By | October 11, 2021

Buddha [ Sanskrit “the awakened”, “the enlightened”], honorary title of Siddhartha Gautama (Pali: Siddhattha Gotama), the founder of the religion named after him Buddhism, according to tradition * 563 BC. In Lumbini (Nepal), † 483 BC BC (according to the so-called “long chronology”, which is now also supported by archaeological finds; other researchers suspect a birth around 480 BC) near Kushinagara (today Kasia).

After the noble family of Shakya, from which he came, he is also known as “Shakyamuni” (“hermit or sage of Shakya”).

Life and work: His father Shuddhodana was a prince in the foothills of the Nepalese Himalayas; his mother, who died shortly after he was born, was called Maya. Raised wealth, he married his cousin Yashodhara at the age of sixteen and had a son, Rahula. Aware of old age, illness and death, at the age of 29 he recognized the meaninglessness of his previous life and left home to seek redemption in a foreign country. For seven years he practiced hard physical asceticism as a student of various masters, but found no enlightenment. So he turned to inner meditation; enlightenment (Sanskrit: Bodhi), for which he had struggled for so long, was given to him in Uruvela near Bodh Gaya under a fig tree (Bodhi tree).

In the gazelle grove in Sarnath near Benares he met five ascetics who had previously  separated from him after turning away from asceticism. His first discourse was aimed at them, which tradition calls “setting the wheel of doctrine in motion” (Sanskrit: Dharmacakrapravartana) and which speaks of the “four noble truths”: of suffering (Sanskrit: Duhkha), its origin, the Abolition of its cause and the path that leads to that goal. Those ascetics became the Buddha’s first disciples; with them he founded an order (Sanskrit: Samgha) of beggar monks, who was supported by an order of nuns while he was still alive. The monks mostly belonged to the aristocracy or the merchant class; In addition, a group of lay followers (Sanskrit: Upasaka) gathered who remained without monastic asceticism in their secular profession, supported the order with money and did not have to give up belonging to Brahmanic cult communities. The Buddha himself passed through northern India teaching and advertising and died on the border with Nepal. See aceinland for religion of Nepal.

Interpretation: The life story of the Buddha was later embellished with legends about his wonderful birth, his miracles, his experiences in earlier existences (Pali: Jataka). According to the Indian view that there is no one-time historical event, but that everything repeats itself cyclically forever, Buddhists believe that before Gautama Buddha, world illuminators appeared at certain intervals and that in the future a new Buddha, Maitreya (Pali: Metteya), will appear to preach the doctrine anew. While the older schools only accept a limited number of Buddhas, the Mahayana represents the view that there are and will be an infinite number of Buddhas because every believer can eventually become a Buddha in the course of his innumerable reincarnations. The historical Buddha, along with numerous other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, is elevated to a heavenly being, a deity who promotes human welfare, while the historical Buddha saw himself as a teacher who wanted to show others the way to perfect knowledge.

Representations: In the Buddhist art of Hinayana, the Buddha has been used since the 2nd century BC. Represented in relief scenes by symbols: bodhi tree (“tree of enlightenment” for enlightenment), dharmacakra (“wheel of teaching” for discourse), stupa (nirvana). He also appears in animal form on images of pre-existences (Jataka). His human representation (mostly reproduced in the lotus position) was created in the 1st – 2nd centuries. Century in the art of Mathura and the art of Gandhara as a cult image and in reliefs. His monk’s robe, special body features (e.g. an outgrowth on the head, long earlobes, golden skin color), short wavy or curly hair, nimbus and certain gestures became canonical for the entire Buddhist art of Asia, as did the reclining Buddha of Parinirvana.