One night Queen Maya, who had remained childless during twenty years of marriage, dreamed that a white elephant descended from the heavens and entered her womb. The conception of a child represents a new starting point in life, and her dream symbolizes the mystery of this event.



On her way back to her parents' home, Queen Maya happened to rest at Lumbini Gardens. There, just as she was reaching out to the branch of an asoka tree, a baby boy was born. It is recorded that his first words were, "I alone am the honoured one in the heavens above and the earth below, "a fitting expression of the unlimited potential inherent in a newly born child.



Bereft of his mother son after his birth, the young prince Siddhartha was brought up amidst the luxury of the palace. But he was unable to find full satisfaction in such a life, and at the age of 29 he slipped out of the palace one night in secret, accompanied by a single servant, in order to search for the true purpose of human life.



After six years of severe austerities, Siddhartha was in a state of physical and spiritual exhaustion. One day, he was offered a bowl of rice-gruel by a village maiden named Sujata. He accepted her offering, realizing that physical austerities alone do not lead one along the right path, and this realization led to his discovery of the "Middle Way."



Sitting at the foot of a large bodhi tree, Siddhartha began to meditate. He was assailed by the temptations of demons and the desires imbedded in his own mind. But these he conquered, and as the morning star appeared in the eastern sky. he attained enlightenment and became the Buddha.



Siddhartha, now the Buddha, gave the first exposition of the truth to which he had awoken to five former fellow ascetics. This was the 'First Turning of the Wheel of the Law,' the first step in his preaching activities which were to last for 45 years. Adapted to the needs of his listeners, his teachings brought spiritual peace to all with whom he came in contact.



"At things that come into existence must pass away." In accordance with his own teachings of impermanence, the Buddha too passed away at the age of 80, after 45 years spent in spreading his message of truth, surrounded by his many tearful disciples and lay followers.



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