25 centuries before the New Age, there was in northern India a city called Kapilavastu. The king of this land was a member of the Sakya clan named Suddhodana Guatama. His queen’s name was Maya.

One day during the Festival of the Full Moon of Midsummer had a disturbing dream. She told her husband of the dream and he summoned his Brahmins, the wise men of his court.

"This dream brings no misfortune to your race," they told the king, "but a great joy. For a son will be born to you, a worthy decendant of the royal Sakyas. If he dwells in a house, he will become a king, a universal monarch, and rule the world. But if he should choose to leave his house, to forsake royal power, and go forth among mankind, out of compassion, then he will become a Buddha, and the wisest of men."

In the Full Moon of May 586 BC it came time for Maya to deliver. Some of the Buddhist texts say further that on this occasion a great lotus flower sprang up from the earth, bursting it in twain, that joyful Hindu gods made their appearance in the air, revealing themselves up to the waist, and stream of hot—and—cold running water issued from the sky in which the baby was bathed.

Other stories, are more incredible. They tell us tha directly after his birth, this child stood on his feet, examined the four quarters of the Earth, and then, while gods held a white parasol and jeweled fans over his head, he took seven steps toward the north, roaring like a lion and proclaiming to the world that he was the lord of it all.

At his birth a brilliant light to spread over the Earth, an infinite and splendid radiance which penetrated even to the murky dark regions below the world. The deaf heard, the lame walked, bad-tempered people thought sweet thoughts, and the multitude of heavenly beings sprang into the sky to sing and praise the new born child..

King Suddhodana gave his son a conqueror’s name: Siddhartha, which means ‘‘the victorious one."

The wise men, the Brahmins, came to view the child and told the king, "Rejoice, sire, for one of the mighty ones is born. Fortune is yours, sire, good fortune is yours!"

They could plainly see on Siddhartha’s small body all of the 32 signs that mark a man of noble destiny. Some of these mystical signs are, a straight frame, soft and tender hands and feet, ankles like rounded shells, delicate and soft skin, a jaw as strong as a lions, etc.

Other signs were that on the soles of his feet were the designs of little wheels (chakras) , that the small hairs of his body instead of growing downward like other people’s, grew upward.  Most particularly they noted a curious cluster of hairs, not black, but white, where his eyebrows grew together. His head had a knob on it which gave it shape of a royal turban. The whorls of his fingerprints were complete circles.

There was a holy man named Asita who lived as a hermit in a cave of the Himalayas. When his meditations were interrupted by the great light and the sound of the heavenly choir, he realized that a great event had taken place on the plains below.  He got to his feet and began travelling toward Kapilavastu. At the entrance to the king’s palace, he announced himself.

Since he was clearly a holy man, he was received by the king himself.  The young prince Siddhartha was brought before Asita. Asita gazed on him and praised the child.   But then, to the king’s alarm, the holy man turned aside and wept.

"Why are you weeping," exclaimed the king, "shedding tear and heaving sighs?  Do you see any danger threatening the prince?"

And Asita replied, "I do not weep for the prince, and no danger threatens him.   Nay, I weep for myself.  Great king, I am old, full of years and worn with age.  This prince without doubt shall attain the highest and most perfect wisdom.   And I shall not live to see it.  Therefore I weep, 0 king!"

To keep his son from becoming a religious teacher, the king brought up his son in luxury and in ignorance of the ills of life, until at the age of 29 he was brought suddenly face to face with sickness, old age, and death.  He left his home, resolved to find a way to cure the sorrows of this world even refusing to take a look at his new-born son lest he should waken his wife and. be hindered in his purpose. 

For six years he wandered with five companions, studying under famous yogis.  He mastered their techniques but did not attain the answer he sought.  He spend years in fasting and extreme austerity, But still he found no answer.  Finding that none of these methods and systems provided him with a solution, he gave them up.  His companions lost faith in him, forsook him, and left him quite alone in his pursuit. 

One day, he sat down at the foot of a pipal tree and resolved not to rise until by earnest meditation he discovered the way to escape from the sorrows of life, and had won a permanent state of peace. 

