The Birthplace of Buddhism | Sarnath
The city of Sarnath - located 13km north-east of Varanasi - may seem an unlikely place for the birthplace of a religion, but that it is.
Buddha was born in around 623 BC in Lumbini, in present-day Nepal. He was born a prince and upon his birth an astrologer told his father that he was destined to become either the ruler of the world or a sage. Needless to say, his father preferred the first option so Buddha was raised in seclusion in his father's palace. He wanted for nothing and was kept from the often harsh realities of the world in the hopes that he would not be tempted to become a sage. Buddha went on to marry and have a son before finally venturing outside of the palace's walls.
What he saw horrified him.
First of all, Buddha saw an old man with a cane, struggling to walk. Buddha had never seen an old man before so asked his guide what the matter was. The guide explained to Buddha about the stages of life from birth to old age. He grew angry that he'd never been told about such a fundamental aspect of life.
Next he saw a sick person. Again, Buddha had never witnessed illness before so asked his guide what the matter was. Finally he saw a dead body being carried to a crematorium and learnt about death.
Buddha was deeply saddened by all the suffering around him until he saw a man, smiling serenely. He asked his guide how someone could be so content in life, and there he learnt about sages. The guide explained that the man had renounced the earthly life and had found happiness in the spiritual world.
Buddha was so inspired that he too renounced this life and set off for the forests of Bodh Gaya. Here he spent six years meditating before reaching enlightenment. He returned to Sarnath (where is he rumoured to have lived as a deer in a past life) and gave his first sermon.
And thus Buddhism was born.
This is my penultimate post from India! *sob* I've got a final one from Delhi tomorrow then it'll be on to Thailand!