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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.