Although there is still a little debate about exactly when Gautama Buddha lived, it is generally believed that his time line was around 400 BC. But what matters more than anything is what he preached, the lessons he shared with the world, and how he is relevant even today. His teachings have always been seen more as spiritual than religious, which is why he transcends borders every today and why so many people still look to buy Buddha paintings online.
His life:“If you knew what I know about the power of giving you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.” - Buddha
From whatever texts that can be found about the life of Buddha, it is said that Siddhartha Gautama was born in the Shakya clan as the son of Suddhodana and Maya. While the former was the chief of the Shakya clan, the latter was the princess of Koliya. Ancient texts suggest that he was born in Lumbini, still existing in modern day Nepal and he was raised in Kapilvastu, the then capital of the Shakya clan. Legend has it that Maya dreamt of a white elephant with six white tusks on the night that Gautama was conceived. When she was enroute to her father’s house for the delivery, she started having labour pains and gave birth in a garden in Lumbini.
In a ceremony that took place 5 days after birth, several Brahmin scholars were invited to read the future for this little boy who was destined to become a king. Almost everyone predicted that he would either become a great king or a holy man, but it was only the youngest Brahmin Kondanna, who said that this infant would go on to become Buddha, the Enlightened One! Worried by the prophecy, Suddhodana chose to shelter his son from not just human sufferings, but also religious teachings, as he wanted his son to become a great king.
However, destiny had to take its path – as a 29 year old prince, Siddhartha chose to meet his people and ventured out of the palace grounds, and each time, he encountered the harsh realities of life. He saw aged people, people battling diseases, death, and an ascetic. Not only did all these sights worry and perturb him, it instigated him to leave his life of luxury and embark on a journey to attain enlightenment.
From Siddhartha to Buddha:“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” – Buddha
After leaving the palace, Siddhartha spent over 6 years, wandering from place to place, learning about meditation, but spiritual awakening was far from coming to him. However, it was after meditating for 49 days under the Bodhi tree that he was finally able to attain enlightenment and the prophecy about him becoming Buddha, came true. Perhaps the most important revelation from his gaining enlightenment was understanding the importance of the Middle Path – simply steering away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification and gaining enlightenment on one’s own.
If one were to look at Buddha’s teaching, there would be several aspects to the same. It would start with the Three Jewels or Three Treasures:
- The Buddha or the Yellow Jewel: This refers to the person as well as the ideals and inspirations he represented.
- The Dharma or the Blue Jewel: This refers to the life teaching of the Buddha, wherein dharma means the unmediated truth.
- The Sangha or the Red Jewel: This refers to the spiritual community – the people with whom we share our spiritual experiences and life. Buddhism is not an abstract philosophy, it is more a way of life, which is why constant learning is encouraged and for that a sense of community is essential.
Then there are the Four Noble Truths:
- Suffering: Suffering is ever present in some form or the other
- The cause of suffering: More often than not, ignorance and a sense of craving leads to these sufferings
- The end of suffering: Problems are never permanent and once the mind awakens, they will disappear
- The path: By practicing mediation, following a path of discipline, and gaining wisdom, such sufferings can be kept at bay
His teachings included the Three fold way:Ethics: Buddha always preached that each action has consequences, which is why it is imperative that we contemplate each action of ours, trying to understand the consequence it might have on the people around us.
Meditation: Learning to calm your mind and gain the ability to look within one’s own self has high importance in Buddhism.
Wisdom: Buddha believed that many problems arose simply because of ignorance – by gaining wisdom, ignorance, as well as the problems and sufferings arising from them could be removed.
When you look at buying a Buddha water fountain for home, you are not only bringing home a piece of home décor, you are also inviting the noble eight fold path, preached by Buddha himself:
- Right understanding
- Right resolve
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right meditation
How Buddha and Buddhism have influenced the world:“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” - Buddha
Even though Buddha might have lived and preached centuries ago, there has been so much influence of the same through the years. At a time when the entire Indian subcontinent was in a state of siege, it was Buddhism that promoted a sense of nationalism. It was with the social harmony that the teachings of Buddha brought about that the Maurya empire was able to establish an empire as widespread and as united. Violence was no longer seen as the path to glory and kings such as Ashoka started sending emissaries to all parts of the world to spread the word. This not only lead to Buddhism spreading, it also improved trade and cultural relationships. In the far east, where Buddhism flourished, a slightly chubby version of Buddha emerged as he symbolised good fortune and plenty and that is why there are plenty of laughing Buddha statue options online.
Buddhism has always been more about morality and practicing values such as being truthful, being charitable, being non-violent, and being compassionate to others. Given that there were no difficult chants, no expensive rituals to follow, and no sacrifices or offerings needed, this soon became a religion that could be practised by the common man. If you are to look at even the recent history, you will see that Buddhism lies at the base of some of the biggest educational institutions - Nalanda, Taxila, and Vikramshila, all of which were recognised as some of the greatest academic centres, were actually Buddhist Viharas.
Buddha and his teachings are as relevant today as they were several hundreds of years ago – learn to be calm, learn to be patient, do good unto others, discard jealousy and comprehend reality in a practical manner and you will see a lot less suffering in your own life. The basic tenet of Buddhism continues to be to train the human mind to reject extremes and adopt a middle path. So when you are browsing for Buddha statues online, take a moment to remember his teachings too!