The word Buddha means “One Who is Awake”
History records that the Buddha was born as a prince in an ancient kingdom of northern India. He spent his early life in luxury, shielded from the world.
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.
For 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.
Having 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.
From 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 The 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 human being.
For 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.
May there be peace in the entire Universe