Enlightenment (Buddhism) facts for kids

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Basic terms


Gautama Buddha
Dalai Lama


Nyingma Kagyu Sakya Gelug


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In Buddhism, enlightenment (called bodhi in Indian Buddhism, or satori in Zen Buddhism) is when a Buddhist finds the truth about life and stops being reborn. Buddhists believe a person can become enlightened by following the Middle Way.


Buddhists become enlightened by using meditation (deep thought). While they meditate, they concentrate very hard and clear their minds of all thoughts.

The Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) is the first person thought to have reached enlightenment. The story of his life is told as an example of what he learned.

Life at the Palace

Siddhartha was a rich prince and the son of a king. His father went to a fortune teller who predicted that Siddhartha would either become a king or a religious leader. His father wanted him to become a king. He gave Siddhartha many things and did not let him see anything bad. Siddhartha married a woman and had a son. He named his son Rahula. The name meant "chains". Siddhartha named his son that because he was frustrated. He left the palace on the day his son was born.

Four Sights

Siddhartha went to the Shramana teachers to ask for help. Siddhartha traveled for four days. On the first day, he saw an old man. On the second day, he saw a sick woman. On the third day, he saw a funeral. It was his first time seeing death. On the fourth day he saw a sadhu (holy man). This man was very poor. Siddhartha thought that the man was happy even though he was poor. Siddhartha also knew that he was not happy even though he was rich. He decided to leave the palace and never go back.


Siddhartha walked through the forest. In the forest, he found a group of ascetics. He watched them and thought this was the way to be enlightened. For six years he lived with the ascetics. He ate one grain of rice and drank from the river every day. One day a boat was on the river with a musician and his students on it. Siddhartha heard the musician say, "If the string is too tight, it will snap. If it is too loose, it will not play." After hearing that, Siddhartha knew that he wanted to find a middle way. He took a bowl of rice from a village girl. He had broken his promise to be an ascetic.


Siddhartha sat at the bottom of the Bodhi tree. He made a promise to keep meditating until he was enlightened. For forty days Devaputra Mara, the leader of demons, tried to stop Siddhartha. He made Siddhartha think of scary things. He made demons try to hurt Siddhartha with spears, arrows, fire, and rocks. Siddhartha thought very hard and made the hurtful things look like flowers and many colored lights. His hard thinking made him enlightened. After he was enlightened, he taught people about what he had learned. He died when he was 80 years old.

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