Around 567 B.C.E, a prince took birth in the Shakya clan. 12 years before his birth, it was prophesied that this lad would grow up to either a world-renowned king or would lead his life as an ascetic. To prevent the latter from happening, his father, the chief of the clan decided to isolate him from the rest of the world.
The prince, named Siddhartha Gautama grew up knowing only riches and luxuries. But as fate would have it, one day he witnessed a sick man, an old man, and a corpse. Having not been prepared to face the realities of the world, this sight made him restless. He was troubled with questions relating to the existence, survival, suffering, disease, poverty and more.
He decided to find answers for himself and hence, at a young age of 29, the prince of the Shakya clan of modern-day Nepal Siddhartha Gautama left his kingdom, wife, children, riches, and luxuries to follow a path so unconventional that even now, hundreds of years later, he is remembered and worshipped by a number of people around the world as “Gautama Buddha” meaning “the enlightened one”.
He spent about 6 years of his life seeking answers to the turmoil in society. As part of this endeavor, he met a number of ascetics, scholars and more. He then meditated under a Bodhi tree for several days, concentrating on his thoughts. It is said that in his meditation he caught a glimpse of his life and his previous lives and also encountered a demon called Mara. Crossing the hurdles, he ultimately attained enlightenment and made it his life’s aim to preach and teach to the world.
An iconic feature of his teaching was his use of hands to form different poses (mudras), each conveying a deeper message. The Vitarka mudra shown here is performed by joining the tips of the thumb and the index finger together while the other three fingers point upwards. It is said that the joining of thumb and index finger to form a circle symbolizes the constant flow of energy and information.
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