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Buddha Essay Research Paper BuddhaThe word Buddha

Buddha Essay, Research Paper


The word Buddha means “enlightened one.” It is used today as

a title to the one who has given us more religious beliefs than almost

any other human who lived in this world. However, he was not given

this name at birth; he had to earn it for himself by undergoing long,

hard hours of meditation and contemplation. Buddha has changed the

lifestyles of many cultures with new, never-before asked questions

that were explained by his search for salvation. He began an entirely

new religion that dared to test the boundaries of reality and go beyond

common knowledge to find the answers of the mysteries of life.


During the sixth century BC, India was a land of political and

religious turmoil. It was an era of great brutality with the domination of

Northwest India by Indo-Aryan invaders. Many people, influenced by

the Aryan civilization, began to question the value of life and it’s true

meaning. Schools were opened because of this curiosity where

teachers would discuss the significance of existence and the nature of

man and held programs to reconstruct one’s spiritual self. (Pardue,

page 228)


Near the town of Kapilavastivu, today known as Nepal, lived

King Suddhodhana and Queen Maya of the indigenous tribe known as

the Shakyas. (Encyclopedia Americana, page 687) Queen Maya soon

became pregnant and had a dream shortly before she gave birth. In

this dream a beautiful, white elephant with six tusks entered her room

and touched her side. This dream was soon interpreted by the wisest

Brahmin, or Priest of Brahmanism, that she was to give birth to a son

that would, if he were to remain in the castle, become the wisest king

in the world, but if he were ever to leave the castle he would then

become the wisest prophet far into future generations. (Encyclopedia

Americana, page 410)

In around the year 563 BC, Siddhartha Gautama was born into a

life of pure luxury. (Wangu, page 16) His father wanted to make sure

that his son was well taken care of as he grew to prevent him from

desiring to leave the palace. Suddhodhana, listening to the prophecy,

kept Siddhartha away from the pain of reality so that he could follow in

his father’s footsteps in becoming a well respected leader.

As Siddhartha grew, he became very curious about the world

outside of the palace walls. He felt a great need to undergo new

experiences and learn the truth of reality. Siddhartha was married to a

woman named Yasodhara who gave birth to a boy, Rahul. Even after

his marriage, Siddhartha was still not completely satisfied with his life;

he decided that it was necessary for him to see the lives of those

outside the castle.

The Four Meetings

One day, Siddhartha called for his charioteer to take him to the

park. When the King heard of this, he ordered the streets to be

cleared of everything except beauty. As the Prince rode by, the

people cheered and threw flowers at him, praising his name and

Siddhartha was still clueless to the suffering of life until a god,

disguised as a poor, old man stumbled before the chariot. Siddhartha

was curious to this man’s condition and he asked the charioteer about

his appearance. The charioteer replied that all men must endure old

age and that even the prince could not escape this fate. Siddhartha

then returned to the palace to contemplate about old age which

caused him to want to see more.

The next day, Siddhartha decided to venture on to the streets

again which were, by the King’s request, once more cleared of all evil

and ugliness. This time, Siddhartha encountered a sick man and

again, returned to the palace to reflect on sickness. On his third trip to

the park, Siddhartha approached a funeral in a garden and was

educated by the charioteer about how every man must experience

death. Finally, on the fourth day, the young prince saw a shaven-

headed man wearing a yellow robe. He was amazed and impressed

by how peaceful the man seemed; he carried with him only a begging

bowl and had left all other possessions to try to find spiritual

deliverance. At that moment, Siddhartha knew his destiny was to

discover how this man has avoided these acts of suffering. (The New

Encyclopedia Britannica, page 270)

Later that night, Siddhartha kissed his wife and son, and left with

his charioteer away from the palace of riches and pleasure. He left

behind his life of pure desire to understand the true meaning of life.

To symbolize his renunciation from civilization, Siddhartha cut his long

hair and beard with his jeweled sword, traded his silk robes for a

yellow robe, and gave away all of his possessions.

