Class 6 History

New Questions and Ideas: Buddhism and Upanishads

Life of Buddha

The original name of Gautama Buddha was Siddhartha. Sidhhartha was born about 2500 years ago at Lumbini in Kapilvastu which is in modern day Nepal. He was a kshatriya and belonged to the Sakya gana.

Sidhhartha was a prince. He was given all the comforts during his childhood. Once he became an adult, many questions regarding the true meaning of life used to come to his mind. In search of true meaning of life; he left the comforts of his home. He began to wander in search of true meaning of life. He consulted many learned men but could not find the real answer.

Finally, he began meditating under a peepal tree at Bodh Gaya. After meditating for many days; Sidhhartha finally attained the enlightenment. After that he became the Buddha. The term ‘Buddha’ means the ‘enlightened one’. After becoming the Buddha; he gave his first sermon at Sarnath (near Varanasi). Then he went to spread his learning among the people. Buddha died at Kushinara (Kushinagar).

Preaching of Buddha:

Buddha used the prakrit language to give his preaching. This was the language of the common people at that time. Due to use of the common language; Buddha was able to spread his preaching far and wide. He encouraged people to stop blindly following him and to think for themselves instead.


Upanishads are a collection of philosophical texts. The Upanishads were composed at around the same time; or somewhat earlier; when Buddha came on the scene. The Upanishads are written in the style of dialogue between teachers and disciples.

Thinkers, especially Brahmin and Kshatriya men were the main composers of the Upanishads. However, some women also contributed to the Upanishads. Gargi is an example of such women. She used to participate in the debates in the royal courts. Poor people seldom took part in such discussions. But Satyakama Jabala was an exception. He was the son of a slave woman Jabali. Satyakama Jabala was accepted by a Brahmin teacher; Gautama; as a disciple.

The human mind always tried to find answers to difficult questions about life. The ideas in the Upanishads were a result of this pursuit. People always wanted to know the meaning of life and the afterlife. Many people were beginning to question the practice of sacrifices and meaningless rituals. Many thinkers believed that there must be something permanent which exists even after the death. They called it atman or the individual soul. The universal soul was called the Brahman. Those thinkers believed that the atman and Brahman were ultimately the one.