Concerning Buddha

The discoveries of the Portuguese and the Spaniards had brought the Christians of western Europe into close contact with the people of India and of China. They knew of course that Christianity was not the only religion on this earth. There were the Muslims and the heathenish tribes of northern Africa who worshipped sticks and stones and dead trees. But in India and in China the Christian conquerors found new millions who had never heard of Christ and who did not want to hear of Him, because they thought their own religion, which was thousands of years old, much better than that of the West. As this is a story of humankind and not an exclusive history of the people of Europe and our western hemisphere, you ought to know something of two men whose teaching and whose example continue to influence the actions and the thoughts of the majority of our fellow travelers on this earth.
Buddha Meditating

In India, Buddha was recognized as the great religious teacher. His history is an interesting one. He was born in the Sixth Century before the birth of Christ, within sight of the mighty Himalaya Mountains, where four hundred years before Zarathustra (or Zoroaster), the first of the great leaders of the Aryan race (the name which the Eastern branch of the Indo-European race had given to itself), had taught his people to regard life as a continuous struggle between Ahriman, and Ormuzd, the Gods of Evil and Good. Buddha's father was Suddhodana, a mighty chief among the tribe of the Sakiyas. His mother, Maha Maya, was the daughter of a neighboring king. She had been married when she was a very young girl. But many moons had passed beyond the distant ridge of hills and still her husband was without an heir who should rule his lands after him. At last, when she was fifty years old, her day came and she went forth that she might be among her own people when her baby should come into this world.

It was a long trip to the land of the Koliyans, where Maha Maya had spent her earliest years. One night she was resting among the cool trees of the garden of Lumbini. There her son was born. He was given the name of Siddhartha, but we know him as Buddha, which means the Enlightened One.

In due time, Siddhartha grew up to be a handsome young prince and when he was nineteen years old, he was married to his cousin Yasodhara. During the next ten years he lived far away from all pain and all suffering, behind the protecting walls of the royal palace, awaiting the day when he should succeed his father as King of the Sakiyas.

But it happened that when he was thirty years old, he drove outside of the palace gates and saw a man who was old and worn out with labor and whose weak limbs could hardly carry the burden of life. Siddhartha pointed him out to his coachman, Channa, but Channa answered that there were lots of poor people in this world and that one more or less did not matter. The young prince was very sad but he did not say anything and went back to live with his wife and his father and his mother and tried to be happy. A little while later he left the palace a second time. His carriage met a man who suffered from a terrible disease. Siddhartha asked Channa what had been the cause of this man's suffering, but the coachman answered that there were many sick people in this world and that such things could not be helped and did not matter very much. The young prince was very sad when he heard this but again he returned to his people.

A few weeks passed. One evening Siddhartha ordered his carriage in order to go to the river and bathe. Suddenly his horses were frightened by the sight of a dead man whose rotting body lay sprawling in the ditch beside the road. The young prince, who had never been allowed to see such things, was frightened, but Channa told him not to mind such trifles. The world was full of dead people. It was the rule of life that all things must come to an end. Nothing was eternal. The grave awaited us all and there was no escape.

That evening, when Siddhartha returned to his home, he was received with music. While he was away his wife had given birth to a son. The people were delighted because now they knew that there was an heir to the throne and they celebrated the event by the beating of many drums. Siddhartha, however, did not share their joy. The curtain of life had been lifted and he had learned the horror of man's existence. The sight of death and suffering followed him like a terrible dream.
The Three Great Religions - Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam

That night the moon was shining brightly. Siddhartha woke up and began to think of many things. Never again could he be happy until he should have found a solution to the riddle of existence. He decided to find it far away from all those whom he loved. Softly he went into the room where Yasodhara was sleeping with her baby. Then he called for his faithful Channa and told him to follow.

Together the two men went into the darkness of the night, one to find rest for his soul, the other to be a faithful servant unto a beloved master.

The people of India among whom Siddhartha wandered for many years were just then in a state of change. Their ancestors, the native Indians, had been conquered without great difficulty by the warlike Aryans (our distant cousins) and thereafter the Aryans had been the rulers and masters of tens of millions of docile little brown men. To maintain themselves in the seat of the mighty, they had divided the population into different classes and gradually a system of "caste" of the most rigid sort had been enforced upon the natives. The descendants of the Indo-European conquerors belonged to the highest "caste," the class of warriors and nobles. Next came the caste of the priests. Below these followed the peasants and the business men. The ancient natives, however, who were called Pariahs, formed a class of despised and miserable slaves and never could hope to be anything else.

Even the religion of the people was a matter of caste. The old Indo-Europeans, during their thousands of years of wandering, had met with many strange adventures. These had been collected in a book called the Veda. The language of this book was called Sanskrit, and it was closely related to the different languages of the European continent, to Greek and Latin and Russian and German and two-score others. The three highest castes were allowed to read these holy scriptures. The Pariah, however, the despised member of the lowest caste, was not permitted to know its contents. Woe to the person of noble or priestly caste who should teach a Pariah to study the sacred volume!
Buddha Goes Into the Mountains

The majority of the Indian people, therefore, lived in misery. Since this planet offered them very little joy, salvation from suffering must be found elsewhere. They tried to derive a little consolation from meditation upon the bliss of their future existence.

