Buddha was born around 565 B.C. in Lumbini in modern day Nepal. His name was Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama)’ means ‘descendant of Gotama whose aims are achieved/who is efficacious in achieving aims’, he later became the Buddha (literally Enlightened One or Awakened One). He is also commonly known as ‘Shakyamuni’ or ‘Sakyamuni’ (lit. “The sage of the Shakya clan”) and as the Tathagata (lit. “thus come” or “thus gone”).
Siddhartha Gautama was born in Kapilvastu Lumbini (a town situated in modern Nepal, near the Indian border but clearly Buddha was not born in India) under the full moon of May to the clan of the Shakyas, a warrior tribe. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the Sakya people and Siddhartha grew up living the extravagant life of a young prince. His mother name was Mayadevi.
According to custom, he married at the young age of sixteen to a girl named Yasodhara. His father had ordered that he live a life of total seclusion, but one day Siddhartha ventured out into the world and was confronted with the reality of the inevitable suffering of life. The next day, at the age of twenty-nine, he left his kingdom and newborn son to lead an ascetic life and determine a way to relieve universal suffering.
For six years, Siddhartha submitted himself to rigorous ascetic practices, studying and following different methods of meditation with various religious teachers. But he was never fully satisfied. One day, however, he was offered a bowl of rice from a young girl and he accepted it. In that moment, he realized that physical austerities were not the means to achieve liberation. From then on, he encouraged people to follow a path of balance rather than extremism. He called this The Middle Way.
That night Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi tree, and meditated until dawn. He purified his mind of all defilements and attained enlightenment at the age of thirty-five, thus earning the title Buddha, or “Enlightened One”. For the remainder of his eighty years, the Buddha preached the Dharma in an effort to help other sentient beings reach enlightenment.