Spiritual Goals of Buddhism
Gautama considered what to do next: he could enter Nirvana or lead others to enlightenment. Brahma, the Brahmin god of creation, intervened and persuaded Gautama to help others release themselves from samsara. Gautama decided to preach first to his five ascetic companions, and to them he delivered his first sermon. He spoke of the dangers of self-indulgence and self-mortification and directed them to the Middle Path or Eightfold Path as the way to Nirvana. The Middle Path includes: 1. right knowledge or understanding; 2. right purpose or resolve; 3. right speech; 4. right conduct or action; 5. right occupation or livelihood conducive to salvation; 6. right effort; 7. right awareness or self-mastery; and 8. right meditation. The path leads to vision, knowledge, calmness, awakening, and ultimately to Nirvana. The five ascetics believed what he had conveyed and they became the first Sangha, or community. Gautama's followers soon multiplied as he traveled and preached.
Forms of Buddhism
After Shakyamuni's passing, Buddhism developed in different directions. Its adherents called one form of Buddhism Theravada . They identify with the first Sangha and remain relatively faithful to the original teachings. Theravada Buddhism is most popular among the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Laos, and Cambodia.
Shakyamuni, or Sage of the Shakyas, as Gautama is also known, lived to be eighty. A blacksmith had invited Shakyamuni and his monks to eat at his house. Shakyamuni fell ill after eating the blacksmith's food so he instructed the blacksmith not to feed the monks the same food. Commanding his monks to console the blacksmith and dispel all remorse, he died. Because of his exemplary life, Shakyamuni experienced Parinirvana , his last death, and then entered Nirvana.