Buddha Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism in this world, was born as a prince in 624BC in a place called Lumbini, which was originally in northern India but is now part of Nepal.
‘Shakya’ is the name of the royal family into which he was born, and ‘Muni’ means ‘Able One’. His parents gave him the name Siddhartha and there were many auspicious predictions about his future.
In his early years he lived as a prince in the royal palace but when he was 29 years old he retired to the forest where he followed a life of meditation. After six years he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India.
He was subsequently requested to teach others the path to enlightenment.
“As a result of this request, Buddha rose from meditation and taught the first Wheel of Dharma. These teachings which include the Sutra of the Four Noble Truths and other discourses, are the principal source of the Hinayana, or Lesser Vehicle, of Buddhism.
Later, Buddha taught the second and third Wheels of Dharma, which include the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and the Sutra Discriminating the Intention respectively. These teachings are the source of the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, of Buddhism.
In the Hinayana teachings Buddha explains how to attain liberation from suffering for oneself alone, and in the Mahayana teachings he explains how to attain full enlightenment, or Buddhahood, for the sake of others.
Both traditions flourished in Asia, at first in India and then gradually in other surrounding countries, including Tibet. Now they are also beginning to flourish in the West.”
Introduction to Buddhism by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
In all, Buddha Shakyamuni gave eighty-four thousand teachings, revealing many profound methods of spiritual training, all of which are practical ways to purify and control our mind. If we put these methods into practice we shall definitely gain a special experience of mental peace. By continuing to improve this experience, deluded states of mind will gradually diminish and our inner peace will grow.
Eventually, by abandoning delusions altogether we shall attain the permanent inner peace of nirvana, just like Buddha himself. Having overcome our own delusions, such as anger, attachment, and ignorance, and developed profound spiritual realizations of universal love, compassion, concentration, and wisdom, our ability to help others will be far greater.
In this way we can help others solve their problems not just for a few days or a few years, but forever. We can help them find an inner peace and joy that nothing, not even death, can destroy. This unchanging inner peace is the final goal of the Buddhist path.