Buddha was an Indian spiritual teacher and the historical founder of Buddhism. He is regarded variously as a human philosopher, or an omniscient, active deity.
Thus for Theravāda Buddhism, a Buddha is simply a human being who has undergone a profound spiritual transformation. In Mahāyāna thought, by contrast, the Buddha is seen as a cosmic being who from time to time manifests himself in human form. The name Buddha (Enlightened One or Awakened One) comes from the Sanskrit root ‘budh’, meaning to awaken. Buddha is an epithet of those who have achieved enlightenment (bodhi), the main goal of the Buddhist religious life. After Buddha gained enlightenment (bodhi), he stated that he has achieved complete Awakening, realized the nature of human suffering and discovered the way to eliminate it. His first sermon was "The setting into motion of the wheel of the dharma," contained the basic Buddhist doctrines of the Four Noble truths and the Eightfold Path.
The Four Noble Truths:
1. Suffering is an inherent part of existence.
2. The origin of suffering is craving for sensual pleasure.
3. The attachment and craving can be ceased by “fading, cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, letting go of that very craving”.
4. The following the Noble Eightfold Path will lead to the cessation of attachment and craving and therefore suffering.
The Noble Eightfold Path:
right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
Buddha said that by torture of the body, Nirvana or salvation cannot be attained. Siddhartha have discovered the Middle Way—a path of moderation away from the extremes of satisfaction of sensual desires and self-mortification.
There are two main schools of Buddhism: Theravada and Mahayana. Theravada, means 'the teaching of the Elders' is more conservative and intellectual teaching. This doctrine says that insight must come from the aspirant's experience and reasoning instead of by blind faith. The achieving of complete Awakening is not believed to have been revealed divinely, but by the understanding of the true nature of the mind.
The main concepts of the Theravada teachings are:
Anicca - That all things are impermanent. Dukkha: That all beings suffer from all situations due to unclear mind. Anatta: That the perception of a constant "self" is an illusion. Kamma (Karma)( volitional action): The law of the cause and effect of actions, according to which virtuous actions create pleasure in the future and nonvirtuous actions create pain.
Nirvana: It is the state of supreme liberation, the perfect state of mind that is free from craving, anger and other afflicting states. The ultimate goal of Buddhist practice is to achieve Nirvana, to release from samsara and to escape from that suffering
Samsara: Wheel of Life, the cycle of rebirth is regarded as a domain of suffering.
The goal in Theravada Buddhism is to become an Arhat, a person who is free of suffering. Buddha taught non-attachment and said that a wise man, looks upon everything in an objective unattached manner.
According to Theravada, the man is responsible for his salvation and do not depend from the will of higher powers (gods).
At the heart of the Mahayana (''Big Chariot'') is compassion for the nearest and the desire for self-improvement. Mahayana is more ethical, social and mystical teaching. Here Buddha is the supreme principle of the unity of all things, he was and is always and everywhere, inside of each of the myriad creatures. Mahayana stresses following the Buddha's example of going out into the world and doing good. A person who has set out on the long journey to discover the path to freedom from suffering, and then to teach it to others, is called a bodhisattva. A person who has discovered that path, followed it to its end, and taught it to the world, is called a buddha.
The ethical principles of Mahayana gravitate around concepts of compassion (karuna), love (maitri), and noninjury (ahimsa) to living creatures, and they stress the obligation to promote friendship and concord.
The Buddha’s teaching is basically humanistic and optimistic. It holds that every human being, regardless of his social position or past life, can through his own efforts obtain control of himself, of his ideas and passions, and of his destiny.
Bliss of Complete Awakened state-Nirvana, according to Buddhism, is available to all beings.
From the standpoint of the Buddhist doctrine, Buddha is anyone who rediscovers the Dharma and has attained enlightenment through the accumulation of a sufficient number of positive karma, through the right thoughts, words and deeds.
Major works: The Buddha himself, wrote nothing down. His disciples remembered his talks which were collected into books called Sutras. These teachings are assembled in part of the Tripiṭaka and influential Mahayana texts, such as the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras, Avataṃsaka Sūtra, Heart Sutra, Diamond Sutra, Lotus Sutra.
Buddha's Life and teaching.
Wandering. Deeply depressed by "The four sights/gates", he sought to overcome by living the life of an ascetic. He gave up his wealth and comfort, deserted his wife and small son, and took to the road as a wandering ascetic. Siddhartha first studied yogic meditation and after mastering their techniques, decided that these did not lead to the highest realization. He travelled south, and sought truth in a six-year regime of austerity and self-mortification. But after six years of unproductive ascetic exercises renounced the path of austerities. After a long period of wandering and fasting, when he was in a state of complete exhaustion he accepted milk-cooked rice from a village nice girl Sujātā, who wrongly believed him to be the spirit. Then he recovered his strength and concluded that mortification of the flesh is not the path to liberation from suffering.
Enlightenment. Then, sitting under a pipal tree, now known as the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India, he vowed never to arise until he had found the Truth and had attained the supreme enlightenment.
A great battle with Mara. A demon whose name Mara means “destruction” attacked him with wind, rain, hot coals, burning ashes, mud, and darkness. Then he sent his three beautiful daughters, Lust, Thirst, and Discontent, to tempt the prince, but Gautama remained strong and impassive.
ultimately, Mara and his demons escaped.
Suddenly the light-green morning star gleamed in the sky aroused in him feelings of perfect clarity of comprehension.
Siddhartha Gautama realized enlightenment and became a Buddha.
After 49 days meditating, on the May night of the full moon, he reached Enlightenment, becoming a Buddha at the age of 35. Just at that moment Buddha realised his mission: to bring this revelation of love and truth for all men.
Founding of Buddhism. After his spiritual awakening he attracted a group of followers and instituted a monastic order.
Hence forth known as Buddha, he spent his life teaching.
He was born in Lumbini (a town situated in what is now Nepal, near the Indian border) and raised in the small kingdom or principality of Kapilvastu. His given name was Siddhartha. His mother Maya, died, on the seventh day after her delivery and Maya's sister, Mahapajapati became the step mother of Siddhattha.
It was predicted at his birth that he would become either a great world ruler or a world teacher. Therefore his father, who wished Siddhartha to succeed him as ruler, tried in vain to insulate him from the life problems. He built a special palace for him surrounded with distracting luxuries. Prince grew up in an environment of care and love, respect and joy.
At age 16 Siddhārtha was married to Yaśodharā and had a son, Rāhula.
At the age of 29 he ventured outside the palace and was confronted by the sight of ‘fours signs’: an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and a mendicant monk. From the first three of these sights he learned the inescapability of suffering and death, and in the serenity of the monk he saw his destiny. At that time he realized that human life is little more than suffering.
For the remaining years of his life, he traveled and teaching his doctrine and discipline to an extremely diverse range of people, including а supporters of the various religions. His teaching was open to all races, ethnicities, classes and had no caste structure.
Buddha was handsome, with coal black hair and a golden brown complexion. He had a good-looking figure and was about six feet tall (184 cm).
His wife Yasodhara and son Rahula also became his disciples.
At the age of 80, the Buddha announced that he would soon reach Parinirvana or the final deathless state abandoning the earthly body.
His mission fulfilled, the Buddha died after being in ill health for some months and escaped the cycle of rebirth.
The very last words Buddha spoke: « …All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!».
He was cremated and his relics divided among eight groups, who deposited them in shrines called stupas.