The word Buddha means "One Who is Awake"
records that the Buddha was born as a prince in an ancient kingdom of
northern India. Although as a youth he was protected by his father in
beautiful palaces, as he grew older the Buddha encountered what we must
all face - the inevitable sorrows of life. He saw the loss of all things
we hold dear, and the aging, sickness, and death that come to every
human being. Seeing this, he chose to renounce his royal title and leave
his palace to become a seeker of truth, searching for the end of human
sorrow, searching for freedom in the face of the ceaseless round of
birth and death.
some years the Buddha practiced as an austere yogi in the forests of
India. In time he realized that his extreme asceticism had brought him
no more freedom than his previous indulgence in worldly pleasure. Instead,
he saw that human freedom must come from practicing a life of inner
and outer balance, and he called this discovery the Middle Path.
seen this, the Buddha seated himself under a Bodhi tree and vowed
to find liberation in the face of the forces that bring suffering to
humankind. He felt himself assailed by these forces - by fear, attachment,
greed, hatred, delusion, temptation, and doubt. The Buddha sat in the
midst of these forces with his heart open and his mind clear until he
could see to the depths of human consciousness, until he discovered
a place of peace at the center of them all. This was his enlightenment,
the discovery of Nirvana, the freeing of his heart from entanglement
in all the conditions of the world.
The realization of truth that he
touched that night was so profound that his teachings about it have
continued to inspire and enlighten people all over the world to this
day. Over the centuries, one and a half billion people, one quarter
of the human race, have followed the Buddha's way.
the Buddha's enlightenment, two great powers were awakened in him: transcendent
wisdom and universal compassion. Setting in motion the Wheel of the
Dharma, the Buddha wandered first to the Deer Park in Benares and gave
instructions to the yogis who had practiced with him in the forest.
After this, for forty-five years he brought the teachings of wisdom
and compassion to all who would listen. These teachings, which the Buddha
called the Dharma, or Way, are an invitation to follow the path of enlightenment.
They are an invitation to all who hear them to discover their own buddha-nature,
the freedom and great heart of compassion that is possible for every
twenty-five hundred years the practices and teachings of Buddhism have
offered a systematic way to see clearly and live wisely. They have offered
a way to discover liberation within our own bodies and minds, in the
midst of this very world.