Founders by Julia Hardy
- Born a wealthy prince in the state of Kapilavastu, in what would become India, as a young man Siddhartha Gautama became discontented with his life.
He had wealth, power, a beautiful wife, a healthy son — everything a young man could want. He came to the realization, however, that all of these things were fleeting. Someday he, like everyone else, would become sick and old, and someday he would die.
- He studied with various teachers who were also renunciants. He tried many paths, the last of which called for six years of extreme self-deprivation. Eventually, he decided that this path was not working for him, and determined that he would sit in meditation until he found an answer.
- The Buddha did not represent himself as a supernatural being; he said he was simply a man who had a realization about the nature of human existence.
- Legends of his birth told that his mother was impregnated as she dreamed of a white elephant, and that she gave birth to him standing up, through her armpit.
Another legend told how as a young man, he vied with others for the hand of a beautiful young woman, and demonstrated both intellectual and athletic prowess in winning her hand.
- At the time of his birth, astrologers were said to have predicted that he would become either a great ruler or a great spiritual teacher.
- It was said that he lived on a grain of rice a day, and became so thin he could feel his backbone when he pressed upon his stomach.
- Coming upon a tree now known as the Bodhi tree, in the small town of Bodhgaya, he decided to sit there until he attained enlightenment. During the night, Mara, the tempter, deity of desire, appeared and put him through many trials.
The cause of his death is not clear, but it was apparently some kind of food poisoning. According to legend, he was aware before he ate it that the food was deadly and he protected others from eating it.
His body was cremated, and various relics taken from the remains were distributed. These remains of his physical body were believed to have sacred power. Eventually they were interred in stupas, which became important Buddhist symbols and objects of veneration.
- Over the centuries, legends of the Buddha's previous lives emerged and were recorded as the Jataka Tales. It was said that in one life he was a rabbit who came across a hunter lost in the woods and starving.
First shaking the fleas from his fur, so as not to sacrifice their lives too, he leapt into the hunter's fire in order to offer himself up as a meal. Another of these tales tells of a lifetime as an elephant that jumped from a cliff to provide food for hundreds of starving men.
- Still later, the notion developed that there were many Buddhas in the universe, that Buddhas had been incarnated as humans many times previously, and that more would emerge in the future. It was predicted that Maitreya, the next Buddha to come, would appear sometime in the distant future.