The Historical BuddhaThe term 'The Buddha' normally refers to the historical Buddha, who was known as Siddhartha Gotama whose teaching we follow today. Prince Siddhartha was born on a full moon day in May, 623 BCE at Lumbini Park, on the Indian borders of present-day Nepal. He was the heir to the throne of King Suddhodana of the aristocratic Sakya clan. He is said to have lived a life of luxury, shielded from the rigors and realities of life.
At the age of 29, while being driven in his chariot, he saw four sights that were to be the turning point in his life. On the first day he saw an old man, on the second day a sick person and on the third day a dead body. He asked his servant whether these things would happen to anyone. On hearing that everyone, including himself will be subject to old age, sickness and death, a deep sense of dissatisfaction began to trouble him. On the fourth day he saw a holy man clad in rags but with a radiant peaceful appearance which impressed him very much. These significant events in Siddhartha's life led him to reflect on the realities of life and the material world.
One night, Siddhartha decided to abandon his palace and the life of luxury in search of answers to the deep questions that troubled him. On reaching the banks of the river Anoma, he shaved his hair and dressed in rags. He then approached a famous teacher of the day, Alara Kalama and requested instructions on how to lead a holy life. He attained the highest state of meditation as taught by Alara Kalama, but was not satisfied. So he approached another teacher, Uddaka Ramaputta, who taught him an even higher state of meditation, but still he was not satisfied.
six years, ascetic Gotama wandered the plain of Ganges subjecting himself
to rigorous practices demanded by some teachers. These practices made
him physically very weak, but he realised that the way ahead lies not
in extreme religious practices or in sensual indulgence, but in his
own inner experience. With great resolve, he sat under a tree (Bodhi
tree) at Buddha-Gaya (in present day Bihar) and entered a deep state
Buddha is a generic term, which literally means ‘The Awakened One’- One who has awakened, understood, perceived the Truth (The Dhamma*), regarding the Absolute Realities of life. That is, seeing the true nature of things, not the realities, concepts and experiences as we perceive through our senses, which are so limited.
A Buddha is an enlightened being who has attained Nibbana (Nirvana in Sanskrit), a state attained on complete release from dukkha, the state of suffering which permeates all life.
Buddha is not a re-incarnation of a god, or a teacher sent from heaven
to offer salvation to human kind, but a human being, an extraordinary
being whose mind has reached the highest level of wisdom and realised
Absolute Reality. A
Buddha attains this state through a long period of spiritual and mental
development, stretching over many thousands of lifetimes. A being that
is on the path to attaining Buddhahood is known as a Bodhisatva.
The Theravada tradition recognises three types of Buddhas:
Sambuddha is a self-enlightened Buddha. That is, a Buddha who realises
the Truth (Nibbana) by himself, without the assistance of a teacher.
Furthermore, this Buddha can teach what he has discovered (the Dhamma)
for the benefit of other beings. His teachings are known as the Buddha
Sasana and last for several thousand years in the world, after
which they fall into decline and are finally lost to human understanding.
last Buddha was of this catergory.
Savaka Buddha or Arahat attains Nibbana by following the teachings given by a Samma Sambuddha.
In terms of their Enlightenment, all three Buddhas are identical, but they reach this state by different means (with or without a teacher), and may or may not be able to teach.
The Mahayana tradition (which is a later development) also recognises the above three categories of Buddhas. In addition, Mahayana also developed the concept of an Eternal Buddha, the form that appears on earth being only a temporary manifestation of this Eternal Buddha. Some Mahayana traditions consider the Buddha to be an active, living, dynamic spiritual force who can assist a Buddhist pilgrim towards attaining Buddhahood.
respectful terms used to refer to the Buddha are:
ancient Pali text describes further qualities of the Buddha as having:
Ten Intellectual powers (Dasa-bala):
The possible as possible
It is clear from the texts that the Buddha was no ordinary human being. The Buddha continues to retain his human nature after enlightenment, the physical body undergoing inevitable changes due to age, until he finally passes away to a state of parinibbana (complete Nibbana).
As to the question what happens to an enlightened being after death, the Buddha remained silent. It is clear that it is a state transcending space and time, and cannot be described in terms of normal human experiences which are very limited.
The pali word Dhamma
(Dharma in Sanskrit) has many meanings. Most commonly
it is the Truth as revealed by the Buddha (Buddha Dhamma),
essentially the Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path etc.