The Buddha was born as an ordinary man named Siddhartha Gautama in 563 B.C. His father was the ruler of the Sakya people, a tribe that governed an area in modern-day Nepal. Siddhartha led a life of luxury and privilege, but at age 29, realized the world was full of suffering. He renounced his noble birth and became an ascetic wanderer. After six years, he reached enlightenment. He spent the rest of his life spreading his new philosophy.
Throughout his life, Siddhartha was shielded from the horrors of the world. Yet one day, he confronted an old man, a sick man, and a corpse. He then saw a religious man whose countenance was full of bliss and serenity. Siddhartha was aghast at the suffering he witnessed. The realization that he, too, would be subject to old age, disease, and death drove Siddhartha to a personal crisis, states the Ancient History Encyclopedia.
Recalling the religious man, Siddhartha left his home to find a means to end all suffering. Over the next six years, he practiced extreme asceticism with several teachers, but was not satisfied. He sat down beneath a Bodhi tree and began to contemplate how neither extreme pleasure nor extreme pain relieved human suffering. Soon, Siddhartha entered a deep meditative state and obtained nirvana.
Having reached enlightenment, the man known as Siddhartha was no more. He was now the Buddha, a title that means "Awakened One." He realized that the end of suffering could not be achieved by indulging in or by abstaining from earthly pleasures. Rather, a middle path was necessary.
For the next 50 years, the Buddha traveled around Northern India spreading the insights he had gained from his enlightenment. He died at the age of 80, most likely of dysentery.