Buddha – The famous historical person known as Buddha was also called the Tathagata, which means “the one who has come thus,” and Shakyamuni, which means “the sage of the Shakya tribe.”
Siddhartha was born in the town of Kapilavastu (located in today’s Nepal). His parents were King Shuddhodana and Queen Maya, who ruled the Sakyas. One night, Queen Maya dreamed that an elephant with six tusks, carrying a lotus flower in its trunk, touched her right side. At that moment her son was conceived. Brahmins came and interpreted the dream. The child would be either the greatest king in the world or the greatest ascetic. The future child would be named Siddhartha, which means “he whose aim is accomplished.”
When Siddhartha was about 20, when he married Yasodhara, daughter of one of the King’s ministers, and one year later they had a child named Rahula.
At the age of 29, Siddhartha asked his charioteer, Channa, to take him out of the city as he was not allowed to go out of the palace as the King was afraid as the astrologer had predicted the Prince to become an ascetic. During two trips, Siddhartha saw the “Four Sights” that changed his life. On the first trip, he saw old age, sickness, and death. The second trip, he saw a wandering holy man, an ascetic, with no possessions. Siddhartha started questioning the holy man and the man told him that he wanted to win salvation. That night, Siddhartha silently kissed his sleeping wife and son, and ordered Channa to drive him out to the forest. In the forest, Siddhartha took off his sword, and cut off his hair and beard.
He then took off all his princely garments and put on a yellow robe of a holy man. He then ordered Channa to take his possessions back to the King.
Wandering through the northeastern India, Siddharth sought out holy men, and learned about Samsiara (reincarnation), Karma, and Moksha. One day, Siddhartha realized that his years of penance only weakened his body, and that he could not continue to meditate properly. When he stepped into the river to bathe, he was too weak to get out, and it is believed that the trees lowered their branches to help him.
At that instant, a milk-maid named Nandabala came and offered a bowl of milk and rice, which Siddhartha accepted.
Refreshed by the meal, Siddhartha sat down under a fig tree (often referred to as the Bo tree, or Tree of Enlightenment) and resolved to find out an answer to life and suffering. While meditating, Mara (an evil god) sent his three sons and daughters to tempt Siddhartha with thirst, lust, and distractions of pleasure but Siddhartha stayed unswayed in deep meditation, and recalled all his previous rebirths, gained knowledge of the cycle of births and deaths, and with certainty, cast off the ignorance and passion of his ego which bound him to the world. Thereby, Siddhartha had attained enlightenment and became the Buddha (enlightened one).
Buddha went to the city of Sarnath. There Buddha began teaching holy men what he had learned. This preaching was called his Deer Park Sermon, or “Setting in Motion the Wheel of Doctrine.” Siddihartha revealed that he had become the Buddha, and described the pleasure that he had first known as a prince, and the life of severe asceticism that he had practiced. Neither of these was the true path to Nirvana. The true path was the Middle Way, which keeps aloof from both extremes. At an age of about eighty, a blacksmith named Cuanda fed buddha with a meal that caused him to become ill.
Buddha even then forced himself to travel to Kushinagara, and laid down on his right side to rest in a grove of shala trees. It is said that as a crowd of followers gathered, the trees sprouted blossoms and showered them on Buddha. Buddha told Ananda, “I am old and my journey is near its end. My body is like a worn-out cart held together only by the help of leather straps.” Three times, Buddha asked the people if they had any questions, but they all remained silent. Finally, Buddha said, “Everything that has been created is subject to decay and death. Everything is transitory. Work out your own salvation with diligence. After passing through several states of meditation, the Buddha died, reaching Parinirvana (the cessation of perception and sensation).
Buddha – the gentle sage, led the world on the path to enlightenment, two thousand five hundred years ago. This circuit is a pilgrim’s journey, through the land of Buddha, where he preached his message of compassion, simplicity and renunciation – the places immortalized by the enlightened one.
The highlight of your journey will be the holy tree at Bodhgaya, under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Visit Sarnath, where he gave his first sermon, and Kushinagar where he attained Pari nirvana. The ruins of Nalanda, still echo with the chants of scholars of ancient times. Vaishali, the site, where he preached his last sermon, and announced his impending Nirvana. In Sanchi, the Great Stupa, temples and pillars beckon you, to explore the beauty of the Buddhist architecture. The grand finale at Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh, where you can witness the past glory of this noble religion.
Your journey promises serenity, self – knowledge, and a deeper understanding of one of the greatest thinkers of India.