Siddhartha’s Early Life

Prince Siddhattha and Princess Yasodhara's marriage by Hintha

Prince Siddhartha and Princess Yasodhara’s marriage by Hintha

There is plenty of myth and legend surrounding the early years of the Buddha’s life but it is generally excepted that Siddhartha Gautama was born somewhere between 563BCE and 480BCE. Current research cannot pin the event down any more accurately than that. His father and mother were king and queen of a small clan called the Shakyas in an area that is now part of southern Nepal.

Siddhartha was a prince, and with that came certain luxuries. It is said that he had attendants to hold white linen sheets above him during the hot season to keep him cool, and during the cool season to keep him warm. He had a retinue of female musicians to entertain him should he so wish. He basically wanted for nothing. He had three palaces built for him, one for each season, and at the age of 16 was, by arrangement, married to Yasodharā, a cousin of his. This marriage produced a son named Rāhula.

His mother, Maya, unfortunately died either during or shortly after childbirth, but his father did his best to prepare Siddhartha for the responsibility of becoming the ruler of their land. Whilst doing this his father, Suddhodana, protected him from all the trials and tribulations that normal daily life might befall the young man. Siddhartha knew nothing of poverty, illness, old age and death.

At the age of 29. Siddhartha left palace life to become an ascetic having come to the conclusion that luxury and material wealth was not life’s ultimate goal. He had convinced a charioteer to take him to meet his people and it was the charioteer who explained to him the nature of poverty, illness, death and asceticism. With this new found knowledge, Siddhartha become disillusioned with the life he had led and left his life of royalty, wife and child to search for the true life that solves the problems that beset humanity.

It was 6 years of training under various guru’s and ascetics before he finally sat down one night with the determination to meditate and not stop until he attained full and true enlightenment. This meditation is reputed to have taken 49 days.

Various Suttas show glimpses of the Buddha’s early life and some are listed below. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but will be added to should my own studies throw up other good examples.

MN 26: Ariyapariyesana Sutta: The Noble Search

In this Sutta the Buddha himself recounts his search for enlightenment and the true and lasting happiness that comes with attaining it.

MN 36: Mahāsacca­kasutta: The Greater Discourse to Saccaka

In this Sutta the Buddha replies to Saccaka with tails of the luxuries he experienced as a prince and the severe austerities he went through on his path to enlightenment.

AN 3:39 Sukhumālasutta: Delicate

With this short Sutta from the Anguttara Nikaya Book of 3’s, the Buddha gives some insight into the luxuries he was allowed as a prince, but also teaches on the three intoxicants that beset us all.