Who was the Historical Buddha?
Before His Self-Enlightenment, our Lord Buddha was Prince Siddhattha Gautama, who lived sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE, in the city of Kapilavastu in Northern India. He took up the religious life when he was 29 years old. It took him six years before he could attain Self-Enlightenment, thereafter he was known as Shakyamuni Buddha, or just The Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha is the primary figure in Buddhism, an Arahant (from the ancient Pali language) which means fully enlightened being, who shared his knowledge and insights to help others. He spent 45 years establishing and propagating Buddhism and as a result, many people were able to attain the different stages of Enlightenment. He taught The Middle Way, between sensual indulgence and the severe asceticism which had been common at that time.
Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition and first committed to writing about 400 years later. These form the basis of the Titpitaka (aka Pali Canon) which contains various teachings in different formats.
Much of the Tipitaka can be read online at Access to Insight, an external, and very extensive website that has English translations of many of the original discourses of the Buddha, and associated texts and additional materials from other contributors.
Who Can be a Buddha?
Every human being can aspire to Buddhahood. Once an individual resolves to become a Buddha, that person must endeavor to pursue Perfections. When all the Perfections have been pursued to the fullest extent, they will then be able to attain Self-Enlightenment. The name, which is used to call an individual who aspires to Buddhahood, is “Phra Bodhisatta”.
Basis of Buddhist Beliefs:
Buddhism possesses many special characteristics and teaches insight into everyday reality. It contains knowledge about all living beings. It teaches the fact that our life is
determined by our own deeds and not by a superior being. It teaches about “Noble Truths” and the correct way to live our life such that we can benefit not only our self but our fellow beings as well.
Buddhism follows the belief that people die and are reborn into another life. These lives are subject to Dhukka (from the Pali, can be translated as “suffering”, “pain” or “unsatisfactoriness”). The cycle of birth, death and subsequent rebirths is known as Samsara.
Deeds from previous lives can affect subsequent lives, so good deeds indicate rebirth into a better life, e.g. someone who is charitable and generous in this life, may be wealthy in the next life. This is the concept of Kamma (Sanskrit: Karma). The idea is that eventually we live better and better lives, while acquiring wisdom through study and practice until we reach a state called Nibbana (Sanskrit: Nirvana), where we break the cycle of birth, death and rebirth to live in a permanent state of bliss.
“All I teach is suffering and
the end of suffering.”
The Four Noble Truths
A short time after his enlightenment, The Buddha conducted his first sermon where he laid out the foundation of all of his teachings: The Four Noble Truths.
The truth that life is subject to suffering (Dukkha)
The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudāya)
The truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha)
The truth of the path that leads to the cessation of suffering (Magga)
The Eightfold Path:
The fourth truth talks about a path the leads to the end of suffering, this is The Eight Fold Path:
The Buddha’s teachings are extensive and varied, and collectively are known as The Dhamma.