Shakyamuni Buddha was born about 2549 years ago in what is now Lumbini, Nepal. He was known as Siddhartha Gautama, a prince and son of King Suddhodana and Queen Mayadevi. At the age of 29, he renounced the luxury of his royal heritage to take up the life of a religious wanderer. Shakyamuni Buddha submitted himself to rigorous and extreme ascetic practices, putting forth a superhuman struggle for six strenuous years. At the age of 35, after gaining profound insight into the true nature of reality (Dharma), he attained complete enlightenment. For the remainder of his life, living as the perfect embodiment of all the virtues he preached, the Buddha ('Awakened One') traveled widely teaching the Dharma. Shakyamuni Buddha offered his teachings to men, women, and children from all walks of life so they could also end suffering and attain awakening.
Beyond the pain and pressures, the toil and tears of life, away from illusory scene of transience and impermanence, transcending loving and halting transitoriness of this world, is the Enlightened One, Shakyamuni, the Sage of the Shakyas, Gautama the Buddha. Shakyamuni has overcome the temptations of Mara and of his demons in their innumerable aspects, some terrifying, some monstrous and some voluptuous. The intense inner struggle of Gautama makes him an immediately human figure to us. Mara tries to break him even when he has attained complete enlightenment and tempts him to vanish into nirvana and leave mankind in darkness. The Buddha is serene and motionless. Shakyamuni Buddha has passed the raging fury of illusory forms. The Sage is supremely Enlightened One, aware of the cause of suffering and of the way to attain liberation from them. Shakyamuni Buddha calls the Earth Goddess to witness by his earth-touching gesture or Bhumi Sparsha Mudra. The right hand stretches down to the earth, the palm inside and all fingers straight. By this gesture, Shakyamuni Buddha destroys all the demons of the earth. While the right hand of the Shakyamuni Buddha is in the gesture of touching the earth, his left hand holds the alms bowl. Shakyamuni is seated with legs crossed on the lotus position or Padmasana, on a moon disk, placed on a lotus. Sometimes his throne is supported by lions, which indicate that Shakyamuni Buddha or Sage of the Shakyas is as well Shakya-Simha or Lion of the Shakyas. The depiction of six Paramitas by six animals around the aureole of Shakyamuni indicates that he has perfected the six transcendences. These six Paramitas are represented by six animals: the Garuda at the top is the first Paramita of charity. Two young Nagas stand for moral excellence. The two Makara are symbols of forbearance. The two vaman/dwarfs represent endurance. The two elephants stand for meditation. The two lions are the highest perfection of wisdom.
The essence of the Shakyamuni Buddha's early preaching was said to be the four Noble truths: 1) life is fundamentally disappointment and suffering. 2) suffering is a result of one's desires for pleasure, power, and continued existence; 3) to stop disappointment and suffering on must stop desiring; and 4) the way to stop desiring and thus suffering is the Noble eight fold path - right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right awareness and right concentration. The realization of the truth of Anatman (no eternal self) was taught as essential for the indescribable state of release called nirvana.
The Buddha died in 483 BC at the ripe age of 80 years, after successfully spreading his message to the world.
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