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Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha

A statue of the Buddha from Sarnath, 4th century CE.
Born c. 563 BCE or 623 BCE
Lumbini, today in Nepal
Died c. 483 BCE or 543 BCE (aged 80)
Kushinagar, today in India
Ethnicity Shakya
Known for Founder of Buddhism
Predecessor Kassapa Buddha
Successor Maitreya Buddha

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Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: शिद्धत्थ ङोतम Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the north eastern region of South Asia who founded Buddhism.[1] In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha (Sammāsambuddha) of our age, "Buddha" meaning "awakened one" or "the enlightened one." [note 1] The time of his birth and death are uncertain: most early 20th-century historians dated his lifetime as c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE; more recently, however, at a specialist symposium on this question,[2] the majority of those scholars who presented definite opinions gave dates within 20 years either side of 400 BCE for the Buddha's death, with others supporting earlier or later dates.[3]

Gautama, also known as Śākyamuni or Shakyamuni ("sage of the Shakyas"), is the key figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarized after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to Gautama were passed down by oral tradition, and first committed to writing about 400 years later.



The primary sources of information regarding Siddhārtha Gautama's life are the Buddhist texts. According to these, the Buddha and his monks spent four months each year discussing and rehearsing his teachings, and after his death his monks set about preserving them. A council was held shortly after his death, and another was held a century later. At these councils the monks attempted to establish and authenticate the extant accounts of the life and teachings of the Buddha following systematic rules. They divided the teachings into distinct but overlapping bodies of material, and assigned specific monks to preserve each one.[4] In some cases, essential aspects of teachings attributed to the Buddha were incorporated into stories and chants in an effort to preserve them accurately.[5]

From then on, the teachings were transmitted orally. From internal evidence it seems clear that the oldest texts crystallized into their current form by the time of the second council or shortly after it. The scriptures were not written down until three or four hundred years after the Buddha's death. By this point, the monks had added or altered some material themselves, in particular magnifying the figure of the Buddha.[4]

The ancient Indians were generally not concerned with chronologies, being more focused on philosophy. The Buddhist texts reflect this tendency, providing a clearer picture of what Shakyamuni may have taught than of the dates of the events in his life. These texts contain descriptions of the culture and daily life of ancient India which can be corroborated from the Jain scriptures, and make the Buddha's time the earliest period in Indian history for which significant accounts exist.[6] According to Michael Carrithers, there are good reasons to doubt the traditional account, though, according to Carrithers, the outline of "birth, maturity, renunciation, search, awakening and liberation, teaching, death" must be true.[7]

Conception and birth

Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini, Nepal.
Birth of Buddha at Lumbini. Picture of a painting in a Laotian Temple.
Prince Siddhartha Gautama, Musée Guimet, Paris

Siddhartha was born in Lumbini[8] and raised in the small kingdom or principality of Kapilvastu, both of which are in modern day Nepal[9]. At the time of the Buddha's birth, the area was at or beyond the boundary of Vedic civilization, the dominant culture of northern India at the time; it is even possible that his mother tongue was not an Indo-Aryan language.[10] At the time, a multitude of small city-states existed in Ancient India, called Janapadas. Republics and chiefdoms with diffused political power and limited social stratification, were not uncommon amongst them, and were referred to as gana-sanghas.[11] The Buddha's community does not seem to have had a caste system. It was not a monarchy, and seems to have been structured either as an oligarchy, or as a form of republic.[12] The more egalitarian gana-sangha form of government, as a political alternative to the strongly hierarchical kingdoms, may have influenced the development of the Shramana type Jain and Buddhist sanghas, where monarchies tended toward Vedic Brahmanism.[13]

According to the traditional biography - to which modern scholars give little credence, aside from the broad outline[14] - the Buddha's father was King Suddhodana, the leader of Shakya clan, whose capital was Kapilavastu, and who were later annexed by the growing Kingdom of Kosala during the Buddha's lifetime; Gautama was the family name. His mother, Queen Maha Maya (Māyādevī) and Suddhodana's wife, was a Koliyan princess. On the night Siddhartha was conceived, Queen Maya dreamt that a white elephant with six white tusks entered her right side,[15] and ten months later Siddhartha was born. As was the Shakya tradition, when his mother Queen Maya became pregnant, she left Kapilvastu for her father's kingdom to give birth. However, she gave birth on the way, at Lumbini, in a garden beneath a sal tree.

The day of the Buddha's birth is widely celebrated in Theravada countries as Vesak.[16] Various sources hold that the Buddha's mother died at his birth, a few days or seven days later. The infant was given the name Siddhartha (Pāli: Siddhatta), meaning "he who achieves his aim". During the birth celebrations, the hermit seer Asita journeyed from his mountain abode and announced that the child would either become a great king (chakravartin) or a great holy man.[17] This occurred after Siddhartha placed his feet in Asita's hair and Asita examined the birthmarks. Suddhodana held a naming ceremony on the fifth day, and invited eight brahmin scholars to read the future. All gave a dual prediction that the baby would either become a great king or a great holy man.[17] Kaundinya (Pali: Kondanna), the youngest, and later to be the first arahant other than the Buddha, was the only one who unequivocally predicted that Siddhartha would become a Buddha.[18]

While later tradition and legend characterized Śuddhodana as a hereditary monarch, the descendant of the Solar Dynasty of Ikṣvāku (Pāli: Okkāka), many scholars believe that Śuddhodana was the elected chief of a tribal confederacy.

Early life and marriage

Siddhartha, said to have been destined to a luxurious life as a prince, had three palaces (for seasonal occupation) especially built for him. His father, King Śuddhodana, wishing for Siddhartha to be a great king, shielded his son from religious teachings or knowledge of human suffering. Siddhartha was brought up by his mother's younger sister, Maha Pajapati.[19]

As the boy reached the age of 16, his father arranged his marriage to Yaśodharā (Pāli: Yasodharā), a cousin of the same age. According to the traditional account, in time, she gave birth to a son, Rahula. Siddhartha spent 29 years as a Prince in Kapilavastu. Although his father ensured that Siddhartha was provided with everything he could want or need, Siddhartha felt that material wealth was not the ultimate goal of life.[19]

Departure and Ascetic Life

The Buddha travelled the plain of the Ganges river, where his philosophy attracted followers.
The Great Departure. Gandhara, 2nd century.
Prince Siddharta shaves his hair and become an ascetic. Borobudur, 8th century.

At the age of 29, Siddhartha left his palace in order to meet his subjects. Despite his father's effort to remove the sick, aged and suffering from the public view, Siddhartha was said to have seen an old man. Disturbed by this, when told that all people would eventually grow old by his charioteer Channa, the prince went on further trips where he encountered, variously, a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. Deeply depressed by these sights, he sought to overcome old age, illness, and death by living the life of an ascetic.

Siddhartha escaped his palace, accompanied by Channa aboard his horse Kanthaka, leaving behind this royal life to become a mendicant. It is said that, "the horse's hooves were muffled by the gods"[20] to prevent guards from knowing of the Bodhisatta's departure. This event is traditionally called "The Great Departure". Siddhartha initially went to Rajagaha and began his ascetic life by begging for alms in the street. Having been recognised by the men of King Bimbisara, Bimbisara offered him the throne after hearing of Siddhartha's quest. Siddhartha rejected the offer, but promised to visit his kingdom of Magadha first, upon attaining enlightenment.

Siddhartha left Rajagaha and practised under two hermit teachers. After mastering the teachings of Alara Kalama (Skr. Ārāḍa Kālāma), Siddhartha was asked by Kalama to succeed him, but moved on after being unsatisfied with his practices. He then became a student of Udaka Ramaputta (Skr. Udraka Rāmaputra), but although he achieved high levels of meditative consciousness and was asked to succeed Ramaputta, he was still not satisfied with his path, and moved on.[21]

Gandhara Buddha. 1st–2nd century CE, Tokyo National Museum.

Siddhartha and a group of five companions led by Kaundinya then set out to take their austerities even further. They tried to find enlightenment through near total deprivation of worldly goods, including food, practising self-mortification. After nearly starving himself to death by restricting his food intake to around a leaf or nut per day, he collapsed in a river while bathing and almost drowned. Siddhartha began to reconsider his path. Then, he remembered a moment in childhood in which he had been watching his father start the season's plowing, and he had fallen into a naturally concentrated and focused state that was blissful and refreshing, the jhāna.


After asceticism and concentrating on meditation and Anapana-sati (awareness of breathing in and out), Siddhartha is said to have discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way—a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. He accepted a little milk and rice pudding from a village girl named Sujata, who wrongly believed him to be the spirit that had granted her a wish, such was his emaciated appearance. Then, sitting under a pipal tree, now known as the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India, he vowed never to arise until he had found the Truth. Kaundinya and the other four companions, believing that he had abandoned his search and become undisciplined, left. After 49 days meditating, at the age of 35, he attained Enlightenment; according to some traditions, this occurred approximately in the fifth lunar month, and according to others in the twelfth. Gautama, from then on, was known as the Buddha or "Awakened One." Buddha is also sometimes translated as "The Enlightened One." Often, he is referred to in Buddhism as Shakyamuni Buddha or "The Awakened One of the Shakya Clan."

At this point, he is believed to have realized complete awakening and insight into the nature and cause of human suffering which was ignorance, along with steps necessary to eliminate it. This was then categorized into 'Four Noble Truths'; the state of supreme liberation—possible for any being—was called Nirvana. He then allegedly came to possess the Ten Characteristics, which are said to belong to every Buddha.

According to one of the stories in the Āyācana Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya VI.1), a scripture found in the Pāli and other canons, immediately after his Enlightenment, the Buddha was wondering whether or not he should teach the Dharma to human beings. He was concerned that, as human beings were overpowered by greed, hatred and delusion, they would not be able to see the true dharma, which was subtle, deep and hard to understand. However, Brahmā Sahampati, interceded and asked that he teach the dharma to the world, as "there will be those who will understand the Dharma". With his great compassion to all beings in the universe, the Buddha agreed to become a teacher.

Formation of the sangha

Painting of the first sermon depicted at Wat Chedi Liem in Thailand.

After becoming enlightened, two merchants whom the Buddha met, named Tapussa and Bhallika became the first lay disciples. They are given some hairs from the Buddha's head, which are believed to now be enshrined in the Shwe Dagon Temple in Rangoon, Burma. The Buddha intended to visit Asita, and his former teachers, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta to explain his findings, but they had already died.

