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Gautama Buddha or Siddhartha Gautama Buddha was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded.
The word Buddha is a title for the first awakened being in an era. In most Buddhist traditions, Siddhartha Gautama is regarded as the Supreme Buddha (P. sammasambuddha, S. samyaksa?buddha) of our age, "Buddha" meaning "awakened one" or "the enlightened one." Gautama Buddha may also be referred to as Sakyamuni.
Gautama taught a Middle Way compared to the severe asceticism found in the Sramana movement common in his region. He later taught throughout regions of eastern India such as Magadha and Kosala.
The time of Gautama's birth and death are uncertain: most early-20th-century historians dated his lifetime as circa 563 BCE to 483 BCE, but more recent opinion dates his death to between 486 and 483 BCE or, according to some, between 411 and 400 BCE.
Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarized after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition, and first committed to writing about 400 years later.
The primary sources for the life of Siddhartha Gautama are a variety of different, and sometimes conflicting, traditional biographies. These include the Buddhacarita, Lalitavistara Sutra, Mahavastu, and the Nidanakatha. Of these, the Buddhacarita is the earliest full biography, an epic poem written by the poet Asvagho?a, and dating around the beginning of the 2nd century CE. The Lalitavistara Sutra is the next oldest biography, a Mahayana/Sarvastivada biography dating to the 3rd century CE. The Mahavastu from the Mahasa?ghika Lokottaravada tradition is another major biography, composed incrementally until perhaps the 4th century CE. The Dharmaguptaka biography of the Buddha is the most exhaustive, and is entitled the Abhini?krama?a Sutra, and various Chinese translations of this date between the 3rd and 6th century CE. Lastly, the Nidanakatha is from the Theravada tradition in Sri Lanka, composed in the 5th century CE by Buddhagho?a.
From canonical sources, the Jataka tales, Mahapadana Sutta (DN 14), and the Achariyabhuta Sutta (MN 123) include selective accounts that may be older, but are not full biographies. The Jataka tales retell previous lives of Gautama as a bodhisattva, and the first collection of these can be dated among the earliest Buddhist texts. The Mahapadana Sutta and Acchariyaabbhuta Sutta both recount miraculous events surrounding Gautama's birth, such as the bodhisattva's descent from Tu?ita Heaven into his mother's womb.
Traditional biographies of Gautama generally include numerous miracles, omens, and supernatural events. The character of the Buddha in these traditional biographies is often that of a fully transcendent (Skt. lokottara) and perfected being who is unencumbered by the mundane world. In the Mahavastu, over the course of many lives, Gautama is said to have developed supramundane abilities including: a painless birth conceived without intercourse; no need for sleep, food, medicine, or bathing, although engaging in such "in conformity with the world"; omniscience, and the ability to "suppress karma". Nevertheless, some of the more ordinary details of his life have been gathered from these traditional sources. In modern times there has been an attempt to form a secular understanding of Siddhartha Gautama's life by omitting the traditional supernatural elements of his early biographies.
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