Gautam Buddha: A Symbol of Peace, Empathy and Compassion

Last Updated: March 19, 2024

Gautam Buddha: A Symbol of Peace, Empathy and Compassion

Photo: Original Painting of Buddha by Artist Bikash Gurung

What is Buddhism? Is it a faith, a philosophy, or a religion? How did Gautam Buddha who was born as Siddhartha Gautam in Lumbini Nepal, in the Kingdom of King Suddhodana and mother Mahamaya become a legend? How a prince who was born in luxury  could become a symbol of Peace, Empathy and Compassion.

Here we will explore this legendary spiritual journey of Gautam Buddha. We will find how his sermons and teachings are leading the people of world towards direction of more empathetic, compassionate, and peaceful lives.

Gautam  Before the Enlightenment

By the time he was born a priest (fortune teller) has predicted either the child will become a powerful emperor or will become a monk. Worried by the later statement of the priest, the king ordered in the palace that all the luxury and comfort should be given to the boy so that he would never think of being a monk or practice ascetic life. For the same reason he was married early to Yasodhara. Yasodhara and Siddhartha had a son Rahul.

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Despite the king's efforts of keeping his son away from painful realities of life, Siddhartha had the four observations of realities of life while he was out in the world. The four observations were An Old Person, A Sick Person, A Dead Person and An Ascetic. Gautam felt filled with grief and sorrow as this was his first encounter with the first 3 realities of life. With the observation of the life of Ascetic, who was always in a smiling face without owning any materialistic luxuries of the world, Siddhartha Gautam felt inclined to renunciation and detachment from worldly matters.

According to the Buddhist belief:

After Siddhartha’s observation of Old Person, A Sick Person, A Dead Person and An Ascetic, Gautam felt filled with grief and sorrow and this moment was pivotal as it seeded the inception of him becoming Buddha in the future.

Buddha In the Path of Enlightenment

When Gautam was 29 years old, he abandoned his kingdom and left for the search of enlightenment, this moment is referred as Mahabhiniskaram in Buddhist beliefs. He went to learn from guru Alaar Kalam, after that he went to visit Dharmacharya Rudrak Ramputra, but he still felt something was missing. By the age of 35 he started practicing meditation in the bank of Nirajana river, beneath the shade of Bodhi tree (Wisdom Tree) in Bodh Gaya. This is where he attained enlightenment and became Buddha, which is also called Tathagat, which means ‘The Enlightened One’.

From Bodhgaya, Buddha went to Sarnath and then he shared his learnings to the 5 Brahmins. From there on the legacy of Buddha began and his findings through the enlightenment started spreading around the world.

Buddha and Peace

There are many incidents in history that proves Buddhism to be pacifist. In Buddhism, malicious thoughts or actions are considered obstacles on the way to nirvana. From the abolishment of Emperor Ashoka of the bloodshed he was doing to the Buddha stopping a looming war with the Koliyas, there are examples where Buddhism has brought peace.

Every precepts of Panchashila in Buddhism inspires us for the possibility of peaceful coexistence between people. Peace and integrity are the core of Buddhism. Born in Lumbini Nepal, attained enlightenment in India, but followed all over the world, Buddha and Buddhism has become a global phenomenon.

Gautam Buddha and Compassion

Gautam Buddha embraced the way of Satt Dhamma path. He started practicing meditation every day, he started exploring his inner self with enlightenment. He started spreading his learning to the people in different parts of India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Compassion has always been elemental in Buddha’s teachings.

Compassion is a feeling which is reflected after you confront the sufferings of other people and  get compelled to reduce that suffering. In the Buddha's teaching it is stated that to realize enlightenment, a person should develop two qualities, wisdom and compassion. A significant spiritual concept in Buddhism is Karuna, which literally means compassion.

Buddha and Empathy

Buddha's teaching also implies that empathy is essential for living a compassionate life. One of the reasons Siddhartha decided to be ascetic was empathy, when we saw the four sights and facts of life, he felt empathy towards those who are suffering from life. In a quest for finding the resolution to these suffering he abandoned his royal life and went in a journey with the quest of finding the solution of human suffering.

Most of the Eightfold Path of Buddhism inspires for the empathy towards others, like Right Action, Right Speech and Right Mindfulness. The code of conduct in Buddhism which includes the points like Do not commit violence to others, Do not covet other’s property are the conducts that makes people empathetic towards others.

Buddhism beliefs and practices

Some people consider Buddhism as a religious sect. Some consider it to be a philosophy. Gautam Buddha was a practical reformer who accepted the societal realities of that time and acted upon the problems it had. He connected himself with the ordinary problems of society and individuals. He found out the world is filled with sorrow and griefs and the root cause of these sorrows and griefs are the desires of humans. If these desires could be controlled then humans will achieve the Nirvana.

The Middle path is one of the most significant philosophies of Buddhism. According to the Middle Path one should live life in between luxury and austerity. Buddhism is widely appreciated for its individualistic component and its principle of stating that every individual is responsible for its own happiness and sadness.

Principal Elements of Buddhism

Three principle elements of Buddhism were Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Which means every Buddhist devotee seeks  these three jewels i.e The Buddha , Dhamma or teachings of Buddha and Sangha or community of monks  as essential components to turn for guidance.

Buddhist temples, monasteries and their values

As The Sangha being third principal elements of Buddhism, temples and monasteries have always been very essential to lay the foundation of Buddhism in any place.

Monasteries and temples have always played a significant role in bringing together all the disciples, devotees and aspirers of Buddhism. With time Buddhist monasteries emerged as a great place for learning and attaining wisdom.

Schools of Buddhism

As Buddhism is practiced in different parts of the world, it became one of the most diversified religions. Therefore, there are different schools of Buddhism.

Mahayana Buddhism also means Great Vehicle ,  is the school in which Buddha is regarded as a god. Hinayana or Lesser Vehicle school however emphasizes on Buddha’s teachings and rejects the worshiping of idols of Buddha. This school focuses on Self Discipline and Meditation. Theravada school  is considered closest to the original Buddha’s teachings.The school of  Zen Buddhism also emphasizes meditation and direct experience of enlightenment..

In a Nutshell: Buddha symbol of peace

We can say that Buddha is a great inspiration for humanity. The journey of a child born as a Prince and turned into a monk, and enlightened the whole world with the teachings of Peace, Empathy and Compassion is actually fascinating.

Buddhism emphasized on salvation of individuals or Nirvana. Buddhism had put a light on rationalism and reasoning instead of superstitions. With the concept of Ahimsa “non-violence” , Buddhism is always pledging to the world to lead the way towards peace.

As per the followers of the Buddha:

Buddha enlightened the whole world with the teachings of Peace, Empathy and Compassion as Buddhism now is pledging to the world to lead the way towards peace.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 4 rules of Gautam Buddha?

Dukkha, Samudāya , Nirodha ,Magga which mean Truth of suffering, Origin of Suffering, Cessation of Suffering and Path to Cessation of Suffering respectively are the  4 rules of Gautam Buddha.

What are the 3 main beliefs of Buddhism?

Buddhist beliefs are founded over three major refuges, which are The Buddha, The Dharma (Dhamma) and The Sangha (community).

What made Buddha so special?

The entire journey of Buddha, his transition from a prince to a spiritual leader to an idol and the peace  and compassion brought to the world through his teaching made Buddha special.

Note: The image of Buddha paint used in this story is an original paint from artist Bikash Gurung from Nepal. Bikash is an aspiring talent who was also the survivor of the Earthquake in Nepal in 2015. Ever since local organizations of Nepal are supporting Bikash to hone his art talent.

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