The Buddha thus journeyed to Deer Park near Vārāṇasī (Benares) in northern India, he set in motion the Wheel of Dharma by delivering his first sermon to the group of five companions with whom he had previously sought enlightenment. They, together with the Buddha, formed the first saṅgha, the company of Buddhist monks, and hence, the first formation of Triple Gem (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) was completed, with Kaundinya becoming the first stream-enterer. All five soon become arahants, and with the conversion of Yasa and fifty four of his friends, the number of arahants swelled to 60 within the first two months. The conversion of the three Kassapa brothers and their 200, 300 and 500 disciples swelled the sangha over 1000, and they were dispatched to explain the dharma to the populace.

It is unknown what the Buddha's mother tongue was, and no conclusive documentation has been made at this point. It is likely that he preached and his teachings were originally preserved in a variety of closely related Middle Indo-Aryan dialects, of which Pali may be a standardization.

Travels and teaching

Buddha with his protector Vajrapani, Gandhara, 2nd century CE, Ostasiatische Kunst Museum

For the remaining 45 years of his life, the Buddha is said to have traveled in the Gangetic Plain, in what is now Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and southern Nepal, teaching his doctrine and discipline to an extremely diverse range of people— from nobles to outcaste street sweepers, mass murderers such as Angulimala and cannibals such as Alavaka. This extended to many adherents of rival philosophies and religions. The Buddha founded the community of Buddhist monks and nuns (the Sangha) to continue the dispensation after his Parinirvāna (Pāli: Parinibbāna) or "complete Nirvāna", and made thousands of converts. His religion was open to all races and classes and had no caste structure. He was also subject to attack from opposition religious groups, including attempted murders and framings.

The sangha travelled from place to place in India, expounding the dharma. This occurred throughout the year, except during the four months of the vassana rainy season. Due to the heavy amount of flooding, travelling was difficult, and ascetics of all religions in that time did not travel, since it was more difficult to do so without stepping on submerged animal life, unwittingly killing them. During this period, the sangha would retreat to a monastery, public park or a forest and people would come to them.

The first vassana was spent at Varanasi when the sangha was first formed. After this, he travelled to Rajagaha, the capital of Magadha to visit King Bimbisara, in accordance with his promise after enlightenment. It was during this visit that Sariputta and Mahamoggallana were converted by Assaji, one of the first five disciples; they were to become the Buddha's two foremost disciples. The Buddha then spent the next three seasons at Veluvana Bamboo Grove monastery in Rajagaha, the capital of Magadha. The monastery, which was of a moderate distance from the city centre was donated by Bimbisara.

Upon hearing of the enlightenment, Suddhodana dispatched royal delegations to ask the Buddha to return to Kapilavastu. Nine delegations were sent in all, but the delegates joined the sangha and became arahants. Neglecting worldly matters, they did not convey their message. The tenth delegation, led by Kaludayi, a childhood friend, resulted in the message being successfully conveyed as well as becoming an arahant. Since it was not the vassana, the Buddha agreed, and two years after his enlightenment, took a two month journey to Kapilavastu by foot, preaching the dharma along the way. Upon his return, the royal palace had prepared the midday meal, but since no specific invitation had come, the sangha went for an alms round in Kapilavastu. Hearing this, Suddhodana hastened to approach the Buddha, stating "Ours is the warrior lineage of Mahamassata, and not a single warrior has gone seeking alms", to which the Buddha replied

That is not the custom of your royal lineage. But it is the custom of my Buddha lineage. Several thousands of Buddhas have gone by seeking alms

Suddhodana invited the sangha back to the royal palace for the meal, followed by a dharma talk, after which he became a sotapanna. During the visit, many members of the royal family joined the sangha. His cousins Ananda and Anuruddha were to become two of his five chief disciples. His son Rahula also joined the sangha at the age of seven, and was one of the ten chief disciples. His half-brother Nanda also joined the sangha and became an arahant. Another cousin Devadatta also became a monk although he later became an enemy and tried to kill the Buddha on multiple occasions.

Of his disciples, Sariputta, Mahamoggallana, Mahakasyapa, Ananda and Anuruddha comprised the five chief disciples. His ten foremost disciples were completed by the quintet of Upali, Subhoti, Rahula, Mahakaccana and Punna.

In the fifth vassana, the Buddha was staying at Mahavana near Vesali. Hearing of the impending death of Suddhodana, the Buddha went to his father and preached the dharma, and Suddhodana became an arahant prior to death. The death and cremation led to the creation of the order of nuns. Buddhist texts record that he was reluctant to ordain women as nuns. His foster mother Maha Pajapati approached him asking to join the sangha, but the Buddha refused, and began the journey from Kapilavastu back to Rajagaha. Maha Pajapati was so intent on renouncing the world that she led a group of royal Sakyan and Koliyan ladies, following the sangha to Rajagaha. The Buddha eventually accepted them five years after the formation of the Sangha on the grounds that their capacity for enlightenment was equal to that of men, but he gave them certain additional rules (Vinaya) to follow. This occurred after Ananda interceded on their behalf. Yasodhara also became a nun, with both becoming arahants.

Devadatta tries to attack the Buddha. Picture of a wallpainting in a Laotian monastery.

During his ministry, Devadatta (who was not an arahant) frequently tried to undermine the Buddha. At one point Devadatta asked the Buddha to stand aside to let him lead the sangha. The Buddha declined, and stated that Devadatta's actions did not reflect on the Triple Gem, but on him alone. Devadatta conspired with Prince Ajatasattu, son of Bimbisara, so that they would kill and usurp the Buddha and Bimbisara respectively. Devadatta attempted three times to kill the Buddha. The first attempt involved the hiring of a group of archers, whom upon meeting the Buddha became disciples. A second attempt followed when Devadatta attempted to roll a large boulder down a hill. It hit another rock and splintered, only grazing the Buddha in the foot. A final attempt by plying an elephant with alcohol and setting it loose again failed. Failing this, Devadatta attempted to cause a schism in the sangha, by proposing extra restrictions on the vinaya. When the Buddha declined, Devadatta started a breakaway order, criticising the Buddha's laxity. At first, he managed to convert some of the bhikkhus, but Sariputta and Mahamoggallana expounded the dharma to them and succeeded in winning them back.

When the Buddha reached the age of 55, he made Ananda his chief attendant.

Death / Mahaparinirvana

An artist`s portrayal of Buddha's entry into Parinirvana.

According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Pali canon, at the age of 80, the Buddha announced that he would soon reach Parinirvana or the final deathless state abandoning the earthly body. After this, the Buddha ate his last meal, which he had received as an offering from a blacksmith named Cunda. Falling violently ill, Buddha instructed his attendant Ānanda to convince Cunda that the meal eaten at his place had nothing to do with his passing and that his meal would be a source of the greatest merit as it provided the last meal for a Buddha.[22] Mettanando and von Hinüber argue that the Buddha died of mesenteric infarction, a symptom of old age, rather than food poisoning.[23] The precise contents of the Buddha's final meal are not clear, due to variant scriptural traditions and ambiguity over the translation of certain significant terms; the Theravada tradition generally believes that the Buddha was offered some kind of pork, while the Mahayana tradition believes that the Buddha consumed some sort of truffle or other mushroom.

The sharing of the relics of the Buddha, Zenyōmitsu-Temple Museum, Tokyo
Buddha relics from Kanishka's stupa in Peshawar, Pakistan, now in Mandalay, Burma. Teresa Merrigan, 2005

The Mahayana Vimalakirti Sutra claims, in Chapter 3, that the Buddha doesn't really become ill or old but purposely presents such an appearance only to teach those born into samsara about the impermanence and pain of defiled worlds and to encourage them to strive for Nirvana.

"Reverend Ánanda, the Tathágatas have the body of the Dharma—not a body that is sustained by material food. The Tathágatas have a transcendental body that has transcended all mundane qualities. There is no injury to the body of a Tathágata, as it is rid of all defilements. The body of a Tathágata is uncompounded and free of all formative activity. Reverend Ánanda, to believe there can be illness in such a body is irrational and unseemly!' Nevertheless, since the Buddha has appeared during the time of the five corruptions, he disciplines living beings by acting lowly and humble."[14]

Ananda protested Buddha's decision to enter Parinirvana in the abandoned jungles of Kuśināra (present-day Kushinagar, India) of the Malla kingdom. Buddha, however, reminded Ananda how Kushinara was a land once ruled by a righteous wheel-turning king that resounded with joy:

44. Kusavati, Ananda, resounded unceasingly day and night with ten sounds—the trumpeting of elephants, the neighing of horses, the rattling of chariots, the beating of drums and tabours, music and song, cheers, the clapping of hands, and cries of "Eat, drink, and be merry!"

Buddha then asked all the attendant Bhikshus to clarify any doubts or questions they had. They had none. He then finally entered Parinirvana. The Buddha's final words were, "All composite things pass away. Strive for your own liberation with diligence." The Buddha's body was cremated and the relics were placed in monuments or stupas, some of which are believed to have survived until the present. For example, The Temple of the Tooth or "Dalada Maligawa" in Sri Lanka is the place where the relic of the right tooth of Buddha is kept at present.

According to the Pāli historical chronicles of Sri Lanka, the Dīpavaṃsa and Mahāvaṃsa, the coronation of Aśoka (Pāli: Asoka) is 218 years after the death of Buddha. According to one Mahayana record in Chinese (十八部論 and 部執異論), the coronation of Aśoka is 116 years after the death of Buddha. Therefore, the time of Buddha's passing is either 486 BCE according to Theravāda record or 383 BCE according to Mahayana record. However, the actual date traditionally accepted as the date of the Buddha's death in Theravāda countries is 544 or 543 BCE, because the reign of Aśoka was traditionally reckoned to be about 60 years earlier than current estimates.

At his death, the Buddha told his disciples to follow no leader, but to follow his teachings (dharma). However, at the First Buddhist Council, Mahakasyapa was held by the sangha as their leader, with the two chief disciples Mahamoggallana and Sariputta having died before the Buddha.

Physical characteristics

For the Fat or Laughing Buddha, see Budai.
The 8m tall statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha in the Tawang Monastery.
Buddha Daibutsu in Kamakura, Japan.

Buddha is perhaps one of the few sages for whom we have mention of his rather impressive physical characteristics. A kshatriya by birth, he had military training in his upbringing, and by Shakyan tradition was required to pass tests to demonstrate his worthiness as a warrior in order to marry. He had a strong enough body to be noticed by one of the kings and was asked to join his army as a general. He is also believed by Buddhists to have "the 32 Signs of the Great Man".

The Brahmin Sonadanda described him as "handsome, good-looking, and pleasing to the eye, with a most beautiful complexion. He has a godlike form and countenance, he is by no means unattractive."(D,I:115).

