He explained that life is made up of the decisions we make in between these four sufferings that all humans face.
As the years went by his teachings grew rapidly for he had both the money and the means to affect those in the know, those who had the power to make change happen. Soon he had a following of Kings offering him and his group places to stay. We begin to see the names of Shariputra, and Maitreya and Manjusri, who are told they will become buddhas. The travelling group grew in numbers and we are told that at any one time 200 to 300 people traveled together in what became known as the Sangha of followers, nuns and a new priesthood based on his teachings. Not Hindu, or Brahmin, the new Buddhist Way.
Visiting his father from time to time, his connections grew as did his influence. On one of his visits he met one of his dads very rich friends who realized that he was in the presence of a great human being and he became more than just another follower he built the first great Temple the Jetavana in Shravasti, as an offering to the man now known as the Buddha or “awakened one.” But, at no time did he try to claim any kind of divinity, for when one comes to understand the universal Law, then One understands we are all human and divine at the same time.
As the years passed Shakyamuni and his leaders spread out taking the message of the Buddha throughout India. They would come back to Jetavana from time to time for meetings and teachings and more insight. These in fact were the early Therevada teachings. As his teachings spread throughout central and northern India and to all Classes his influence soon was perceived by the Brahman Priesthood as threatening to their power and after his death they worked to retake their lost ground and push the Buddha Dharma into the dust.
In the course of his lifetime the Buddha shows actual proof of the Law of Cause and Effect in what is known as the Buddha’s Nine Ordeals. Persevering throughout his lifetime, not caring so much about self as others he continued to teach the laws of freedom from class, suffering and bondage. The teachings he left behind was such a large body of work they became known as the 84,000 teachings, symbolizing that no matter what the question the answers can be found in the universal, mystic, Law of Eternity that the Buddha became awakened to.
We are told that he passed away at the age of 80. Having spent the last dozen years of his life mostly at Jetavana compiling the teachings that became known as the Mahayana doctrine for their seriousness and more personal development pathway. The great Lotus Sutra came out of these oral teachings. As he came near the end of this lifetime, traveling going from village to village, he listened as his Guide Teachers expounded what he had been teaching for nearly fifty years.
As he lay dying answering a question about who would teach them after his passing, he calmly spoke these last words. “You must not think that your teachers words are no more, or that you are left without a teacher. The teachings and precepts I have shared with you shall be your teacher.” “Work out your own enlightenment with due diligence.” Nirvana Sutra
His body was cremated seven days after his passing, his ashes were divided into eight parts and eight stupa’s or memorial sites were set up at places throughout the country where he had taught. Two more stupas were built one that held the vessel used after cremation and one that housed even the ashes from the fire that cremated him. This was a Buddha, a Tathagatha, a Thus Come One offering the Pathway to health, happiness and wisdom.
In the same year that he died, the First Buddhist Council was held in Cave of the Seven Leaves, near Rajagriha to begin the compiling of his great teachings. In February annually Buddhists celebrate his Earthly existence; as we pay our debt of gratitude to the historical Buddha of the Former Day of the Law.
Thus It Has Been Shared, Respectfully, TM Henry