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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Buddha

Prince Gautama Siddhartha (563BC- 483BC) known to us as Buddha (meaning the enlightened one) was born in Lumbini, SW Nepal at the foot of the mountains. Buddhists celebrate his birth on April 8th each year.

A sacred garden and shrine was established in Lumbini by the Nepalese government in 1970.

In 1996 his exact birthplace was discovered. It is a stone buried on a platform of bricks under the Mayadevi temple.

Prince Guatama's father was chief of the Shakya clan, a wise and illustrious ruler of territory corresponding to Oudh and the adjoining district of South Nepal.

Legend has it that Guatama's mother, Matamaya, dreamed shortly before her son's birth of a beautiful white elephant, which entered her womb. She died soon after her son was born and Guatama wasa reared in the greatest luxury by his father and aunt.

During the birth celebrations, a seer announced that this baby would either become a great king or a great holy man. His father, wishing for Gautama to be a warrior and ruler rather than a religious philosopher, shielded his son from religious teachings or knowledge of human suffering. However, Gautama apparently showed an early inclination to meditation and reflection, displeasing his father. In his own discourses, the Buddha recalled that he meditated and entered his first trance while still a boy.

Gautama was reported to have excelled as a young prince at all sports, competent in martial arts such as chariot combat, wrestling, and archery, and later easily hiking miles each day and camping in the wilderness.

Once Gautama reached the age of 16, his father arranged a marriage to his beautiful cousin, Princess Yasodhora, who was the same age. She bore him a son, Rahula. Although his father ensured that Gautama was provided with everything he could want or need, Gautama was constantly troubled and internally dissatisfied.

The married Buddha hankered after more than the routine, domesticity and luxury he was enjoying. He was spiritually unsatisfied. At the age of 29, Gautama was escorted by his attendant Channa on four subsequent visits outside of the palace. There, he came across the "four sights": an old crippled man, a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and finally a monk with a begging bowl. This prompted the question "What is the cause of suffering?" and was the start of his journey towards enlightenment.

Guatama left his family, and spent six years living a life of austerity. Realising that he was now overindulging in asceticism he received his enlightenment as he sat in a lotus position under a Bo tree. Guatama entered the state of nirvana or nothingness and acquired four truths or eight ways that arrive at Nirvana.

The Bo tree was near Buddh Gaya. A descendant of the Bo tree is preserved today.

After his enlightenment Guatama travelled round North India preaching his message.

Guatama proceeded to preach a sermon at Benares to five fellow ascetics in a park. His sermon "turning of the Wheel of the Law" gave birth to Buddhism. by turning the wheel he meant preach Buddhism without ceasing. This sermon is held in similar reverence by Buddhists as the Sermon on the Mount is by Christians.

A wealthy admirer subsidised the building of a monastery at Savatthi (Sanskrit, Sravasti) which became the Buddha's main residence and the centre of his teaching efforts. Other monasteries sprang up in the major cities along the Ganges.

In 510 he returned home and converted his father and family.

His physical characteristics are described in one of the central texts of the traditional Pali canon, the Digha Nikaya. The Buddha, it says, had an elongated, lengthy body with long appendices (long arms with a span equal to body length, long fingers, long hands, elongated face, protruding and well-formed nose).
His closely curled hair was fine and dark.
His eyes were wide, and "very blue".
His body was light-colored and golden, with a pinkish color under the nails.

After his enlightenment Buddha decreed out of personal humility that no one would make an image of him or paint him. However one artist seeing him deep in contemplation on banks of Ganges at Benares got round it by painting his reflection in the Ganges. Hence many representations of the youthful Buddha have folds in the garments known as the ripple effect.

The Buddha's long career as teacher and leader was not entirely trouble-free. Rival religious groups, especially the followers of Jainism, reportedly attacked his teachings and even the Buddha himself. Devadatta, the Buddha's cousin and disciple, sought revenge after being thwarted in his ambition to inherit leadership of the sangha (monastic community), first engineering assassination attempts, then creating a short-lived schism in the sangha.

After six years fasting in the desert he was little more than skin and bone. After that he ate one fairly substantial meal a day of curry and rice and a few spoonsful of gruel for supper.

At the age of 80, he ate his last meal, which, according to different translations, was either tainted pork or a mushroom delicacy which he had received as an offering from a blacksmith.

Gautama Buddha realised that his end was fast approaching. He told his disciple Ananda to prepare a bed between two Sal trees in Kushinagar. Just before his passing, a 120 year-old mendicant monk named Subhadra, walked by, but was turned away by Ananda. Buddha overheard this and called the Brahmin to his side. He was admitted to the Sangha (Buddhist order) and immediately after, Gautama passed away.
                     
The Buddha died in Kusinagara, Nepal, as a result of food poisoning. He declined to give any specific instructions regarding the future organization and propagation of his creed, insisting that he had already taught them what was necessary for salvation. His last words were “All things must pass away. Strive for your own salvation with diligence.".

Parts of Buddha's body were buried under mounds called "stopas" in various parts of India. The rest was cremated and ashes housed in eight urns so they could be divided among his disciples.

Despite many efforts, the dates of the Buddha's birth and death remain uncertain. The various Buddhist sources agree that the Buddha lived for 80 years, but they disagree on the precise dates. Modern Theravada countries place his birth in 623 BC, and his death in 543  BC, but these dates are rejected by most Western and Indian historians

His influence was confined to a small area of NE India for two centuries until King Asoka made it the Indian state religion.

Buddha left no written (or recorded) record of his philosophy. The only complete canon of the Buddhist scriptures is that of the Sinhalese (Sri Lanka) Buddhists in Pali

A fable about an event in Buddha's life explains the use of the 12 animals after which the Chinese years are named. Buddha had extended an invitation to all living creatures but only 12 of them answered his call. They were the dog, dragon, horse, monkey, ox, pig, rat, rabbit, rooster, sheep, snake and tiger. As a reward Buddha commemorated their visit by naming a year after each of them. The sequence of the years was determined by a cross-country race between these very animals and is the order in which they reached the finish.

In the temple of the Sacred Tooth in Sri Lanka is a piece of bone worshipped by Buddhists who believe it to be one of Buddhist's teeth.

Tumble dolls were first made by the Chinese in the image of Buddha with weighted buttons to illustrate that Buddha could not fall.

Spring Temple Buddha is the tallest statue in the world. It was completed in 2002 and stands 128 m (420 ft) tall.  The statue is located in the Zhaocun township of Lushan County, Henan, China. Beneath the statue is a Buddhist monastery.

Spring Temple Buddha, By Zgpdszz - Wikipedia

Richard Wagner attempted all his life to write "Die Sieger" (The Victors) based on the life of Buddha but never succeeded. 

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