The Journey to Moksha (Salvation)

Siddhartha wandered from place to place gathering as much

information as he could from countless teachers. His main beliefs

revolved around the Hindu religion and the theory of transmigration

which means that the human soul, or Atman, is entrapped in an

endless cycle of rebirths called Samsara. After the soul has died, it is

reborn into a different state, depending on the deeds done in former

lives which is known as karma. The ultimate goal is to obtain

complete salvation from this cycle. (Pardue, page 228)

Siddhartha also practiced the art of yoga and self mutilation.

Yoga is a system of inward, ascetic discipline over the body, mind,

and motivations. In other words, yoga is gaining control over one’s

desires and even their needs such as breathing or eating. It can be

accomplished by long, concentrated hours of meditation. (Pardue,

page 228) It is designed to end the torturous cycle of transmigration

and all sources of karma. Self mutilation is putting one’s own body

through acts of torment and pain to learn to cope with problems that

occur such as diseases and to eliminate all feeling of despair and

suffering. Siddhartha would experience the limits of his body by

practicing long periods of fasting and skin torture; he devoted his time

to learning the nature of his self.

Finally, Siddhartha settled near the banks of the Nairanjana

River and began deep meditation, determined to gain salvation.

Through harsh weather conditions, he survived with the minimum of

food that the body needs to live. He remained here, in this state for

six years with little strength and power. Soon Siddhartha was joined

by five other men who were almost as determined to gain redemption.

They continued these acts for about a year until one day, the young

voyager realized that he had only weakened his body and mind; he

finally understood that with these long years of self mutilation, he has

not yet achieved his goal. He did, however, manage to survive with

very little of the necessities that people need daily which was in itself a

large accomplishment. Unfortunately, the other men had realized that

Siddhartha Gautama was giving up, so they left and saw him as a

failure. With great disappointment on his mind, Siddhartha gathered

all the rest of his strength to crawl into a pool to bathe, but found that

his energy had been used and he was just too tired to climb out.

Before the young man’s life was taken from him, he noticed a tree

branch hanging near his reach; he grabbed them and was pulled out.

An old milk maid noticed Gautama’s frail body and brought him milk to

aid his hunger. Gaining back his health, Siddartha decided to

abandon the teachings that he had learned thus far and walked to a

Bo-Tree where he would meditate until enlightenment or death.


While Siddartha meditated, he was visited by the God of Evil,

Mara, who saw the attempt of the prince to reach his goal. Mara

attacked Siddartha with several demons, but there was a force of

goodness surrounding him, preventing any weapons thrown from

hitting his body. The evil god then sent two incredibly beautiful women

to tempt Siddartha away from his goal, but he had the strength to

ignore his lusts and enter into a deeper stage of thought. At this point,

Siddartha is able to recall all of his previous lives and gains the

knowledge of the cycle of birth and death. He now casts off the

ignorance which has led him to great passion for his self and bounded

him to the suffering of Samsara. This marks the beginning of

Buddhism, when Siddhartha becomes the Buddha and his suffering

and desires come to an end; he can now enter Nirvana.

“There is a sphere which is neither earth, nor water, nor fire,

nor air…which is neither this world nor the other world, neither

sun nor moon. I deny that it is coming or going, enduring death

or birth. It is only the end of suffering.”

-Buddha (Wangu, page 24)


When the Buddha finally reached his ultimate goal, he made a

great sacrifice to all human kind and gave up his Nirvana so that he

could teach his enlightenment to others. Even though Siddhartha

could have stayed in perfect harmony in paradise, he chose to spread

the practices that he had experienced to all of man, so that they may

learn to end their cycle of rebirths also.

Siddartha traveled to Saranath where he found the five men who

previously joined him on his quest for release. These men were

drawn to the Buddha with a phenomenal power that they could not

explain. They immediately felt a great love and loyalty towards

Siddhartha and they became the Buddha’s first disciples. With some

grains of rice, he drew a picture of a wheel that represented the cycle

of Samsara. The first of his ceremonies is known as the Deer Park

Sermon; he began “setting in motion the wheel of doctrine.” (Wangu,

page 25)

Thus began the beginning of Buddha’s teachings of the Middle

Way of life which says that one should not lead a life of desire of

pleasure or materials, but that they should also not mistreat their body.

