Gautama Buddha

Gautama or Siddharata, the founder of Buddhism was born in 563 BC in Lumbini in the Sakya kshatriya clan of Kapilavastu. His mother was Maya, a princess of the neighbouring clan of the Koliyas. A Maya died in childbirth Siddharatha was brought up by his aunt and stepmother Prajapati Gautami. The sight of an old man, a sick man, a dead body and an ascetic intensified Siddharata's deep hatred for the world and made him realise the hollowness of worldly pleasures.

After the birth of his son he left home at the age of 29 in search of the Truth. This departure is known as the Great Renunciation. For 6 continuous years he lived as a homeless ascetic seeking instruction under two Brahmin religious teachers and visiting many places. Finding no satisfaction there he practised the severest penances the most rigid austerities and made fruitless efforts to find the Truth. He then gave up penances, took a bath in river Niranjana and sat under a pipal tree at Bodhgaya(modern). Here he attained supreme knowledge and insight. Revelation came to him that the great peace was within his own heart and he must seek it there.

This is known as Nirvana and since then he became Buddha(the Enlightened one) or tathagat(one who attained the Truth). From there he reach Sarnath where he gave his first sermon (dharmachakrapravartana) as a result 5 disciples joined him. Buddha's last teaching was heard by Subhadra a wandering ascetic and Ananda his favourite disciple. The most renowned among the early converts to his teaching were Sariputta and Moggallan, ascetics of Rajgriha who were converted by Assaji one of the five original disciples.