Buddha, also known as Gautama Buddha or Siddhartha Gautama, was the founder of the Buddhist religion. It's generally accepted that he was born in what is now modern-day Nepal sometime around the 5th or 6th centuries CE. Born into a wealthy royal family, Buddha lived a life of luxury, insulated from the appalling poverty endured by most people in the kingdom.
When he first ventured out into the world beyond the opulent confines of the royal palace, Buddha was shocked by the hunger, disease, and suffering that he witnessed. It was then that he began to form the basis of the religion that would one day bear his name. The harsh realities of life led him to construct an ethical system that, through meditation and good conduct, would allow people to free themselves from attachment to the world, with the inevitable suffering it brings.
Buddha became a holy man and set out to pursue what he called The Middle Way, a lifestyle that was neither ascetic nor luxurious, neither rich nor poor. Growing up rich in a large palace hadn't brought Buddha any satisfaction—but neither had leading a grim life of ascetic self-denial. It was only one day, when Buddha sat meditating beneath the Bodhi tree—The Tree of Awakening—that he was finally able to achieve enlightenment, penetrating the inner truth of life. Having reached this state of wisdom, Buddha spent the remainder of his long life teaching others, bringing countless disciples to the same level of spiritual enlightenment as himself, and, in the process, establishing one of the world's great religions.