Siddharta Gautama, or the Buddha Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, lived in India approximately 2500 years ago. He was a prince of the Shakya tribe who came from northern India.
Observing the sufferings of birth in a troubled world, sickness, old age, and death, even though he himself was young and healthy, Shakyamuni became aware of the fact that they constituted inescapable aspects of human life.
He therefore renounced secular life in order to search for a solution to these fundamental sufferings. His princely life was full of all the luxuries anyone could hope for. Nevertheless, Shakyamuni would remember later that he had never experienced any joy from all those luxuries, conscious that such pleasures were nothing more than vanity. He thus began to search for a true philosophy that would elucidate the meaning of life for all human beings.
He travelled throughout India for more than forty years, sharing his enlightenment, defending peace, and teaching each person how to give free expression to their unlimited potential.
Shakyamuni taught that each human being was intrinsically endowed with a pure life state that perfectly embodied this eternal Law (also called Dharma), the most noble and essential quality permitting individuals to lead a life worthy of a human being. He observed that it is self-contempt, attachment to desire, and destructive selfishness that prevent this naturally pure life state from emerging. Shakyamuni taught people how to break through such illusions in order to awaken to the sacred nature of their own life and to fully express their unique potential.
Shakyamuni also emphasized that awareness of the dignity of our own life translates into respect for the dignity and value of the lives of others. His teaching is one of compassion, of developing the spirit and action of concerning oneself with others, born of the awareness that the value of another human being is the same as our own.
In his work entitled “The Three Kinds of Treasure,” Nichiren, who had assiduously studied the teachings of Shakyamuni, forcefully declared, “The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being.” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, Soka Gakkai, 1999, p. 852).