The term Buddhism refers to the teachings of Buddha. Buddha is the highest level of enlightenment. Those who have attained this level are also called Buddha. So, Buddha is a person who has grasped the truth of the universe, and thus has attained absolute happiness. In this world the only person that has achieved this enlightenment is Siddharta Gautama, also known as Sakyamuni Buddha. He became Buddha when he was 35 years old and taught what is known as Buddhism for the next 45 years. Everything that Sakyamuni Buddha taught was compiled and organized into sutras by his disciples. There are more than seven thousand sutras.

Siddharta Gautama was born in India on April 8th. He was the only son of King Jobon and Queen Maya who lived in Kapila Castle. Queen Maya was unable to bear a child. It is said that one night, she had a dream that a white elephant entered her womb. Soon after this episode, she became pregnant. Probably, this tale came about because white elephants were believed to be animals of luck in ancient India. When the due date was close, Queen Maya set out for her parents' home, the Kuri Castle for the delivery. While her entourage was crossing the Lumbini garden which was in full bloom, Queen Maya suddenly felt labor pains. With great difficulty, she gave birth to a magnificent boy under a Muyuju tree. Having already delivered, Queen Maya returned to Kapila Castle. Due to complications from delivery, Queen Maya passed away one week later, so Siddharta was raised by his aunt, Lady Makamaya.

Although sad about losing his wife, King Jobon was very happy to have an heir. He called a famous fortuneteller named Ashida to tell the prince's future. At first glance, the fortuneteller shed tears. Furious, the king asked why he was crying on such a great occasion. Ashida replied: "This is not an ordinary child. After growing up he will become either a king or follow the path of enlightenment. As a king, he will establish peace in the world; as an ascetic, he will achieve the highest level of enlightenment and minister to mankind the path to attain true happiness. According to my vision, it is more likely that he will follow the path to become Buddha. Unfortunately, I'm too old. By that time, I'll be gone and won't be able to listen to his teachings. Thinking of my misfortune, I couldn't help but cry." The king was very satisfied with the fortuneteller's explanation, and decided that he would raise his son to become an outstanding king.

When Siddharta Gautama was 7 years old, King Jobon hired the two wisest men in India, Baddarani, and Sendaidaiba, to teach him the skills of martial arts and culture. While he was young, Prince Siddharta participated in calligraphy, mathematics, archery, fencing, horse racing and sumo tournaments. Everybody was astonished with Prince Siddharta's success in every event. Thus both masters went to the king and asked permission to quit their jobs; they had nothing more to teach the little prince.

One day, when Prince Siddharta was attending a feast, he happened to see a bird pecking at an insect. He learned the law of the jungle, and got very depressed. His introspective nature led him to sit down under a tree in a meditative position for a long time. King Jobon became very preoccupied with his son's behavior. The fortuneteller's words came back to him and he wondered if the prince wanted to become an ascetic. In order to dispel such a notion, the king thought that the prince needed a beautiful bride to add spice in his mundane life. The most beautiful princess in India was chosen, and when Prince Siddharta was 19 years old, he married Princess Yashodara. At that time, it was very common in India for a man to have more than one spouse. Siddharta Gautama had three wives and a child by each of them. His wives were Princesses Yashodara, Gui and Rokuya, and his children were Rahula, Zensei and Ubaya.

Although King Jobon tried to cheer him up and make him forget about becoming an ascetic, Siddharta Gautama became more and more concerned about worldly suffering. This was in part due to the complex relationship among his wives and children. He had to cope with jealousy, anger and vindictiveness among his wives, each of whom wanted the prince's attention. Prince Siddharta yearned more and more to find the path to enlightenment.

next chapter >>