Lord Gautam Buddha, the initiator of Buddhism, was born in the royal family of Shakya rulers. Born as Prince Siddhartha Gautama, he possessed warm-hearted, brilliantly sharp, and insightful character since his childhood. His enlightened vision gained from the awareness of dukkha (Suffering) and a middle way to overcome dukkha, shaped him into a great spiritual teacher and philosopher.
Based on Buddhist tradition and history, it is said that King Suddhodana received a prediction from 8 Brahmins that Gautama Siddhartha would either be a wise King or be an ascetic. But, King Suddhodana wanted him to be a wise future ruler of the Shakya clan, so Prince Siddhartha was given prosperous and luxurious life. Prince Siddhartha hence was kept out of every single trace of the unsatisfactory and sad nature of the world. However, at his age of 29, he in his chariot got an opportunity to set off from the palace. In his first journey, he saw four heart- wrenching and thought-provoking events that led him to the realization of impermanence and dissatisfaction.
Disturbed by the sight and unanswered questions within, he eventually left his luxurious palace to move-on in a long spiritual search and into deep mediation. After more than six years of seeking answers to questions, he finally felt the pure enlightenment within him. Since then, Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha. Buddha Gautama afterward expressed his philosophy through “The Middle Way”, “The Four Noble Truths”, “The Novel Eightfold Path”, “ Three marks of existence”, “Karma and rebirth”, “ Five aggregations of Clinging”, “Dependent origination”, and “Nirvana”, to everyone who had been seeking for the level of enlightenment that he had accompanied.
Lumbini is the most important historical and religious pilgrimage site in the world as Lumbini is where Lord Buddha; the initiator of Buddhism, had been born. Buddhist history states that Maha Mayadevi; the queen of Shakya clan, was on her way to her maternal home when she got into the labor phase and hence gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama who later became Buddha after receiving enlightenment. Thus, Mayadevi Temple in Lumbini was constructed as a dedication to queen Maha Mayadevi. Mayadevi Temple is proved to the oldest Buddhist shrine that still exists in the 21 st century. Born in a royal family, Prince Siddhartha had lived his 29 years of initial life within the palace. Secluded within the palace, Gautama was prevented from seeing the unsatisfactory nature of the world.
Moreover, he was given every happiness and luxury to keep him away from the disturbing fact of the human life phase. Legend has it said that he was given 500 appealing women, combat training, and facilities with sport and exhilaration. He won his wife; princess Yasodhara, by beating other contestants in an archery contest. It is in Lumbini where prince Siddhartha and Yasodha had their son Rahula. Finally, he sacrificed everything in search of enlightenment and left his kingdom.
Bodh Gaya is another vital spot in Buddhist history. It was the place where Siddhartha Gautama finally became Buddha (Awakened One). At the age of 29, Prince Siddhartha had received an opportunity to voyage out of his palace, and it is when he saw four different natures of life that wrenched his heart. He saw an older man, a sick man, a corpse, and a holy man. Since then, his mind and spirit lost peace within. So to achieve the answers of numerous questions raised within, he left his luxurious palace, sacrificed his wife and son, and entered into the forest. Living a life as a travelling ascetic, he met many other ascetics and mastered their techniques. Six years, he meditated and followed the spiritual path that talented meditation teachers had shown him, but he couldn’t figure the actual nature of the mind. Following the harsh ascetic by consuming minimum food, forceful mind control, and breath control, he had become emaciated. Finally leaving the harsh ascetic and accepting milk and rice pudding from a village girl made him realize it was not the way to reach awakening. Afterwards, meditating under a Bodhi tree, he was enlightened. He had finally reached the level of nirvana (liberation).
Sarnath (near Varanasi) in ancient India was the place where Buddha delivered his first sermon to his five ascetic fellows before enlightenment. Although Buddha, after achieving enlightenment hesitated to deliver his sermon to anyone with a doubt that nobody will grasp the deep and subtle lessons that he had learned. However, it is said that god Brahma Sahampati persuaded him to at least try and teach the principles he had learned. During his first sermon of Buddhahood, he explained the principle of “The Noble Eightfold Path” and “The Middle Way”. After his 1st sermon, Kondanna (ascetic) followed the path of Buddha and hence became the 1st Bhikkhu of Buddhism. Since, then Buddha throughout his life wondered place to place delivering his learning and way to enlightenment to a diverse range of people ignoring age, sex, race, or anything that distinguished people.
Kushinagar is the place in ancient India where Gautam Buddha entered into his last deep meditation and died; which is said as attending Parinirvana. Based on Mahaparinibbana sutta, Buddha with his followers had been travelling after eating the meal Cunda; blacksmith had offered. Kushinagar is where Buddha fell to weak and ill and hence, had to stop. At Kushinagar, he for the last time re-convinced his instruction and rested forever under the Sala tree. During Buddha’s last breath, he also convinced his disciples that they should not be the followers of the leader but to be the light of their own.
“I can die happily. I have not kept a single teaching hidden in a closed hand. Everything that is useful for you, I have already given. Be your own guiding light.” – The Buddha, during his last breath at the age of eighty.
In the contemporary context, Buddhism has been rapidly increasing across the globe. So, all the shrines and trademarks related to Buddhism hold a great value in every Buddhists’ heart. Nowadays, the tour of these four significant sites is known as the Buddhist Circuit Tour. Besides the above mentioned four major Buddhist landmarks, there exist essential Buddhist pilgrimage sites like Swayambhunath, Boudhanath, Mahaboudha, Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, Rudra Varna Mahavihar, Ramagrama Stupa, Koliya, Halesi-Maratika Cave, etc.
Lord Gautam Buddha, with his teachings had been influencing the world since ancient time, and his philosophy continues in today’s world. In the present era, it is estimated that 488 millions of people across the globe follow the beliefs and principles of Buddhism. Gautam Buddha had always influenced to achieve and maintain peace and harmony and to spread love and forgiveness rather than hatred and revenge. Considering as an influential figure Lord Buddha and his beliefs will forever be worshipped and respected by millions and millions of people all over the world.