Siddhartha, who would one day be known as the Buddha (“the awakened” or “enlightened one”), seemed destined to become one of the most influential individuals in civilization. Born to a king of the Shakyas c. 500 BC, the prince lived in opulence in the palace, shielded from witnessing the miseries and sufferings of the real world. Siddhartha married at 16, and lived quite happily with his beautiful wife for another 13 years in seclusion. But, succumbing to curiosity, one day he slipped out of the palace and was confronted by the realities of human frailty, ignorance, and cruelty.
So overcome was he that Siddhartha the very next day left his kingdom, his wife and son, and most of his nice clothes to lead the life of an ascetic, seeking a way to relieve universal suffering. For the next six years he wandered, thinking; soon he was encouraging those he met to follow a path of balance, the “Middle Way.” He sat under a pipal tree (the now revered Bohdi Tree located at the Mahabodhi Temple), vowing not to rise until the “truth” came to him. After a few days, a vision did, a moment of pure enlightenment … and he arose the Buddha.
Armed with his new revelations, Siddhartha was reluctant to teach followers his understanding because it could not be communicated in words. According to Buddhist legend, it was the god Brahma who convinced him to spread his findings. And so the Buddha was off, travelling for the remainder of his 80 years preaching the way of the Dharma in an effort to lead others to enlightenment. The Buddha’s death resulted from either food poisoning or old age (there seems to be some dispute over this) and he finally entered 'Parinirvana.'