Unit One

In this unit: To find out who the Buddha was, you need to go back to the beginning. The Buddha lived in India more than two thousand five hundred years ago. His teachings are known as Buddhism. Even as a boy, Siddhartha, the Buddha-to-be, liked to meditate. This is how he became enlightened. His teachings help people to live wisely and happily.

The country where the Buddha grew up

The hero of our story is Prince Siddhartha, the Buddha-to-be, who lived more than 2,500 years ago. His father was the Rajah of the Sakya clan, King Suddhodana, and his mother was Queen Maha Maya.

They lived in India, in a city called Kapilavatthu, in the foothills of the Himalayas. They belonged to the Indian warrior caste.
The Birth of Prince Siddhartha

A long time ago in India, there lived a king named Suddhodana and a queen named Maha Maya. They were both good and kind people. One full moon night, the Queen dreamt of four devas. They carried her to a lake, to rest on a soft bed. A white elephant carrying a lotus flower went round her three times and disappeared into her. Wise men explained that the Queen was going to give birth to a prince.

When the time came for the baby to be born, Queen Maha Maya left the palace with the attendants to go back to her parent’s home to give birth to the baby. On the way, they passed by a beautiful park called Lumbini Garden. Queen Maha Maya took a rest in the garden. While she was standing up and holding on to a tree she gave birth to the baby.

The birth took place on the fifth month of Vesakha, on a full moon day in 623 BC. We call it Vesak or Buddha Day. Queen Maha Maya then returned to the palace with her baby prince. King Suddhodana was very happy and celebrated the birth of the baby with his people all over the country.
The Naming Ceremony

Five days after the birth of the prince, many wise men were invited to the palace for the Naming Ceremony. They looked at the marks on the child’s body. Seven wise men raised two fingers and said that the prince would either become a Great King or a Buddha. The youngest, Kondanna, raised only one finger and said that the prince would become a Buddha. The prince was then given the name “Siddhartha” by the wise men, which meant “wish-fulfilled”.

Seven days after the birth of her child, Queen Maha Maya passed away. Pajapati Gotami, her younger sister, who was also married to King Suddhodana, brought up the prince as her own child.
Childhood Colour

The Childhood of the Prince

The prince grew up to be kind and generous. He was liked by all. When still in his early years, Prince Siddhartha witnessed a bird carrying a worm that had been turned up by the farmer’s plough. This sight caused him to think about the unhappy situation of creatures which were killed by other creatures for food.

Seated under a rose-apple tree the young prince experienced the joy of meditation. At another time, the compassionate prince saved the life of a swan which had been wounded by Devadatta’s arrow.

As a prince, young Siddhartha received an education in the arts and sciences and mastered the art of war and the royal sports of his time.

The Prince Marries

At the age of sixteen, Prince Siddhartha married a beautiful young princess called Yasodhara. She loved and cared for him, and together they lived a life of royal luxury for nearly thirteen years.

He was protected from all the problems of life outside the palace gates. He had all the comforts that a prince of his day could desire. He lived in a world where there was nothing but happiness and laughter. One day, however, he wished to discover the world outside his palace.

When the king learnt about this, he gave an order to the people of the city, “Have the houses along the road to the city cleaned and decorated. Make the roads sweet with incense and have the people dressed in colourful clothing. Make certain that all the beggars, the old and the sick stay indoors until the prince has left.”

Activity Box


    There are seven guided meditations, with instructions for teachers.

Quiz: Unit 2

Now that you havefinished unit 1, why not see what you have learned by doing the unit 1 Quiz?

  • Launch Quiz