The story of Buddha, who is also known as Siddhartha Gautama, Bodhisattva, and Shakyamuni, is a fantastic one. It is a story of true journey for self improvement.
Siddhartha Gautama was born the son of the king of the Shakyas, although his mother died a week after childbirth. He was an emotionally sensitive and contemplative boy who excelled in nearly everything he did. When he was extremely young, it was twice predicted that he would rather rule the world through kindness or be the greatest spiritual leader ever. His father wanted him to be a ruler, so he ensured that Siddhartha lived the most lavish life anyone could possibly live. He wanted nothing because he had everything.
One day he wanted to go take a walk in a park several miles away. On his way there, he saw an extremely old man. Siddhartha had never seen an old person before, and asked his servant if he would grow old like the man, and the servant confirmed. Siddhartha was upset and went home. He wanted to go on that walk again, so he went out and this time he saw a sick person. Siddhartha had never seen a sick person before, and asked his servant if he would eventually get sick like the man, and the servant confirmed. Siddhartha was upset and went home. He wanted to go on that walk again, so he went out and this time he saw a funeral procession. Siddhartha had never seen a dead person before, and asked his servant if he would eventually die like the man, and the servant confirmed. Siddhartha was upset and went home. He wanted to go on that walk again, so he went out and this time he saw a monk. Siddhartha had never seen a monk before and, and asked his servant what a monk is. The servant told him that they practice virtue and cease to do evil. He was intrigued by the monk and talked to him and asked him how his life had improved since he became a monk. The monk responded by saying he was bothered by the same things as Siddhartha, and that since he has become a monk he has realized that all things are impermanent. He had come to terms with this fact. He now wants to help others do the same. Siddhartha was elated by what the monk said and finally went to the park. He wanted what the monk had, and decided to become a monk.
His kingly father was not impressed with his son’s aspirations. Siddhartha was ready to leave everything in his life behind. However, Siddhartha was about to have a son. It was the only thing preventing him from leaving to become a monk. When his wife gave birth, he named his son “Rahula”, which basically meant “ball-and-chain”. It wasn’t long until Siddhartha decided that he wanted to live a life as a monk anyway. He knew his family would be well taken care of. He became a Bodhisattva, or someone who is devoted to obtaining enlightenment for himself and helping others do the same.
He spent several years studying under 2 different ascetic sages. They both requested that he take over teaching for them because he had learned everything they had to teach. However, he didn’t feel enlightened, and ultimately decided to go off by himself to try to find enlightenment. 5 of his fellow students were surprised he didn’t take the teaching jobs, so they decided to follow him. After 6 more years of asceticism, he realized he was no closer to enlightenment as an ascetic than he was when he was living luxuriously. He realized enlightenment wouldn’t come from such an extreme method, but from a middle path. When he realized this, he cleaned himself up and took a bath. His friends believed he had given up on obtaining enlightenment, so they left him.
He found a place to meditate under a Bodhi tree and decided he wasn’t going to leave until he had obtained enlightenment.
He was tempted with sex, threatened with violence, and was intellectual attacked. He was able to resist all of these. He ruled over his emotions and passions, and didn’t let his emotions and passions rule him. After weeks of sitting under the tree, on December 8 he came to a realization: there is a cause and effect to everything and he was able to see things for what they truly are. Everything seemed new and, as he repeatedly put it, “Wonderful!” Even the mundane seemed exciting now.
Shakyamuni (Sage of the Shakyas) knew that there were other Buddhas before him and that there would be after him. After he obtained enlightenment, his kneejerk reaction was to just go off and be by himself. He thought this would be best because he knew it would be difficult for people to understand what he had learned. However, he quickly ended up changing his mind because he knew it would end up helping people. He spent the next several weeks near that same Bodhi tree meditating on the best way to teach people what he had learned.
I feel this is a great story because it shows that if you want to achieve something, you have to work hard at it. It may not happen in the way you thought or wanted it to, but if you persist you will achieve your goal.
Some of the best take aways I had from this story:
- No pain, no gain
- True freedom cannot be achieved through tyranny
- Rule your passions, don’t let your passions rule you
- Don’t try to use suffering to end suffering