Siddhartha Gautama was a devoted spiritual teacher and is considered as the founder of the Buddhism faith. Within the Buddhist faith, Siddhartha Gautama is the Supreme “Buddha” meaning “awakened one” or “the enlightened one” and is often considered within the religion of Hinduism as a deity. Historians are not sure of the exact years of his birth and death. For the most part, it is believed that he lived around 563 BCE to 483 BCE, while other historians think his passing on occurred between 486 and 483 BCE.
Siddhartha Gautama is said to have been born in Lumbini and was raised in the small state of Kapilavastu, which is now modern day Nepal, and subsequently traveled and taught mainly across the regions of eastern India. Many of his teachings were passed down from one generation to another orally at first, but were later written down about 400 years after Buddha. Many centuries later, another great teacher would share in some of Siddhartha Gautama’s fantastic ideologies.
For many, this great teacher would become the standard of achieving enlightenment and the way to peace. This great spiritual teacher was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
His life spanned from 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948 and he was a political and ideological leader of India during the years of the independence movement for India, to gain freedom from Great Britain. He introduced the notion of Satyagraha which is resisting oppression by making use of of mass civil disobedience, while remaining ahimsa or nonviolent. His guidance in the course of his teachings and examples helped India achieve independence from Great Britain and inspired many other people of various cultures to seek out their civil rights and freedom from those who oppress them.
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Gandhi is often referred to as Mahatma, meaning “great soul. ” Gandhi like Buddha believed in the simplicity in one’s life. Gandhi truly believed that a person working in a public service position should follow the path of a simple life. Gandhi for the first time openly practiced this principle when he gave up wearing western-style clothing, which he related this to wealth and success. When Gandhi returned to India, he renounced the former western lifestyle he once lived while in South Africa; where he had enjoyed a successful career as an attorney.
In regards to the concept of undertaking a vow of simplicity when living in everyday life; both Siddhartha Gautama and Mahatma Gandhi were both very similar in their ideologies of this aspect of their teachings and their practices. Just as Gandhi purged his life of everything but the necessities, so did Buddha. Siddhartha Gautama’s father wanted to shield him from the harsh conditions of life outside of the palace walls. However, at the age of 29 years old, Siddhartha departed the protective environment of his palace, due to his desire to meet his subjects.
It is believed that until that point in Siddhartha’s life, he had never seen anyone who appeared to be hungry, sick, suffering or even aged. For the first time Siddhartha saw an old man, this intrigued him so he asked questions. One of his charioteers informed him that all people eventually grew old; the prince subsequently went on other trips outside of the palace. On these trips he witnessed more suffering among his subjects, including a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and a man who undertook a lifestyle as an ascetic.
These experiences caused him sorrow, he then decided to overcome these various sufferings of humanity by vowing to live the life of an ascetic and rely completely on the generosity of others for the necessities to maintain his well being. Thus this required for him to renounce all luxuries from his life, just as Gandhi would centuries later. Both Buddha and Gandhi came from privileged lives before taking vows to poverty while on their paths to spiritual enlightenment.
The first came from a sheltered life as prince, while the other came from a life as a very well educated and successful attorney. However, they both later experienced the world that were external to the bubble in which they were accustomed of living; allowing them to connect with life in a new way. They were both indeed the extreme antagonist to other world-shaping people such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, who attempted to walk humanity down a path of evil; whereas Gautama Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi attempted to walk humanity down a path of good.
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