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The historical Buddha was born as a prince named Siddhartha Gautama. In his late twenties, Siddhartha encountered the “four signs” during excursions into the city. They made an extremely strong impression on him. These signs were: an old man, a sick person, a corpse, and a monk or a yogin. Through them he realized his life in the palace was only concerned with surface things, and he had the insight that the life passes in a fragile and indefinite equilibrium; furthermore, he realized that the only way out of this suffering world of samsara was through finding and following the right spiritual path.

At twenty-nine, Siddhartha left his home and family behind and engaged in an ascetic path. He became a wandering yogi, seeking the truth for the sake of all sentient beings. At the age of thirty-five, meditating under the bodhi tree, Siddhartha attained complete enlightenment, or buddhahood, overcoming all the obscurations and temptations that our ego distracts us with. At this point, Siddhartha was a buddha, a fully awakened or enlightened one, and he knew that for him, there would be no further rebirth in samsaric realms.

The Buddha traveled to Sarnath, in northern India, where he began to offer teachings based on his own experience to a small assembly at a place called Deer Park. These teachings, known as the "dharma", meaning the "truth", were a discourse between the Buddha and his disciples on philosophy and view, as well as practical instructions on how to relate to everyday life and how to work with one's own mind. These teachings, known as the "buddha-dharma", meaning "teachings of the awakened one", encompass what is known today as Buddhism.

The teachings of the Buddha show the path and practices that lead to the state of complete enlightenment, the freedom from cyclic existence known as samsara. Buddha proclaims in his teachings that all sentient beings have the potential of wakefulness within, which can be fully realized through the methods on the path. The process of awakening mainly consists of two elements of accumulation of merit and wisdom through developing the right philosophical view and then going through the process of meditation practice. The methods of the path are passed down from generation to generation, which is known in Vajrayana as the "lineage."


Thrangu Rinpoche has provided an explanation of the renowned Twelve Deeds of the Buddha which may be found here.

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