The childhood name of Gautama Buddha was Siddhartha. He was born in 563 BC. His father’s name was Shuddhodhana who was the king of Kapilvastu. His mother’s name was Maya Devi. She died when Gautama was only seven days old. It was his stepmother, Gautami Devi, who brought him up.
He grew up to be a very sensitive young man who was much concerned with the welfare of others. His father tried his best to keep him involved in the luxurious life of the palace. He did not want that young Siddhartha should go outside and see the misery of the world. But history tells us that the young man went out with his charioteer, Channa on three occasions, at least.
Siddhartha was greatly touched as he saw an old man, a sick man and a dead body. He wanted to do something to deliver the humanity from all such misery. He reflected on this problem for long.
At last on hearing some words from the mouth of a hermit which encouraged him to renounce the world, he decided to leave the palace and go into the forest for meditation. Before going, he had a lasting glance on his beloved wife Yashodhra and son, Rahul, who were enjoying a sound sleep at midnight. He started austere meditation to know the secret of life and death and observed long fasts. At last, he got enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Gaya. Now, he became the ‘Buddha’ the enlightened one.
He delivered his first sermon at Sarnath. At first, five persons became his disciples. Soon, his message began to spread far and wide and the number of his disciples grew quickly. Buddhist ‘math’ were later established all over the country. He was an agnostic. He challenged the truth of the Vedas. He laid stress on truth and reason. He preached that the sole cause of misery was our desires which should be controlled to get peace and happiness.
He laid emphasis on the middle path and exhorted his disciples to follow the eight fold path to get rid of misery. In essence, his message means service to mankind and all living beings without any selfish motives.