"It is wonderful, truly marvellous, how serene is the good Gotama's appearance, how clear and radiant his complexion, just as the golden jujube in autumn is clear and radiant, just as a palm-tree fruit just loosened from the stalk is clear and radiant, just as an adornment of red gold wrought in a crucible by a skilled goldsmith, deftly beaten and laid on a yellow-cloth shines, blazes and glitters, even so, the good Gotama's senses are calmed, his complexion is clear and radiant." (A,I:181)

A disciple named Vakkali, who later became an Arahant, was so obsessed by Buddha's physical presence that Buddha had to tell him to stop and reminded Vakkali to know Buddha through the Dhamma and not physical appearances.

Although the Buddha was not represented in human form until around the 1st century CE (see Buddhist art), the physical characteristics of fully-enlightened Buddhas are described by the Buddha in the Digha Nikaya's Lakkhaṇa Sutta (D,I:142).[24] In addition, the Buddha's physical appearance is described by Yasodhara to their son Rahula upon the Buddha's first post-Enlightenment return to his former princely palace in the non-canonical Pali devotional hymn, Narasīha Gāthā ("The Lion of Men").[25]


Seated Buddha, Gandhara, 2nd century CE.

Some scholars believe that some portions of the Pali Canon and the Agamas could contain the actual substance of the historical teachings (and possibly even the words) of the Buddha.[26][27] This is not the case for the later Mahayana sutras.[28] The scriptural works of Early Buddhism precede the Mahayana works chronologically, and are treated by many Western scholars as the main credible source for information regarding the actual historical teachings of Gautama Buddha.

Some of the fundamentals of the teachings of Gautama Buddha are:

  • The Four Noble Truths: that suffering is an inherent part of existence; that the origin of suffering is ignorance and the main symptoms of that ignorance are attachment and craving; that attachment and craving can be ceased; and that following the Noble Eightfold Path will lead to the cessation of attachment and craving and therefore suffering.
  • The Noble Eightfold Path: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
  • Dependent origination: that any phenomenon 'exists' only because of the ‘existence’ of other phenomena in a complex web of cause and effect covering time past, present and future. Because all things are thus conditioned and transient (anicca), they have no real independent identity (anatta).
  • Rejection of the infallibility of accepted scripture: Teachings should not be accepted unless they are borne out by our experience and are praised by the wise. See the Kalama Sutta for details.
  • Anicca (Sanskrit: anitya): That all things are impermanent.
  • Dukkha (Sanskrit: duḥkha): That all beings suffer from all situations due to unclear mind.
  • Anatta (Sanskrit: anātman): That the perception of a constant "self" is an illusion.

However, in some Mahayana schools, these points have come to be regarded as more or less subsidiary. There is some disagreement amongst various schools of Buddhism over more esoteric aspects of Buddha's teachings, and also over some of the disciplinary rules for monks.

According to tradition, the Buddha emphasized ethics and correct understanding. He questioned the average person's notions of divinity and salvation. He stated that there is no intermediary between mankind and the divine; distant gods are subjected to karma themselves in decaying heavens; and the Buddha is solely a guide and teacher for the sentient beings who must tread the path of Nirvāṇa (Pāli: Nibbāna) themselves to attain the spiritual awakening called bodhi and see truth and reality as it is. The Buddhist system of insight and meditation practice is not believed to have been revealed divinely, but by the understanding of the true nature of the mind, which must be discovered by personally treading a spiritual path guided by the Buddha's teachings.

See also


  1. ^ Turner, Sir Ralph Lilley (1962–1985). "buddha 9276". A comparative dictionary of the Indo-Aryan languages. London: Oxford University Press. Digital Dictionaries of South Asia, University of Chicago. p. 525. http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/contextualize.pl?p.2.soas.1976481. Retrieved 22 Feb 2010. "Hypothetical root budh ‘ perceive ’ 1. Pali buddha – ‘ understood, enlightened ’, masculine ‘ the Buddha ’; Aśokan, that is, the language of the Inscriptions of Aśoka Budhe nominative singular; Prakrit buddha – ‘ known, awakened ’; Waigalī būdāī ‘ truth ’; Bashkarīk budh ‘ he heard ’; Tōrwālī būdo preterite of – ‘ to see, know ’ from bṓdhati; Phalūṛa búddo preterite of buǰǰ – ‘ to understand ’ from búdhyatē; Shina Gilgitī dialect budo ‘ awake ’, Gurēsī dialect budyōnṷ intransitive ‘ to wake ’; Kashmiri bọ̆du ‘ quick of understanding (especially of a child ’); Sindhī ḇudho past participle (passive) of ḇujhaṇu ‘ to understand ’ from búdhyatē, West Pahāṛī buddhā preterite of bujṇā ‘ to know ’; Sinhalese buj (j written for d), budu, bud – , but – ‘ the Buddha ’." 
  1. ^ The Buddha
  2. ^ L. S. Cousins (1996), "The dating of the historical Buddha: a review article", Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (3)6(1): 57–63.
  3. ^ "As is now almost universally accepted by informed Indological scholarship, a re-examination of early Buddhist historical material, ..., necessitates a redating of the Buddha's death to between 411 and 400 BCE." Paul Dundas, The Jains, 2nd edition, (Routledge, 2001), p. 24.
  4. ^ a b Michael Carrithers, The Buddha, 1983, pages 13, 14. Found in Founders of Faith, Oxford University Press, 1986.
  5. ^ Sue Hamilton, Identity and Experience. LUZAC Oriental, 1996, pages 110-111.
  6. ^ Carrithers, page 15.
  7. ^ Carrithers, page 10.
  8. ^ Buddhanet.net
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Richard Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988, page 49.
  11. ^ Romila Thapar, The Penguin History of Early India: From Origins to AD 1300. Penguin Books, 2002, page 137.
  12. ^ Richard Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988, pages 49-50.
  13. ^ Romila Thapar, The Penguin History of Early India: From Origins to AD 1300. Penguin Books, 2002, page 146.
  14. ^ Lopez (1995). Buddhism in Practice. Princeton University Press. pp. 16. 
  15. ^ Sacred-texts.com
  16. ^ Turpie, D. 2001. Wesak And The Re-Creation of Buddhist Tradition. Master's Thesis. Montreal, Quebec: McGill University. (p. 3). Available from: Mcgill.ca, Accessed 17 November 2006.
  17. ^ a b Narada (1992). A Manual of Buddhism. Buddha Educational Foundation. p. 9–12. ISBN 967-9920-58-5. 
  18. ^ Narada (1992), p11-12
  19. ^ a b Narada (1992), p14
  20. ^ Narada (1992), pp15-16
  21. ^ Narada (1992), pp19-20
  22. ^ Maha-parinibbana Sutta (DN 16), verse 56
  23. ^ Mettanando Bhikkhu and Oskar von Hinueber, "The Cause of the Buddha's Death"; Vol. XXVI of the Journal of the Pali Text Society, 2000. See also this article by Mettanando saying the same thing: Buddhanet.net.
  24. ^ Maurice Walshe, The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya, 1995, Boston: Wisdom Publications, "[DN] 30: Lakkhaṇa Sutta: The Marks of a Great Man," pp. 441-60.
  25. ^ Ven. Elgiriye Indaratana Maha Thera, Vandana: The Album of Pali Devotional Chanting and Hymns, 2002, pp. 49-52, retrieved 2007-11-08 from "BuddhaNet" at Buddhanet.net
  26. ^ It is therefore possible that much of what is found in the Suttapitaka is earlier than c.250 B.C., perhaps even more than 100 years older than this. If some of the material is so old, it might be possible to establish what texts go back to the very beginning of Buddhism, texts which perhaps include the substance of the Buddha’s teaching, and in some cases, maybe even his words. How old is the Suttapitaka? Alexander Wynne, St John’s College, 2003, p.22 (this article is available on the website of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies: [www.ocbs.org/research/Wynne.pdf]
  27. ^ It would be hypocritical to assert that nothing can be said about the doctrine of earliest Buddhism ... the basic ideas of Buddhism found in the canonical writings could very well have been proclaimed by him [the Buddha], transmitted and developed by his disciples and, finally, codified in fixed formulas. J.W. De Jong, 1993: The Beginnings of Buddhism, in The Eastern Buddhist, vol. 26, no. 2, p. 25
  28. ^ The Mahayana movement claims to have been founded by the Buddha himself. The consensus of the evidence, however, is that it originated in South India in the 1st century CE–Indian Buddhism, AK Warder, 3rd edition, 1999, p. 335.

Further reading

  • Armstrong, Karen. Buddha. (New York: Penguin Books, 2001).
  • Bechert, Heinz (ed.) (1996) When Did the Buddha Live? The Controversy on the Dating of the Historical Buddha. Delhi: Sri Satguru.
  • Sathe, Shriram: Dates of the Buddha. Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalana Samiti, Hyderabad 1987.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Gautama Buddha article)

From Wikiquote

Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love. This is the eternal rule.

Gautama Buddha (c. 563 - c. 483 BC) was a philosopher, teacher, and religious leader. "Buddha", meaning "awakened one" or "enlightened one" is a title, not a name; the Shakyamuni Buddha, whose original name was Siddhartha Gautama, was the founder of Buddhism.

