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The Buddha's Life and Death

No person ever called him Siddhartha again. Now he became known as Gautama the Buddha. Gautama was his surname, the name of his father's family.

The Buddha went back to see his father and his wife and child once more. Then he spent the rest of his life wandering the paths of India and teaching all the people who came to him. He welcomed everybody, whether robber or king, outcast or priest. Soon he had many followers, some of whom became forest monks or nuns. He called them the Sangha, which means the sharers of truth. He was greatly loved by everybody, from the very poor to the very rich. Buddha preached several of his famous sermons from Deer Park at Varanasi, a traditionally holy place for Hindus. His first sermon outlined his teachings, which included the first statement of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The Buddha then travelled around Northern India for the next forty-five years teaching.

When Buddha was eighty, he called the faithful Ananda to him and said that he wished to die in the city where he grew up.

Ananda was grief stricken. "O Buddha," he cried, please do not leave us! For so many years you have been our guide. What shall we do without you? Then he began to sob bitterly.

Buddha answered, "Do not cry, dear Ananda. I have always taught that death is a natural part of life. It is nothing to fear. You must understand that. And when I am gone, let my teachings be your guide. If you have understood them in your heart, you have no more need of me."

So Buddha and his disciples travelled back to his home city. Not far from Kapilavastu they passed through the village of Kusinora. The Buddha asked them to stop there and rest.

Then he turned to Ananda and said "This is where I shall pass away."

Then Buddha went out into the garden and lay down between two trees. His followers gathered around him. Some were crying, but others, their minds completely at peace, looked on silently.

The Buddha spoke for the last time. "Remember what I have taught you. Craving and desire are the cause of all unhappiness. Everything sooner or later must change, so do not become attached to anything. Instead devote yourself to clearing your mind and finding true, lasting happiness."

Buddha then turned onto his side and placed his right hand under his head. He closed his eyes and very peacefully passed away. Buddha died in 480 BCE, aged eighty. It was the full moon day of the May (Vesaka) month.

Early life | Four signs | Bodhi tree | Enlightenment | Noble Truths | Life & Death | Asoka | Books | Buildings | Festivals | Practices | Rites | Glossary