November 25, 2012 3:39 am

Siddhartha Gautama, the man who became known as Buddha, could have led a comfortable, carefree life. But he devoted himself to a search for truth and understanding so that he could help end the suffering of other people.
Late in life, Gautama was given the name Buddha, which means “enlightened one.” Buddha was considered enlightened because he had gained understanding of spiritual matters. His teachings form the basis of Buddhism, one of the world’s major religions.
Buddha was born around 563 bc in Nepal. His family were nobles and warriors. They wanted him to be a warrior, too. But from childhood, Buddha was quiet and thoughtful. He did not like the privileged life at his father’s palace. He found it dull. So he began to wander around the countryside, thinking deeply about the right way to live.
One day, around 533 bc, Buddha came across three men. The first was old, the second was sick, and the third was dead. Looking at them, Buddha saw that the world was full of suffering. Why was this, he wondered. Could it ever end?
Then Buddha met a fourth man: a Hindu monk who lived by begging. The monk was calm and serene, so Buddha decided to try living like him. Buddha traveled through India, studying with Hindu teachers. But their religious ideas did not satisfy him.
Buddha also spent time alone, thinking and meditating. In 528 bc, he was sitting under a tree when he suddenly felt he understood suffering. It was caused by people themselves! If they lived better lives, it would end. Buddha said that everyone should try to be humble, generous, and merciful. People should give up violence and practice self-control.
Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching and preaching. Many people followed him. Some became monks and nuns. Others used his ideas to guide their everyday lives. A new religion called Buddhism grew and spread to many parts of the world.
Buddha died in Nepal at about the age of 80. Today, he is still honored by millions of people in many lands.
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