Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was born in Nepal in about 563 B.C.E. He was the son of a king. When Siddhartha was born, his father was told that the boy had two possible futures. He would be either a great king or a great spiritual leader.

Siddhartha’s father wanted him to be a king. He gave Siddhartha every luxury and kept him from any sadness. Then a series of carriage rides changed Siddhartha’s life. On the first ride, he saw an old person for the first time. He had not known that old age existed. On the next ride, he saw a sick person. He became aware of sickness and disease. Next he saw a corpse, and became aware of death. Finally he saw a holy man who had given up the world for the sake of spiritual things. Siddhartha decided that he too would give up the life he knew in order to seek spiritual fulfillment.

Why do you think that seeing old age, sickness, and death prompted Siddhartha to leave his life as a prince?

A Life-Changing Incident

Siddhartha Gautama was raised as a prince. Then a series of carriage rides changed his life. He left his home to search for spiritual fulfillment. He eventually found enlightenment, becoming the Buddha, the Awakened One, and the founder of Buddhism.

Think of an event or experience that changed your world. (It doesn’t need to be as complete or as sudden as the change Siddhartha experienced.) Describe the experience and how it affected you.

I am Awake

After his enlightenment, the Buddha passed a man on the road.

This man saw that the Buddha was different from other men.
He asked the Buddha “Are you a god?”
The Buddha replied “No.”
The man continued, “Then are you a magician or a wizard?”
“Are you a man?”
“Then what are you?” said the man.
The Buddha answered, “I am awake.”
Thus he was given his name. Buddha means “The awakened One.”

What do you think the Buddha meant by this answer?

Buddha Speaks

The Buddha is the founder of Buddhism. He said:

Do not accept anything on mere hearsay (i.e., thinking that thus have we heard it from a long time). Do not accept by mere tradition (i.e., thinking that it has thus been handed down through many generations). Do not accept anything on account of rumors (i.e., by believing what others say without any investigation). Do not accept anything just because it accords with your scriptures. Do not accept anything by mere supposition. Do not accept anything by mere inference. Do not accept anything merely considering their appearances. Do not accept anything merely because it agrees to your preconceived notions. Do not accept anything merely because it seems acceptable (i.e., should be accepted). Do not accept anything thinking that the ascetic is respected by us (and therefore it is right to accept his word).

What do you think the Buddha meant by this?


When Siddhartha became fully enlightened, he realized that people are not really separate from each other; we are all interconnected. He also realized that nothing in life is permanent; things change. Suffering is always a part of life, but there is a path that leads away from suffering.

In Buddhism, enlightenment means reaching a state beyond desire and suffering. But the word also has other meanings. Write about the meanings of the word enlightenment.

Taking Refuge

People who listen and accept the teachings of the Buddha are said to “take refuge.” This means they go to the Buddha (the Enlightened One), dharma (the teachings of Buddha), and the sangha (those who follow the Buddha) for protection.

There are many challenges in life. What do you need refuge from? To whom or what do you go for protection?

The Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths are central to Buddhism. These truths were taught by the Buddha shortly after he became enlightened.

The First Noble Truth is that life is frustrating and full of suffering, or dukkha.

The Second Noble Truth is that suffering is caused by tanha, the desire for private fulfillment.

The Third Noble Truth is that suffering can come to an end. If suffering is caused by selfish desire, it can be cured by overcoming desire.

The Fourth Noble Truth is that there is a path that leads away from suffering, the Eightfold Path. This path consists of eight practices that the Buddha believed would lead to enlightenment.

How could these four ideas form the core of a way of life?

The Eightfold Path

The Buddha devised the Eightfold Path to help others free themselves from suffering. The path calls for eight practices: Right Views, Right Intent, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Work ,Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.

Think about what each of these practices might mean. How could they be applied? Choose one practice and explain how you could apply it in your life.

Right Views

The first step on the Eightfold Path of Buddhism is called Right Views. This step means that you see clearly what is wrong with life.

It also means that you understand the Four Noble Truths: we suffer by grasping at things we do not need and running from things that we need not fear, but we can be freed from suffering if we follow the Eightfold Path.

Write about you grasping at things you do not need and things you fear for no reason.

Right Intent

The second step on the Eightfold Path of Buddhism is called Right Intent.

This has to do with willingness. It is not enough to understand the Four Noble Truths. We must be willing to base our actions on them. Sometimes we know something is good for us but we don’t do it, or we continue to do something we know is bad for us.

We all have things we know we should be doing, but we don’t do. They can be small things, like taking vitamins. They can be big things, like preparing ourselves for life after school.

Write about something you know you should be doing, but don’t do and why you don’t do it