The Buddha was believed to have lived circa 560–480 BCE. Although recent research suggests the later dates of circa 485–405 BCE. Born in northern India (present-day Nepal), Gautama’s father was king of the city of Kapilavastu.
Just before his birth, Gautama’s mother dreamed of a white elephant coming into her womb; this in turn led soothsayers to predict Gautama’s future as a buddha.
At age 29, Gautama’s life profoundly changed when he ventured outside the palace and witnessed “four signs”: an old man, a sick person, a corpse, and a mendicant. Troubled by what he saw, Gautama then took on the life of an ascetic for the next several years and searched for an answer to the suffering he had encountered.
In his search for enlightenment, Gautama excelled in meditation and asceticism. It is believed that at one point that he lived off a daily ration of one pea. Two teachers, Udraka Rāmaputra and Alāra Kālāma, guided him during this period.
According to Gautama’s biographers, six years after leaving the palace he finally experienced enlightenment. One night he sat under a bodhi tree determined not to leave until he found an answer to the perennial problems of suffering and death. A period of temptation ensued as Māra, the god of desire, assailed him through various means. Gautama resisted these assaults, however, and meditated throughout the night. By dawn, Gautama’s meditation culminated in a breakthrough.