The word Buddha means "enlightened one." It is used today as
a title to the one who has given us more religious beliefs than almost
any other human who lived in this world. However, he was not given
this name at birth; he had to earn it for himself by undergoing long,
hard hours of meditation and contemplation. Buddha has changed the
lifestyles of many cultures with new, never-before asked questions
that were explained by his search for salvation. He began an entirely
new religion that dared to test the boundaries of reality and go beyond
common knowledge to find the answers of the mysteries of life.

During the sixth century BC, India was a land of political and
religious turmoil. It was an era of great brutality with the domination of
Northwest India by Indo-Aryan invaders. Many people, influenced by
the Aryan civilization, began to question the value of life and it\'s true
meaning. Schools were opened because of this curiosity where
teachers would discuss the significance of existence and the nature of
man and held programs to reconstruct one\'s spiritual self. (Pardue,
page 228)

Near the town of Kapilavastivu, today known as Nepal, lived
King Suddhodhana and Queen Maya of the indigenous tribe known as
the Shakyas. (Encyclopedia Americana, page 687) Queen Maya soon
became pregnant and had a dream shortly before she gave birth. In
this dream a beautiful, white elephant with six tusks entered her room
and touched her side. This dream was soon interpreted by the wisest
Brahmin, or Priest of Brahmanism, that she was to give birth to a son
that would, if he were to remain in the castle, become the wisest king
in the world, but if he were ever to leave the castle he would then
become the wisest prophet far into future generations. (Encyclopedia
Americana, page 410)
In around the year 563 BC, Siddhartha Gautama was born into a
life of pure luxury. (Wangu, page 16) His father wanted to make sure
that his son was well taken care of as he grew to prevent him from
desiring to leave the palace. Suddhodhana, listening to the prophecy,
kept Siddhartha away from the pain of reality so that he could follow in
his father\'s footsteps in becoming a well respected leader.
As Siddhartha grew, he became very curious about the world
outside of the palace walls. He felt a great need to undergo new
experiences and learn the truth of reality. Siddhartha was married to a
woman named Yasodhara who gave birth to a boy, Rahul. Even after
his marriage, Siddhartha was still not completely satisfied with his life;
he decided that it was necessary for him to see the lives of those
outside the castle.

The Four Meetings
One day, Siddhartha called for his charioteer to take him to the
park. When the King heard of this, he ordered the streets to be
cleared of everything except beauty. As the Prince rode by, the
people cheered and threw flowers at him, praising his name and
Siddhartha was still clueless to the suffering of life until a god,
disguised as a poor, old man stumbled before the chariot. Siddhartha
was curious to this man\'s condition and he asked the charioteer about
his appearance. The charioteer replied that all men must endure old
age and that even the prince could not escape this fate. Siddhartha
then returned to the palace to contemplate about old age which
caused him to want to see more.
The next day, Siddhartha decided to venture on to the streets
again which were, by the King\'s request, once more cleared of all evil
and ugliness. This time, Siddhartha encountered a sick man and
again, returned to the palace to reflect on sickness. On his third trip to
the park, Siddhartha approached a funeral in a garden and was
educated by the charioteer about how every man must experience
death. Finally, on the fourth day, the young prince saw a shaven-
headed man wearing a yellow robe. He was amazed and impressed
by how peaceful the man seemed; he carried with him only a begging
bowl and had left all other possessions to try to find spiritual
deliverance. At that moment, Siddhartha knew his destiny was to
discover how this man has avoided these acts of suffering. (The New
Encyclopedia Britannica, page 270)
Later that night, Siddhartha kissed his wife and son, and left with
his charioteer away from the palace of riches and pleasure. He left
behind his life of pure desire to understand the true meaning of life.
To symbolize his renunciation from civilization, Siddhartha cut his long
hair and beard with his