Enlightening Life Stories

detail, enlightening life stories

Scenes from the life of the Buddha, F1949.9a-d

What are they made of? Stone
Where were they made? Pakistan or Afghanistan
When were they made? Late 2nd–early 3rd century


These stone panels were made for a stupa, a dome-shaped shrine to the Buddha, which followers walk around to show respect for his teachings. The panels depict the four most important events of the Buddha’s life (from right to left): the moment of his birth, his achievement of enlightenment, his first sermon, and his death. Can you find the Buddha in each of the panels?


Today, a temple surrounds the pipal tree at Bodh Gaya, India, where the Buddha achieved enlightenment twenty-five hundred years ago. Buddhists from all over the world take long journeys to reach Bodh Gaya in hopes of coming closer to enlightenment—the state of being fully awake and understanding everything. Explore Bodh Gaya yourself with 360° views!


In the second panel, the Buddha meditates beneath the pipal tree at Bodh Gaya. He reaches down to touch the earth and defeats the demons who have been trying to make him lose his focus. Imagine the challenges he might have had meditating in the middle of a city like Washington, DC!


Let’s get creative! Design your own life storyboard in four panels. What moments in your life do you want to share with others? Consider whom else you will include in these panels. Once you’ve decided, fold two pieces of paper in half. Draw a line down each fold, and then draw an important scene from your life in each of the four sections. Glue popsicle sticks to the edges of the pieces of paper and connect two of them to make a four-part panel.