See also Dhammapada



Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
Live and let live.
  • We are what we think.
    All that we are arises with our thoughts.
    With our thoughts we make the world.
    • Dhammapada, as translated by T. Byrom (1993), Shambhala Publications.
  • No one saves us but ourselves, no one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path but Buddhas clearly show the way.
  • "But truly, Ananda, it is nothing strange that human beings should die."
    • Digha Nikaya (DN) 16
  • "This is deathless, the liberation of the mind through lack of clinging."
    • Majjhima Nikaya (MN) 106
  • "To cease from evil, to do good, and to purify the mind yourself, this is the teaching of all the Buddhas."
    • Dhammapada verse 183
  • "Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation."
    • MN 74 Dighanaka Sutta (this saying is also in many other suttas as well)
  • Behold now, Bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to decay. Strive with diligence!
    • DN 16 Mahaparinibbana Sutta 6:8
  • Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
    • As quoted in the Kalama Sutra, as translated in The American Buddhist Directory (1985) by Kevin O'Neill, p. 7


Full text online, as translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
  • Sensual passions are your first enemy.
Your second is called Discontent.
Your third is Hunger & Thirst.
Your fourth is called Craving.
Fifth is Sloth & Drowsiness.
Sixth is called Terror.
Your seventh is Uncertainty.
Hypocrisy & Stubbornness, your eighth.
Gains, Offerings, Fame, & Status wrongly gained,
and whoever would praise self
& disparage others.
That, Namuci, is your enemy,
the Dark One's commando force.
A coward can't defeat it,
but one having defeated it
gains bliss.
  • I spit on my life.
    Death in battle would be better for me
    than that I, defeated, survive.
    • This statement is made in reference to his battle against the personification of temptation to evil, Mara.
  • That army of yours,
that the world with its devas can't overcome,
I will smash with discernment
  • I will go about, from kingdom to kingdom,
training many disciples.
They — heedful, resolute
doing my teachings —
despite your wishes, will go
where, having gone,
there's no grief.
  • Sn 3.2, Buddha's Purpose

After Enlightenment

  • Open are the doors to the Deathless
to those with ears.
Let them show their conviction.(SN 6.1 Ayacana Sutta)
  • In a world become blind,
I beat the drum of the Deathless.'(MN 26 Ariyapariyesana Sutta)

Anguttara Nikaya

Nothing is as intractable as an untamed heart.
The untamed heart is intractable.
Nothing is as tractable as a tamed heart.
The tamed heart is tractable.
Nothing tends toward loss as does an untamed heart.
The untamed heart tends towards loss.
Nothing tends toward growth as does a tamed heart.
The tamed heart tends towards growth.
Nothing brings suffering as does
the untamed, uncontrolled unattended and unrestrained heart.
That heart brings suffering.
Nothing brings joy as does a
tamed, controlled, attended and restrained heart.
This heart brings joy.

Samyutta Nikaya

Online Translations

Soma and Mara An adapation of a translation by C.A.F. Rhys-Davids

Once Soma, having returned from her alms round
and having eaten her meal, entered the woods to meditate.
Deep in the woods, she sat down under a tree.
Everything changes, nothing remains without change....
The tempter Mara, desirous and capable of arousing fear, wavering and dread,
and wishing her to interrupt her focused meditation, came to her and said,
Your intent is difficult, even for the sages;
Completion cannot be reached by a woman regardless the wisdom reaped."
Then Soma thought, "Who is this speaking, human or nonhuman?
Surely it is evil Mara desiring to interrupt my focused meditation."
Knowing that it was Mara, she said,
"What does gender matter with regard to a well-composed mind,
which experiences insight in the light of the dharma?"
The evil Mara thought, "Soma knows me"
and sorrowful for the evil, instantly vanished into darkness.
In protecting oneself, others are protected; In protecting others, oneself is protected.

Bamboo Acrobats An adaptation of a translation by John Ireland.

The Exalted One was dwelling in the Sumbha country,
in a location of the Sumbhas called Sedaka
There He addressed the monks:
"Once upon a time, a bamboo-acrobat set up his pole
and called to his pupil, Medakathalika, saying,
'Come my lad Medakathalika,
climb the pole and stand on my shoulders!'
'All right master,'
replied the pupil to the bamboo-acrobat.
The student then climbed the pole
and stood on the master's shoulders.
Then the bamboo-acrobat said to his pupil:
'Now Medakathalika, protect me well and I shall protect you.
Thus watched and warded by each other,
we will show our tricks, get a good fee and
come down safe from the bamboo pole.'
Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.
At these words Medakathalika the pupil
said to the bamboo-acrobat,
'No, no! That won't do master!
Look after yourself and I'll look after myself.
Thus watched and warded each by himself,
we'll show our tricks and get a good fee and
come down safe from the bamboo-pole.'"
"In the synthesis is the right way,"
said the Exalted One,
"Just as Medakathalika the pupil said to his master,
'I shall protect myself,'
by this the Foundation of Mindfulness is practiced.
'I shall protect others,'
by this the Foundation of Mindfulness is practiced.
In protecting oneself, others are protected;
In protecting others, oneself is protected."
Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.
And how does one in protecting oneself, protect others?
By frequent practice, development and
making much of the Foundation of Mindfulness.
Thus in protecting oneself, others are protected.
And how does one, in protecting others, protect oneself?
By forbearance and nonviolence,
By loving kindness and compassion.
Thus in protecting others, one protects oneself.
With the intention, 'I shall protect myself,'
the Foundation of Mindfulness is practiced.
With the intention, 'I shall protect others,'
the Foundation of Mindfulness is practiced.
In protecting oneself, others are protected;
In protecting others, oneself is protected."
  • And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of dukkha: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.
    • 56.11 Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

The Gospel of Buddha (1894)

The Gospel of Buddha is a compilation from ancient records by Paul Carus
Neither fire, nor moisture, nor wind can destroy the blessing of good deeds, and blessings enlighten the whole world.

Ch. 58 The Buddha Replies to the Deva

On a certain day when the Blessed One
dwelt at Jetavana, the garden of Anathapindika,
a celestial deva came to him in the shape of a Brahman
enlightened and wearing clothing as white as snow.

The deva asked,

What is the sharpest sword?
What is the deadliest poison?
What is the fiercest fire?
What is the darkest night?"

The Blessed One replied,

The sharpest sword is a word spoken in wrath;
the deadliest poison is covetousness;
the fiercest fire is hatred;
the darkest night is ignorance.

The deva said,

What is the greatest gain?
What is the greatest loss?
Which armour is invulnerable?
What is the best weapon?

The Blessed One replied,

The greatest gain is to give to others;
the greatest loss is to greedily receive without gratitude;
an invulnerable armor is patience;
the best weapon is wisdom.

The deva said,

Who is the most dangerous thief?
What is the most precious treasure?
Who can capture the heavens and the earth?
Where is the securest treasure-trove?
A saviour has a greater right over the saved one than killer.

The Blessed One replied,

The most dangerous thief is unwholesome thought;
the most precious treasure is virtue;
the heavens and the earth may be captured by the mind's eye;
surpassing rebirth locates the securest treasure-trove.

The deva asked,

What is attraction?
What is repulsion?
What is the most horrible pain?
What is the greatest enjoyment?
The mind is everything. What you think you become.

The Buddha replied,

Attraction is wholeness;
repulsion is unwholesomeness;
the most tormenting pain is bad conscience;
the height of bliss is redeemed awakening.

The deva asked,

What causes ruin in the world?
What breaks off friendships?
What is the most violent fever?
Who is the best physician?"

The Blessed One replied,

Ruin in the world is caused by ignorance;
friendships are broken off by envy and selfishness;
the most violent fever is hatred;
the best physician is the Buddha;

The deva continued,

Now I have only one doubt to resolve and absolve:
What is it fire cannot burn,
nor moisture corrode,
nor wind crush down,
but is able to enlighten the whole world.
To conquer oneself is a greater task than conquering others.

The Buddha replied,

Neither fire, nor moisture, nor wind
can destroy the blessing of good deeds,
and blessings enlighten the whole world.

Hearing these answers,

the deva was overflowing with joy.
Then clasping hands, bowed down in respect and
disappeared suddenly from the presence of the Buddha.
  • True charity occurs only when there are no notions of giving, giver, or gift.
    • David Ross, 1,001 Pearls of Wisdom, 2006, p. 26
  • We forgive principally for our own sake, so that we may cease to bear the burden of rancour.
    • David Ross, 1,001 Pearls of Wisdom, 2006, p. 30
  • Rather than continuing to seek the truth, simply let go of your views.
    • David Ross, 1,001 Pearls of Wisdom, 2006, p. 39


These quotes are unsourced and their authenticity as sayings of the Gautama Buddha has been questioned.
Life is no more than a dewdrop balancing on the end of a blade of grass.
  • Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.
  • Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Just as the candle won't be shortend, one's happiness never decreases by being shared.
  • The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.
  • Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.
  • If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
  • Let us all be thankful for this day, for we have learned a great deal; if we have not learned a great deal, then at least we learned slightly; if we did not learn slightly, then at least we did not become sick; if we did become sick, then at least we did not die. So, let us all be thankful.
  • On life's journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.
  • Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.
  • Desire is the cause for all your sickness and misery.
  • It is your mind that creates this world.
  • When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.

