How old would Gautama Buddha be if he were alive today?
His birth took place in a state called Tiraurakot in Kapilvastu with King Suddhodana as his father and queen Mayadevi as mother.
As was the tradition back then, to give birth to Buddha, Mayadevi headed on a two days journey to her motherland – Devdaha. Her entourage had to put up in Lumbini village for an overnight stay. In the evening, she took to a pond to take a bath when she felt a sudden birthpang. She hurried to come out of the pond and as she took hold of a branch of a peepal tree nearby, she gave the birth to Buddha.
When her servants saw the event unfold, they rushed to the side of the Queen and placed a stone at the spot to mark the birth spot. The child looked different with unusually long ears, big head and a glowing countenance.
Buddha was then brought to Kapilvastu.
On day 6, the king called all astrologist and fortune tellers who attested to the fact that the the child uniquely possessed 32 characters, a description only fit for Gods. They told the king that the child will become famous and offered two possible predictions: either he will be a king who will rule the world or a philosopher who will lead the world.
On day 7, his mother Mayadevi passed away under the care of her sister Prajapati. This tragedy had the king worry about the fate of his son, lest he become a monk one day. So the king used all his power to provide everything to Buddha within the palace walls– best teachers, beautiful girls, education.
At the age of 16, having finished education he got married to Yasodhara. No sooner they had a son and named him Rahul. By 28, Buddha had taken renunciation and one day he decided to leave the palace with his servant and a favorite horse in search for wisdom. Once he reached India, he asked his servant to return to Kapilvastu with his horse and inform his father that he would like to become a monk. He then went to Gaya, where he met his teachers (Gurus) Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta to learn meditation.
During early stages, as part of rigorous meditation, he ate very less or almost nothing at all. 6 years of this discipline left him too weak, his body bared to bones. He concluded that he was doing it wrong, and decided then and there to pursue a middle way. So he began to take food to survive.
One day, while he was meditating in a place called – Uruvela(known as Bodh Gaya today), an untouchable woman called Sujata saw Buddha.
Believing that he was God she offered him rice pudding she was carrying. Buddha ate the rice pudding to the utter dislike of his other friends who proceeded to desert Buddha.
Another six months of deep meditation followed. Then on a full moon day in the month of April, he felt an immense bolt of power and light took hold of him. It was the day Buddha became enlightened. Having known all answers to everything and specifically the answer to the sufferings of mankind. Thus he went on to declare four noble truths:
1. There is suffering
Life includes suffering and to accept this is to be realistic. Once accepted, true joy can be found.
2. Suffering has an origin
Unfounded wants or cravings compound suffering. Instead of struggling, change what is wanted and contentment will be easier to have.
3. Suffering can cease
Living in the present, instead of laboring over the past or imagining the future will enhance happiness.
4. There is a path out of suffering
Following a noble path in its purest form will bring an end to the ills of the world. Or follow the eightfold path, you can easily remove the desire.
Once he found the four noble truth, he felt responsible to tell the world about it to end the suffering of people. So he traveled to Sarnath first where he told of his enlightenment but his friends disagree to believe.
At this point one of his friends recalled his father’s advice to not leave the prince. Therefore he accepted Buddha and believed in his enlightenment. In Sarnath, Buddha gave his first speech to 5 monks.
On his return to Lumbini, his cousins Ananda and Devadatta, his half-brother Nanda, his barber Upali, and even his son Rahula joined Buddha’s monastic community.
Buddha died at the age of 80 in a place called Kushinagar. His relics divided into 8 difference parts were sent to 8 difference states of the time. Then Koliya state in present day Ramgram in Nepal preserved the relic inside a dorm which can still be seen today.
In the year 263 BC, King Asoka, who was a Buddha followers, visited Lumbini, and planted Ashoka pillar to mark the birthplace of Buddha. The pillar weighs 38000 kg and was was brought all the way from Varanasi.
Much of Kapilvastu kingdom and its palaces were destroyed in numerous wars. It is believed that as many as 50000 people were massacred in Sagahawa of the kingdom of Kapilvastu.
After 9th century, Lumbini and the surrounding areas came under the control of Muslims followed by Hindus. For centuries Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha, was erased from people’s mind.
It wasn’t until 15th century that archaeologists and scholar started to search for Lumbini. Thanks to Chinese Scholars Tseng – Tsai(4th century), Faxian also known as Fa- Hien( 337 – 422 CE) and Yuan Chwang also known as Hiuen Tsang(602 – 664 CE) who had visited Lumbini and documented their journey in a travelogue. When it was translated in English, it became a milestone in locating Lumbini and finding bitthplace of Buddha, Mayadevi temple and Ashoka pillar all of which had remained buried under ground.
A German archaeologist called Alois Fuhrer made the excavation in Lumbini in 1895 and along with Nepalese archaeologists rediscovered the Ashoka Pillar (Pink sandstone) which proved Buddha’s birth place. In 20th century archaeologists further found many evidences and proof attesting to the place of Lumbini in Buddha’s history.
Lumbini was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in the year 1997. In 2001, Nepalese archaeologists discovered the mark stone where Buddha was born, which is now part of Mayadevi temple.
Why should we visit Lumbini?
Upon turning 80 years, old and frail Buddha realized the ending of his life. So he gathered his disciples one afternoon in Kushinagar and thus declared, “Tonight I am going to pass away”. Many monks, nuns, Upasaka and Upasika came to visit Buddha later that evening. Buddha lay prostrated between two Sal trees (Shorea Robusta) keeping his head to the North. The situation was tense as the onlookers were wailing on their knees.
For 45 years Buddha taught them how to live peacefully, meaningfully and in harmony. He asked his monks, nuns, Upasaka and Upasikas for one last chance to express any doubts or questions they may have before the final farewell.
‘From tomorrow I will not be with you’.
Upon this remark, everybody felt quiet and tearful and nobody raised a single question.
Again, Buddha said,’ I know you respect me, do not hesitate to ask me directly’.
Finally, one monk stood up and bowed his head to Buddha three times and asked’ You don’t believe in existence of God. After you are no more how do we realize your existence on this planet?’
Buddha answered from his death bed
“If you want to feel my presence in this world, visit my birth place in Lumbini, go to Bodh Gaya where I was Enlightened, go to Sarnath where I gave my first teaching and to Kushinagar where I am about to release from this mortal body. In these places you will feel my existence. But visit these places with faith, devotion, and mindfulness.’
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August 15, 2019
April 14, 2020
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