Gautam Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha to king Shuddhodana and queen Maha Maya of Lumbini. At the time of his birth, he was declared by astrologers to either become the next king of Kapilavastu or to become an enlightened master when he grew up. His father did everything in his power to ensure that Prince Siddhartha was not exposed to anything that might inspire him to search deeply for enlightenment. He kept himself confined in a palace, surrounded by every imaginable luxury, with everything around him maintained in an unnaturally perfect state. Through the course of his life, Prince Siddhartha married Princess Yashodhara who bore him a son, Rahul. One day, when he decided to venture out into the kingdom out of curiosity, he saw four sights – an old man suffering, a sick man, a dead body being carried by grieving relatives, and an ascetic sitting in deep meditation. It is said that these four sights led to many inner realizations, and made him embark on a spiritual journey which culminated in his enlightenment.
The sights which Buddha saw are very common. Everyone sees sickness, suffering and death at some point in their life. But why don’t they lead to enlightenment for everyone? It wasn’t just these sights that made Prince Siddhartha enlightened, it was the responsibility he took for them. When he was going out, when he saw the old man, he felt responsible for him. When he saw a person with disease, he felt responsible for it. When he saw a dead body, he felt responsible for it. He became Buddha! If he had decided to follow the regular thought patterns and said “I don’t know how the man became sick” or “I did not kill that man, I don’t need to feel responsible for him”, he never would have become Buddha. It is responsibility that made Siddhartha into Buddha. Prince Siddhartha became Gautam Buddha when he applied the science of life – responsibility. The whole of Buddhism is built on responsibility and enrichment, enriching.
Buddha constantly demonstrated responsibility for everything, and intense authenticity. One of his disciples once asked him when would Buddha attain nirvana. He meant videhamukti, or radiating enlightenment after leaving his body. Buddha responded by saying “I will not be achieving nirvana even after I leave the body. Only after the last person in the world achieves nirvana, I am going to achieve it. I will be waiting.”.
This shows Buddha’s level of commitment with his disciples to make himself continuously available. His passion is such, that Buddha works as if you are going to get enlightenment today! But he is ready to wait till the last person gets enlightenment.
Buddha’s last message to the humanity was to be authentic and responsible. When Buddha left his body, his last words were “aatma deepo bhava”, which means “be a light unto yourself”. For each person to be responsible for their own lives and to raise their own levels of consciousness was Buddha’s parting advice to humanity.