The three greatest religions in the world is Buddhism, Christianity and Mohammedanism. Buddhism, however, is the oldest of the three. It was founded 2,500 years ago by Lord Buddha. Buddha was a son of an Indian king. Buddha was the name he called himself after his Enlightenment, meaning “ The Enlightened”. His real name was Price Siddhattha. His father was King Suddhodana of Kapilavasdu, and his mother Queen Siri Mahamaaya, formerly a daughter of the King of Devadaha. Like other Indian Princes, Siddhattha married Princess Yasohara Bimba, also a daughter of the King of a neighboring state, who had soon afterwards born him a son named Rahula. But unlike them, instead of allowing himself to be chained all his life to his wife and son, Siddythatha broke up all these worldly fetters. At the age of twenty-nine, he stole out of his palace one night, set out on a long solitary journey, and left all his possessions behind.
He did so, known also as “ His Great Renunciation”. Because he grew tired of all worldly pleasures, realizing that all these never lasted long and that life was in fact full of sufferings. By doing so, he intended to discover the Ultimate Truth of the whole existence, so as to find a sure way out of all suffering. He spent his time meditating in solitude, and doing everything which he believed to lead him to success, for instance, starving and torturing himself until he become so weak and thin. After his self-mortifications, his finally found that the best way to success was” The Middle Way”, or Majhimapatipada”, that is avoiding the two extremes: indulging oneself in pleasures or torturing oneself to the utmost. At last he became enlightened in one full-moon night under the Bodhi three on the bank of Nerunjara River, in the state of Magadha, when he was thirty-five years old, after spending six years altogether in search of truth.
What he discovered was “ The Four Noble Truths” : Dukkha” or sufferings, “Samudaya” or the causes of suffering, “Nirodha’ or the extinction of all sufferings. “Dukkha” means that the whole human life, from birth to death, is nothing but sufferings, as it is always changeable, that is “Aniccam,” and uncontrollable, or “Anatta”. “Samudaya” means the main cause of all sufferings called “Tanha” or desire. All of our sufferings according to Buddha, spring up from nothing but our ever- increasing desire, the desire to posses what seem to us pleasurable and to avoid what seem to us unpleasurable. “Nirodha” means that by giving up “Tanha” or desire, which is the mainspring of all sufferings, we can get rid of all these sufferings themselves. “Magga” means the Noble Eightfold Path which leads to the extinction of the sufferings, comprising Sammadithi or Right View, Sammasankappo or Right Motives, Sammavaca or Right Speech, Sammakammanto or Right Action, Sammaajivo or Right Means of Livelihood, Sammavayamo or Right Effort, Sammsati or Right Mindfulness, and Sammasamadhi or Right Concentration.
Buddha preached “ The Four Noble Truths” to his disciples, who in turn preached them to the people of their time. Thus the seeds of Buddhism were sown and began to spread far and wide as the years passed by, and when the Great Teacher passed away at the age of eighty, Buddhism had been firmly established in India. The Indian king who did most in patronizing Buddhism and spreading it into foreign lands was King Asoka. Thanks to this great king, Buddhism came to be established in Suwannadhumi, where it was finally embraced by the Thai people, and under the benevolent rule of King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai, Buddhism became the Thai state religion.
Ever since the foundation of the Kingdom of Sukhothai, Thailand has been a stronghold of Buddhism, which has, no doubt, a great influence over the Thai people. Under its good influence, the Thais have become peace- loving nation, with unrivalled tolerance and hospitality to the people of different races and creeds. It is not too much to say that, in the past, this admirable characteristic of our nation helped a great deal in preserving our national independence while the neighboring countries all around us were losing theirs.