Birth and Early Life

The man who was to become the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was born about 2,500 years ago to a regal family in the city of Kapilavastu. Siddhartha’s father, King Shuddhodana arranged for him to be brought up in a world of luxury in order to shield his son from the harsh realities of life outside the palace. Siddhartha enjoyed the best food, wore the most expensive clothing, and was attended by many servants. In spite of this, however, Siddhartha remained restless. One day, he attended an agricultural festival, where he saw a bird pecking at a worm. This caused him to go into deep meditation, in which he realized the cruelty of life’s struggles.

Eventually, Siddhartha married and produced an heir. But he remained discontented. So his father arranged for him to travel outside the palace compound. But what he witnessed was illness, old age, and death. He realized that human beings could not escape such suffering. On his final such excursion, he saw a holy man. The serenity of the holy man inspired Siddhartha to lead the same kind of life. So, at the age of 29, he left his palace to search for a way out of the suffering that people of the world have to endure. This motivation to help others became the foundation for the development of Buddhism.


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