Quotes about Buddha

To understand everything is to forgive everything.
  • The age in which true history appeared in India was one of great intellectual and spiritual ferment. Mystics and sophists of all kinds roamed through the Ganga Valley, all advocating some form of mental discipline and asceticism as a means to salvation; but the age of the Buddha, when many of the best minds were abandoning their homes and professions for a life of asceticism, was also a time of advance in commerce and politics. It produced not only philosophers and ascetics, but also merchant princes and men of action.
    • A. L. Basham in The Wonder that was India
  • For the first time in human history, the Buddha admonished, entreated and appealed to people not to hurt a living being, and it is not necessary to offer prayer, praise or sacrifice to gods. With all the eloquence at his command the Buddha vehemently proclaimed that gods are also in dire need of salvation themselves.
    • Thomas William Rhys Davids
  • India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.
    • Will Durant,prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher in (The Case for India (1931)
  • If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism...A human being is part of the whole, called by us "Universe"; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
  • I have no hesitation in declaring that I owe a great deal to the inspiration that I have derived from the life of the Enlightened One. Asia has a message for the whole world, if only it would live up to it. There is the imprint of Buddhistic influence on the whole of Asia, which includes India, China, Japan, Burma, Ceylon, and the Malay States. For Asia to be not for Asia but for the whole world, it has to re-learn the message of the Buddha and deliver it to the whole world. His love, his boundless love went out as much to the lower animal, to the lowest life as to human beings. And he insisted upon purity of life.
  • The Buddha is a being who is totally free of all delusions and faults, who is endowed with all good qualities and has attained the wisdom eliminating the darkness of ignorance. The Dharma is the result of his enlightenment. After having achieved enlightenment, a Buddha teaches, and what he or she teaches is called the Dharma. The Sangha is made up of those who engage in the practice of the teachings given by the Buddha. . . . One of the benefits of refuge is that all of the misdeeds you have committed in the past can be purified, because taking refuge entails accepting the Buddha's guidance and following a path of virtuous action.
  • Now in this realm Buddha's speeches are a source and mine of quite unparalleled richness and depth. As soon as we cease to regard Buddha's teachings simply intellectually and acquiesce with a certain sympathy in the age-old Eastern concept of unity, if we allow Buddha to speak to us as vision, as image, as the awakened one, the perfect one, we find him, almost independently of the philosophic content and dogmatic kernel of his teachings, a great prototype of mankind. Whoever attentively reads a small number of the countless speeches of Buddha is soon aware of harmony in them, a quietude of soul, a smiling transcendence, a totally unshakeable firmness, but also invariable kindness, endless patience. As ways and means to the attainment of this holy quietude of soul, the speeches are full of advice, precepts, hints. The intellectual content of Buddha's teaching is only half his work, the other half is his life, his life as lived, as labour accomplished and action carried out. A training, a spiritual self training of the highest order was accomplished and is taught here, a training about which unthinking people who talk about "quietism" and "Hindu dreaminess" and the like in connection with Buddha have no conception; they deny him the cardinal Western virtue of activity. Instead Buddha accomplished a training for himself and his pupils, exercised a discipline, set up a goal, and produced results before which even the genuine heroes of European action can only feel awe.
  • For natures such as Jesus of Nazareth, Mohammed and Gautama Buddha is already the capacity of its openness for a world vision part of its application documents. With its virtues, experiences and abilities they belong to each post written out in the world with each interview to the most promising candidates and easy are erhalten.
    • James Redfield, in the MANUAL of the tenth prophecy of CELESTINE, part of I: The threshold; Heyne publishing house Munich, German-language edition 1997,ISBN 3-453-11809X
Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.
  • If we ask, for instance, whether the position of the electron remains the same, we must say 'no'; if we ask whether the electron's position changes with time, we must say 'no'; if we ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say 'no'; if we ask whether it is in motion, we must say 'no'. The Buddha has given such answers when interrogated as to the conditions of a man's self after his death; but they are not familiar answers for the tradition of seventeenth and eighteenth century science.
  • Buddha conquered the lands of China, Japan, entire South-east Asia, Burma, Indonesia, Java, Sumatra, Lanka and other countries without sending out even one soldier; he spread the message of karuna (mercy), prema (compassion), samanata (equality) and atmasanyam ( tolerance) throughout the world many centuries before Jesus and Mohammad; even today the flame of his sandesha ( message) lights up the whole world and entire humanity with the soft glow of manavatavadi (humanitarian), vaidhnyanik (scientific) and addhatmik (spiritual) message of India.
    • J. K. Verma
  • The fundamental teachings of Gautama, as it is now being made plain to us by study of original sources, is clear and simple and in the closest harmony with modern ideas. It is beyond all disputes the achievement of one of the most penetrating intelligence the world has ever known. Buddhism is the advance of world civilization and true culture than any other influence in the chronicles of mankind.
I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.
  • The Buddha Is Nearer to Us You see clearly a man, simple, devout, lonely, battling for light, a vivid human personality, not a myth. Beneath a mass of miraculous fable I feel that there also was a man. He too, gave a message to mankind universal in its character. Many of our best modern ideas are in closest harmony with it. All the miseries and discontents of life are due, he taught, to selfishness. Selfishness takes three forms — one, the desire to satisfy the senses; second, the craving for immortality; and the third the desire for prosperity and worldliness. Before a man can become serene he must cease to live for his senses or himself. Then he merges into a greater being. Buddha in a different language called men to self-forgetfulness five hundred years before Christ. In some ways he was near to us and our needs. Buddha was more lucid upon our individual importance in service than Christ, and less ambiguous upon the question of personal immortality.
  • The teachings of Buddha are eternal, but even then Buddha did not proclaim them to be infallible. The religion of Buddha has the capacity to change according to times, a quality which no other religion can claim to have...Now what is the basis of Buddhism? If you study carefully, you will see that Buddhism is based on reason. There is an element of flexibility inherent in it, which is not found in any other religion.
    • Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar , Indian scholar, philosopher and architect of Constitution of India, in his writing and speeches

See also

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BUDDHA. According to the Buddhist theory (see Buddhism), a "Buddha" appears from time to time in the world and preaches the true doctrine. After a certain lapse of time this teaching is corrupted and lost, and is not restored till a new Buddha appears. In Europe, Buddha is used to designate the last historical Buddha, whose family name was Gotama, and who was the son of Suddhodana, one of the chiefs of the tribe of the Sakiyas, one of the republican clans then still existent in India.

We are accustomed to find the legendary and the miraculous gathering, like a halo, around the early history of religious leaders, until the sober truth runs the risk of being altogether neglected for the glittering and edifying falsehood. The Buddha has not escaped the fate which has befallen the founders of other religions; and as late as the year 1854 Professor Wilson of Oxford read a paper before the Royal Asiatic Society of London in which he maintained that the supposed life of Buddha was a myth, and "Buddha himself merely an imaginary being." No one, however, would now support this view; and it is admitted that, under the mass of miraculous tales which have been handed down regarding him, there is a basis of truth already sufficiently clear to render possible an intelligent history.

The circumstances under which the future Buddha was born were somewhat as follows.' In the 6th century B.C. the Aryan tribes had long been settled far down the valley of the Ganges. The old child-like joy in life so manifest in the Vedas had died away; the worship of nature had developed or degenerated into the worship of new and less pure divinities; and the Vedic songs themselves, whose freedom was little compatible with the spirit of the age, had faded into an obscurity which did not lessen their value to the priests. The country was politically split up into little principalities, most of them governed by some petty despot, whose interests were not often the same as those of the community. There were still, however, about a dozen free republics, most of them with aristocratic government, and it was in these that reforming movements met with most approval and support. A convenient belief in the doctrine of the transmigration of souls satisfied the unfortunate that their woes were the natural result of their own deeds in a former birth, and, though unavoidable now, might be escaped in a future state of existence by present good conduct. While hoping for a better fate in their next birth, the poor turned for succour and advice in this to the aid of astrology, witchcraft and animism - a belief in which seems to underlie all 1 Note on the Date of the Buddha. - The now generally accepted date of the Buddha is arrived at by adding together two numbers, one being the date of the accession of Asoka to the throne, the second being the length of the interval between that date and that of the death of the Buddha. The first figure, that of the date of Asoka, is arrived at by the mention in one of his edicts of certain Greek kings, as then living. The dates of these last are approximately known; and arguing from these dates the date of Asoka's accession has been fixed by various scholars (at dates varying only by a difference of five years more or less) at about 270 B.C. The second figure, the total interval between Asoka's accession and the Buddha's death, is given in the Ceylon Chronicles as 218 years. Adding these two together, the date of the Buddha's death would be 488 B.C., and, as he was eighty years old at the time of his death, the date of his birth would be 568 B.C. The dates for his death and birth accepted in Burma, Siam and Ceylon are about half a century earlier, namely, 543 and 623 B.C., the difference being in the date of Asoka's accession. It will be seen that the dates as adopted in Europe are approximate only, and liable to correction if better data are obtainable. The details of this chronological question are discussed at length in Professor Rhys Davids' Ancient Coins and Measures of Ceylon (London, 1877), where the previous discussions are referred to.

religions, and still survives even in England.' The inspiriting wars against the enemies of the Aryan people, the infidel deniers of the Aryan gods, had given place to a succession of internecine feuds between the chiefs of neighbouring clans. In literature an age of poets had long since made way for an age of commentators and grammarians, who thought that the old poems must have been the work of gods. But the darkest period was succeeded by the dawn of a reformation; travelling logicians were willing to maintain these against all the world; whilst here and there ascetics strove to raise themselves above the gods, and hermits earnestly sought for some satisfactory solution of the mysteries of life. These were the teachers whom the people chiefly delighted to honour. Though the ranks of the priesthood were for ever firmly closed against intruders, a man of lay birth, a Kshatriya or Vaisya, whose mind revolted against the orthodox creed, and whose heart was stirred by mingled zeal and ambition, might find through these irregular orders an entrance to the career of a religious teacher and reformer.

The Sakiya clan was then seated in a tract of country probably two or three thousand square miles in extent, the chief town of which was Kapilavastu, situate about 27° 37' N. by 83° i 1' E., some days' journey north of Benares. Their territory stretched up into the lower slopes of the mountains, and was mostly in what is now Nepal, but it included territory now on the British side of the frontier. It is in this part of the Sakiya country that the interesting discovery was made of the monument they erected to their famous clansman. From their well-watered rice-fields, the main source of their wealth, they could see the giant Himalayas looming up against the clear blue of the Indian sky. Their supplies of water were drawn from the river Rohini, the modern Kohana; and though the use of the river was in times of drought the cause of disputes between the Sakiyas and the neighbouring Koliyans, the two clans were then at peace; and two daughters of a chieftain of Koli, which was only i r m. east of Kapilavastu, were the principal wives of Suddhodana. Both were childless, and great was the rejoicing when, in about the forty-fifth year of her age, the elder sister, Maha Maya, promised her husband a son. In due time she started with the intention of being confined at her parents' home, but the party halting on the way under the shade of some lofty satin-trees, in a pleasant garden called Lumbini on the river-side, her son, the future Buddha, was there unexpectedly born. The exact site of this garden has been recently rediscovered, marked by an inscribed pillar put up by Asoka (see J.R.A.S., 1898).

He was in after years more generally known by his family name of Gotama, but his individual name was Siddhattha. When he was nineteen years old he was married to his cousin Yasodhara, daughter of a Koliyan chief, and gave himself up to a life of luxury. This is the solitary record of his youth; we hear nothing more till, in his twenty-ninth year, it is related that, driving to his pleasure-grounds one day, he was struck by the sight of a man utterly broken down by age, on another occasion by the sight of a man suffering from a loathsome disease, and some months after by the horrible sight of a decomposing corpse. Each time his charioteer, whose name was Channa, told him that such was the fate of all living beings. Soon after he saw an ascetic walking in a calm and dignified manner, and asking who that was, was told by his charioteer the character and aims of the Wanderers, the travelling teachers, who played so great a part in the intellectual life of the time. The different accounts of these visions vary so much as to cast great doubts on their accuracy; and the oldest one of all (Anguttara, i. 145) speaks of ideas only, not of actual visions. It is, however, clear from what follows, that about this time the mind of the young Rajput must, from some cause or other, have been deeply stirred. Many an earnest heart full of disappointment or enthusiasm has gone through a similar struggle, has learnt to look upon all earthly gains and hopes as worse than vanity, has envied the calm life of the cloister, troubled by none of these things, and has longed for an opportunity of entire selfsurrender to abstinence and meditation.