The Middle Path was between the Upper Path, which is when

someone has luxury and wealth such as Siddhartha had when he was

living with his family, and the Lower Path, which he also experienced

when he performed self mutilation. On the Middle Path, one would

have to follow the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path. The

Four Noble Truths are open to all human kind despite race, sex, or


The Four Noble Truths

1. Duhkha -This explains that all life is suffering and that man is

bound to the earth by Samsara.

2. A person suffers because they believe they are important

when in fact they are insignificant. This is caused by

ignorance of the nature of reality and desires.

3. The rejection of desire will break the chain of Samsara and

bring salvation.

4. The Eight Fold Path must be followed to gain enlightenment.

The Eight Fold Path

1. Think right thoughts 5. Have right intentions

2. Say right words 6. Live the right way of life

3. Perform right deeds 7. Perform right efforts

4. Have right aspirations 8. Perform right meditations

Many people are not ready to give up their lives yet and they

must subsist as many lives as they need until they feel that it is the

right time. The Buddha did, however, develop five principles to be

able to gain salvation in the next life.

Buddha’s Five Principles

1. Refrain from taking life

2. Refrain from taking what is not given

3. Refrain from sexual misconduct

4. Refrain from false speech

5. Refrain from intoxicating things that cloud the mind

(Wangu, page 29)

Spread of Buddhism

The Buddha began attracting followers from all over India.

Stories of his deeds began to spread even throughout other nations.

The pupils of Buddhism were called monks and they developed a

community called a Sangha were Buddha’s rules of conduct were

followed. The Sangha was created for monks to preserve the

teachings karma and to let the monks concentrate on the goal to

reach Nirvana. A monk agrees to give total commitment to Buddhism

and to withdraw from the world to gain enlightenment; all men who

were committed could enter a Sangha. Their only possessions that

were allowed were a beggar’s bowl, a needle, a razor, a strainer, a

staff, a toothpick, and a robe. Those who have perfected Buddha’s

teachings are called Arahats which means perfected ones.

Buddhism began to spread worldwide and conflicted with the

Hindu religion. Buddha’s rejection to the idea that Brahmin’s should

be the supreme leader and to the caste system, won him many

supporters. It was evident that Buddhism would be a long-lasting

religion. (Encyclopedia Americana, page 689)

The Buddha’s Departure

The Buddha had preached until he felt the end of his life coming.

At the age of 80, he decided that he had completed his tasks and he

began to meditate to once again attain Nirvana. He had no written

books of his teachings, but they would still live on through his

followers. Siddartha’s death was tragic, but his students knew that his

life was complete. He left behind his legacy to the world and shaped

the cultures of people for centuries to come.

Buddha’s Contributions

Much of what the world believes today have originated from the

teachings of Buddha. Even within other religions, it is evident that

they were in some ways influenced by him. Ideas, such as the Middle

Path, are clearly communicated in many values of today. Buddhism

has even had a major effect on politics in Asia. Tibet used to be

controlled a system of theocracy ruled by a Buddhist Priest, or the

Dalai Lama. In China and Japan, Zen Buddhism has been used in the

practices of Yoga that many people study everyday.

He was one of the greatest prophets ever to walk the earth and

his teachings will be remembered for generations. He has sacrificed

his total salvation so that mankind could be taught of the path to

enlightenment. The Buddha has proven to be one of the wisest and

giving men who touched the lives of so many millions of people.

Buddhism will live on as a major impact on the cultures of the world

and the Buddha will never be forgotten.

“Everything that has been created is subject to decay

and death. Everything is transitory. Work out your own salvation

with diligence.”

-Buddha (Wangu, page 31)


“Buddha and Buddhism.” Encyclopedia Americana. 1990.

Cohen, John Lebold. Buddha. Mary Frank, 1969.

Pardue, Peter A. “Buddha.” Encyclopedia of World Biography.

McGraw Hill, 1973.

“The Buddha and Buddhism.” The New Encyclopedia Britannica.


Wangu, Madhu Bazaz. Buddhism. New York: Facts On File, 1993.

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