About two and a half thousand years ago, people of India were disappointed with their religion. The Indian priests became corrupted and thought only about self-indulgence and personal profit. Oracles and visionaries wondered all around the country predicting misfortunes and death. Those who worshipped animals were convinced that they are better than humans and begun to consider the animals as Gods.
During that time one extremely wealthy and belligerent Indian rajah was deeply disturbed and concerned about the future of his only son Gautama. The father and the whole family wished Gautama to become a prince-warrior to heir the kingdom. However, one old oracle who was invited once to the palace, predicted that the boy will become a famous preacher. His father was shocked as in his opinion this fate was worse than the death itself. At that period of time it was not unusual when young people from the richest families were denying comfortable life and leaving houses barefooted, wearing rags in order to find new spiritual life. The father decided to do everything possible to prevent such a prediction from coming true.
Gautama was a very shrewd and sensible young man, who always tried to get to the origin of things. Being an aristocrat by birth he was nevertheless leaning to full participation in whatever he was doing. Thanks to his sensible perception he soon started to realize, that he was indirectly guided and allowed to meet people from within his caste. After the prediction the father gave the strictest orders to barrier his son from the evil and sorrow, something very common outside the walls of the castle. The boy was forbidden to walk alone. During his walks he was closely guarded by few men, who were set to make sure the young prince never meets the poor and struggling people. He had everything money can buy. Anything unpleasant was excluded from his life.
However this situation couldn't last for long. Gautama was a person with spirit, who was not satisfied with his dedicated role. Once he secretly from his parents left the palace with his trusted servant. First time in his life, he witnessed life of people from other castes. Four events triggered deep thoughts, which eventually lead to the creation of the new religion.
At first he had seen an old man, who was trembling from his old age and illnesses, Using two sticks he was barely move his body. Toothless and blind the old man gave the prince an absent glance. Gautama realized first time in his life, that old age comes to everyone, that sooner or later it will come to him, and he will become infirm and sick.
Deeply shocked young prince continued his way. His mind was flooded with completely unknown and awful thoughts. At this moment other event happened. Gautama spotted a human figure sitting on the road, crying and shaking from one side to another. This man was weary of illness and full of decaying ulcers. Young Gautama was completely shocked. He continued his walk with his heart hurt by nearly physical pain, asking himself many questions. Should a man struggle? Does the pain come to everyone? Is it unavoidable?
His faithful servant was untouched by the events, as these scenes were usual for him. Now, Gautama realized what his father was hiding from him. They moved ahead again, but Gautama was in shock. However his fate didn't finish it's games. That days lots of people were dying every day, and soon Gautama spotted a dead body swelled up because of the sun rays, laying at one side of the road. Disgusting flies were in the dead man's mouth, buzzing out and getting back. First time in life, Gautama witnessed the death and found out what is happens at the end with everyone. Saying no word young prince gave sign to his loyal servant to go back to the palace. He was sitting there, thinking about the short life, about the beauty of the human's body, which is doomed to fade. "But why the beauty is so fleeting?", he was unable to understand.
The young prince sit with dark and gloomy thoughts. By chance (or according to the fate), he spotted a careless monk, wearing good cloth and walking down the road. This calm and balanced monk had a shining aura of the internal equilibrium, wellbeing and love to the people. Gautama, shocked yet another time, felt doubts of whether it was possible to achieve calmness, satisfaction, internal equilibrium and other virtues by rejecting casual life and dedicating oneself to religion? Is it enough to become a monk or a member of a mystical order? That's how he decided to become a monk. He decided to abandon his life in the palace, all that luxury he got used to.
His father was uncompromising and indignant, his mother was crying and imploring. The servant was sacked and forced to leave the kingdom. Gautama was in his room thinking and reflecting on what he had seen. He was thinking about how many new things he had found during his one and only short trip, and how many possibly do happen in the whole world.
The father constantly tried to distract the young prince from sadness and disturbance. The best musicians were ordered to play the music without breaks, so the young man could not get devoted to his sad thoughts in silence. The most beautiful girls in the kingdom experienced in the art of Love, were gathered in the palace. This was done in hope that Gautama would forget about his depression attracted by them.
The musicians were playing until they became completely exhausted. Girls were performing their erotic dances until they have fallen from fatigue. Only at this moment Gautama noted them. He was horrified to see the clumsy laying bodies of the musicians. Shocked, he was looking at pale from tiresome naked girls. The healthy glow disappeared from their faces, and their makeup seemed to be ugly bright.
Once again he realized how temporary and transient the beauty is, how fast it disappears, how sad and fleeting the life is, how women look like when their dances are about to end. He decided to run away from everything he knew, in search for the peace of mind, wherever it could be.
His father doubled and then tripled the palace's guard. His mother was in hysterics. His wife, an unhappy woman, lost her conscience and all girls of the palace seemed agreed on crying all together. The young son of Gautama was a baby and was unable to understand what's going on, but seeing all these people around he was crying too. The advisors to the king were helplessly wondering around and giving lots of useless advises.
