Siddhattha Gotama (Pali), also: Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit) was a spiritual teacher from ancient India and the founder of Buddhism and is known as Buddha. It is generally accepted by the majority of historians that he lived approximately from 563 B.C. to 483 B.C.
The Buddha Title
Buddha is a title meaning ‘Awakened One’ which Siddhattha Gotama called himself and was called by others after he attained enlightenment. More than an individual, a Buddha is a type, a human who has reached the apex of wisdom and compassion and is no longer subject to rebirth. A Buddha attains enlightenment entirely on his own whereas an arahat does it as a result of listening to and practicing the teachings of a Buddha. The Buddha of our present era is Siddhattha Gotama but tradition says that there were other Buddhas in previous eras just as there will be Buddhas in future eras. When the truth of Dhamma becomes lost or obscured, someone will sooner or later rediscover it and such a person is called a Buddha.
Other types of fully enlightened people are as follows:
- Sama-sam-buddha = One who rediscovers the teachings and teaches the masses as the historical Buddha did (Siddhattha Gotama).
- Paccekabuddha = A silent buddha. One who attains full enlightenment, but does not teach others.
- Arahant = Fully enlightened person, who might teach others, but not as the one who rediscovered the teachings, just as one who learned it from a current dispensation.
According to Buddhism, all three types of buddha listed above are attained by study, meditation, morality, concentration, tranquility, hard work, and wisdom and all are fully enlightened saints who attain nibbana (nirvana).
Life of Buddha
Siddhattha Gotama, later to be called the Buddha, was born into a ruling family in the small northern Indian state of Sàkya. Brought up in luxury, he was married and had a son. Despite his life of privilege and comfort Siddhattha was not happy and became deeply concerned about the suffering he saw all around him. Eventually, following the convention of the time, he renounced the world and took up the life of a wandering ascetic. He studied at the feet of different teachers, practised severe self-mortification but eventually, after six years, decided that such things did not work. After resting and strengthening himself with decent food he sat at the foot of a particular tree vowing not to move until he had penetrated the truth. Over the next forty years, the Buddha travelled throughout India teaching to others the truths he had realised and finally passed away at Kusinàrà at the age of eighty. He was the first person to teach a religion for all humankind rather than for a specific group or tribe. Along with Guru Nanak, Jesus, Confucius and Lao Tzu, he is considered one of the greatest religious thinkers of all time.
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