"Who Was the Buddha?
BY BARBARA O'BRIEN| NOVEMBER 22, 2017
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What do we really know about Siddhārtha Gautama, the historical Buddha? Who are the other Buddhas we sometimes see and hear about? Barbara O’Brien answers your questions about the very real human being whose spiritual quest and awakening have inspired the world for some 2,600 years.
Tibetan sculpture of Shakyamuni Buddha sitting and touching the earth.
Sculpture of Shakyamuni Buddha touching the earth at the moment he reached enlightenment. 11th-12th century, Central Tibet. Brass with colored pigments. Photo courtesy of The Met.
Who Was Buddha?
What Do We Know About the Historical Buddha?
Have There Been Other Buddhas?
What About the Buddhas in Buddhist Art?
Do Buddhists Worship the Buddha?
What Did the Buddha Teach?
What Is Enlightenment?
Is There a Buddhist Bible?
Who Was Buddha?
Buddha is not a name, but a title. It is a Sanskrit word that means “a person who is awake.” What a buddha is awake to is the true nature of reality.
Simply put, Buddhism teaches that we all live in a fog of illusions created by mistaken perceptions and “impurities” — hate, greed, ignorance. A buddha is one who is freed from the fog. It is said that when a buddha dies he or she is not reborn but passes into the peace of Nirvana, which is not a “heaven” but a transformed state of existence.
Most of the time, when someone says the Buddha, it’s in reference to the historical person who founded Buddhism. This was a man originally named Siddhartha Gautama who lived in what is now northern India and Nepal about twenty-five centuries ago."