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Shakyamuni – The Becoming of Buddha

There are many Buddhas in Buddhism, despite the fact that we typically refer to them as "the Buddha." Furthermore, the numerous Buddhas have a variety of names and shapes, as well as multiple responsibilities. The name "Buddha" literally means "one who has awakened," and every such enlightened human is considered a Buddha in Buddhist teaching. Furthermore, the term Buddha is frequently used to refer to the notion of Buddha-nature. However, there is one historical figure who is commonly referred to as the Buddha. In Mahayana Buddhism, Shakyamuni Buddha is the name given to the historical Buddha.

A History of Indian Buddhism (From Sakyamuni to Early Mahayana)

Mahayana Buddhism is not a single group but a collection of Buddhist traditions: Zen Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism are all forms of Mahayana Buddhism. Theravada and Mahayana are both rooted in the basic teachings of the historical Buddha, and both emphasise the individual search for liberation from the cycle of samsara (birth, death, rebirth). The methods or practices for doing that, however, can be very different. When someone mentions Shakyamuni, it's almost always referring to the historical figure who was born Siddhartha Gautama but only became known as Shakyamuni after becoming the Buddha. Gautama Buddha is the name given to this individual when he attained enlightenment.

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In 563 or 566 B.C.E., a prince was born to a noble family of the Shakya clan in Lumbini Grove, a particularly beautiful park in the Himalayan foothills (in present-day southern Nepal). This lovely park was not distant from Kapilavastu, the Shakya kingdom's capital. King Shuddhodana, the prince's father, called his son Siddhartha. His clan lineage, the Gautamas, was ancient and pure, and he was a member of the Kshatriya, or royal warrior caste. His mother was Mahamaya or Mayadevi, the daughter of Suprabuddha, a great Shakya nobleman. Queen Mahamaya had a dream that a white elephant, outstanding and absolutely lovely, entered her body before the birth of Siddhartha. Soon after the birth, soothsayers predicted that the young prince would become either a Chakravartin, a universal monarch, or an “awakened one,” a buddha. So, from the very beginning of his birth, he showed signs of perfection.

Maya Devi (Mother of the Buddha Child -Rearing with Love)

Seven days after the birth, Queen Mahamaya died; her sister, Siddhartha’s aunt, Mahaprajapati Gautami, who was also married to King Suddhodana, thereafter raised and brought up Siddhartha like her own child, with great care and love, in the wealthy circumstances of a noble family. His father naturally wanted his son to be his successor and provided him the very best possible education and pleasurable occupations. He tried to prevent Siddhartha from coming into contact with any religious or spiritual path in order to steer him toward becoming the next king of the Shakyas.

As a young prince, Siddhartha was fully educated and mastered the arts and sciences of his day, including even the art of war and other trainings, displaying a sharp intellect and the strength and power of a great physique. When the young prince reached the age of sixteen, he married Yashodhara and engaged in the pleasures of the world. He continued to relish the comforts of the palaces, gardens, and varieties of wealth of the royal lifestyle.

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During trips from the palace in his late twenties, Prince Siddhartha came across the "four signs." They left an indelible impression on him. An old man, a sick person, a corpse, and a monk or yogin were among the indicators. He learned that the vanity of youth, as well as one's health and even life, could all be taken away at any time, and that the only way out of this suffering world of samsara was to identify and follow the appropriate spiritual path.

Siddhartha left the palace and kingdom at the age of twenty-nine, after the birth of his son Rahula, and embarked on an ascetic path. For the sake of all sentient beings, he became a homeless, travelling yogi in search of the truth. Arada Kalama and Rudraka Ramaputra, two ascetic gurus, guided him as he began to practise. Siddhartha put up the ascetic way of life and went to meditation, resolving to seek enlightenment on his own when he discovered he wasn't accomplishing his aim of emancipation. After six years of hardship and practicing near Nairanjana River, he began to travel and gradually came to the region of Gaya. Siddhartha went to Bodhgaya, where he sat under what was later to be known as the Bodhi-tree, vowing to exert himself in his meditation until he reached his goal of enlightenment.

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After forty-nine days, at the age of thirty-five, Prince Siddhartha attained complete enlightenment, or buddhahood, overcoming all the obscurations and temptations of Mara. At this point, Siddhartha was a buddha, a fully awakened or enlightened one, and he knew that for him, there would be no further rebirth in samsaric realms.

