According to the legends, in the sixth century B.C. in northern India, at the feet of the Himalayan mountains, the Kapilavastu province was populated by numerous tribes called Shakya. These were the descendants of Ikshvaku, the solar kin of kshatries. At that time Kapilavastu was reigned by Shuddhodana, the last direct descendant of Ikshvaku. This king and his wife Maya had a child who later became the great teacher and received the name of Siddhartha, which means "the one who accomplished his mission".
Written Buddhist tradition and modern research give a detailed description of Gautama Buddha's life. According to Sinhalese chronicles, Buddha lived from 621 to 543 BC; the Chinese chronicles record the birth of Buddha in 1024 BC. The majority of researchers refer the year of Buddha's death to 483 B.C. and he is considered to have lived until the age of about eighty years.
Of course, all Buddha's biographies are exaggeratedly adorned by contemporaries and followers, especially in the later writings. In order to preserve the original character of that era it is necessary to recur to some extent to the traditional presentation.
First of all, the word "Buddha" is not a name. It defines the state of a mind that reached the highest point of development. Literally translated it means "the one who knows", or the one who has acquired advanced knowledge - wisdom. The Great Gautama gave to the world a complete doctrine of life and attempts to transform him - the great "evolutioner" -into God, leads to absurd. Of course, before Gautama there were other spiritual toilers of common good, but their teachings were spread over many centuries. That is why the doctrine of Gautama is taken as the first teaching of the great laws of matter and world's evolution.
The teaching of Buddha is simple, like the beauty of Cosmos, and it removes any allusion to idolizing, as being unworthy. It promotes knowledge as the leading path of all great Teachers. Buddhism should not be seen as a religious revelation, because Gautama Buddha stated his teaching as the cognition of eternal truths, which were the same when affirmed by his predecessors.
There is no need to speak of later difficulties; the foundations, which can not be denied, are briefly presented here. However, it is important to know that the idea of doctrine purification is always alive in the minds of the Buddhists.
Buddha denied the existence of a personal God. He gave the teaching for daily life. Buddha effectively acted against private property. Buddha himself fought against the fanaticism of castes and classes. Buddha affirmed the value of labor and laid the foundations of community. Buddha commanded to examine life in its full reality. From the beginning, Buddha reproached all rituals and other exterior actions, which contribute to increasing spiritual blindness and clinging to lifeless forms. He claimed the possibility of deliverance only through own personal effort and hard work. This alone already denies any external worship, and in his doctrine there is no suggestion of it. He said: "The teachings rescues not because it is given by Buddha, but because it is the release". The disciple holding onto the end of my clothes is far from me and I am far from him as well. Why? Because this disciple did not see me. Another one lives at hundreds of miles from me and yet, he is very close to me and I am close to him. Why? Because he understands the teachings, and by understanding the teachings he understands me".
Buddha did not attempt to systematize his teachings. He wanted each thesis of it to act as much as possible to the extent of personal will. With the only view of consciousness's growth and development, in everything else he provided freedom of thought and action. Buddha found the way to people's hearts not by miracles, but by practical teaching of improving everyday life and through his great example of cooperation. Power of persuasion was the only weapon he used to influence the others. We never see anger in his sayings, only a severe affirmation of truth. As his disciple Shariputra said: "The Blessed One is perfect in the politeness of his speech".
There are hundreds of millions of Buddha's followers in the world, and each of them asserts: "I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the doctrine, I take refuge in the community".
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