The Five-Minute Buddhist Books

Recommended Host

Podcast Episode 2: Who Was The Buddha?


Welcome back!

This is episode 2 of the Daily Buddhism, for February 24th, 2008. For more information, please visit .

I am still here in Japan, so my access to the Internet is a little sporadic; as you have probably figured out, the Daily Buddhism isn’t exactly ‚ÄúDaily‚Äù just yet. I’ll be doing at least one podcast and blog entry each week until I get back to the States in mid-March. At that point we’ll pick up and hit our stride, actually going daily. In the meantime, I am going to be covering the basics of Buddhism in a few background episodes. If you have any specific questions about anything at all, please email me at If you send an MP3 recording, I’ll play it on the show, otherwise, just ask your question by email.

Last time, we briefly discussed the answer to the question, “What is Buddhism?” Today we will cover the story of the Buddha himself. Keep in mind that there are actually several different variations on the story, and we will cover some of them eventually, but this version seems to be the most common one.

Who Was The Buddha?
By “Dr. Arcane”Around 2500 years ago, King Shuddodana Gautama of the Shakya clan ruled in northern India. He built a great castle and ruled his people well. One night, his wife, Queen Maya, had a strange dream wherein she saw a white elephant enter her womb through the side of her chest. She soon found that she was indeed pregnant. The people of the kingdom were thrilled that there would soon be a royal heir.Planning to have the child at her parent’s home, Maya traveled there before the birth. On April 8th, on the way to Queen Maya’s ancestral home, she stopped to rest in a garden. Reaching for a blossoming branch in the garden, she suddenly, painlessly, had the child. Unfortunately, a few days later, Queen Maya died.The baby was named Siddhartha, meaning, ‚ÄúEvery wish fulfilled,‚Äù and was raised within his father’s grand castle. His father, of course, expected young Siddhartha to succeed him as King at some point in the future.


Fate, however, had other plans for Siddhartha. A wandering holy man came to the castle to see the King. He had a vision concerning the young Prince and had to tell the King. He foretold that the young boy had two possible futures; either as a great King who would rule the entire world, or as a great holy man. The King decided immediately that his son would not leave the castle and learn to be the great future King.

Young Siddhartha lived in the castle and grew up inside its protective walls, never seeing anything that would make him think of spiritual or religious things. His father was careful to remove all hints of the real suffering that accompany this world. The Prince lived a perfectly shielded life. His father arranged a marriage, and then Siddhartha had a son of his own. Not long after, on a parade through the city, he spotted three sights. First he saw a sick man. He asked his good friend and charioteer, “Will I become sick?” The charioteer answered truthfully, “Ees, eventually we all get sick.” They continued through the city, and the Prince spotted a very old man. He asked, “Will I grow old like that man?” to which the charioteer answered similarly. Lastly, he saw a dead man being carried away. “Will I die?” he asked, and did not like the answer.

Leaving his wife and son behind, Siddhartha abandoned the castle and went off to live in the wilderness as a wandering holy man. He met up with other ascetic mendicants, refusing to eat, spending all day in meditation and denying all pleasures. For years he studied with the ascetics, and nearly starved to death in the process. After six years studying in this manner, he finally decided that he would learn no more following this path. He decided that denying the world was wrong, but that enjoying life too much, as in his younger days, was ad as well. He decided to follow a “Middle Path.” His friends, the other five mendicants, abandoned him, since he no longer believed as they did.

He then sat beneath a Bodhi tree and meditated. During this meditation, he was tempted in many ways to abandon his search for truth and live a life of pleasure. He rejected every temptation and continued his struggle to know. At last, he succeeded, becoming enlightened under the Bodhi tree, and the world would never be the same for him. At 35 years old, he became a Buddha, one who is “awake.”

He met up with his five mendicant friends, and he quickly convinced them that his path was real, and they became his first followers. He traveled the countryside, teaching his ways, and word quickly spread about this man who taught the Path to Enlightenment. He soon had many thousands of followers. He was eventually reunited with his father, wife and son, and they too, became his followers.

He traveled around teaching for decades, and at around age 80, died from eating some spoiled food. He foresaw his death, but continued teaching as always until the very moment of death. He closed his eyes and in perfect peace, moved on to Nirvana. Stories about his life, his teachings, and his Path were written down and his followers continued to spread the message for the next 2500 years.

Since then, people have known him by many names; Siddhartha, Buddha, Gotama, Shakyamuni, Enlightened One, Tathagata, and many others. Not a god, just a man, but the greatest teacher of all time.

And that was the story of the original Buddha. Actually, Buddhism would tell us that there were actually Buddhas before him, and many after him too, but for our purposes, he’s ‚ÄúTHE Buddha.‚Äù

And that’s it for Episode 2. Next week, we’ll talk a bit about ‚ÄúWhat Buddhists Believe,‚Äù continuing our series on Basic Buddhism. Unless you send in questions that is; if you have questions, we can cover those first. Just email your questions to or go to and ask them in a comment under the show notes for this episode. If you haven’t yet subscribed to the podcast, you can do so by going to http://www.daily and clicking on the Daily Buddhism logo to subscribe using iTunes.And although the podcast and shownotes-blog are fun, the real core of the Daily Buddhism lies in the mailing list. Once we get going, you’ll get some aspect of Buddhism in your daily email, so be sure to sign up for that in the box on the website. We have a special offer right now. Subscribe to the mailing list, and you’ll get a free copy of the book ‚ÄúThe Essence of Buddhism‚Äù compiled by E. M. Bowden. It’s a great book, filled with wonderful quotes and beautiful ideas.Transcription Service by


3 comments to Podcast Episode 2: Who Was The Buddha?

  • Lindsey

    I stumbled across your podcast and I really enjoy it so far. Namaste!

  • ananthaka

    please correct this great mistake that budhdha is not a self as we are .buddha defeated the birth and death unless ther is no buddhahood.only the entities with self concept carries the ideologies of birth and death of ones self.buddha is free from self,life or individualism.that is why so many could not recognize buddha even though they saw the physical body of gauthama the budhdhas words is: the one who sees the dhamma within himself sees me or budhdha.

  • Sherry mulligan

    Brian, love your podcasts! I’ve learned a lot from you about many subjects including Buddhism. Thanks for what you are doing and keep it up. Thanks Sherry