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Siddhartha Gautama is the founder of Buddhism.The time of his birth and death are uncertain, but he was most likely born in 563 BCE and lived to about 483 BCE.Siddhartha was born in Lumbini and raised in the small kingdom of Kapilvastu, which is in modern day Nepal. His father was King Śuddhodana, making Siddhartha a prince.
Life As A Prince
Siddhartha, destined to a luxurious life as a prince, had three palaces (for seasonal occupation) especially built for him. His father, King Śuddhodana, wishing for Siddhartha to be a great king, shielded his son from religious teachings or knowledge of human suffering.
Departure and Travels
When Siddhartha was 29, he left his palace in order to meet his subjects. Despite his father's effort to remove the sick, aged and suffering from Siddhartha's view, he was said to have seen an old man. Disturbed by this, when told that all people would eventually grow old by his charioteer Channa, the prince went on further trips where he encountered, variously, a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. Deeply depressed by these sights, he sought to overcome old age, illness, and death by living the life of an ascetic. Siddhartha escaped his palace, aboard his horse, leaving behind this royal life to become a mendicant. After this, Siddhartha travels, he is offered the throne to another kingdom, practices under two hermit teachers, among other things. Eventually, he and a group of five companions set out to take their austerities even further. They tried to find enlightenment through near total deprivation of worldly goods, including food, practicing self-mortification. After nearly starving himself to death by restricting his food intake to around a leaf or nut per day, he collapsed in a river while bathing and almost drowned. Siddhartha began to reconsider his path.
After concentrating on meditation, Siddhartha is said to have discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way—a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. He accepted a little milk and rice pudding from a village girl, who wrongly believed him to be the spirit that had granted her a wish. Then, sitting under a pipal tree, now known as the Bodhi tree, he vowed never to arise from that tree until he had found Enlightenment. The five companions, believing that he had abandoned his search, left. After 49 days meditating, at the age of 35, he attained Enlightenment. Gautama, from then on, was known as the Buddha or "Awakened One." Buddha is also sometimes translated as "The Enlightened One."
For 45 years after his Enlightenment, he created a ministry, taught, and gave sermons. Throughout the 45 years, he taught that Buddhism was open to all races and classes and had no caste structure. He was also subject to attack from opposition religious groups, including attempted murders and framings.
At the age of 80, the Buddha announced that he would soon enter the final deathless state abandoning the earthly body. After this, the Buddha ate his last meal, which he had received as an offering from a blacksmith named Cunda. Falling violently ill, Buddha instructed his attendant to convince Cunda that the meal Buddha had eaten had nothing to do with his passing and that his meal would be a source of the greatest merit as it provided the last meal for a Buddha. At his death, the Buddha told his disciples to follow no leader, but to follow his teachings.
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