1 See report of Rex. v. Neuhaus, Clerkenwell Sessions, September 15, 2906.

Subjectively, though not objectively, these visions may be supposed to have appeared to Gotama. After seeing the last of them, he is said, in the later accounts, to have spent the afternoon in his pleasure-grounds by the river-side; and having bathed, to have entered his chariot in order to return home. Just then a messenger arrived with the news that his wife Yasodhara had given birth to a son, his only child. "This," said Gotama quietly, "is a new and strong tie I shall have to break." But the people of Kapilavastu were greatly delighted at the birth of the young heir, the raja's only grandson. Gotama's return became an ovation; musicians preceded and followed his chariot, while shouts of joy and triumph fell on his ear. Among these sounds one especially attracted his attention. It was the voice of a young girl, his cousin, who sang a stanza, saying, "Happy the father, happy the mother, happy the wife of such a son and husband." In the word "happy" lay a double meaning; it meant also freed from the chains of rebirth, delivered, saved. Grateful to one who, at such a time, reminded him of his highest hopes, Gotama, to whom such things had no longer any value, took off his collar of pearls and sent it to her. She imagined that this was the beginning of a courtship, and began to build daydreams about becoming his principal wife, but he took no further notice of her and passed on. That evening the dancing-girls came to go through the Natch dances, then as now so common on festive occasions in many parts of India; but he paid them no attention, and gradually fell into an uneasy slumber. At midnight he awoke; the dancing-girls were lying in the ante-room; an overpowering loathing filled his soul. He arose instantly with a mind fully made up - "roused into activity," says the Sinhalese chronicle, "like a man who is told that his house is on fire." He called out to know who was on guard, and finding it was his charioteer Channa, he told him to saddle his horse. While Channa was gone Siddhattha gently opened the door of the room where Yasodhara was sleeping, surrounded by flowers, with one hand on the head of their child. He had hoped to take the babe in his arms for the last time before he went, but now he stood for a few moments irresolute on the threshold looking at them. At last the fear of awakening Yasodhara prevailed; he tore himself away, promising himself to return to them as soon as his mind had become clear, as soon as he had become a Buddha, - i.e. Enlightened, - and then he could return to them not only as husband and father, but as teacher and saviour. It is said to have been broad moonlight on the full moon of the month of July, when the young chief, with Channa as his sole companion, leaving his father's home, his wealth and social position, his wife and child behind him, went out into the wilderness to become a penniless and despised student, and a homeless wanderer. This is the circumstance which has given its name to a Sanskrit work, the Mahabhinishkramana Stara, or Sutra of the Great Renunciation.

Next is related an event in which we may again see a subjective experience given under the form of an objective reality. Mara, the great tempter, appears in the sky, and urges Gotama to stop, promising him, in seven days, a universal kingdom over the four great continents if he will but give up his enterprise.2 When his words fail to have any effect, the tempter consoles himself by the confident hope that he will still overcome his enemy, saying, "Sooner or later some lustful or malicious or angry thought must arise in his mind; in that moment I shall be his master"; and from that hour, adds the legend, "as a shadow always follows the body, so he too from that day always followed the Blessed One, striving to throw every obstacle in his way towards the Buddhahood." Gotama rides a long distance that night, only stopping at the banks of the Anoma beyond the Koliyan territory. There, on the sandy bank of the river, at a spot where later piety erected a dagaba (a solid dome-shaped relic shrine), he cuts off with his sword his long flowing locks, and, taking off his ornaments, sends them and the horse back in charge of the unwilling Channa to Kapilavastu. The next seven days were spent alone in a grove of mango trees 2 The various legends of Mara are the subject of an exhaustive critical analysis in Windisch's Mara and Buddha (Leipzig, 1895).

near by, whence the recluse walks on to Rajagriha, the capital of Magadha, and residence of Bimbisara, one of the then most powerful rulers in the valley of the Ganges. He was favourably received by the raja; but though asked to do so, he would not as yet assume the responsibilities of a teacher. He attached himself first to a brahmin sophist named Alara, and afterwards to another named Udraka, from whom he learnt all that Indian philosophy had then to teach. Still unsatisfied, he next retired to the jungle of Uruvela, on the most northerly spur of the Vindhya range of mountains, and there for six years, attended by five faithful disciples, he gave himself up to the severest penance and self-torture, till his fame as an ascetic spread in all the country round about "like the sound," says the Burmese chronicle, "of a great bell hung in the canopy of the skies." 1 At last one day, when he was walking in a much enfeebled state, he felt on a sudden an extreme weakness, like that caused by dire starvation, and unable to stand any longer he fell to the ground. Some thought he was dead, but he recovered, and from that time took regular food and gave up his severe penance, so much so that his five disciples soon ceased to respect him, and leaving him went to Benares.

There now ensued a second struggle in Gotama's mind, described with all the wealth of poetry and imagination of which the Indian mind is master. The crisis culminated on a day, each event of which is surrounded in the Buddhist accounts with the wildest legends, on which the very thoughts passing through the mind of Buddha appear in gorgeous descriptions as angels of darkness or of light, To us, now taught by the experiences of centuries how weak such exaggerations are compared with the effect of a plain unvarnished tale, these legends may appear childish or absurd, but they have a depth of meaning to those who strive to read between the lines of such rude and inarticulate attempts to describe the indescribable. That which (the previous and subsequent career of the teacher being borne in mind) seems to be possible and even probable, appears to be somewhat as follows.

Disenchanted and dissatisfied, Gotama had given up all that most men value, to seek peace in secluded study and self-denial. Failing to attain his object by learning the wisdom of others, and living the simple life of a student, he had devoted himself to that intense meditation and penance which all philosophers then said would raise men above the gods. Still unsatisfied, longing always for a certainty that seemed ever just beyond his grasp, he had added vigil to vigil, and penance to penance, until at last, when to the wondering view of others he had become more than a saint, his bodily strength and his indomitable resolution and faith had together suddenly and completely broken down. Then, when the sympathy of others would have been most welcome, he found his friends falling away from him, and his disciples leaving him for other teachers. Soon after, if not on the very day when his followers had left him, he wandered out towards the banks of the Neranjara, receiving his morning meal from the hands of Sujata, the daughter of a neighbouring villager, and set himself down to eat it under the shade of a large tree (a Ficus religiosa), to be known from that time as the sacred Bo tree or tree of wisdom. There he remained through the long hours of that day debating with himself what next to do. All his old temptations came back upon him with renewed force. For years he had looked at all earthly good through the medium of a philosophy which taught him that it,, without exception, contained within itself the seeds of bitterness, and was altogether worthless and impermanent; but now to his wavering faith the sweet delights of home and love, the charms of wealth and power, began to show themselves in a different light, and glow again with attractive colours. He doubted, and agonized in his doubt; but as the sun set, the religious side of his nature had won the victory, and seems to have come out even purified from the struggle. He had attained to Nirvana, had become clear in his mind, a Buddha, an Enlightened One. From that night he not only did not claim any merit on account of his self-mortification, but took every opportunity of declaring that from such penances 1 Bigandet, p. 49; and compare Jataka, p. 67, line 27.

no advantage at all would be derived. All that night he is said to have remained in deep meditation under the Bo tree; and the orthodox Buddhists believe that for seven times seven nights and days he continued fasting near the spot, when the archangel Brahma, came and ministered to him. As for himself, his heart was now fixed, - his mind was made up, - but he realized more than he had ever done before the power of temptation, and the difficulty, the almost impossibility, of understanding and holding to the truth. For others subject to the same temptations, but without that earnestness and insight which he felt himself to possess, faith might be quite impossible, and it would only be waste of time and trouble to try to show to them "the only path of peace." To one in his position this thought would be so very natural, that we need not hesitate to accept the fact of its occurrence as related in the oldest records. It is quite consistent with his whole career that it was love and pity for others - otherwise, as it seemed to him, helplessly doomed and lost - which at last overcame every other consideration, and made Gotama resolve to announce his doctrine to the world.

The teacher, now 35 years of age, intended to proclaim his new gospel first to his old teachers Alara and Udraka, but finding that they were dead, he determined to address himself to his former five disciples, and accordingly went to the Deerforest near Benares where they were then living. An old gatha, or hymn (translated in Vinaya Texts, i. 90) tells us how the Buddha, rapt with the idea of his great mission, meets an acquaintance, one Upaka, a wandering sophist, on the way. The latter, struck with his expression, asks him whose religion it is that makes him so glad, and yet so calm. The reply is striking. "I am now on my way," says the Buddha, "to the city of Benares, to beat the drum of the Ambrosia (to set up the light of the doctrine of Nirvana) in the darkness of the world!" and he proclaims himself the Buddha who alone knows, and knows no teacher. Upaka says: "You profess yourself, then, friend, to be an Arahat and a conqueror?" The Buddha says: "Those indeed are conquerors who, as I have now, have conquered the intoxications (the mental intoxication arising from ignorance, sensuality or craving after future life). Evil dispositions have ceased in me; therefore is it that I am conqueror !" His acquaintance rejoins: "In that case, venerable Gotama, your way lies yonder !" and he himself, shaking his head, turns in the opposite direction.

Nothing daunted, the new prophet walked on to Benares, and in the cool of the evening went on to the Deer-forest where the five ascetics were living. Seeing him coming, they resolved not to recognize as a superior one who had broken his vows; to address him by his name, and not as "master" or "teacher"; only, he being a Kshatriya, to offer him a seat. He understands their change of manner, calmly tells them not to mock him by calling him "the venerable Gotama"; that he has found the ambrosia of truth and can lead them to it. They object, naturally enough, from the ascetic point of view, that he had failed before while he was keeping his body under, and how can his mind have won the victory now, when he serves and yields to his body. Buddha replies by explaining to them the principles of his new gospel, in the form of noble truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path (see Buddhism).

It is nearly certain that Buddha had a commanding presence, and one of those deep, rich, thrilling voices which so many of the successful leaders of men have possessed. We know his deep earnestness, and his thorough conviction of the truth of his new gospel. When we further remember the relation which the five students mentioned above had long borne to him, and that they had passed through a similar culture, it is not difficult to understand that his persuasions were successful, and that his old disciples were the first to acknowledge him in his new character. The later books say that they were all converted at once; but, according to the most ancient Pali record - though their old love and reverence had been so rekindled when the Buddha came near that their cold resolutions quite broke down, and they vied with each other in such acts of personal attention as an Indian disciple loves to pay to his teacher, - yet it was only after the Buddha had for five days talked to them, sometimes separately, sometimes together, that they accepted in its entirety his plan of salvation.' The Buddha then remained at the Deer-forest near Benares until the number of his personal followers was about threescore, and that of the outside believers somewhat greater. The principal among the former was a rich young man named Yasa, who had first come to him at night out of fear of his relations, and afterwards shaved his head, put on the yellow robe, and succeeded in bringing many of his former friends and companions to the teacher, his mother and his wife being the first female disciples, and his father the first lay devotee. It should be noticed in passing that the idea of a priesthood with mystical powers is altogether repugnant to Buddhism; every one's salvation is entirely dependent on the modification or growth of his own inner nature, resulting from his own exertions. The life of a recluse is held to be the most conducive to that state of sweet serenity at which the more ardent disciples aim; but that of a layman, of a believing householder, is held in high honour; and a believer who does not as yet feel himself able or willing to cast off the ties of home or of business, may yet "enter the paths," and by a life of rectitude and kindness ensure for himself a rebirth under more favourable conditions for his growth in holiness.

