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Siddhartha Gautama

Siddhartha Gautama's Early Life Siddhartha Gautama was born about 583 BCE, in or near what is now Nepal. His father, King Suddhodana, was leader of a large clan called the Shakya. His mother, Queen Maya, died shortly after his birth. When Prince Siddhartha was a few days old, a holy man prophesied the Prince would be either a great military conqueror or a great spiritual teacher. King Suddhodana preferred the first outcome and prepared his son accordingly. He raised the boy in great luxury and shielded him from knowledge of religion and human suffering. The Prince reached the age of 29 with little experience of the world outside the walls of his opulent palaces. The Four Passing Sights One day, overcome with curiosity, Prince Siddhartha asked a charioteer to take him on a series of rides through the countryside. On these journeys he was shocked by the sight of an aged man, then a sick man, and then a corpse. The stark realities of old age, disease, and death seized and sickened the Prince. Finally, he saw a wandering ascetic. The charioteer explained that the ascetic was one who had renounced the world and sought release from fear of death and suffering.

The Renunciation For a time the Prince returned to palace life, but he took no pleasure in it. Even the news that his wife Yasodhara had given birth to a son did not please him. The child was called Rahula, which means "fetter." One night he wandered the palace alone. The luxuries that had once pleased him now seemed grotesque. Musicians and dancing girls had fallen asleep and were sprawled about, snoring and sputtering. Prince Siddhartha reflected on the old age, disease, and death that would overtake them all and turn their bodies to dust. He realized then that he could no longer be content living the life of a prince. That very night he left the palace, shaved his head, and changed his prince's clothes for a beggar's robe. Then he began his quest for enlightenment.

The Search Siddhartha began by seeking out renowned teachers, who taught him about the many religious philosophies of his day as well as how to meditate. But after he had learned all they had to teach, his doubts and questions remained. so he and five disciples left to find enlightenment by themselves. The six companions attempted to find release from suffering through physical discipline--enduring pain, holding their breath, fasting nearly to starvation. Yet Siddhartha was still unsatisfied. It occurred to him that in renouncing pleasure he had grasped pleasure's opposite--pain and selfmortification. Now Siddhartha considered a Middle Way between those two extremes. He remembered an experience from his childhood, when his mind had settled into a state of deep peace. The path of liberation was through discipline of mind. He realized that instead of starvation, he needed nourishment to build up his strength for the effort. But when he accepted a bowl of rice milk from a young girl, his companions assumed he had given up the quest and abandoned him. The Enlightenment of the Buddha Siddhartha sat beneath a sacred fig (Ficus religiosa), known ever after as the Bodhi Tree, and settled into meditation. The work of Siddhartha's mind came to be mythologized as a great battle with Mara, a demon whose name means "destruction' and who represents the passions that snare and delude us. Mara brought vast armies of monsters to attack Siddhartha, who sat still and untouched. Mara's most beautiful

daughter tried to seduce Siddhartha, but this effort also failed. Finally, Mara claimed the seat of enlightenment rightfully belonged to him. Mara's spiritual accomplishments were greater than Siddhartha's, the demon said. Mara's monstrous soldiers cried out together, "I am his witness!" Mara challenged Siddhartha--who will speak for you? Then Siddhartha reached out his right hand to touch the earth, and the earth itself roared, "I bear you witness!" Mara disappeared. And as the morning star rose in the sky, Siddhartha Gautama realized enlightenment and became a Buddha. The Teacher At first, the Buddha was reluctant to teach, because what he had realized could not be communicated in words. Only through discipline and clarity of mind would delusions fall away and the Great Reality could be directly experienced. Listeners without that direct experience would be stuck in conceptualizations and would surely misunderstand everything he said. But compassion persuaded him to make the attempt. After his enlightenment, he went to the Deer Park in Isipatana, located in what is now the province of Uttar Pradesh, India. There he found the five companions who had abandoned him, and to them he preached his first sermon. This sermon has been preserved as theDhammacakkappavattana Sutta and centers on the Four Noble Truths. Instead of teaching doctrines about enlightenment, the Buddha chose to prescribe a path of practice through which

people can themselves.

realize

enlightenment

for

The Buddha devoted himself to teaching, attracting hundreds of followers. Eventually he became reconciled with his father, King Suddhodana. His wife, the devoted Yasodhara, became a nun and disciple. Rahula, his son, became a novice monk at the age of 7 and spent the rest of his life with his father. Last Words The Buddha tirelessly traveled and taught until his death at age 80. His last words to his followers: "Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation."

