We celebrate Buddha Purnima, the jayanti, birthday of one of the greatest teachers of this land, Gautam Buddha (earlier known as Siddhartha) who influenced India and the Far East. Siddhartha ‘s father who heard the prophecy that Siddhartha was going to be a monk, did everything to avoid his growing boy away from facing suffering. He knew that human suffering including death makes one think about higher realities. Finally, when Siddhartha finally saw suffering as a young adult it was so shocking that he decided to leave everything, including his wife and child to pursue the reality of life. Probably if he had grown up seeing all this, the craving may not have been so intense which brings us to an old saying that very often ‘one meets our destiny on the very road one takes to avoid it’. Siddhartha would meet sadhus, have discussions, debates and do his sadhana. Then he would go away to contemplate and return to them and have further discussions. One fine day the truth became crystal clear for him.
A lot of myths and legends have grown around the realisation of the Buddha under the Bodhi tree. Whatever the story be, like all wise men and women in this country, once he gained self-realisation, he shared it with the society. Buddha did not create Buddhism. He was one of the respected teachers who attracted a lot of followers. What we know today as Buddhism is based on the written works of Nagarjuna, which was 500 years after Buddha's time. That is why traditionally, some people always also consider as one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu.
So what did Buddha teach? He did not go into the philosophy or shastra. He probably thought people were not ready for it. He taught about living a simple life of moderation, a contemplative life so that your mind would get ready to discover the truth. Traditional teachers regarded Buddha with great respect, calling him Sugata, one whose knowledge is beautiful, Tathagata, the one who has realised the highest truth. On his Jayanti, let us offer our pranaam.
The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at email@example.com