After the rainy season Gotama called together those of his disciples who had devoted themselves to the higher life, and said to them: "I am free from the five hindrances which, like an immense net, hold men and angels in their power; you too (owing to my teaching) are set free. Go ye now, brethren, and wander for the gain and welfare of the many, out of compassion for the world, to the benefit of gods and men. Preach the doctrine, beauteous in inception, beauteous in continuation, beauteous in its end. Proclaim the pure and perfect life. Let no two go together. I also go, brethren, to the General's village in the wilds of Uruvela." 2 Throughout his career, Gotama yearly adopted the same plan, collecting his disciples round him in the rainy season, and after it was over travelling about as an itinerant preacher; but in subsequent years he was always accompanied by some of his most attached disciples.

In the solitudes of Uruvela there were at this time three brothers, fire-worshippers and hermit philosophers, who had gathered round them a number of scholars, and enjoyed a considerable reputation as teachers. Gotama settled among them, and after a time they became believers in his system, - the elder brother, Kassapa, taking henceforth a principal place among his followers. His first set sermon to his new disciples is called by Bishop Bigandet the Sermon on the Mount. Its subject was a jungle-fire which broke out on the opposite hillside. He warned his hearers against the fires of concupiscence, anger, ignorance, birth, death, decay and anxiety; and taking each of the senses in order he compared all human sensations to a burning flame which seems to be something it is not, which produces pleasure and pain, but passes rapidly away, and ends only in destruction.3 Accompanied by his new disciples, the Buddha walked on to Rajagaha, the capital of King Bimbisara, who, not unmindful of their former interview, came out to welcome him. Seeing Kassapa, who as the chronicle puts it, was as well known to them as the banner of the city, the people at first doubted who was the teacher and who the disciple, but Kassapa put an end to their hesitation by stating that he had now given up his belief in the efficacy of sacrifices either great or small; that Nirvana was a state of rest to be attained only by a change of heart; and that he had become a disciple of the Buddha. Gotama then spoke to the king on the miseries of the world which arise from passion, and on the possibility of release by following the 1 Vinaya Texts, i. 97-99; cf. Jataka, vol. i. p. 82, lines 11-19.

2 Samyutta, i. 105.

' Cf. Big. p. 99, with Hardy, M.B. p. 191. The Pali name is aditta-pariyaya: the sermon on the lessons to be drawn from burning. The text is Vinaya, i. 34 = Samyutta, iv. 19. A literal translation will be found in Vinaya Texts, i. 1 34, 135.

way of salvation. The raja invited him and his disciples to eat their simple mid-day meal at his house on the following morning; and then presented the Buddha with a garden called Veluvana or Bamboo-grove, afterwards celebrated as the place where the Buddha spent many rainy seasons, and preached many of his most complete discourses. There he taught for some time, attracting large numbers of hearers, among whom two, Sariputta and Moggallana, who afterwards became conspicuous leaders in the new crusade, then joined the Sangha or Society, as the Buddha's order of mendicants was called.

Meanwhile the prophet's father, Suddhodana, who had anxiously watched his son's career, heard that he had given up his asceticism, and had appeared as a Wanderer, an itinerant preacher and teacher. He sent therefore to him, urging him to come home, that he might see him once more before he died. The Buddha accordingly started for Kapilavastu, and stopped according to his custom in a grove outside the town. His father and uncles and others came to see him there, but the latter were angry, and would pay him no reverence. It was the custom to invite such teachers and their disciples for the next day's meal, but they all left without doing so. The next day, therefore, Gotama set out at the usual hour, carrying his bowl to beg for a meal. As he entered the city, he hesitated whether he should not go straight to his father's house, but determined to adhere to his custom. It soon reached his father's ears that his son was walking through the streets begging. Startled at such news he rose up, seizing the end of his outer robe, and hastened to the place where Gotama was, exclaiming, "Illustrious Buddha, why do you expose us all to such shame ? Is it necessary to go from door to door begging your food? Do you imagine that I am not able to supply the wants of so many mendicants?" "My noble father," was the reply, "this is file custom of all our race." "How so?" said his father. "Are you not descended from an illustrious line ? no single person of our race has ever acted so indecorously." "My noble father," said Gotama, "you and your family may claim the privileges of Kshatriya descent; my descent is from the prophets (Buddhas) of old, and they have always acted so; the customs of the law (Dharma) are good both for this world and the world that is to come. But, my father, when a man has found a treasure, it is his duty to offer the most precious of the jewels to his father first. Do not delay, let me share with you the treasure I have found." Suddhodana, abashed, took his son's bowl and led him to his house.

Eighteen months had now elapsed since the turning-point of Gotama's career - his great struggle under the Bo tree. Thus far all the accounts follow chronological order. From this time they simply narrate disconnected stories about the Buddha, or the persons with whom he was brought into contact, - the same story being usually found in more than one account, but not often in the same order. It is not as yet possible, except very partially, to arrange chronologically the snatches of biography to be gleaned from these stories. They are mostly told to show the occasion on which some memorable act of the Buddha took place, or some memorable saying was uttered, and are as exact as to place as they are indistinct as to time. It would be impossible within the limits of this article to give any large number of them, but space may be found for one or two.

A merchant from Sunaparanta having joined the Society was desirous of preaching to his relations, and is said to have asked Gotama's permission to do so. "The people of Sunaparanta," said the teacher, "are exceedingly violent. If they revile you what will you do ?" "I will make no reply," said the mendicant. "And if they strike you?" "I will not strike in return," was the reply. "And if they try to kill you ?" "Death is no evil in itself; many even desire it, to escape from the vanities of life, but I shall take no steps either to hasten or to delay the time of my departure." These answers were held satisfactory, and the monk started on his mission.

At another time a rich farmer held a harvest home, and the Buddha, wishing to preach to him, is said to have taken his almsbowl and stood by the side of the field and begged. The farmer, a wealthy brahmin, said to him, "Why do you come and beg ?

I plough and sow and earn my food; you should do the same." "I too, 0 brahmin," said the beggar, "plough and sow; and having ploughed and sown I eat." "You profess only to be a farmer; no one sees your ploughing, what do you mean?" said the brahmin. "For my cultivation," said the beggar, "faith is the seed, self-combat is the fertilizing rain, the weeds I destroy are the cleaving to existence, wisdom is my plough, and its guidingshaft is modesty; perseverance draws my plough, and I guide it with the rein of my mind; the field I work is in the law, and the harvest that I reap is the never-dying nectar of Nirvana. Those who reap this harvest destroy all the weeds of sorrow." On another occasion he is said to have brought back to her right mind a young mother whom sorrow had for a time deprived of reason. Her name was Kisagotami. She had been married early, as is the custom in the East, and had a child when she was still a girl. When the beautiful boy could run alone he died. The young girl in her love for it carried the dead child clasped to her bosom, and went from house to house of her pitying friends asking them to give her medicine for it. But a Buddhist convert thinking "she does not understand," said to her, "My good girl, I myself have no such medicine as you ask for, but I think I know of one who has." "Oh, tell me who that is?" said Kisagotami. "The Buddha can give you medicine; go to him," was the answer. She went to Gotama; and doing homage to him said, "Lord and master, do you know any medicine that will be good for my child?" "Yes, I know of some," said the teacher. Now it was the custom for patients or their friends to provide the herbs which the doctors required; so she asked what herbs he would want. "I want some mustard-seed," he said; and when the poor girl eagerly promised to bring some of so common a drug, he added, "you must get it from some house where no son, or husband, or parent or slave has died." "Very good," she said; and went to ask for it, still carrying her dead child with her. The people said, "Here is mustard-seed, take it"; but when she asked, "In my friend's house has any son died, or a husband, or a parent or slave?" They answered, "Lady! what is this that you say? the living are few, but the dead are many." Then she went to other houses, but one said "I have lost a son," another "We have lost our parents," another "I have lost my slave." At last, not being able to find a single house where no one had died, her mind began to clear, and summoning up resolution she left the dead body of her child in a forest, and returning to the Buddha paid him homage. He said to her, "Have you the mustard-seed?" "My lord," she replied, "I have not; the people tell me that the living are few, but the dead are many." Then he talked to her on that essential part of his system, the impermanency of all things, till her doubts were cleared away, she accepted her lot, became a disciple, and entered the "first path." For forty-five years after entering on his mission Gotama itinerated in the valley of the Ganges, not going farther than about 250 m. from Benares, and always spending the rainy months at one spot - usually at one of the viharas, 1 or homes, which had been given to the society. In the twentieth year his cousin Ananda became a mendicant, and from that time seems to have attended on the Buddha, being constantly near him, and delighting to render him all the personal service which love and reverence could suggest. Another cousin, Devadatta, the son of the raja of Koli, also joined the society, but became envious of the teacher, and stirred up Ajatasattu (who, having killed his father Bimbisara, had become king of Rajagaha) to persecute Gotama. The account of the manner in which the Buddha is said to have overcome the wicked devices of this apostate cousin and his parricide protector is quite legendary; but the general fact of Ajatasattu's opposition to the new sect and of his subsequent conversion may be accepted.

The confused and legendary notices of the journeyings of 1 These were at first simple huts, built for the mendicants in some grove of palm-trees as a retreat during the rainy season; but they gradually increased in splendour and magnificence till the decay of Buddhism set in. See the authorities quoted in Buddhist India, pp. 141, 142.

Gotama are succeeded by tolerably clear accounts of the last few days of his life. 2 On a journey towards Kusinara, a town about z 20 m. north-north-east of Benares, and about 80 m. due east of Kapilavastu, the teacher, being then eighty years of age, had rested for a short time in a grove at Pawa, presented to the society by a goldsmith of that place named Chunda. Chunda prepared for the mendicants a mid-day meal, and after the meal the Buddha started for Kusinara. He had not gone far when he was obliged to rest, and soon afterwards he said, "Ananda, I am thirsty," and they gave him water to drink. Half-way between the two towns flows the river Kukushta. There Gotama rested again, and bathed for the last time. Feeling that he was dying, and careful lest Chunda should be reproached by himself or others, he said to Ananda, "After I am gone tell Chunda that he will receive in a future birth very great reward; for, having eaten of the food he gave me, I am about to die; and if he should still doubt, say that it was from my own mouth that you heard this. There are two gifts which will be blest above all others, namely, Sujata's gift before I attained wisdom under the Bo tree, and this gift of Chunda's before I pass away." After halting again and again the party at length reached the river Hiranyavati, close by Kusinara, and there for the last time the teacher rested. Lying down under some Sal trees, with his face towards the south, he talked long and earnestly with Ananda about his burial, and about certain rules which were to be observed by the society after his death. Towards the end of this conversation, when it was evening, Ananda broke down and went aside to weep, but the Buddha missed him, and sending for him comforted him with the promise of Nirvana, and repeated what he had so often said before about the impermanence of all things, - "0 Ananda! do not weep; do not let yourself be troubled. You known what I have said; sooner or later we must part from all we hold most dear. This body of ours contains within itself the power which renews its strength for a time, but also the causes which lead to its destruction. Is there anything put together which shall not dissolve? But you, too, shall be free from this delusion, this world of sense, this law of change. Beloved," added he, speaking to the rest of the disciples, "Ananda for long years has served me with devoted affection." And he spoke to them at some length on the kindness of Ananda.

