One of the widely followed religions in Eastern and Western Asian Countries is Buddhism. The Buddhism religion started around 2500 years ago and was started by Gautama Buddha. Buddhism was founded on the teachings of Lord Buddha. According to world religious statistics of 2014, around 396 million people are following Buddhism in the present time, making it one of the major religions of the World.
How Buddhism was born?
In order to know how Buddhism started, we need to know the biography of young Prince Siddhartha. Around 2500 years ago under the roof of the Himalayas, the lands were ruled by many royal clans and Shakya clan was one of them. Shakya clan was reigning over Kapilvastu, which is now present in Lumbini, Nepal. King Suddhodhana was the current king of Shakya clan and Queen Maha Maya was the wife and current queen of Kapilvastu. According to Buddhist legends, Siddhartha was born in the way when Maha Maya was traveling to her birthplace and it is also said that Gautama Buddha took seven steps after prince Siddhartha was born.
After prince Siddhartha was born, King Suddhodhana invited many experienced Scholars and astrologer in order to know the future of Prince Siddhartha. Everyone except one young scholar predicted that Prince Siddhartha will either become great emperor or leave all the royal life and became Enlightened One who will lead people away from Samsara. But Kaundinya, who later became the disciples of Lord Buddha, predicted that young Prince Siddhartha will become the Enlightened One leaving the life of royalty.
Upon hearing such future of young prince, King Suddhodhana immediately ordered his men to build a beautiful palace away from the every aspect of life and decided that young prince would never have a glance of pain, death, sick, disease, etc. And young Prince started living the life of beauty, comfort without any hardship. But there was incident when young prince along with other Shakya Princes were playing, prince Devadatta shoot a flying duck with an arrow and wounded duck fell in the ground, and prince Siddhartha defended the duck from Devadatta from killing it and cured it and freed the duck.
When Siddhartha become an adult, he felt the feelings of vacant in his heart in the palace that King Suddhodhana built for the prince. At that time, the prince was already married with Shakya princess Yasodahara, daughter of King Suppabuddha and Queen Pamita, sister of King Suddhodhana. In order to reduce these feelings, the prince asked King Suddhodhana to visit the kingdom and see the life of kingdom with his own eyes. King Suddhodhana accepted prince wishes and ordered his men to announce that the Prince was visiting the kingdom and band any kind of violence, suffering, old people and dead people. But the fate wanted the exact opposite, Prince saw an old man walking from his house and transportation of dead man. Later, Prince Siddhartha along his trusted men went behind King Suddhodhana’s back and went to look the kingdom alone without any preparation. Prince saw all the aspects of life like sick people, dead people, old people, and violence. Seeing such condition of the life, he wonders the answer to these aspects of life. After much thinking, Prince Siddhartha wanted to find the answer and decided to leave the palace. During his last days at the palace, he visited his wife Yasodhara, and his newly born son, Rahula.
After leaving the palace, Prince Siddhartha seeks the knowledge of so-called “Enlightened saints” but the knowledge of these saints couldn’t satisfy the hunger of the young prince. Later he went to Rajagaha began his ascetic life and begging the alms in the street. The king Bimbisara of Rajagaha upon knowing the quest of Prince Siddhartha offered him the throne of Rajagaha. But prince rejected the offer and left Rajagaha and finally meets two hermit teachers and masters their teachings. But unsatisfied prince left the two hermit teachers and started performing extreme meditation practices like meditating without eating any food and so on.
|Lord Buddha With Halo Under Bodhi Tree|
After much extreme practice, his body wasn’t able to sustain and his health started to degrade and reach on the verge of death. While the ascetic prince was sitting under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, a young girl named Sujata seeing his condition, offered him Payasam(pudding with milk and jaggery) in a bowl. After eating the Payasam, he started to reconsider his path and started meditative dhyana with much more focus and concentration, and found the right way to Enlightenment. At the age of 35, Prince Siddhartha is believed to attain Nirvana while meditating under Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, and finally discovered the Middle Way or Noble Eightfold Path.
After attaining “Nirvana,”, Prince Siddhartha was called “Enlightened One”, “Gautama Buddha”, “Shakyamuni Buddha”, “Buddha”, etc. Then Lord Buddha seeks his two hermit teachers but knowing that they were dead, he met two merchant brothers known by the name Taphussa and Bhallika. They were known as first lay disciples of Lord Buddha. Later he met five scholars led by Kaundinya, who prophesized Buddha future and passed on his knowledge to these five scholars. Kaundinya became Stream Enterer after hearing Lord Buddha first preaching. Later five scholars became arahants and established the Sangha and started teaching Dharma to the newly ordained Monks.
|Buddhist Monks being Ordained in the Order of Sangha|
From that moment, Buddhism was founded and gained significant numbers of followers. Many great kings started following Buddhism not long after. King Bimbisara of Rajagaha was one of the great followers of Gautama Buddha. According to Buddhist philosophers, Shakyamuni Buddha made 200 vows before attaining Buddhahood.