Gautama Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama was a prince who lived in the kingdom of Sakyas, near the present day border of India and Nepal, more than 2500 years ago. The young prince was raised in great luxury, but he was not happy. He wanted to understand what caused human suffering. He did not understand why some people were rich and others were poor. Why some people were healthy and others sickly.

Siddhartha left his palace and lived as an ascetic. An ascetic is a person who has few material possessions and has given up all pleasures and comforts. He prayed and fasted. To fast is to eat little or no food. Siddhartha fasted so strictly that he nearly died, but he was still not satisfied. Finally, Siddhartha sat down under a bo tree and determined to understand why he had failed to find a satisfying way of life. Late that night Siddhartha Gautama became enlightened.

Siddhartha told other people of his enlightenment. He became well known for his teaching. Siddhartha's students called him "the Buddha," which means "the Enlightened One," and the followers of Siddhartha's teachings are called Buddhists.

The Buddha taught his followers to seek balance in their lives. The path to happiness is neither through indulgence nor denial, but a "middle way." Siddhartha taught that by putting aside your ego, you can escape the cycle of death and rebirth to reach Nirvana.

Gautama Buddha laid emphasis on non-violence and compassion in his teachings. The realisation that life is full of sorrow leads to a boundless love for living things. This love is compassion or Karuna.

Panchasheel: The rules of conduct that are in keeping with the eight-fold path are known as the Panchasheel. Ahimsa, asteya, control over the bodily desires, truthfulness and not taking.. intoxicants are the five rules or the Panchsheel. Gautama Buddha used Pali, the language of the people, to preach.

Bauddha Sangha: Gautama Buddha wanted his doctrine to reach the masses. He, therefore, organised his followers into Bauddha Sanghas. Those followers who left their homes and entered the Bauddha Sangha were called Bhikkus (monks). Strict rules of conduct were prescribed for the Bhikkus. People of all castes were allowed into the Sangha. People from all castes of society entered the Sangha in large numbers, as caste was no barrier. Buddha established women's sanghas,too.