Few days Gautama was thinking about his future escape plan. People in the kingdom didn't know his face because he rarely left the palace. One trusted servant highly rewarded for his work and immediately left the kingdom, brought the prince a well worn by the poor cloth. Once in twilight right before the castle gates were closed for the night, he used his new cloth and made his face dirty, and thereby left the palace with the crown of the poor who were forced out during the night. He gone to forest, far away from the main roads, far away from people. He was very afraid that the lack of experience of the casual life will give him away. All the night he was wondering trying to reach the borders of his father's kingdom. He was afraid neither tigers, nor other wild animals hiding in the dark, all his life he was safe from any possible troubles, so he didn't even suspect they exist.
Meanwhile, his escape was noticed in the castle. The whole building, nearby places and parts were searched but all in vain. When Gautama reached the borders of the kingdom he quit hiding his identity. "I am set to look for the spiritual world and will never come back", he said to his relatives. His wife had fallen to her knees holding their child in hands, but Gautama ignored her entreaty. He turned and continued his way.
Gautama left the palace of his father being very disturbed. His sudden discovery changed his philosophy of life completely. He had seen an illness without knowing anything about it. He had seen death without knowing what is it. Finally, he had seen complete equilibrium and satisfaction. The man, who had had this tranquil face, was wearing a monk's robe. This forced Gautama to suggest that calmness and tranquility might be achievable with the monk's cloth. Therefore, his further search for the meaning in life and internal equilibrium were in this very direction.
He was going farther and farther from the kingdom, in hope to meet somewhere enlightened monks and knowledgeable hermits. After some time he had leant with the best Mentors everything they could teach him. Upon finish of his education with yet another Mentor, he was leaving farther. He wanted to find the most precious gift on the Planet, which is spiritual calmness and tranquility. Gautama was a very talented apprentice. He differed from the others, having a very clear conscience. He was able to perceive information and analysing it, throwing away everything useless and leaving only the substance, which in turn he was able to make a useful conclusion. That's how he avoided something others couldn't - autosuggestion, that rituals are bringing the desired answers. He carefully followed all instruction of his Mentors in full sincerity and dedicated to the studies every minute of his life, but he failed to find the answers.
One of the greatest Mentors stunned by the Gautama's keen mind, suggested him becoming a teacher of the beginners. However, this was alien to Gautama. He considered himself unable to teach anyone else, until he reaches the complete understanding himself. How dare he teach others if he has not found the Truth himself? He has learnt all the holy books and comments to predictions, however that only gave him some disturbance. Gautama didn't consider his search finished. That's why he moved further. Gautama was obsessed, he was a man with the flaming soul, which didn't let him rest, constantly provoking him for the search of knowledge, for the search for the Truth.
Once, a hermit persuaded him, that only the ascetic life could bring the tranquility. Gautama readily caught on this idea. For a long time he had forgotten about the materialistic world and casual indulgence, living only for the search of the meaning of life. Every day he was making himself to eat less and less, and finally as the legend says, was able to survive using only a grain of rice a day.
This tough diet undercut his health, and he was weak of hunger and lacked elementary care of himself. For a long time he was at the edge of death, but the enlightenment still didn't come. Still, he had no idea of the secret of calmness. His few friends gathered around him during his starvation. It seemed a sensation to them, that a man could survive using just one grain of rice a day. They all counted on getting some kind of profit knowing this outstanding man.
However, all these "friends" left him in need. One by one they left Gautama to die from hunger, leaving in search for other sensations. Gautama was yet again alone, without all these unreliable friends and all his "followers". He still continued to think of the meaning of life.
It was a turning point in Gautama's life. Long life he practices yoga, which kills the body, and thereby frees the soul. But now the yoga, was useless for him. It was just one of the means of body management, and it didn't promote spiritual development. Gautama realized how useless the ascetic life is. It could lead to death, leaving many questions unsolved, something disturbed him a lot. He understood that everything he did, was like attempts to transport water from Gang with a sieve or to make a tie from air.
And yet again Gautama was in deep thoughts. He was sitting under the tree, narrowly escaped the death, and persistently thinking about the problem of the pain existence. He had spent six years in search for knowledge, but he still missed the answers. Now he firmly decided not to move from this place, until after he finds a decision to his problem.
Gautama was sitting. The evening came. The night birds started their songs. The wild animals came out for hunt. Gautama was still sitting. Night hours were very long. Soon, first rays of the Sun enlightened the sky. The sun rising was close, but Gautama was still thinking and thinking.
The legend suggests that all the creation of the Nature witnessed the suffering weak Gautama, during his night of loneliness by that tree. They sympathized with him and understood him. Now, they were about to help him to overcome the barrier, which separated him from the Enlightenment.
Who knows, maybe it was for snails, who helped him to reach his goal, by making his head cold. All the Nature's creatures became his friends. They were not afraid of people. And although the man often betrayed and keep betraying them, they still come to help him. That day was a long one, and Gautama was sitting motionlessly like a statue. The night came again. Yet again the weak lights had shown on the horizon.
