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Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 207

BUDDHA

Buddha, whom the Vedas represent as a delusive incarnation of Vishnu, is said by his followers to have been a mortal sage, whose name was Gautama, called also by the complimentary epithets of Sakyasinha, the Lion, and Buddha, the Sage.

By a comparison of the various epochs assigned to his birth, it is inferred that he lived about one thousand years before Christ.

He was the son of a king; and when in conformity to the usage of the country he was, a few days after his birth, presented before the altar of a deity, the image is said to have inclined its head, as a presage of the future greatness of the new-born prophet. The child soon developed faculties of the first order, and became equally distinguished by the uncommon beauty of his person. No sooner had he grown to years of maturity than he began to reflect deeply on the depravity and misery of mankind, and he conceived the idea of retiring from society and devoting himself to meditation. His father in vain opposed this design. Buddha escaped the vigilance of his guards, and having found a secure retreat, lived for six years undisturbed in his devout contemplations. At the expiration of that period he came forward at Benares as a religious teacher. At first some who heard him doubted of the soundness of his mind; but his doctrines soon gained credit, and were propagated so rapidly that Buddha himself lived to see them spread all over India.

The young prince distinguished himself by his personal and intellectual qualities, but still more by his early piety. It appears from the laws of Manu that it was not unusual, in the earliest periods of Brahmanism, for those seeking a superior piety to turn hermits, and to live alone in the forest, engaged in acts of prayer, meditation, abstinence, and the study of the Vedas. This practice, however, seems to have been confined to the Brahmans. It was, therefore, a grief to the king, when his son, in the flower of his youth and highly accomplished in every kingly faculty of body and mind, began to turn his thoughts toward the life of an anchorite.


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