|Buddhist people throughout the world
celebrate the holiday of Waisak (Vesakha).
This day honors the birth, life, and teaching of
Buddha Shakyamuni. Early Buddhist scriptures describe
that the Buddha was born, enlightened, and died
on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month,
The Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist religion,
is called Buddha Shakyamuni (‘shakya’
is his family’s name and ‘muni’
means ‘able one’). He was born
as a royal prince in 623 BC in a place called Lumbini,
which was originally in northern India but is now
part of Nepal. His mother was Queen Maha Maya and
his father was King Shuddhodana of Kapilavatthu
One full moon night, Queen Maha Maya dreamt of a
white elephant descended from heaven and entered
her womb. As the elephant is a symbol of greatness
in Nepal, the dream was a sign that she would give
birth to a great leader.
it was the custom of that time for a wife to have
her baby in her father's house, Queen Maha Maya
traveled to her father's kingdom (Koliya)
for the birth. On the way to Koliya, Queen Maha
Maya and her soldiers passed a garden in the Himalayan
foothills called Lumbini. Since the park was a good
resting place, the queen ordered her soldiers to
stop for a while. On a full moon, the queen gave
birth to a baby boy. According to the legend, the
baby could stand and walk seven steps forward and
at each step a lotus flower appeared on the ground.
After the birth, Queen Maha Maya immediately returned
to Kapilavatthu. When King Shuddhodana saw his son,
he felt as if all his wishes had been fulfilled
and he named the young prince ‘Siddhartha’
which means ‘wish-fulfilled’. The king
invited a clairvoyant to predict the prince's future.
The clairvoyant told the king that the prince could
become either a great king or a fully enlightened
Unfortunately, Queen Maha Maya died only seven days
after the birth. After that, Prince Siddhartha was
raised by his mother's sister, Maha Prajapati.
As Prince Siddhartha grew up, he mastered all the
traditional arts and sciences, as well as martial
arts and archery. He would take every opportunity
to convey spiritual meanings and to encourage others
to follow spiritual paths.
Sometimes Prince Siddhartha went out to see how
the people lived and came into contact with many
old and sick people. What he saw left a deep impression
on his mind and he realized that all living beings
have to experience the sufferings of birth, sickness,
ageing and death. Because he knew about reincarnation,
he also realized that all living beings experience
these sufferings again and again, in life after
life without ending.
Realizing that only a fully enlightened Buddha has
the wisdom and the power to help and free all living
beings from their sufferings, Prince Siddhartha
decided to seclude in the forest where he would
do a deep meditation until he achieved enlightenment.
When his people heard that Prince Siddhartha intended
to leave the palace, they asked King Shuddhodana
to arrange a marriage for the prince in the hope
that this would change his mind.
King Shuddhodana agreed and soon found a bride
for his son. Her name was Yasodhara. However,
Prince Siddhartha had no interest in worldly pleasures
because he realized that they are like poisonous
flowers, which appear to be attractive but eventually
give rise to great pain.
His decision to leave the palace and to achieve
enlightenment remained unchanged, but to fulfill
his father's wishes, he agreed to marry Yasodhara.
However, even though Prince Siddhartha remained
in the palace as a royal prince, he devoted all
his time and energy to serve his people.
At the age of twenty-nine, Prince Siddhartha had
a vision that all the Buddhas of the ten directions
came to him and said: “Previously
you decided to become a Buddha in order to help
all living beings. Now is the time for you to
The prince went immediately to his father and
asked his permission to leave the palace. King
Shuddhodana was shocked and refused to give the
permission. The king tried all he could to prevent
his son from leaving the palace. He also placed
guards around the palace walls.
the prince's decision to do meditation was firm.
One night, with his miracle powers, he sent the
guards into a deep sleep while he escaped from
the palace with the help of a trusted aide.
After traveling for a few miles, Prince Siddhartha
got down from his horse and said goodbye to his
aide. He then cut his hair off and made his way
to a place near Bodh Gaya in India, where he found
a suitable place for meditation. After meditating
for six years, Siddhartha realized that he was
very close to achieving full enlightenment. Thus,
on the full moon day of the fourth month of the
lunar calendar, he walked to Bodh Gaya where he
meditated beneath the Bodhi Tree and vowed to
carry on meditating until he had achieved full
As nightfall, many evil thoughts, described as
being like the evil god Mara, crept into his mind.
Thoughts of desire, longing, fear and affection
arose, but Siddhartha did not let these thoughts
spoil his concentration.
Siddhartha then continued meditating until dawn.
He began to remember all his previous lives, and
to see everything that was going on in the entire
universe. On a full moon night, Siddhartha finally
understood the answer to the question of suffering
and in the next moment he became a fully enlightened
days after the Buddha achieved full enlightenment,
he was requested to teach. The Buddha then rose
from meditation and taught the first Wheel of
Dharma. These teachings include the Four Noble
Truths which are the principal source of the Hinayana
of Buddhism. Later, Buddha taught the second and
third Wheels of Dharma, which include the knowledge
of Perfection of Wisdom and the Discriminating
the Intention. These teachings are the source
of the Mahayana (great vehicle)
In the Hinayana teaching, the Buddha explained
how to release from suffering for oneself alone;
and in the Mahayana teaching, he explained how
to achieve full enlightenment for the sake of
One day, the Buddha came to see his five ascetic
companions at the Deer Park in Sarnath near Benares,
about one hundred miles from Bodh Gaya. There,
he preached his first sermon and explained to
them the Four Noble Truths which are the truth
of suffering, its cause, its end, and the way
to its end; and the Eightfold Path which are right
understanding, right attitude, right speech, right
speech, right livelihood, right effort, right
effort, and right concentration. The five ascetics
then became his first disciples and the beginning
of monk’s community (Sangha).
After he had 60 disciples, Buddha sent them away
to teach people everywhere. He left the Deer Park
and turned southwards towards the Magadha country.
When King Suddhodana heard that the Buddha was
preaching in Rajagaha, he sent nine messengers
one by one, inviting the Buddha to come to Kapilavatthu.
All the messengers became monks. They listened
to the Buddha's teachings and found them so interesting
that they forgot to pass on the king's message.
King Suddhodana then arranged for the Buddha to
stay in a place called Nigrodha. But when the
Buddha did not arrive, the king sent Kaludayi,
a childhood friend of Buddha's, to invite him
back to Kapilavatthu.
Over time, the Buddha approached his family including
his wife, son, father and aunt. His son, Rahula,
became a monk. King Suddhodana was sad because
of his son and grandson becoming monks, he asked
the Buddha to make a rule that a man must have
permission from their parents to become a monk.
His wife and aunt asked to be permitted into monk’s
which initially consisted of men. His wife and
aunt became the first Buddhist nuns.
Buddha achieved his enlightenment at 35 years
old. He had taught throughout northeast India
for another 45 years. When the Buddha was 80 years
old, he told his friends that he would be leaving
them soon. In Kushinagara, he became very ill
after eating some spoiled food. He went into a
deep meditation beneath a sala tree and died there.