Shakyamuni Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, born around the fifth century BCE in the city of Lumbini,was raised in Kapilavastu, near the modern town of Taulihawa, Nepal. Born a prince, his father, King Suddhodana, was supposedly visited by a wise man shortly after Siddhartha was born and was told that Siddhartha would either become a great king (Chakravartin) or a holy man (Sadhu).

Determined to make Siddhartha a king, the father tried to shield his son from the unpleasant realities of daily life. Despite his father's efforts, the mind of Siddhartha was unchangeably turned toward the true nature of human existence. Searching for answers to his questions and for a way to help others, especially his wife and his young child, to overcome old age, illness, and death, he decided to live the life of an ascetic.

So,at the age of 29, he escaped his palace, leaving behind his royal life, and became a mendicant. For a time on his spiritual quest, the Buddha experimented with extreme asceticism, which at that time was seen as a powerful spiritual practice, such as fasting, holding the breath, and exposing the body to pain. He found, however, that these ascetic practices brought no genuine spiritual benefits and in fact, being based on self-hatred, were counterproductive. After abandoning asceticism and concentrating instead upon meditation, Gautama is said to have discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way - a path of moderation that lies mid-way between the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. He accepted some milk and rice pudding from a village girl and then, sitting under a pipal tree, or sacred fig (ficus religiosa), now known as the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, he vowed never to arise until he had found the Truth. His five companions, believing that he had abandoned his search and become undisciplined, left. After 49 days of meditating, at the age of 35, he attained the Bodhi, known in the West as "Awakening" or "Enlightenment".

After his attainment of the Bodhi he was known as Buddha or Gautama Buddha and spent the rest of his life teaching his insights (Dharma) to the world. He died around the age of 80 in Kushinagara (India).