The Norman Transcript

March 6, 2014

Buddha’s birth and the Hindu tradition

The Kansas City Star
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — How do you reflect upon the birth of the Buddha into a Hindu family?

Lama Chuck Stanford, Rime Buddhist Center: It is true that the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was born into a royal family that practiced and studied the Vedic tradition (Hindu is a modern term). This is no different than the fact that Jesus was raised in the Jewish faith.

Upon his enlightenment, like founders of other great religions, the Buddha began teaching something radically new that had not yet been codified a new religion. The Buddha rejected features of the Vedic tradition, including the priestly system and the caste system.

At the age of 35, the Buddha gave his first teaching, known as the Four Noble Truths, which became the foundation of Buddhism. This teaching, delivered in Sarnath, India, stated:1. That life is characterized by suffering. 2. That suffering is caused by the clinging and grasping of our own mind. 3. That it is possible to permanently end suffering. 4. The path that leads to the cessation of suffering is meditation.

For 40 years after his enlightenment, the Buddha traveled extensively throughout India teaching the importance of nonviolence, compassion and loving kindness. These teachings were transmitted orally for hundreds of years, and it wasn’t until the first century that these teachings were written down and codified into the religion that we know today as Buddhism.

A.M. Bhattacharyya, Hindu faith adviser of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council: Buddha was born around 560 B.C. as a Hindu prince named Siddhartha Gautama, in northern India. From his childhood Gautama was very compassionate. Wise men prophesied that Gautama would be hurt by seeing human suffering; consequently, he would renounce the world and become a great religious leader.

His father, King Suddhodana, wanted his son to be a great ruler. He built a palace for his son with gorgeous surroundings so that his son could not see the woes of life. Gautama married a beautiful princess, Yasodhara. They had a son, Rahula.

One day Gautama left the palace in a chariot to see how people were living their lives. As he rode through the streets, he saw a decrepit man tottering. Then he saw a man suffering from the ghastly disease of leprosy, and then he saw a corpse on a bier.

These sights made him think of decay, disease and death in life. He was overwhelmed with grief and compassion for the miseries of life and became determined to find a way to escape sufferings.

One night he bade silent farewell to his sleeping wife and son, and left the palace in search of answers for suffering humanity. After several years as an ascetic, and meeting sages, he sat down under a Bodhi tree, fell into deepest meditation and finally realized the truth he was so earnestly seeking. He became Buddha, the awakened one.

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