Kaliyuga started as soon as Krishna died. Evil was at its all-time peak. Vice had corrupted the religious leaders as well. Focus had shifted from spirituality to meaningless rituals.
This was the time when Lord Vishnu came to show us the right path.
Kapilavastu was ruled by King Sakya and Queen Mayadevi. One night the queen dreamt that a white elephant with six tusks had entered her womb. She soon found out she was expecting a child. She wanted her child to be born at her parent’s place and thus she started her journey towards her parents’ home. However, on the way, while she was passing Lumbini, she gave birth to a healthy boy under a Sal tree.
It is said that the dark garden filled with divine light when the infant was born. The divine baby was named Siddhartha.
The king invited all the great sages of the time to come and bless the baby. One sage made a prophecy that the child would either become a great king or a great sage. This worried the king to no end. He didn’t want his heir to become a sage. So he did what any concerned father would do. He sheltered his son. He kept his son surrounded by every possible luxury. Siddhartha was not allowed to leave the palace and the king himself decided who can meet the young prince. No sages were allowed anywhere near the boy.
Time went by and Siddhartha was married to Yashodhara who was the daughter of a nobleman. In time they too had a son. By now King Sakya was convinced that his son won’t become a sage. He was sure that his son was on the path to becoming a great king.
But destiny had other plans.
One night Siddhartha left the palace and went to the town on his own. He was tired of all the restrictions and wanted to explore without anyone stopping him.
He lived a very sheltered life and most of the things he saw surprised him. He kept asking questions and most people were kind enough to explain.
Then he saw a very sick man moaning in pain. Now, Siddhartha had never seen anyone so sick. He didn’t understand what was going on. Upon inquiry, he learnt about sickness. This worried him a lot. He worried about his own health and about his family’s well being. He worried that his son would get sick. These thoughts disturbed him a lot.
He kept walking deep in thoughts. Then he came across a very old man who could not even walk properly. Upon inquiry, he was told that everyone gets old and the decline of physical strength was part of getting old. This caused even more distress in Siddhartha. Now he absolutely knew that everyone he knew along with himself is getting older day by day and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
Siddhartha was deep in these thoughts when suddenly he heard loud crying sounds. He followed the sound and went to a home. He saw one man lying on the ground and people surrounding him were crying.
He inquired again and this time he was taught the concept of death. For Siddhartha, this was probably the most painful lesson. He was having a tough time accepting that one day he and everyone he knew would simply die. This shook him to his core.
He went back to the palace feeling dejected but kept thinking about what he saw. He had so many questions and no one had any answers. Siddhartha lost his desire to live. He was sad and miserable and didn’t know what was the point of life if everyone was going to die anyway.
The next night he left the palace again. This time he wandered away from the town. In the forest, he saw a saint who was meditating and looked happy. He wondered if the saints would have the answers he was seeking. Thinking that he went to the saint and asked him. The saint answered to the best of his ability. But after a while, the saint to said that he does not have all the answers. But he told Siddhartha that by meditation and living an ascetic life, he may get the answers he was seeking.
This motivated Siddhartha. The next day he left the palace and became an ascetic. His fathers worst fears were coming true. Siddhartha was on his path to become a saint.
For years Siddhartha kept roaming everywhere seeking the answers. Then in Gaya, while meditating under a Bodhi tree, he found the knowledge. From then he is also called Buddha.
Buddha wanted to share the knowledge he received. He started preaching and many people started following him. His followers documented his teachings and they form the Noble Eightfold Path. This is what Buddhism is based on. Buddha showed us a new way to live.
Like in the Krishna avatar, Buddha came to teach us. To show us the right way to live. In this avatar, the conflict was with self. That’s the most difficult fight. Buddha helps us to understand self and to understand life and its purpose.