The life of Buddha
The teaching of Lord Buddha
Gautama the Buddha or Siddhartha was a senior contemporary of Mahavira. His father Suddhodana was a Kshatriya ruler of Kapilavastu in the Tarai region of eastern Uttar Pradesh. He is said to have been born in 567 BC at Lumbini in the Nepal Terai. The site of his birth marked by a commemorative pillar erected by Ashoka when he visited that place. Gautama's mother Maya died when he was just seven days old. He was brought up by his mother's sister, Gautami. Gautama had a spiritual bent of mind and pondered over the questions of human suffering, birth, disease, old age and death, from his early childhood. In order to divert his attention, his father married him off to a beautiful princess Yashodhara when he was just 19 years of age. They had a son named Rahul from this marriage. But even the love of his wife and affection for his son could not keep him tied to worldly life.
The great renunciation
Once when he went out of the palace with his charioteer Channa, his tender heart was saddened to see an old man forsaken by his relatives, a dead man surrounded by his wailing relatives, a sick man crying with pain and an ascetic who has renounced the world in search of truth. These sights, called the `Four Great Sights'. Discomforted him greatly and finally he decided to renounce the luxuries of royal life and go out in search of answer to the problem of the miseries of life.
So, one night, when he was just 29 years of age, he quietly slipped out from his palace on the very night of the birth of his son and broke all worldly ties. He gave away his princely garments and became an ascetic. This event in the life of Gautama is known as the `Great Renunciation'.
The Buddha's first sermon at Sarnath is the nucleus of his religious philosophy. His teachings were simple and were explained in the language of the people i.e., Prakrit and not in Sanskrit, the sacred language of the brahmans.
Religious beliefs and practices
The period Sixth – Seventh centuries BC marks an important stage in the history of world civilization. The period witnessed new developments in the fields of science and technology as well as in religious and philosophical thought. The rise of a large number of religious and social movements, out of which two, Buddhism and Jainism, have survived till the modern times.
Sixth - Seventh centuries BC was the period when a number of kingdoms which commanded large territories in the fertile plains of northern India came into existence. The rules and officials of these states became rich on the regular income from land revenue paid by the large peasant population of such states. In political history this period is known as the period of the Sixteen Great States. Most of these great states were situated in the area stretching from Eastern Afghanistan in the West to Eastern Bihar (Bhagalpur) ine the East and from Himalayas in the North to the Vindhyas in the South. A large income from land revenue.
The kings were no longer dependent on the support of the tribe for fighting wars or for administration. They could now raise and maintain paid regular armies and administrative officers and use the them to control their subjects. With their growing power and wealth, the kings also resented the control which the brahmanical priestly class wanted to exercise on the conduct of rulers and the affairs of the state. Many of them, therefore, patronize these new religious movements which undermined the position of the priestly class.
Buddhism, on its part, preached the idea of a Chakravarti ruler, that is an emperor of the entire country. The political unity and peace created by such an empire was convenient for the Buddhist monks who were expected to travel all over the country to preach the doctrines of Buddhism. Small states, especially tribal republics, were suspicious of outsiders including monks and ascetics entering their territories.
Some famous religious leaders of the period like Buddha and Mahavir came from princely families. The wealthy classes were also in a position to give charities to religious preachers of the period who used to travel from place to place with larger number of disciples and who did not have to work to earn a living. The political and economic developments of the period created conditions which made it possible for some people to devote all their time to religious and spiritual pursuits and to question the existence religious beliefs and practices.