The Life of the Buddha

For someone who encounters Buddhism for the first time, the first and most natural question is simply this: Who was the Buddha? Who was the man who set this incredible and complex religious tradition in motion?

I separated the life story of the Buddha in this series of articles:

  1. Who was the Buddha?: For someone that encounters Buddhism for the first time, this is the first and most natural question. Historically, we have just a handful of facts we can hold on to tell ourselves about the life story of the Buddha. These facts don’t tell us very much what the Buddha did or about what he has meant to his followers.  To learn about the Buddha we have to learn to look at him through Buddhist eyes.

  2. The Buddha’s Previous Lives: Someone as important as the Buddha must have prepared through an enormous number of previous lives, by studying under previous Buddhas and by practicing all the virtues that will come to such glorious flourishing in his life as the Buddha Shakyamuni.

  3. Siddharta Gautama’s Early Life: According to Buddhist tradition the future Buddha sprang right out of his mother’s side and took seven steps to the North and announced in a commanding voice: “I am the best of the world. This is my last birth. I will never be born again.”

  4. The Middle Path: The concept of the Middle Path covers all sort of aspects of the way Buddhists live. The point is to avoid two extremes. And extremes can vary in certain situations.

  5. Siddharta Achieves Nirvana: This was the moment when we can properly call Siddharta the Buddha. Buddhists say that a Buddha is someone who has awakened from the dream of ignorance, and also someone who’s wisdom has blossomed like a flower.

  6. The Turning of the Wheel: Tradition says that the Buddha was tempted to stay under the tree on his awakening, and enjoy the experience of Nirvana for himself. But instead he got up and taught about his awakening.

  7. The Parinirvana: The Buddha gave his last teaching to the monks laid down between two trees, and passed gently from the cycle of death and rebirth.

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