After a long time in meditation he was enlightened (buddha), which became his title, "the Enlightened One ".  The tree, which still stands in India, is know as the Bodhi Tree - the tree of enlightenment.

He went forth and and, in Benares, on the banks of the sacred Ganges River, Buddha preached his now famous Deer Park Sermon in which he revealed to the world what had been revealed to him under the Bodhi Tree..

He spent the rest of his life, which ended at the age of 75, in preaching the new doctrine to all who will hear. He taught that to achieve real peace, one must eliminate kama (emotional values) from one’s life.

Buddha’s teachings were so powerful that he has been worshipped for 2500 years by more people than any other religion in the world.

Legends about Buddha

Like all religious and philosophical movements, the teachings of Buddha have been dilluted and corrupted through the centuries.  From his simple teachings many great and powerful religions have arisen to keep his name and teachings alive.

 Like the New Testament story of the birth of Jesus, accounts in Buddhist scripture of Siddhartha’s birth are full of miracles, signs and wonders, the truth of which no archaeological dig can ever verify.

The miracle stories are found in early Buddhist scripture known as the Jataka Tales, a sort of Buddhist Aesop’s Fables that recount moral lessons from the multiple lives the Buddha lived — many in the form of animals — before he assumed human form in the Lumbini Gardens.

Many Buddhists believe that, after the hundreds of lifetimes he spent perfecting himself to be the Buddha, he was so highly evolved when he died that he was able to choose the time and place and family in which he would be born in his next life.

Buddhist scripture relates that Siddhartha’s mother was on her way to visit her parents and stopped at the Lumbini Gardens to bathe in a pond. There, her child was born in an unusual manner — from under her right arm.  This  was a form of virgin birth. Because Buddha was so pure, he couldn’t emerge through the usual route.

Other narratives speak of devis, or angels, welcoming the newborn and streams of hot and cold water pouring out of the sky to bathe him.

Historical facts about Buddha

An international team of archaeologists announced in Nepal recently that it had uncovered the site where the Buddha himself was born.

It was remarkable news indeed, not only to 340 million Buddhists worldwide, but to Buddhist and Christian scholars interested in how historical information about religious figures relates to religious faith. The culmination of a 30-year archaeological effort sponsored by the United Nations, the discovery also points up the irony that when faith and fact converge, much remains unknown.

Archaeologists from Japan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sn Lank~s and Ban~ladesh dug for two years around the Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini, a tpwn 145 miles southwest of the Nepalese capital, Katmandu. There, in a garden traditionally believed to have been the Buddha’s birthplace, they unearthed a series of rooms, identified by a pillar put in place by the Buddhist king Ashoka.   Engravings on the pillar, the archaeologists said, indicate this was the site where a noblewoman named Maya Devi gave birth to Prince Siddhartha Gautama.

"There’s never been any real doubt that this was the general vicinity of the birthplace of the Buddha," said Donald Lopez Jr., a Buddhist scholar at the University of Michigan. "But they’ve found the marker of the precise place. Anything from Ashoka’s time is quite a find. It’s like identifying the cave in Bethlehem where Christ was born."

After years of searching and spiritual discipline, Buddhists believe, Siddhartha attained enlightenment at age 35. He became known as the Buddha — the awakened or enlightened one — and spent the remainder of his 80 years on Earth traveling and preaching the message that all sentient beings can achieve enlightenment. Before Siddhartha, it was believed that enlightenment was available only ~o members of the upper castes.

Larson said Buddhists have a cyclical view of history. The Buddhist world completes a historical cycle ~very 100,000 years; a new Buddha comes along every 10,000 years; and a ~ew politic~l cycle is completed every 100 years, Ite explained.

Although Siddhartha was the founder of the Buddhist faith, Larson explained, he is considered to be 24th n a line of 25 Buddhas.  Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, has yet to take an appearance.

Buddhas’s birthday has been celebrated in India and southeast Asia for many centuries on the first Full Moon of Taurus. This festival is called Wesak.