Indian spiritual leader and founder of Buddhism. The term Buddha (Sanskrit: “Enlightened One”) is a title rather than a name,and Buddhists believe that there are an infinite number of past and future buddhas. The historical Buddha,referred to as the Buddha Gautama or simply as the Buddha,was born a prince of the Sakyas,on the India-Nepal border. He is said to have lived a sheltered life of luxury that was interrupted when he left the palace and encountered an old man,a sick man,and a corpse. Renouncing his princely life,he spent seven years seeking out teachers and trying various ascetic practices,including fasting,to gain enlightenment. Unsatisfied with the results,he meditated beneath the bodhi tree,where,after temptations by Mara,he realized the Four Noble Truths and achieved enlightenment. At Sarnath he preached his first sermon to his companions,outlining the Eightfold Path,which offered a middle way between self-indulgence and self-mortification and led to the liberation of nirvana. The five ascetics who heard this sermon became his first disciples and were admitted as bhiksus (monks) into the sangha or Buddhist order. His mission fulfilled,the Buddha died at Kusinara (present-day Kasia),after eating poisonous mushrooms served him by accident,and escaped the cycle of rebirth; his body was cremated,and stupas were built over his relics.