Essay by John CasbeerHigh School, 11th gradeB, December 1996

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Siddhartha Gautama was born about 563 BC in what is now modern Nepal. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the Sakya people and Siddhartha grew up living the extravagant life on a young prince. According to custom, he married at the young age of sixteen to a girl named Yasodhara. His father had ordered that he live a life of total seclusion, but one day Siddhartha ventured out into the world and was confronted with the reality of the inevitable suffering of life. The next day, at the age of twenty-nine, he left his kingdom and new-born son to lead an modest life and determine a way to relieve universal suffering. For six years, Siddhartha meditated under a bodhi tree. But he was never fully satisfied. One day he was offered a bowl of rice from a young girl and he accepted it. In that moment, he realized that physical hardships were not the means to freedom.

From then on, he encouraged people not to use extremes in their life. He called this The Middle Way. That night Siddhartha sat under the bodhi tree, and meditated till dawn. He cleared his mind of all worldly things and claimed to get enlightenment at the age of thirty-five, thus earning the title Buddha, or 'Enlightened One.' For the remainder of his eighty years, the Buddha preached the dharma in an effort to help other people reach enlightenment.

When Siddhartha is a Brahmin, he believes in the existence of many gods, and performs sacrifices to them. After a while he realizes this is meaningless and decides to leave his family and community and become a Samana. As a Samana, he tries to destroy himself in may ways. He feels if he kills himself, with its passions and emotions, he will find the...