("The Awakened One of the Shakya Clan”, aka Siddhārtha Gautama) was the founder of Buddhism. He was born to a local king who received a prediction that the baby would either become a great king or a great holy man and, wishing for his son to be his successor, shielded him from religious teachings and from all human suffering. Despite these efforts, the prince went on trips beyond the palace, where he encountered an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and finally an ascetic. Moved by existential concern for the human condition he decided to become an ascetic. After nearly starving himself to death, Siddhartha began to reconsider his path, and realizing that only a balanced meditative state was the right path to awakening, he discovered the Middle Way. Then Gautama meditated under a tree - now known as the Bodhi tree - in Bodh Gaya, India, where, at the age of 35, he attained enlightenment, complete insight into the cause of suffering, and the steps necessary to eliminate it. The Buddha then travelled to Varanasi where he delivered his first sermon to the five companions with whom he had sought enlightenment. Together with him, they formed the first sangha or community of Buddhist monks (later also nuns were included). For the remaining 45 years of his life, the Buddha traveled in North India, teaching a diverse range of people, until at the age of 80, he abandoned his earthly body and entered parinirvana.
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