Known as ‘The Enlightened One’ or ‘Proclaimer of the Truth’, he was the instigator of a whole new religion.
You could tell from his birth he was no ordinary child. His mother Queen Mahamya dreamt that a white elephant entered her womb causing instant pregnancy. She meditated under a tree and the infant was born from her side causing lotuses to spring up in his footprints as he leapt around. No time for toddling.
His erstwhile father King Suddhadana was thrilled and with a huge naming ceremony settled for Sid and Arthur, or rather SIDDHARTA. Sadly Mother died two days later, but not too sadly as she was filled with radiant joy and eternal bliss at the time.
Nothing was too good for his son and the king kept any hint of unpleasantness out of sight. He had his cousin Devadatta as a companion, but Gautama always seemed to win everything including a bride called Yasodhara.
Life was indeed idyllic. No poverty, sickness, death or ugliness was allowed within the palace grounds. For his first outing father had the streets cleared of nasties and filled them with flowers; but shocks happened despite the precautions, and Sid saw a poor man in rags, a sick man, and final horror a dead man.
This caused him to fret and brood and the king had to lock him in at night. The marriage helped, especially when his son Rahula was born, but not for long. One night Sid crept off and escaped into the real world.
Bewildered, he crept off into the wilderness practicing austerities to the point of starvation as he sought salvation for the conditions of human ills by adding to them. Clearly this did not work so he started dining on hand-outs as he could not afford take-outs. No one had told him about money.
Then he spotted the spot of all spots — a large Bho tree by the riverbank of the Ganges. Here he set up his simple headquarters and in time it became known as the ‘Tree of Enlightenment’. It was there he had his big revelation.
What he discovered was this: You can either go on tiresomely being reincarnated forever — which eventually becomes a real drag — or you can opt out, take the Holy Eightfold Way and float enigmatically around in Buddhahood.
As soon as he realized this, he became Buddha, the Enlightened One, leaving the rest of us floundering.
The rest, as they say, is history. Now his meditations were producing results and his mind over matter was strong enough to stitch up Mara the evil demon who tried every which way to crush Gautama’s contemplations.
When a giant cobra called Mucalinda became a part-time sofa and protective canopy, who could fail to be intrigued by this amazing character with his new holy ideas which blended perfectly with most of the esoteric ideas of Eastern Asia. You could now have a whole new way of life after life and seek Nirvana in your own good time.
Followers flocked. To some extent it was like buying a timeshare in Godliness. If you made mistakes you could come back and try again. It was all so benign: no thunderbolts, no blood sacrifices or marching to Holy Wars. Tranquility and Peace were to be given a chance. It was all so-far fetched one just had to give it a try.
Gautama departed his mortal life after 42 years. But his story was just beginning. For someone who advocated the simple life and eschewed all worldly vanities, it is remarkable how his followers could not wait to build bigger and more ostentatious temples with golden statues looming higher than a house. Now he was the Buddha and his legacy multiplied in all directions...
Gautama Facts and Figures
Pronunciation: Coming soon
Alternative names: Shakyamuni, Siddharta, Siddhartha
Type: legendary mortal
Celebration or Feast Day: Unknown at present
Role: Unknown at present
Good/Evil Rating: GREAT, really beneficial
Popularity index: 1202
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Article last revised on September 20, 2018 by Rowan Allen.
Editors: Peter J. Allen, Chas Saunders
References: Coming soon.