The Buddha (ca. 560 480 B.C.) was an Indian philosopher, religious teacher, and the historical founder of Buddhism. He is regarded variously as a human spiritual teacher or an omniscient, active deity.
India during the 6th century B.C. was a land of religious and political turmoil. The Northwest was dominated by the Indo Aryan invaders who had entered India in the 2nd millennium, bringing their own religious and social institutions, which were dominated by a great sacrificial cult and hereditary priestly elite, the Brahmins. Their cultural influence was wide spread even in areas to the east beyond their political authority. But their claims to religious and social superiority were often regarded as pretentious and superficial by the older, indigenous aristocracy.
It was an era of great brutality which undermined traditional religious moorings and, for men of deeper religious sensibilities, called into question the value of all worldly activities and the meaning of life itself. In these circumstances emerged many new religious teachers and schools—all searching for deeper insights into the meaning of existence, the nature of man, and programs of spiritual reconstruction. It was in this environment that young Prince Gautama matured and grew to manhood.
The Buddha (“enlightened one”) was born Siddhartha Gautama in northern India near the town of Kapilavastu. His father was ruler of an indigenous Indian tribe, the Shakyas-hence one of the Buddha’s traditional epithets, Shakyamuni, or “sage of the Shakyas”—and he was expec-ted to follow in the tradition of a worldly raja.
The traditions relate that his father was disturbed by Gautama’s excessive—seemingly morbid—preoccupation with the great spiritual enigmas of life: the problems of suffering, death, and the inequities of human existence. The King tried in vain to insulate him from these harsh realities and built a special palace for him surrounded with distracting luxuries. Gautama married and had a son. But his preoccupation with the great religious questions could not be suppressed, and at the age of 29 he made a decisive move. He formally renounced his worldly commitments, left his family and clan, and embarked on a search for the answers to the massive spiritual questions which perplexed him.
download the complete story of Buddha