From The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen translated by Michael H. Kohn; © 1991 by Shambhala Publications, Inc. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., www.shambhala.com
Skt. (Pali, Siddhatta Gotama); founder of Buddhism, the historical Buddha. Siddhārtha was born in 566 or 563 BCE into a noble family of the Shākya clan in Kapilavastu, a city in present-day Nepal. His father, Suddhodana, was the head of the Shākyas; his mother, Māyādevī, who brought Siddhārtha into the world in the Lumbinī Grove, died seven days after his birth. Siddhārtha was brought up by his aunt on his mother’s side, Mahāprajāpatī. Carefully raised in wealthy circumstances, Siddhārtha married Yashodharā at the age of sixteen. At twenty-nine, after the birth of his son, Rāhula, he entered homelessness and attended on various ascetic teachers, without, however, reaching his goal, spiritual liberation. Thus he gave up the ascetic way of life and turned to meditation. At thirty-five he realized complete enlightenment, awakening (bodhi). After remaining silent at the beginning—because he was aware of the impossibility of communicating directly what he had experienced in enlightenment—he began at the request of others to expound insights drawn from his experience of enlightenment. He spent the rest of his life moving from place to place teaching, and a great number of disciples gathered around him. Siddhārtha Gautama, who came to be known by the name Shākyamuni (Sage of the Shākya Clan), died at the age of eighty after eating some spoiled food.