Shakyamuni Buddha was born Siddartha Gautama, prince of the Shakyas, around 2,500 years ago in (what is now) Nepal.
He grew up in luxury with attendants to serve and entertain him.
He encountered the four sufferings common to all people: birth, aging, sickness and death. He searched for a solution to the problem of human suffering.
He renounced his luxurious life style and embarked on a spiritual quest to understand how human suffering could be overcome.
For several years, he subjected himself to ascetic disciplines; he fasted and lived as a hermit but found it impossible to reach liberation through self-mortification.
In BodhGaya, India he sat under a pipal tree, entered a deep state of meditation and awakened to the true nature of life. It was under the tree that he attained enlightenment and became known as the Buddha or “Awakened One”.
Shakyamuni is said to have remained beneath the tree, rejoicing in his emancipation but troubled by the difficulty he now faced in communicating what he had realised to others. He wanted the way to liberation from the sufferings of birth and death to be open to all.
Shakyamuni travelled throughout the Indian subcontinent sharing his enlightened wisdom, promoting peace and teaching people how to unleash the great potential of their lives. His intention was to teach all people to attain the same awakened state of life that he had attained.
It is believed Shakyamuni died at aged about 80. After his death, his teachings were recorded by his disciples in the sutras and spread throughout Asia, giving rise to a number of schools of Buddhism, generally characterised by an emphasis on peace, loving kindness and compassion.
The sign at the entrance to the Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya, India, where the Buddha attained enlightenment