The feeling like a flash of light overwhelmed Gautama, suddenly he found the answers he was looking for. It happened when he quit the tense search and relaxed instead. Suddenly he was granted assess to knowledge, which came not somewhere outside, like all these studies he tried to follow all these years. The Truth, and the answers were inside him, like they always were there. In deep internal silence he literally disappeared in his feelings.
This was the Enlightenment of the new knowledge. He became Buddha, which in Sanskrit means the "Awakening". He reached the Enlightenment and remembered everything he seen in the astral world. Now he was free of all misfortunes, which follow by in the casual life, free from returning to the Earth in the never stopping circle of the birth, growth and death. He achieved the knowledge of the humans' suffering. He understood how to stop the sufferings. From this moment and on Gautama became the Awaken Gautama or Buddha Gautama. He had gone back to his thoughts again.
He wanted to know what to do now. Earlier he suffered and learned himself. Should he now teach the others, or should he let them find the answers using the same means he used? He was not sure if anyone will believe in reality of the feelings, that shocked him. Finally, he decided that the only acceptable way for the enlightened way of life is to help the others, telling them about the enlightenment, which had fallen down onto him.
He stood up, took some food and drinks, and moved to Benares. There he hoped to find five followers that left him earlier. At the end of this travel, which took quite a lot of time, as Gautama was still very weak, he finally reached Benares and finally found those he looked for. He talked to them and told them everything he experienced. His story is now known as "The Preaching of the Circle of Life". He told them about the reasons and the nature of pain. He also told them how to avoid suffering, and explained the basics of the religion now known as Buddhism. Buddhism is for those who look for the awakening.
... Gautama opened a new way to get close to the reality he called the Middle Way. The life of Gautama was definitely double sided. He was a prince by birth, and his life was among luxury and comfort, with very nice and sexy female dancers. He could afford to eat the best dishes and to have fun as those young princes do. Later he experienced the extreme poverty, suffering and almost died from hunger. Gautama clearly realized that neither wealth nor poverty can solve the internal problems of a man. Therefore the answer is somewhere in between the two.
Buddhism is often perceived as a religion, but it is not the religion per se. Buddhism is the way of life, some kind of a landmark, using it a man can reach some definite results. Buddhism can be called the religion only conditionally, and for those of us who is the true Buddhists the term "religion" is not appropriate. It is more appropriate to call this teaching "the Middle way".
Buddhism is based on the Hinduism teaching. The Hinduism philosophers and religious teachers claimed, that the way to self and spiritual understanding, and also the problems standing before the human kind, look like running on the edge of blade, when slowest slope in either side would lead to a fall.
Gautama knew the Hinduism teaching, as at the begging of his life he followed this religion. However, thanks to his persistence he found the Middle Way. Too categorical self-denial is a mistake. It may lead to the distorted view on life. It is as bad is to be on the bait of one's own desires. Here is useful to remember the rules of set up of the string instruments. It is possible to overstretch the string that much, that at the first touch it will break down. Obviously, in this case it is not possible to talk about harmony. Same bad result will follow if we completely ease the string. Harmony is possible only when the strings are stretched well enough, but not too much. That's how things are happening with the man, too much suffering or too much enjoyment will break the harmony.
Gautama asserted the term "the Middle Way" and suggested the principles, using which anyone can reach the happiness. He said, that only the one who looks for happiness, will find it.
One of the first questions a man asks himself is "Why am I unhappy?". This is a very common question. Having asked this question, Gautama thought a lot about the origins of things. He came to the conclusion that even the newly born baby suffers. Being born, a baby cries from pain and discomfort, because he had to leave the comfortable and safe world he got used to. The baby cries every time, he feels discomfort. Growing up he find other means to express his misfortunes, lack of satisfaction and the pain he suffers. However, the baby doesn't reflex on why he cries, he just cries. He simply reacts automatically. Some things make people cry, other make him laugh, but the pain and suffering is realized only when people think about their reasons.
The research shows, that the majority of people feel the suffering harder at the age of 10, when they reflex on why they have to suffer. Gautama asked this question, when he was thirty years old, as before that time his parents made everything to shield him from any kind of pain. People who were protected by all means and cared for, unaware of misfortunes, but that's why when the suffering comes to their life in real, they appear to be unready and often experience psychological and psychical problems.
Every man experienced the suffering at some point of time. Everyone experience physical or mental pain. On the Earth it is not possible to gain the knowledge, clear onself from the dirt which pollutes the man's soul without the pain. We can't say that Gautama founded the new religion. The teaching of Gautama and his part of the all-human knowledge are focused on the problem of the suffering and happiness. During his meditation, when all animals kept silence, trying not to distract him, when the snails cooled his head, Gautama realized the nature of pain, and how to avoid it. He had taught five followers. His teaching is based on four principles, on which all Buddhist writings are based. We are talking about Four Noble Truths.