Siddhartha Buddha, the founding father of Buddhism, was born in 563 BC in the mountainous region of southern Nepal, in the ruling Ksatriya family of the Lichhavi clan in Lumbini. The son of a clan chief, the young prince was prophesized to greatness from an early age by palace soothsayers. Reacting to this, his father, the king, took all possible care to keep Gautama in a life full of decadent luxuries, comfort and safety.
However, Siddhartha was not content with his materialistic surroundings, and one day, the young prince sneaked out of the palace with his minders to see his subjects in the real world that has so far, been only a story for him.
Setting foot outside the security and comfort of the palace, he was staggered by the sight in front of him. Unlike the healthy and beautiful courtiers and servants he has grown accustomed to seeing in the royal household, the streets were filled with the destitute, maimed and sickly – and most importantly, death, which was a foreign concept to him. His escort explained to him that this was a common scene and part of life in the real world.
Siddhartha then saw a sage and was baffled by the serenity on the man's face. His escort told him the sage had renounced all materialistic possessions and thus, he was content and at ease. This left a permanent mark on the psyche of the young prince, and a few nights later, just short of his thirtieth naming day, he bid farewell to his wife and children and began his journey to attain the meaning of life.
He travelled from place to place, cities, towns, and villages, never doubting the eventual success of his quest. Along the way, he began to perform heavy penances on himself. It eventually reached a stage where his body began to break down from the self-inflicted strain.
Siddhartha eventually took a rest underneath a Bodhi tree and began to meditate. By then, the 35 year old man begun to question himself, and the path that he has chosen.
Suddenly, amidst the soul searching and self-doubt, he achieved enlightenment, and from then henceforth, he was call Gautama Buddha, or, The Enlightened One.
His first sermon was conducted in Benares, in a little village called Sarnath and his last sermon was performed in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, where he was laid to rest soon after at the age of eighty.
Gautama Buddha abandoned the Vedic Brahmanical classification, which divided a community into ironclad castes and further separate the people from each other based on their social standing. He vehemently opposed elaborate rituals, blood sacrifices and idol worship. According to his dogma, the existence of The Lord God is irrelevant. He placed focus on self-effort to attain salvation and achieve deliverance. He believed that the soul is immortal and the successful attainment of Nirvana, a state where the soul has exited the material plane, is the principal objective of each human.
Gautama Buddha constructed The Four Noble Truths that forms the basis of Buddhism
Life is full of dukkha (suffering)
Suffering is due to material desires
Freedom from suffering can be attained from removing lust and craving
Removing lust and craving can be achieved by heeding the Eight-Fold Trail.
The way to remove your lusts and cravings, and to break free from the cycle of Samsara (birth and death) is by following the Eight-Fold Trail, which consists of:
By successfully following the above and adopting it into one's daily live, one can achieve Nirvana or deliverance, exiting the agony of Samsara.
During the lifetime of Gautama Buddha, a sizeable number of people became his proponents, as his messages struck a chord with the less fortunate and the idealist. Buddhism became the official religion of several Kingdoms, including the great Mauryan dynasty under the legendary warrior King Ashoka. The spread and influence of Buddhism in Eastern and Southern Asia can be credited directly to King Ashoka, as he was a fanatic advocate of the religion and was responsible for the construction of over 80,000 stupas (a spiritual monument) in the region, as well as encouraging the conversion of his conquered subjects. The people of these lands has remain steadfast in the faith in Buddhism until this day