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aimenathan_Hist111_shortBioPaper - AMERICAN MILITARY...

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AMERICAN MILITARY UNIVERSITY The Life of Siddhārtha Gautama Nathan Aime Instructor: Brian Todd Carey Department of History and Military Studies World Civilization before 1650, HIST111 March 23, 2011 Where and when was Siddhārtha Gautama born? Were there any persons or events in his early life which you believe helped shape this individual’s legacy? According to the sacred tales, in 563 BCE Siddhārtha Gautama, who was to become “The Buddha,” was born in Lumbini. This is now one of the world’s holiest places in southern Nepal at the foot of the Himalayas. 1 There are many legends surrounding the birth, life, and death of Siddhartha Gautama, passed down through the generations. The stories say that before his birth, his mother, the queen of a small Indian kingdom, had a dream. A beautiful white elephant offered 1 Stephen T. Asma, Why I Am a Buddhist (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Pub., 2010), 5. 2 The Buddha, DVD, directed by David Grubin (2010; New York, NY: David Grubin Productions, 2010). 3 Richard Gombrich, What the Buddha thought (Oakville, CT: Equinox Pub., 2009), 32.
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the queen a lotus flower and then entered the side of her body. When sages were asked to interpret the dream, they predicted the queen would give birth to a son, destined to become either a great ruler or a holy man. “One day,” they said, “he will either conquer the world or become an enlightened being, the Buddha.” Within 10 months, as a tree lowered a branch to support her, a baby boy was born, emerging from her side. Seven days later, the queen died. 2 He was the son of a king and as a child, Siddhartha’s father wants him to be a king, wants him to conquer the world and to be emperor of India, which at that time was 16 different kingdoms. And it was predicted that he would be able to conquer wherever he wanted if he remained as a king. So the father was creating this artificial environment to coddle him. His father wanted to prevent him from ever noticing that anything might be wrong with the world because he hoped that he would stay in the life they knew and loved and not go off, as was predicted at his birth, and possibly become a spiritual teacher rather than a king. 3 The king kept Siddhartha confined to the palace, spoiling him with treasures and every pleasure his heart could desire, praying he would never find an excuse to leave. Siddhartha spent his youth studying to become a warrior. When he turned 16, Siddhartha was presented with a beautiful bride, Princess Yasodhara, and together they had son, Rahula—who later became a Buddhist monk. Siddhartha and his family spent 13 years together in the palace of his father, but Siddhartha had grown tired of his lavish lifestyle. He wanted to see the world beyond the paradise his father had created for him. One night, Siddhartha snuck out of the palace while everyone was sleeping. He shaved his head and exchanged his princely garb for the rags of a poor man. This was the beginning of the spiritual journey that would
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