Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.
The roots of Buddhism can be traced to one man: Siddhartha Gautama, a prince from a small state in northern India. Although he was a historical figure, many of the stories about him are based on legend. This has made it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction. Yet the basic elements of Siddhartha Gautama’s life story—whether real or invented—are well known, as are his religious teachings. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down and still followed to this day.
Here are ten interesting facts about Buddha you may have not known.
1 – Not A Religious Leader
You always hear Buddha as the founder of Buddhism, while he never claimed this. He was rather a teacher who rejected the ways of traditional Hindu religious orthodoxy and offered an alternative path to a sect of wandering homeless ascetics, who existed at that time in India. After his death, the whole thing turned into a religious movement.
2 – Not A Prince
Various legends present him as a king, the son of King Suddhodana Gautama, but there is apparently no historical basis. Rather it is believed that his father was more like a tribe’s chief, and their family was one of the leading families of the social organisation that resembled a republican system as opposed to a monarchy.
3 – Controversy Over His Hometown
Buddhist sources mention the city of Kapilavastu, where he lived till he was 29, as the hometown of the Buddha. But, when the archeologists studied the site and dated it, they apparently found that nothing at the site suggested a date that early as it is supposed to have been founded a century or more before the birth of the Buddha. Some also consider Piprahwa village in Northern India, as his hometown but it is still a mystery.
4 – Uncertain Chronology
The traditional date speculated for the birth of Buddha was around 560 BC, which the modern scholars do not approve of, because they feel that the Indian Chronology is inconsistent. Most of them believe that Buddha died 100 years before the reign of Ashoka at the age of 80, which is around 450 BC, inferred from early Buddhist sources.
5 – Humble Beginning
From the scarcity of written texts and archeological evidences, the researchers inferred that it would have been a humble beginning for the sect found by Buddha. But, by the 3rd century B.C, King Ashoka turned Buddhism into the state religion of India by encouraging social and political climate for the acceptance of Buddhist ideas and also sponsoring the Buddhist Missionaries. After Ashoka, the Buddhist material evidence is abundant.
6 – Not A ‘Man Of God’
Buddha never claimed to be a god, a prophet, or an agent, rather he claimed to be of a man convinced of the supreme position of humans, believing that knowledge and personal effort are the true means of salvation.
7 – Not A Vegetarian
Buddha was a vegetarian, has no historical basis, moreover, some pages of history, describe him as eating meat and advising on meat broths as a way to treat some illnesses. Some historical accounts suggest that his last meal was a wild boar.
8 – Belief In Previous Reincarnations
The early Buddhists created a number of literary works about past Buddhas, in order to to stress the idea that what the Buddha taught was nothing new but rather a timeless truth. Interestingly, their general outline of most of the stories was identical, such as they all attain a state of enlightenment seated on the grass and they all die after eating meat.
9 – The Buddha As A Deity
It is ironical how a person who taught oneness of mankind, came to be regarded as a god. Hinduism, which has various gods and goddesses, considers Buddha as one of their God, Vishnu’s manifestation. Even ironic is the fact that, elevating the Buddha’s status over the human realm also did not apparently made his image more powerful in any way.
10 – The Remains Of The Buddha
The Mahaparinirvana Sutra, how the followers of Buddha cremated him. The remains were apparently divided into eight portions and sent to eight different states visited by the Buddha during his lifetime and a stupa was erected in each state.
Some claim that Ashoka got these Stupas opened and redistributed the remains in a higher number of portions, post which, more number of stupas were built.