Buddhism as we now know it began about 2,500 years ago and is a religion to over 300 million people all around the world. Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha was born in Lumbini, India. Siddhartha was born into a royal family, his father King Suddhodana was the leader of a powerful clan named the Shakya. It was prophesied that Siddhartha would either become a powerful monarch of vast territories or a spiritual awakener. From that point on his father did all he could so his son would become a powerful monarch and follow in his footsteps. Siddhartha was shielded from the real world and lived in a life of luxury oblivious to human suffering and religion. Regardless of his father's efforts Siddhartha full of wonder asked to go into the countryside and experience life outside of the palace. Through a series of rides through the countryside Siddhartha was shocked by the crude realities of disease, old age, and death. Through these journeys Siddhartha learned of ascetics and how they renounced the world and searched for enlightening and the release from fear of death and suffering. .
Siddhartha now knew that luxury and wealth did not bring about peace and happiness. He wanted to achieve happiness but he could not find it within the walls of the palace. Not even the news that his wife was pregnant could bring joy to the heart of Siddhartha. At the age of 29 he decided that he could no longer remain in the palace living the life of a prince. From that point on his life took a new direction and also a new meaning. He left the palace, shaved his head, and exchanged his luxurious clothes for a beggars robe and began his journey to enlightenment. For six years Siddhartha wondered through India exploring the different teachings, religions, and philosophies. Finally one day at the age of 35, while meditating under a sacred fig tree, known after as the Bodhi tree, he ultimately found ˜the middle path' and became enlightened.