History of Buddhism - Page 1 <Page: 2 , 3 >
A Buddha is not a deity. A Buddha is a human being who has obtained the life condition of compassion, mercy and wisdom, and is dedicated to opening the door to the same enlightenment for all people. In the last four lines of Gongyo that we recite every day, the Buddha says, “This is my constant thought: how can I cause all living beings to gain entry to the highest Way and quickly attain Buddhahood.”
The Buddha most people have heard of is Shakyamuni, also known as Gautama or Siddhartha, who was born a prince about 3,000 years ago in northern India. As a child and young man he lived a life of luxury and privilege, wanting for nothing, and separated entirely from what went on outside the castle walls. Eventually, upon venturing beyond the castle compound, he was stunned by the suffering he saw. From that point Shakyamuni devoted himself to find a way to end human suffering. His spiritual quest culminated in his attaining a great enlightenment at age 30. Many disciples gathered around him. He began teaching from a very basic level, step by step, for 42 years. People traveled from great distances, stayed a while and returned home with whatever he was teaching at the time. This is one reason why there are still so many sects and forms of Buddhist teachings in different parts of the world today. At 72, realizing the end of his life was approaching, Shakyamuni spent the next 8 years teaching the Lotus Sutra, his ultimate teaching and the reason for his advent in the world.