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Gautama Buddha. Among Buddhist holidays, April 8 is the most important. It commemorates the birthday of the founder of Buddhism, who had the given name of Siddhartha, the family name Gautama, and the clan name Shaka. He is commonly called the Buddha, which means "the enlightened one" in Sanskrit. The Buddha was probably born in the year 563 in Kapilavastu, India, just inside present-day Nepal. The Buddha apparently showed an early inclination to meditation and reflection, displeasing his father, who wanted him to be a warrior and ruler rather than a religious philosopher. Yielding to his father's wishes, he married at an early age and participated in the worldly life of the court. The Buddha found his carefree, self-indulgent existence dull, and after a while he left home and began wandering in search of enlightenment. One day in 533 BC , according to tradition, he encountered an aged man, a sick man, and a corpse, and he suddenly and deeply realized that suffering is the common lot of humankind. He then came upon a mendicant monk, calm and serene, whereupon he determined to adopt his way of life and forsake family, wealth, and power in the quest for truth. This decision, known in Buddhism as the Great Renunciation, is celebrated by Buddhists as a turning point in history. Gautama was then 29 years old. Wandering as a mendicant over northern India, the Buddha first investigated Hinduism, but he found the Hindu caste system repellent and Hindu asceticism futile. About 528 BC , while sitting under a bo tree in Buddha Gaya, in what is now the state of Bihar, he experienced the Great Enlightenment, which revealed the way of salvation from suffering. Shortly afterward he preached his first sermon near Benares. This sermon, the text of which is preserved, contains the gist of Buddhism. Many scholars regard it as comparable, in its tone of moral elevation and historical importance, to Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount. Accompanied by five disciples, he traveled through the valley of the Ganges River, teaching his doctrines, gathering followers, and establishing monastic communities that admitted anyone regardless of caste. He returned briefly to his native town and converted his father, his wife, and other members of his family to his beliefs. After 45 years of missionary activity Buddha died in Kusinagara, Nepal, as a result of eating contaminated pork. He was about 80 years old. Buddha was a man of noble character, penetrating vision, warm compassion, and profound thought. Not only did he establish a great new religion, but his revolt against Hindu hedonism, asceticism, extreme spiritualism, and the caste system deeply influenced Hinduism itself. His rejection of metaphysical speculation and his logical thinking introduced an important scientific strain heretofore lacking in Oriental thought. Buddha's teachings have influenced the lives of millions of people for nearly 2500 years.
MODEL: The Buddha's pursuit of truth, wherever it leads. How do you know when you've found it? When you see and say, "Aha!" Exponents of Zen Buddhism, out of China, abandon theorizing and systems of spiritual exercise and communicate their vision of truth by a method known as direct pointing. They answer all philosophic or religious questions by non symbolic words or actions; the answer is the action just as it is, and not what it represents. Typical is the reply of the Zen master Yao-shan, who, on being asked "What is the Way [of Zen]?" answered, "A cloud in the sky and water in the jug!"
Your Birthday Today:
Altruistic. If you were born on April 8, you have a strong drive to help your fellow human beings. Your humanitarian feelings usually overshadow your own concerns. You may, however, play favorites with one social group to which you belong. Ruled by the number 8 and the planet Saturn, you may have a childish side and a responsible side that war with one another.
Your world. Though you can be quite popular, you have a shy streak a mile wide. Even when interacting in public, you seem to be tapped into your own world, giving a sense of intimacy even to a large group. You show a wonderful grace under pressure that people admire.
Plight of the underdog. You believe everyone should be given a fair chance, so you fight to help the disadvantaged even if you don't work in a public service or political career. Regardless of your social status, you speak out vehemently when you see abuses of power and injustice. Because you ride the roller coaster of unpredictable events and public opinion, your standing in your community may rise and fall.
Closed. You seem to be suffering from private demons that no one can see or understand. Because you are so hard to reach emotionally, those closest to you may become frustrated. You place so much value on giving that you feel uncomfortable receiving help of any kind.
Advice: Don't give so much that you never take time for yourself. Be a little more selfish. Open up to others. Be patient with the rusty wheels of change.
Also born on this day: Leon Blum (French socialist premier) Betty Ford (former First Lady) E.Y. Harburg (lyricist, Over The Rainbow) Sonya Heine (figure skating champion) Carmen McRae (jazz singer) John Havlicek (Celtics forward) Catfish Hunter (baseball pitcher) Franco Corelli (operatic tenor) Julian Lennon (singer, songwriter) Peggy Lennon (singer, Lennon Sisters) Donald Whitehead (journalist) Ian Smith (Rhodesian premier)