Sakayamuni Buddha was born about 2549 years ago in Lumbini, Nepal. He was known as Siddhartha Gautama, a prince and son of King Suddhodana and Queen Mayadevi. At the age of 29, he renounced the luxury of his royal heritage to take up the life of a religious wanderer. He submitted himself to rigorous and extreme ascetic practices, putting forth a superhuman struggle for six strenuous years. At the age of 35, after gaining profound insight into the true nature of reality (Dharma), he attained complete enlightenment. For the remainder of his life, living as the perfect embodiment of all the virtues he preached, the Buddha ('Awakened One') traveled widely teaching the Dharma. He offered his teachings to men, women, and children from all walks of life so they could also end suffering and attain awakening. The Buddha Sakyamuni, at the moment of enlightenment, invoked the earth as witness, as indicated by the fingers of his right hand, which spread downward in Bhumisparshana Mudra, the "gesture of touching the earth." As the Buddhist Sutras relate, the sun and moon stood still, and all the creatures of the world came to offer obeisance to the Supreme One who had broken through the boundaries of egocentric existence. All Buddhist art celebrates this supreme moment and leads the viewer toward the Buddha's stylized footprints served as supports for contemplating what was ultimately beyond words or form. As the possibility he presented. "Don't look at me," he said, "but to the enlightened state." The first anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha are said to have been drawn on canvas from rays of golden light emanating from his body. Later Buddhist art pictured the Buddha in numerous manifestations, but always as an archetype of human potential, never as a historically identifiable person. All forms of the Buddha, however, are commonly shown seated on a lotus throne, a symbol of the open space, so too does the mind rise through the discord of its own experience to blossom in the boundlessness of unconditional awareness.
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