Gautama Buddha (born Siddhārtha Gautama) was born around 566 B.C.E, in the small kingdom of Kapilavastu to his father, King Suddhodana and his mother, Queen Maya. It was foretold by wise men that the young prince would one day become the next Buddha. This troubled the King as he wished for the prince to be a great ruler. In order to avoid the prophecy of the wise men, the King enticed Prince Siddhārtha Gautama to stay in the palace by making the palace so pleasant that the prince will never want to leave. Prince Siddhārtha Gautama married Princess Yasodhara at age 16 and was given three palaces so he would never think about living outside of the palace. As time passed, the prince decided to go out of the palace. It was noted that he left the palace four times and saw four different things. On his first time outside of the palace, the prince noticed the sick. On his second journey outside of the palace he noticed old age. On his third time leaving the palace, he noticed death. The fourth time leaving the palace, the prince met a wandering monk who had given up everything he owned to seek an end to suffering. The prince decided to be like the monk and began pondering the end of suffering.
Siddhārtha Gautama decided to leave the palace and his wife to become a wandering monk. He left all his worldly desires, cut his hair, put on ragged robes and began going by the name Gautama. Over a six-year period, Siddhārtha Gautama spoke with wise men and studied their ways in order understand how to an end to suffering. None of the wise men knew the answer. Gautama decided to meditate to find the path to end suffering. In meditation, he ate only roots, leaves and fruit and sometime nothing. He became very thin and unhealthy. He could endure more hardships than anyone else of his time yet he did not find happiness. He thought, “Neither my life of luxury in the palace nor my life as an ascetic in the forest is the way to freedom. Overdoing things can not lead to happiness. ” He began to eat nourishing food again and regained his strength.
At last on a full moon night in May, Gautama sat under a fig tree, now known as the Bodhi Tree, and decided not to move until he gained enlightenment. During the night, he was visited by Mara, the demon, who tried to tempt him away from his path to enlightenment. Mara sent his beautiful daughters to lure Gautama into visual and physical pleasures, but, Gautama resisted. Next, Mara sent bolts of lightning, wind and heavy rain to distract Gautama, yet he resisted. Last, Mara sent his demonic armies with weapons and flaming rocks, however, Gautama met the armies and defeated them one by one with his virtue.
In the end, Gautama realized the cause of suffering and how to remove it. He had gained enlightenment, the most supreme wisdom and understood things as they truly are, and became the Buddha., ‘The Awakened One’. For the next 45 years, Buddha traveled teaching others how to gain enlightenment for themselves. He taught of such teachings as The Four Noble Truths, The Noble Eightfold Path, and Nirvana.
At the ripe old age of 80 years old, Buddha knew that it was close to his death. He received his last meal from a blacksmith who offered him food. The Buddha is noted to have told his disciples that he is dying of old age, not because of what he ate (food poison). The Theravada tradition generally believes that the Buddha was offered some kind of pork, which is acceptable in Theravada Buddhism as the monks and Buddha would ask others for alms and eat whatever was given. The Mahayana tradition, however, believes that the Buddha ate some sort of truffle or other mushroom, which is required as they are highly vegetarian.
The Buddha’s final words are reported to have been: “All composite things pass away. Strive for your own liberation with diligence.” At last, Buddha passed on and his body was cremated. The time of Buddha’s passing is either around 486 B.C.E. according to Theravada tradition or around 383 B.C.E. according to Mahayana traditions.