Shakyamuni Buddha (Shi-jia Fo) is the Buddha of our time. He was born on a full-moon day in May of 623 BCE, into the Shakya clan in Lumbini in what is now Nepal. His parents were King Suddhodana and Queen Maya. He is the historical founder of what came to be known as Buddhism. King Suddhodana invited a Brahmin who was conversant with the three Vedas to name the child. He named the child Siddhartha (meaning “one whose aim is accomplished”). Siddhartha Gautama was the worldly name of the Buddha. Gautama was his family name. Shakyamuni, his name after he became a buddha, means “Sage of the Shakyas.”
In his early youth, while he was receiving his education, no other youth in all of India could match the Prince’s physical strength, intelligence, learning, and artistic skills. When he was seventeen years old, he married Yasodhara, a daughter of King Suppabuddha. She gave birth to one son, Rahula.
At the age of twenty-nine, Siddhartha saw the impermanence of worldly existence. He wanted to seek the truth of the universe and human life. He wanted to liberate himself from the sufferings connected with the cycle of birth and death. He left the palace in the Shakya capital of Kapilavastu, went into the mountains, and began cultivating himself. In Tapovana, a forest near the Nairanjana River where asceticism was practiced, He practiced six years of asceticism. He then went to an area near Mt. Gaya and subdued an army of demons while sitting on His Vajra seat (bodhimanda) under a large bodhi tree.
On a full-moon day in May of 588 B.C., while watching the bright stars at night, Siddhartha Gautama suddenly realized enlightenment. He was thirty-five years old. The location where He became enlightened is Bodhgaya in present-day India. For forty-five years after He became enlightened, He preached the dharma and saved living beings. At the age of eighty, between two sala trees in the city of Kusinagara, He entered nirvana.