Buddhism was brought to the world by a man called Siddhartha Gautama, more commonly referred to
as Gautama Buddha. The term “Buddha” means the “Awakened one” or “Enlightened One”. The Buddha
lived and taught his philosophy in the eastern part of the subcontinent, in what is generally agreed to be
the time period between the 4th and 6th century BCE.
The level of detail on the life of the Buddha remains too ambiguous to compile an indisputable
biography. Based on the time of composition and the sects they were conceived by, accounts vary on
the more intricate historical facts defining the life of the Buddha.
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The precise construct of the society Gautama was born into remains a matter of conflict, but it is
generally agreed that he was born into the stature equivalent to that of a prince. According to legend,
shortly after his birth, his father was visited by an astrologer who prophesied the future of Siddhartha to
reside either in kingly greatness or in spiritual prominence. His father, Suddhodana, wished for the
former, and went to great lengths in restraining Siddhartha to the palace grounds in hopes of seeing the
prophecy come to fruition. However, at the age of 29, Siddhartha ventured out into the land of the
common folk, despite the efforts made by his father. In what is known in Buddhist literature as the four
sights, Siddhartha was introduced, in rapid succession, to the suffering of the ordinary. Encounters with
an old man, an ailing man, a corpse, followed by ascetic moved him greatly. Renouncing the royal
privilege that was his birth right, Siddhartha ventured out to seek spiritual guidance from the most
acclaimed religious masters of the day.
Quest for Enlightenment:
From these masters he attained proficiency the meditative process. However, his interactions with these
masters disappointed him in his quest for a permanent end to suffering, and so he continued looking.
The next approach he experimented with was that of extreme asceticism, a practice common among the
Shramanas. This direction of pursuit too soon failed him. Moving on to different alternatives,
anapanasati meditation was what delivered him with the philosophy of the Middle Path.
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The Middle Path, the central ideology of Buddhism, advocates the adoption of a path of moderation
between extremities that exist on many planes around man. The formulation of the Middle Path
brought Gautama closer to a solution to suffering, and with renewed vigor he ambitiously sat under a fig
tree, or Bodhi Tree , in Bodh Gaya , India, resolving to arise only once he had attained Enlightenment.
After several days, he arose a being free of the cycle of suffering and rebirth. He was now the Buddha.
The Becoming of the Buddha:
Not long after his enlightenment, the Buddha established a monastic order. A small but considerable
following had already associated itself with the Buddha, and anyone and everyone was accepted
indiscriminately into the order. Having attained enlightenment at the age of 35, the Buddha spent the
rest of his days travelling across the northeastern parts of the subcontinent, teaching the path to
awakening, and the end of suffering, that he had discovered. Gautama Buddha died at the age of 80,
incidentally, on the day of the eve of his birthday, in Kushinagar, India.