About midnight Subhadra, a brahmin philosopher of Kusinara, came to ask some questions of the Buddha, but Ananda, fearing that this might lead to a longer discussion than the sick teacher could bear, would not admit him. Gotama heard the sound of their talk, and asking what it was, told them to let Subhadra come. The latter began by asking whether the six great teachers knew all laws, or whether there were some that they did not know, or knew only partially. "This is not the time," was the answer, "for such discussions. To true wisdom there is only one way, the path that is laid down in my system. Many have already followed it, and conquering the lust and pride and anger of their own hearts, have become free from ignorance and doubt and wrong belief, have entered the calm state of universal kindliness, and have reached Nirvana even in this life. 0 Subhadra! I do not speak to you of things I have not experienced. Since I was twenty-nine years old till now I have striven after pure and perfect wisdom, and following the good path, have found Nirvana." A rule had been made that no follower of a rival system should be admitted to the society without four months' probation. So deeply did the words or the impressive manner of the dying teacher work upon Subhadra that he asked to be admitted at once, and Gotama granted his request. Then turning to his disciples he said, "When I have passed away and am no longer with you, do not think that the Buddha has left you, and is not still in your midst. You have my words, my explanations of the deep things of truth, the laws I have laid down for the society; let them be your guide; the Buddha has not left you." Soon afterwards he again spoke to them, urging them to reverence one another, and rebuked one of the disciples who spoke 2 The text of the account of this last journey is the Mahaparinibbdna Suttanta, vol. ii. of the Digha (ed. Rhys Davids and Carpenter). The translation is in Rhys Davids' Buddhist Suttas. indiscriminately all that occurred to him. Towards the morning he asked whether any one had any doubt about the Buddha, the law or the society; if so, he would clear them up. No one answered, and Ananda expressed his surprise that amongst so many none should doubt, and all be firmly attached to the law. But the Buddha laid stress on the final perseverance of the saints, saying that even the least among the disciples who had entered the first path only, still had his heart fixed on the way to perfection, and constantly strove after the three higher paths. "No doubt," he said, "can be found in the mind of a true disciple." After another pause he said: "Behold now, brethren, this is my exhortation to you. Decay is inherent in all component things. Work out, therefore, your emancipation with diligence!" These were the last words the Buddha spoke; shortly afterwards he became unconscious, and in that state passed away.

Authorities ON THE LIFE OF THE BUDDHA. - Canonical Pali (reached their present shape before the 4th century B.C.); episodes only, three of them long: (1) Birth; text in Majjhima Nikaya, ed. Trenckner and Chalmers (London, Pali Text Society, 1888-1899), vol. iii. pp. 118-124; also in Anguttara Nikaya, ed. Morris and Hardy (Pali Text Society, 1888-1900), vol. ii. pp. 130-132. (2) Adoration of the babe; old ballad; text in Sutta Nipata, ed. Fausboll (Pali Text Society, 1884), pp. 128-131; translation by the same in Sacred Books of the East (Oxford, 1881), vol. x. pp. 124-131. (3) Youth at home; text in Anguttara Nikaya, i. 1 45. (4) The going forth; old ballad; text in Sutta Nipata, pp. 70-74 (London, 1896), pp. 99-101; prose account in Digha Nikaya, ed. Rhys Davids and Carpenter (Pali Text Society, 1890-1893), vol. i. p. 115, translated by Rhys Davids in Dialogues of the Buddha (Oxford, 18 99), pp. 1 471 49. (5) First long episode; the going forth, years of study and penance, attainment of Nirvana and Buddhahood, and conversion of first five converts; text in Majjhima, all together at ii. 93; parts repeated at i. 163-175, 240-249; ii. 212; Vinaya, ed. Oldenberg (London, 1879-1883), vol. i. pp. 1-13. (6) Second long episode; from the conversation of the five down to the end of the first year of the teaching; text in Vinaya, i. 1 3-44, translated by Oldenberg in Vinaya Texts, i. 73-151. (7) Visit to Kapilavastu; text in Vinaya, i. 82; translation by Oldenberg in Vinaya Texts (Oxford, 1881-1885), vol. i. pp. 207-210. (8) Third long episode; the last days; text in Digha Nikaya (the Mahaparinibbana Suttanta), vol. ii. pp. 72-168, translated by Rhys Davids in Buddhist Suttas (Oxford, 1881), pp. 1-136. Buddhist Sanskrit Texts: (1) Mahavastu (probably 2nd century B.C.); edited by Senart (3 vols., Paris, 1882-1897), summary in French prefixed to each volume; down to the end of first year of the teaching. (2) Lalita Vistara (probably 1st century B.C.); edited by Mitra (Calcutta, 1877); translated into French by Foucaux (Paris, 1884); down to the first sermon. (3) Buddha Carita, by Asvaghosha, probably 2nd century A.D. edited by Cowell (Oxford, 1892); translated by Cowell (Oxford, 1894, S.B.E. vol. xlix.); an elegant poem; stops just before the attainment of Buddhahood. (These three works reproduce and amplify the above episodes Nos. 1-6; they retain here and there a very old tradition as to arrangement of clauses or turns of expression.) Later Pali: The commentary on the Jataka, written probably in the 5th century A.D., gives a consecutive narrative, from the birth to the end of the second year of the teaching, based on the canonical texts, but much altered and amplified; edited by Fausb011 in Jataka, vol. i. (London, 1877), pp. 1-94; translated by Rhys Davids in Buddhist Birth Stories (London, 1880), pp. 1-133. Modern Works: (I) Tibetan; Life of the Buddha; episodes collected and translated by W. Woodville Rockhill (London, 1884), from Tibetan texts of the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. (2) Sinhalese; episodes collected and translated by Spence Hardy from Sinhalese texts of the 12th and later centuries, in Manual of Buddhism (London, 1897, 2nd edition), pp. 138-359. (3) Burmese: The Life or Legend of Gaudama (3rd edition, London, 1880), by the Right Rev. P. Bigandet, translated from a Burmese work of A.D. 1773. (The Burmese is, in its turn, a translation from a Pali work of unknown date; it gives the whole life, and is the only consecutive biography we have.) (4) Kambojian: Pathama Sambodhian; translated into French by A. Leclbre in Livres sacre's du Cambodge (Paris, 1906). (T. W. R. D.)

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also buddha



1st century CE sculpture of a Buddha

Alternative spellings

  • buddha (senses 2 and 3 only)



Buddha (plural: Buddhas)

  1. Shakyamuni Buddha, Indian spiritual and philosophical teacher and founder of Buddhism; Siddhartha Gautama.
  2. Any of the other Buddhas named in Buddhist scriptures.
  3. An enlightened or awakened sentient being.
  4. A statue or image of any Buddha.

Derived terms


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Sanskrit root budh from Proto-Indo-European *bheudho. Cognate with Russian будить (“to awaken”), Gothic biudan, English bid, German bieten (“to bid”), Bote (“apostle”).



  1. Awakened, past participle of the verb bujjhati, meaning “awakened”, “knowing”, “understanding”.

Simple English


Basic terms

Three Jewels
Four Noble Truths
Noble Eightfold Path


Gautama Buddha
Dalai Lama


Nyingma Kagyu Sakya Gelug


study Dharma

A Buddha is a very holy person in Buddhism. The word Buddha means "He woke up" in Sanskrit. Buddha was named Siddhartha Gautama. He was the man who started Buddhism. Sometimes people call him "the Buddha". Other times, people call any person a Buddha if they have found enlightenment. If a person has not found enlightenment yet, but is very close to reaching it, then he is called Bodhisattva.

In early Buddhism Buddha meant only Siddhartha Gautama. Later an idea began that there could be many Buddhas: some in the past, some maybe in the present and some in the future.

Since Buddhism tradition thinks Buddha is an ideal person, tradition reached a notion of 36 ideal features of Buddhas. Some of those features are represented on statues of Buddhas. Some other features, like the feature of their foot, are difficult to be represented on a statue.

Buddhists believe that the Buddha was enlightened, which means that he knew all about how to live a peaceful life and how to not to suffer in an afterlife. They think he never got depressed, frustrated, upset or confused. He is said to have never argued with other people, but just said what was true and useful, out of compassion.[1]

Sujin Boriharnwanaket taught:

“If one studies the Buddhist scriptures one will see the Buddha's compassion. He taught the Dhamma to those who wanted to listen, he taught for the sake of their benefit and wellbeing. He wanted to help the listeners and did not want any misfortune to occur to them, no matter who they were. Even shortly before his final passing away he still taught the Dhamma to Subhadda who became the last disciple in the presence of the Buddha himself. This clearly shows his great compassion.[2]

Some Buddhists pray to Buddhas, but Buddhas are not gods. Buddhas are just teachers, to help people who will listen. A Buddha is a human being who has woken up and can see the true way the world works. This knowledge totally changes the person beyond birth, death, and rebirth. Nothing can annoy him anymore, even the circulation of incarnation, since his enlightenment put him outsides of this eternity circle in time and space. This person can help others become enlightened too in a proper way.

There are ideas which are said to lead someone to enlightenment. They are called the Dharma, meaning the way or the truth. Anyone can become a Buddha, it is said, but it is very hard. Age and gender do not matter. Buddhists believe there have been many Buddhas who were alone, called pacceka-buddhas. They reached enlightenment on their own, but they did not teach others. The first Buddha was afraid to teach people too. Their poor understanding made them hard to teach. But he did teach people, and people followed him.

Other pages


  1. Ajahn Jagaro 1995, “What was the Buddha’s life really like?”
  2. Sujin Boriharnwanaket, Chapter 9: The Benefits of Studying Dhamma, in “Deeds of Merit” transl. Nina van Gorkom

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