The Life of the Buddha

The Buddha, or Siddhartha Gautama, is one of the most famous and significant individuals ever to have lived. But for all that, we don’t know exactly when he lived (there are debates about whether he lived from 563-480 BCE or from 483-400 BCE) or the precise details of his life.

Find an internet source that discusses the issues around how we know about the Buddha’s life and discuss them in one or two paragraphs (you can use Wikipedia or any other good website you find).

In your research, you should have found that our earliest reference to the Buddha and his teachings (dharma/dhamma) are found in the inscriptions erected by King Ashoka who ruled 268-232 BCE (i.e. 200 or 300 years after the Buddha). English translations of these inscriptions can be found here:

The Edicts of King Ashoka (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

On this website, read the 11th, 12th, and 13th of the 14 Rock Edicts, the 3 Minor Rock Edicts, the 5th and 7th of the Seven Pillar Edicts, and the 1st of the Minor Pillar Edicts. Then, just based on this information (as if you knew nothing else), tell what information they provide about the life of the Buddha and about the teaching he left behind (the dhamma). This should be 2-3 paragraphs.

The most important work on the life of the Buddha, much more extensive than Edicts of Ashoka and coming 300 years after them, is known as the Buddhacarita and was composed in the second century CE and translated into Chinese even later. You can find it here:

Buddhacarita (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Read pages 19-38 that tell of the events leading to Siddhartha’s decision to undertake the Great Going Forth, leaving his life of luxury for the quest for enlightenment. Explain how this account embodies the principles of the Four Noble Truths. This should also be 2-3 paragraphs.

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