was born into a royal family in the Terai lowlands near the foothills of the Himalayas just inside the borders of modern-day Nepal around 6 BCE.
He was born the son of a Rajan (King, Chieftan) of the Sakya (Lion) clan of the Kshatriya, or warrior caste in Kapikvastri on the Indian-Nepalese border. Sakyamuni, means the sage of the Sakyas.
Accounts of his life were passed down by oral tradition and first written a few hundred years after his death. Therefore, they are a great number of legends that surround his birth and existence:
Queen Maya (Sakyamunis mother) was going to her father’s home to prepare for the birth with the help of her mother. She stepped off her chariot in the Lumbini Gardens and held the branch of a flowering tree to rest. In that instant, Siddhartha emerged from her right side without any help. The infant walked seven steps each in four directions and lotus flowers sprouted from where his foot touched the earth. Seven days later Queen Maya died.
It was predicted at Buddha birth that he would become either a world ruler or a world teacher.Therefore his father, King Suddhodana, who wished Siddhartha to succeed him as ruler, tried his best to shelter him from all misery and anything that might influence him toward the spiritual path. At the age of 16, he was married to his wife Yasodharã.
The four encounters (The four passing sights):
The scriptures relate that at the age of 29, wishing to see more of the world, he left the palace grounds in his chariot escorted by his charioteer Channa. He saw on successive excursions (Two): an old crippled
man, a sick man, a decaying corpse, and finally a wandering holy man. From the first three of these sights he learned the inescapability of suffering and death, and in the serenity of the monk he saw his destiny. That night, Siddhartha silently kissed his sleeping wife and son (Rahula), and ordered Channa to drive him out to the forest. He secretly left the palace and became a wandering ascetic.
The realization of true reality and the achievement of Nirvana:
Siddhartha first studied yogic meditation under the teachers Alara Kalama and Udraka Ramaputra, and after mastering their techniques, decided that these did not lead to the highest realization.
He then undertook fasting and extreme austerities, variety of ascetic practices designed to “mortify” the flesh (Janism). It was thought that by enduring pain and suffering, the ātman (Sanskrit; Pāli: atta) or “soul” became free from the round of rebirth into pain and sorrow.
Siddhartha proved adept at these practices, and was able to surpass his teachers. Five other holy men joined him, hoping to learn from his example. After six years he gave up, fearing that he might die, before attaining illumination. Taking moderate food, he seated under a fig tree (Bo tree) at Bodh Gaya, concentrated on meditation and the “middle way” (a practice of non-extremism). He swore not to stir until he had attained the supreme enlightenment.
On the night of the full moon, Mara, the evil one, sent his three sons and daughters to tempt Siddhartha with thirst, lust, discontent, distractions of pleasure and fear.
Siddhartha in meditation recalled all his previous rebirths (reincarnation), gained knowledge of the cycle of births and deaths, and with certainty, cast off the ignorance and passion of his ego which bound him to the world.
After overcoming the attacks and temptations, he reached enlightenment, becoming a Buddha at the age of 35. This enlightenment is called a state of “Bodhi,” and hence the name “Buddha,” or “enlightened one.” The Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism called the Dhamma, or Truth. He also later established an order of monks and a corresponding order of nuns. His wife Yasodharã became the first nun. He died at the age of 80 in Kushinagara.
To some Buddha was simply a very wise man with great things to teach. For others he is a god (as a Vishnu avatar), or as single entity above all others.