Buddhism began when Siddhartha Gautama experienced a spiritual awakening over 2,500 years ago in India, and became an “awakened one,” or Buddha. In this first episode on his life, I first explain in detail the sources of biographical information we have on the Buddha – their historicity and significance. Then I tell the story of the Buddha’s life from just before his birth until he decides to leave home as a spiritual mendicant.
According to tradition, Buddhism began with the Buddha’s enlightenment. This was the spiritual awakening of one man, Siddhartha Gautama, somewhere between 528 and 445 BCE, who afterwards was called the “Buddha,” or “awakened one.” He then taught others what he realized, along with the methods he used to achieve that realization, and those teachings have been passed down to the present day. What exactly did Siddhartha comprehend in his enlightenment?
At the time of the Buddha around 500 BCE, social and economic changes had paved the way for new schools of religious thought and practice. In this episode, I talk about these new religious movements, including Buddhism – particularly, their major spiritual questions and how they answered them. This gives you a sense of how Buddhism compared to the other new religions of its time, and how the Buddha’s approach differed from those of his contemporary spiritual teachers.
The first episode in my “Buddhist History and Seminal Texts” series, about the historical and religious context for the beginnings of Buddhism in India around 500 BCE. I give you a brief overview of the history of civilization in India, and a sense of the dominant religious traditions of northern India from around 2000 BCE through the time of the Buddha. Then I describe the period of social and economic changes starting around 800 BCE that apparently paved the way for new schools of religious thought and practice, including Buddhism.