Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama, Gautama Buddha or simply the Buddha, was a sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived and taught mostly in eastern India sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE. The word Buddha means "awakened one" or "the enlightened one".
Lumbini, which is Nepal in present day, is considered to be the birthplace of the Buddha.
“Doctrine of the Four Teaching” from TianTai School illustrates the eight different phrases of Shakyamuni Buddha’s life.
1. Descent from Tusita Heaven
a. Tusita Heaven is one of the six deva-worlds. Like the other heavens, Tusita is said to be reachable through meditation. It is the heaven where Shakyamuni Buddha had been resided before being reborn on Earth. After he had proclaimed the true Dharma in Tusita Heaven, Shakyamuni Buddha left the heavenly palace and descended into his mother's womb.
2. Entry into his Mother's Womb
a. The Buddha's parents were the king and queen of the Sakyas. Just before her conception, Maya, the queen, had a dream in which a white elephant with six ivories and white lotus flower in its trunk, entered into her womb through the right side of her body.
3. Birth from Mother's Side in Lumbini
a. Following the custom, Queen Maya returned to her own home for birth delivery. On the way, she took a walk under a Sal tree, which is in a beautiful garden at Lumbini. Maya was delighted by the scenery and gave birth while standing and holding onto a Sal branch. The baby is given a name of Siddhartha Gautama.
b. It is said that Buddha emerged from Queen Maya’s right side. As soon as baby Buddha stood on the ground, he took seven steps to the north, and lotus flowers bloomed under his feet. Then he uttered, "I am the chief of the world, Eldest am I in the world, Foremost am I in the world. This is the last birth. There is now no more coming to be".
4. Leaving Home as a Hermit
a. As Prince Siddhartha grew older, he started to venture outside the palace, and he had a deep impression on people who suffered from sickness, old age and death, as well as a holy man who gave up his family for search of knowledge. He felt a deep compassion for others, and wanted to find a way to free people from these suffering. This is why Prince Siddhartha decided to leave his wife, child, and royal life behind. He changed into a simple robe and wandered into a forest with five other holy men.
b. For six years, Siddhartha Gautama studied and meditated to find the “truth”. Following a strict regime of fasting and deprivation until he almost starved to death, Siddhartha Gautama realized that he had failed to acquire spiritual knowledge and he adapted a moderate 'Middle Way'. He took food and seated himself under a Bodhi tree or the 'Tree of Wisdom', vowing not to move until he had gained enlightenment.
5. Subjection of Mara
a. The demon king, Mara, didn’t want Siddhartha Gautama to attain enlightenment because it would free people from their suffering. Hence, Mara sent his three daughters, representing desire, lust, and aversion, to disturb Siddhartha Gautama’s meditation. When this didn’t work, Mara sent his army of demons and surrounded Siddhartha. However, none of them were brave enough to get close to Siddhartha. Hence, they threw tons of sharp weapons in order to disturb Siddhartha from meditation. However, Siddhartha remained calm and continued to meditate.
b. When fear didn’t work on Siddhartha, Mara teased Siddhartha that even though he could attain enlightenment, no one could prove his achievement. Siddhartha reached out his right hand and touched the earth. The earth itself spoke: "I bear you witness!" and the whole land vibrated. Mara knew that he had lost the battle and disappeared. To this day, the Buddha is often portrayed in this "earth witness" posture, with his left palm upright on his lap, and his right hand touching the earth. Siddhartha Gautama had successfully defeated all the temptations.
6. Attaining Enlightenment
a. Siddhartha then entered into a deep meditation and when his mind was purified by concentration, he acquired three pieces of knowledge. The first knowledge was that he remembered all the past lives of himself and all beings. The second knowledge was the laws of karma. The third knowledge was that he was free from all obstacles and released from attachments. He proclaimed that craving, desire and ignorance were the main causes of constant rebirthing in this Saha World.
b. As the morning star rose in the sky, Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment and became a Buddha. Buddha means the “Awakened One”.
7. Rolling the Wheel of the Law (Preaching)
a. After his awakening, the Buddha knew that his great realization was outside of normal human understanding. Hence, after he had preached “Flower Garland Sutra”, he decided to change his teaching style and passed the knowledge of “Four Noble Truths” to five holy men at Deer Park. This piece of knowledge expressed that desire was the root of suffering. To end suffering, one should practice the “Noble Eightfold Path”, which are eight ways in which people should live. The Buddha spent his next forty-nine years on teaching throughout India and ordaining monks.
8. Entering Nirvana
a. Buddha lived until 80 years old. When he knew that the end was approaching, he asked Ananda to prepare a couch between two Sala trees. Then, Buddha laid down on his right side, one foot upon the other, with his head pointing to the north and supported by his right hand. Then, the Sal trees bloomed, although it was not their season. Buddha advised his disciples that that to ensure the continuance of the Dharma, all the monks must uphold precepts(rules) as their master, and take the Dharma as their refuge.
b. Buddha went into a higher state of awareness and eventually entered into Nirvana. This is a state which is free from suffering and rebirth.
c. After cremation, his ashes were divided into eight sets and buried into different stupas. Stupa is a hemispherical structure that contains relics.