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Date of Birth: 600 BCE

Location: Siddhartha Gautama

Current Believers: 470,000,000

Gautama Buddha, popularly known as the Buddha or Lord Buddha (also known as Siddhattha Gotama or Siddhārtha Gautama] or Buddha Shakyamuni), was a Śramaṇa who lived in ancient India (c. 6th to 5th century BCE or c. 5th to 4th century BCE). He is regarded as the founder of the world religion of Buddhism, and revered by most Buddhist schools as a savior, the Enlightened One who rediscovered an ancient path to release clinging and craving and escape the cycle of birth and rebirth. He taught for around 45 years and built a large following, both monastic and lay.His teaching is based on his insight into the arising of duḥkha (the unsatisfactoriness of clinging to impermanent states and things) and the ending of duhkha—the state called Nibbāna or Nirvana (extinguishing of the three fires).


The Buddha was born into an aristocratic family in the Shakya clan, but eventually renounced lay life. According to Buddhist tradition, after several years of mendicancy, meditation, and asceticism, he awakened to understand the mechanism which keeps people trapped in the cycle of rebirth. The Buddha then traveled throughout the Ganges plain teaching and building a religious community. The Buddha taught a middle way between sensual indulgence and the severe asceticism found in the Indian śramaṇa movement. He taught a training of the mind that included ethical training, self-restraint, and meditative practices such as jhana and mindfulness. The Buddha also critiqued the practices of Brahmin priests, such as animal sacrifice and the caste system.


A couple of centuries after his death he came to be known by the title Buddha, which means "Awakened One" or "Enlightened One". Gautama's teachings were compiled by the Buddhist community in the Vinaya, his codes for monastic practice, and the Suttas, texts based on his discourses. These were passed down in Middle-Indo Aryan dialects through an oral tradition. Later generations composed additional texts, such as systematic treatises known as Abhidharma, biographies of the Buddha, collections of stories about the Buddha's past lives known as Jataka tales, and additional discourses, i.e. the Mahayana sutras.


Most Buddhists believe that death marks the end of this life and the passage into the next. It is just one spoke among infinite spokes in samsara, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. According to the Buddha, beings go through countless births and deaths until they gain enlightenment.


We are reborn, according to Buddhist scripture, because of the same kind of clinging and desire that causes us to suffer. The engine of the ego is so powerful that even when the body dies, the mind continues its clinging and searching. In this way, according to Buddhism, it builds a bridge to another body and takes birth again.


The Buddha taught that the where, when, and how of rebirth is entirely determined by our accumulated karma. That is, our actions in this and previous lives shape the outcome for the next life. Even at the point of death and thereafter, we can make choices that will have a positive or negative effect on our next life. The attitude of the mind at death is very important, Buddhists believe. The less fear and aversion we experience at death, and the more focus, calm, and equanimity we have, the more likely we will be reborn in good circumstances. Which is why preparing the mind for death through meditation is a core element of Buddhist practice.


Ideas about the details of what happens at death—for instance, what beings experience between death and the next birth—vary from tradition to tradition. Many Buddhist traditions teach that sending goodwill or chanting certain scriptures or prayers at the time of and following death can help the deceased on their journey to the next life. Buddhist scriptures also identify various heaven- and hell-like realms—sometimes considered to be states created by the mind—where we may take rebirth. Secular Western Buddhists, however, do not believe in rebirth.

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