The historical Buddha was born 2,500 years ago near the border of Nepal and India. He was a prince. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of a small kingdom. His mother, Maya, gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama, his real name, in Lumbini, a forest en route to her family home. Without any more reason to go she turned back and returned to Kapilavastu, the capital.
Soothsayers had predicted that he would become either a great king or a great spiritual leader. King Suddhodana, worried that his son would not ascend the throne, gave Siddhartha every comfort possible to ensure he would be groomed to become the next king.
At the age of 28, having married and awaiting the birth of his child, Siddhartha had decided to venture outside into the world to see his kingdom. There, he saw for the first time sickness, old age, and death. He also saw the serenity of an ascetic among this reality.
Deciding to search for this happiness he left his family and duties. Now known as Shakyamuni, The Sage of the Shakya Clan, he sought the best teachers of the time, mastered their teachings. But he did not find the happiness he had seen in that ascetic he had met on that fateful trip. Deciding that that extreme asceticism is no better than decadence he changed his approach and followed a more moderate practice – The Middle Way. After intense meditation, he became fully enlightened and found the happiness that he had sought.
At age 35 now known as Buddha, The Enlightened One, he spent the next forty-five years teaching the way which brings about liberation from suffering (enlightenment).