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Siddhartha Gautama Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama was a prince who lived in the kingdom of Sakyas, near the present day border of India and Nepal, more than 2500 years ago. The young prince was raised in great luxury, but he was not happy. He wanted to understand what caused human suffering. He did not understand why some people were rich and others were poor. Why some people were healthy and others sickly.

Siddhartha left his palace and lived as an ascetic. An ascetic is a person who has few material possessions and has given up all pleasures and comforts. He prayed and fasted. To fast is to eat little or no food. Siddhartha fasted so strictly that he nearly died, but he was still not satisfied. Finally, Siddhartha sat down under a bo tree and determined to understand why he had failed to find a satisfying way of life. Late that night Siddhartha Gautama became enlightened.

Siddhartha told other people of his enlightenment. He became well known for his teaching. Siddhartha's students called him "the Buddha," which means "the Enlightened One," and the followers of Siddhartha's teachings are called Buddhists.

The Buddha taught his followers to seek balance in their lives. The path to happiness is neither through indulgence nor denial, but a "middle way." Siddhartha taught that by putting aside your ego, you can escape the cycle of death and rebirth to reach Nirvana.

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