Seeing that what he had achieved was not possible to communicate directly, he remained silent for seven weeks. Buddha gave his first discourse in Deer Park in Benares, which is known as “the first turning of the wheel of dharma.” In this discourse, he taught the four noble truths, the interdependent nature, and the law of karma, at the request of Indra and Brahma. His earlier five ascetic companions became his first disciples and began to form the bhikshu (monastic) sangha. At Vulture Peak Mountain near Rajagriha, Buddha turned the second wheel of dharma, in which he taught the nature of all phenomena as being shunyata or emptiness and anatma or selflessness. There followed a period of many years of teaching at a variety of places, such as Vaishali. The teachings of this period are known as the third turning of the wheel of dharma, in which Buddha taught a variety of subjects, including the notion that all sentient beings possess tathagata-garbha – the basic heart of buddha. Through these teachings, Buddha showed the way that leads all beings to the experience of awakening and liberation from samsara. This demonstrates clearly his limitless compassion and loving-kindness towards all beings who are looking for liberation and freedom from the realms of samsaric existences.

Seniya Bimbisara The King of Magadh

King Bimbisara of Magadha became a devotee of Buddha and gave a monastery in Rajagriha, Magadha's capital, which became historically significant for the sangha's development. Buddha spent most of his time in the Rajagriha and Vaishali regions, travelling from place to place and surviving off alms. His fan base swelled at a rapid rate. Kashyapa, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana, and Ananda were Buddha's most prominent students. Buddha later formed nunnery orders, or bhikshuni, and had a large following and presence in these areas.

He was known as "the Shakyamuni" or "the Sage of the Shakyas" after his enlightenment because he was born as the Shakyas' prince, and he was later recognised as Gautama Buddha because of his clan name. Devadatta, Siddhartha's cousin, who had always been envious of what Siddhartha had accomplished, aspired to lead the Buddha's sangha or community throughout his lifetime. Devadatta intended to assassinate the Buddha. Despite his failure, he provoked a split among the monastic communities in Vaisali, which harmed the sangha's spiritual development greatly.

Mahaparinirvana Buddha

Shakyamuni Buddha appointed Kashyapa, a close student, as his regent at the age of eighty, to continue the sangha's operations. Buddha attained parinirvana while lying on his right side and looking west. (According to other tales and certain sutras, Buddha ate rotten food, which caused him to die.) His relics are scattered around the country and placed in seven stupas. Bodhgaya, India, is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage site since it is where Shakyamuni acquired enlightenment.

How is shakyamuni buddha different from other buddhas?

Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as Gautama Buddha, is considered the historical Buddha and the founder of Buddhism. He is different from other Buddhas in several ways:

  • Historical Context : Shakyamuni Buddha lived in ancient India around 2,500 years ago, whereas other Buddhas are believed to have existed in previous eons or cycles of time.

  • Teachings : Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings, known as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, are specific to the historical and cultural context of his time. Other Buddhas are believed to have taught according to the needs of their respective times and places.

  • Liberation : Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment and liberation from suffering under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, India. Other Buddhas are believed to have attained liberation in different locations and under different circumstances.

  • Influence : Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings have had a profound impact on the world and have been influential in shaping the culture and philosophy of many countries, particularly in Asia. Other Buddhas may have had a more localized influence.

Which ancient scriptures make a mention of Shakyamuni Buddha?

Shakyamuni Buddha is primarily mentioned in the ancient Buddhist scriptures, which are known as the Tipitaka or the Pali Canon. The Pali Canon is the oldest and most complete collection of Buddhist texts and contains the Buddha's teachings in the form of discourses, or sutras.

The Pali Canon is divided into three parts:

  • The Vinaya Pitaka - The Basket of Discipline: This contains the rules and regulations for the Buddhist monastic community.

  • The Sutta Pitaka - The Basket of Discourses: This contains the Buddha's teachings in the form of discourses or sutras.

  • The Abhidhamma Pitaka - The Basket of Higher Teachings: This contains the philosophical and psychological analysis of the Buddha's teachings.

Shakyamuni Buddha is also mentioned in other ancient Buddhist texts, such as the Mahayana sutras and the Vajrayana tantras. In addition, he is also mentioned in other ancient Indian scriptures, such as the Vedas and the Upanishads, although these references are generally brief and indirect.

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