Confucius
Confucius would no doubt be surprised and quite pleased to know that more than 2,500 years after his birth, people all over the world remember his name and his teachings. How he would feel about his aphorisms being stuffed into fortune cookies, though, I cannot say. Confucius, more properly known as Kong Qiu, was not particularly successful in his own lifetime. He did have a handful of dedicated students, who wrote down and preserved his sayings for posterity. However, he sought throughout his life to reform the government of his day, but the Dukes of Lu ignored his calls for change. Who was Confucius? Why do his words still resonate, so long after his death? Confucius's Early Life: Political Life: Confucius was born in 552 or 551 BCE in the village of Tsou, Lu Kingdom, now in Shandong Province,China. His father was probably called Shu Ho; his mother's name is not recorded with any certainty. Some sources call her Cheng Tsai. There is a legend that Shu Ho was 70 years old when he had an illicit relationship with a teenaged girl, resulting in Confucius's birth. A different legend holds that the child's mother was one of his father's concubines, rather than an official wife. We have no contemporary sources on Confucius's early life, and his Analects or recorded sayings do not provide biographical details, so most of the information we rely upon today comes from the great Chinese historian Sima Qian, who wrote about four hundred years after the death of Confucius. When Confucius was a young man, the State of Lu was headed by a Duke, but real power lay with three noble families. Confucius developed a reputation for wisdom, so became first a town mayor and eventually, the dukedom's Minister of Crime. As a government official, Confucius called for the three noble families to tear down the walls around each of their home cities, so that they could not raise rebellions against the rightful ruler, the Duke of Lu. (The nobles had even sent a previous duke into exile because he would not bend to their demands.) However, Confucius's advocacy for a more centralized government, in which the Duke held true power, made him some powerful enemies among the nobles.

The other source which mentions at least the birth-date of Confucius is the Ch'un-ch'iu, or chronicle of the Kingdom of Lu. However, in different places that chronicle lists his birthday as either the tenth or eleventh month of the year, so it is not entirely reliable, either.

Exile: In 497 BCE, Confucius was forced to leave Lu because the Viscount Ji Huan, from the noble family that held the Prime Ministership, was enraged by his teachings and wanted him dead. Confucius, then about 51 years old, went to the neighboring State of Qi to the east. The former government minister remained in exile for sixteen or seventeen years. He wandered the countryside, gathering and teaching disciples. When he reached the age of 68, Confucius finally was able to return to the State of Lu, after his old enemies had died. The Teachings of Confucius: In his teachings, Confucius emphasized a harmonious society based on respect and compassion, and self-improvement through education. He hoped that the local rulers would apply these principles, thus serving as examples to their subjects, but during his lifetime the Dukes of Lu and Qi both ignored his advice. Confucius taught a situational type of ethics - in other words, a person had to decide the right course of action based upon the situation at hand, rather than simply memorizing and applying rules of conduct. Many of his sayings have come down to us, including the following: "If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people," "The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home," and "The perfecting of one's self is the fundamental base of all progress and all moral development."

Legacy: Confucius died in 479 BCE, probably at the age of 73 or 74. After his death, his disciples recorded his teachings in a book now known as the Analects, and spread his teachings far and wide. Confucianism became the basis for government and family relationships not only in China itself, but also in Korea, Vietnam and (to a lesser extent) Japan over the next two thousand years. One of Confucius's foundational ideas was that of the junzi, or ideal man. Originally, the word simply meant "the son of a lord," so any nobleman was a junzi. Confucius changed the usage, however, to mean an educated man of good character and benevolent mind - a true gentleman, regardless of birth. As Confucianism developed, the Chinese government began to choose gentleman scholars as court officials, rather than filling the court with anyone who had a hereditary claim to nobility. This civil service exam system meant that even the son of a peasant, if he was smart and lucky enough to get a rich patron, could become a government official. Although some people over the years have worshiped Confucius as a deity of learning, and have built temples to honor him, Confucius himself says absolutely nothing about gods or religion in his teachings. The closest approach to religion is in his emphasis on respecting one's ancestors. Sources: http://asianhistory.about.com/od/ancientchin a/p/Confucius.htm http://buddhism.about.com/od/lifeofthebudd ha/a/buddhalife.htm