(This is the beginning of a series on the philosophy of Buddhism).
Siddhartha Gautama (circa 563-483BC of the Christian era) was born to the royal family of the Shakya clan, at the capital city of Kosala in what is now Nepal. At his birth, a seer by the name of Asita foretold that prince Siddhartha would either become a great king or a holy man. King Shudhodhana, preferring a heir to the throne, decided to shield his only son from the real world and confine him within the palace walls.
When Siddhartha was 29 years old, his curiousity led him to explore beyond the palace gates. He encountered a sick man, an old man and a funeral procession. His sheltered life did not prepare him for this and he was shocked at the suffering of man. In discussing these encounters with his charioteer, he also realised that power and wealth does not exempt one from suffering illness, old age and death.
Siddhartha was married to his cousin, Yasoda, and at the birth of their son, Rahula, he became determined to seek the meaning for existence. On one of his wanderings outside, he had met an ascetic. Siddhartha left the palace and decided to live the life of an ascetic.
Sources for “The Quest for Enlightenment” series:
1- Buddhism by Bradley K. Hawkins (Routledge, 1999)
2- The Art of Happiness by HH the Dalai Lama and HC Cutler (Hodder and Stoughton, 1998)
3- Buddha by Michael Caruthers (Oxford University Press, 1996)
4- The Buddha Book by Lillian Too (HarperCollins, 2003)
5- Teachings of the Buddha edited by Jack Kornfield with Gil Fronsdal (Shambhala, 1996)
6- Sayings of Buddha interpreted by Tsai Chih Chung (Asiapac Books, 1998)
7- Simple Buddhism by CA and A Simpkins, Ph.D. (Tuttle, 2000)
8- Introducing Buddha by JHope and BVan Loon (Icon Books, 1999)
9- The Living Thoughts of Gotama the Buddha by ACoomaraswamy and IBHorner (Dover Publications, 2000)
10- Buddhism by Edward Conze (Harper and Row, 1975)
11- The BBC’s Religion and Ethics: Buddhism