Siddhartha Gautama's Early Life
The future Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was born in the 5th or 6th century BCE in Lumbini, in what is now Nepal.
father, King Suddhodana, was leader of a large clan called the Shakya.
mother, Queen Maya, died shortly after his
began by seeking out renowned teachers, who taught him about the many religious philosophies of his
day as well as how to meditate.
But after he
had learned all they had to teach, his
doubts and questions remained. so he
and five disciples left to find enlightenment by themselves.
The six companions attempted to find release from suffering through physical discipline--enduring pain, holding their breath, fasting nearly to starvation.
was still unsatisfied.
It occurred to him that in renouncing pleasure he
had grasped pleasure's opposite--pain and self-mortification.
considered a Middle Way between those two extremes.
remembered an experience from his
childhood, when his
mind had settled into a state of deep peace.
The path of liberation was through discipline of mind.
realized that instead of starvation, he
needed nourishment to build up his
strength for the effort.
But when he
accepted a bowl of rice milk from a young girl, his
companions assumed he
had given up the quest and abandoned him.
The Enlightenment of the Buddha
sat beneath a sacred fig (Ficus religiosa), known ever after as the Bodhi Tree, and settled into meditation.
The work of Siddhartha's mind came to be mythologized as a great battle with Mara, a demon whose name means "destruction' and who represents the passions that snare and delude us.
Mara brought vast armies of monsters to attack Siddhartha
, who sat still and untouched.
Mara's most beautiful daughter tried to seduce Siddhartha
, but this effort also failed.
Finally, Mara claimed the seat of enlightenment rightfully belonged to him.
Mara's spiritual accomplishments were greater than Siddhartha's
, the demon said.
Mara's monstrous soldiers cried out together, "I am his
Mara challenged Siddhartha--who will speak for you?
reached out his
right hand to touch the earth, and the earth itself roared, "I bear you witness!
And as the morning star rose in the sky, Siddhartha Gautama
realized enlightenment and became a Buddha.