Brahma, the all-creator who was regarded by the Indian people as the supreme ruler of life and death, was worshipped as the highest ideal of perfection. To become like Brahma, to lose all desires for riches and power, was recognized as the most exalted purpose of existence. Holy thoughts were regarded as more important than holy deeds, and many people went into the desert and lived upon the leaves of trees and starved their bodies that they might feed their souls with the glorious contemplation of the splendours of Brahma, the Wise, the Good and the Merciful.

Siddhartha, who had often observed these solitary wanderers who were seeking the truth far away from the turmoil of the cities and the villages, decided to follow their example. He cut his hair. He took his pearls and his rubies and sent them back to his family with a message of farewell, which the ever faithful Channa carried. Without a single follower, the young prince then moved into the wilderness.

Soon the fame of his holy conduct spread among the mountains. Five young men came to him and asked that they might be allowed to listen to his words of wisdom. He agreed to be their master if they would follow him. They consented, and he took them into the hills and for six years he taught them all he knew amidst the lonely peaks of the Vindhya Mountains. But at the end of this period of study, he felt that he was still far from perfection. The world that he had left continued to tempt him. He now asked that his pupils leave him and then he fasted for forty-nine days and nights, sitting upon the roots of an old tree. At last he received his reward. In the dusk of the fiftieth evening, Brahma revealed himself to his faithful servant. From that moment on, Siddhartha was called Buddha and he was revered as the Enlightened One who had come to save men from their unhappy mortal fate.

The last forty-five years of his life, Buddha spent within the valley of the Ganges River, teaching his simple lesson of submission and meekness unto all men. In the year 488 before our era, he died, full of years and beloved by millions of people. He had not preached his doctrines for the benefit of a single class. Even the lowest Pariah might call himself his disciple.

This, however, did not please the nobles and the priests and the merchants who did their best to destroy a creed which recognized the equality of all living creatures and offered men the hope of a second life (a reincarnation) under happier circumstances. As soon as they could, they encouraged the people of India to return to the ancient doctrines of the Brahmin creed with its fasting and its tortures of the sinful body. But Buddhism could not be destroyed. Slowly the disciples of the Enlightened One wandered across the valleys of the Himalayas, and moved into China. They crossed the Yellow Sea and preached the wisdom of their master unto the people of Japan, and they faithfully obeyed the will of their great master, who had forbidden them to use force. Today more people recognize Buddha as their teacher than ever before and it is the fourth most popular belief group in the world (after Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism).


Study the lesson for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the lesson.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Answer the review questions.


Siddhartha (Buddha) grew up as a privileged prince in a castle, shielded from the cruelties of life. Upon viewing the suffering and death of the outside world, he went on a quest to find the meaning of existence. Siddhartha wandered for many years, before becoming a teacher and teaching about submission and meekness and the equality of all living creatures.


Heathen: Not adhering to Christian religion.
Buddhism: A religion, originated in India by Buddha (Gautama) holding that life is full of suffering caused by desire and that the way to end this suffering is to free yourself from the desire. (
Buddhist: An adherent of the religion based on the teachings of Buddha.
Buddha: An Indian religious leader and teacher who founded Buddhism.
Islam: A monotheistic Abrahamic religion followed by Muslims that is based on the teachings of Muhammad and the Qur'an.
Christianity: A monotheistic Abrahamic religion originating from the community of the followers of Jesus Christ.
Hinduism: A religion, philosophy and culture native to India, characterized by the belief in reincarnation and a supreme oneness personified in many forms and natures.


Activity 1: Narrate the Lesson

  • After you read the lesson, narrate the lesson aloud using your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Lesson Picture(s)

  • Study the lesson picture(s) and describe how they relate to the lesson.

Activity 3: Map the Lesson

  • Find the continent of Asia and the countries of India and China on the map of the world.

Activity 4: Complete Copywork, Narration, Dictation, and Coloring   

Click the crayon above. Complete pages 20-21 of 'World History Activities for Fourth Grade.'


Question 1

According to the chapter, what are the three great religions?
1 / 4

Answer 1

According to the chapter, the three great religions are Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam.
1 / 4

Question 2

Who is the religious leader and teacher who founded Buddhism?
2 / 4

Answer 2

Siddhartha (Buddha) founded Buddhism.
2 / 4

Question 3

Did Siddhartha (Buddha) grow up in poverty?
3 / 4

Answer 3

No, Siddhartha (Buddha) grew up as a wealthy prince.
3 / 4

Question 4

What inspired Siddhartha (Buddha) to go on a quest for the meaning of existence?
4 / 4

Answer 4

Viewing the suffering and death of the outside world inspired Siddhartha (Buddha) to go on a quest for the meaning of existence.
4 / 4

  1. According to the chapter, what are the three great religions? According to the chapter, the three great religions are Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam.
  2. Who is the religious leader and teacher who founded Buddhism? Siddhartha (Buddha) founded Buddhism.
  3. Did Siddhartha (Buddha) grow up in poverty? No, Siddhartha (Buddha) grew up as a wealthy prince.
  4. What inspired Siddhartha (Buddha) to go on a quest for the meaning of existence? Viewing the suffering and death of the outside world inspired Siddhartha (Buddha) to go on a quest for the meaning of existence.