Gautam Buddha was one of the greatest religious teachers of the world. He gave the message of truth, peace, humanity and equality. His teachings and sayings became the basis of Buddhism, one of world's leading religions which are followed in some countries like Japan, China, and Burma etc.
He is believed to have been born in Lumbini forests in Nepalese Terai in the sixth century B.C. Before he became the Buddha (the Enlightened), he was called Siddharth. His father's name was Suddhodana, who was the ruler of Kapilvastu. His mother's name was Maya Devi, who died soon after Siddharth's birth.
Siddharth was a child with a contemplative bent of mind. He was inclined towards meditation and spiritual pursuits much against the wishes of his father. His father feared that Siddharth might leave home, and so, kept tried to insulate him from the harsh realities of the world outside by keeping him inside the palace all the time.
He even arranged his marriage with a beautiful princess Yashodhara when he was 18. They had a son named Rahul. But all these could not change the mind of young Siddharth.
The Buddhist traditions mention that when Siddharth encountered an old man, a sick person and a dead body, he realized how short lived is worldly passions and pleasures. Soon after he left his family and Kingdom and went into the forest in search of peace and truth. He wandered from place to place to gain knowledge. He met many scholars and saints but he was not satisfied.
At last he started hard meditation bearing great physical suffering. After six years of wandering and meditation Siddharth got enlightment when he was sitting in meditation under a pipal tree in the town of Ganges (Bihar).
Siddharth now got transformed into Buddha or the enlightened one at the age of the thirty five. The pipal tree under which he got Enlightment came to be known as Bodhi Vriksha.
Buddha attained what he wished for. He preached his first sermon in Sarnath, near Varanasi. He taught that the world is full of sorrows and people suffer on account of desire. Hence desires needed to be conquered by following Eightfold Path. Of these eight paths, the first three would ensure physical control, the next two ensures mental control, and the last two would ensure intellectual development.
Buddha taught that the final goal of every Buddhist is the attainment of 'Nirvana'. 'Nirvana' could be attained neither by prayer nor by sacrifice. It can be achieved by right kind of living and thinking. Buddha did not speak of God and his teachings constitute more of a philosophy and system of ethics than a religion. Buddhism affirms the law of Karma by which a person's action in life determines his status in future incarnations.
Buddhism is identified with the principles of non-violence. The Tripitika' is a collection of Buddha's teachings, life and philosophical discourses on the teachings and the commentaries. Buddha attained his Nirvana in Khushinagar (U.P.) in 483 B.C.