Historian Bettany Hughes travels to India, Greece and China on the trail of three giants of ancient philosophy: the Buddha, Socrates and Confucius.
All three philosophers lived between the 6th and 5th century BC, during a period of unprecedented intellectual development: those 100 years changed the way we see ourselves forever.
These trailblazers embodied a shift from a reliance on the supernatural to explain humankind’s place in the cosmos, to one where rational thought offered new, exciting possibilities.
In this first episode, Bettany investigates the revolutionary ideas of the Buddha.
In his 20s the Buddha abandoned his family and homeland in the foothills of the Himalayas, to embark on an ambitious philosophical quest: to find a solution to human suffering.
On the Indian plains he experienced the challenging ideas and extreme methods of wandering ‘truth seekers’. But it was only when he found his own middle way that he finally attained enlightenment – nirvana: a state of being where all delusion, desire and suffering were extinguished.
The Buddha’s philosophy would inspire a diverse belief system which spread across the Far East and beyond, shaping the lives of hundreds of millions to this day.
Drawing on archaeology and expert opinion, Bettany investigates this inspiring figure.