Religion in Thailand
* Buddhism - Monastic life - Buddhist doctrine - The Wat
* Popular Religion * Other Religions
The term Buddhism is derived from the honorific title given to the founder of the teaching. Buddha means the Awakened or Enlightened One; and Buddhists maintain that their religion is universal and eternal, and that its "light" is periodically rediscovered and proclaimed by Buddha - a name applied to all such "prophets and not only to the historical Buddha, who is usually referred to as Gautama or Sakyasinha ("Lion of the Sakya clan").
Gautama was born at Kapilavastu in the Himalayas, on the borders of Nepal, probably about 560 B.C. His father Suddhodana (usually called a king, though he may have been merely a prince or a noble of high lineage) had him brought up in wealth and luxury and sought to spare him all the trials of life; for he hoped that his son, Prince Siddartha ("he who has attained his aim"), would become a great ruler and not a world teacher, as had been prophesied by the eminent sage Asita. The boy lost his mother, Maya, soon after his birth and was brought up by his aunt. At the age of 16 he was married to his cousin Yasodhara. But all his father's attempts to shelter him from the world were vain, for on four successive occasions when he was driving outside the palace a divinity appeared to him in the guise of an aged man, a sick man, a corpse and an ascetic. When his charioteer explained to him the meaning of these visions the young man returned home profoundly distressed and resolved to leave the palace in quest of truth. One night, therefore, the Bodhisattva (one predestined to Enlightenment, a future Buddha) left his wife secretly to live without a roof over his head. To increase the sorrow of this parting, according to one legend, his son Rahula was born on the very day of his departure. Another legend has it, however, that the child was born before Gautama took his decision and that upon learning of the birth he cried, "Rahula has been born: my fetters are now forged."
Thereafter Siddartha led the life of a wandering pilgrim. Two Brahman ascetics whom he consulted were unable to reveal to him the way to salvation, and he made his way to Uruvela, where by inhuman austerity and extreme mortification of the flesh - his only food being a single grain of rice a day -he sought to attain salvation by his own efforts; but still Enlightenment did not come. After several years, at the end of his strength, he came to the conclusion that this self-mortification would not enable him to attain his aim. He began to eat more plentifully and devoted himself to profound meditation: whereupon five ascetics who also lived at Uruvela and had become his disciples left him, believing that he had abandoned his quest.