Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Gautama Mean?

Gautama is the clan name of the founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama or simply Buddha. He is also called Shakyamuni Buddha, the sage of the Shakya clan. He is considered the founder of Buddhist teachings and the main character of Buddhism. It is believed that he lived between the fourth and sixth century B.C.E. in the east of the Indian subcontinent.

Gautama is the founder of the "middle way," which is another name for the Noble Eightfold Path and the essential principle of Buddhism. It is believed that his teachings were collected and learned by his disciples after his death. They were first passed down verbally, then around 400 years later were written down.


Yogapedia Explains Gautama

There are many sources with information about Gautama´s life, many containing very different and sometimes conflicting information. It is believed that he was born to wealthy parents. His father was the leader of the Shakya clan and his mother was a princess. It is said that his mother died during his birth or shortly afterward. His father tried to protect him from witnessing poverty and illness, and at the age of 29 he saw an old, poor man for the first time. He then left home to live an ascetic life and begged in the streets. He practiced and studied yoga and yogic meditation and gained a high level of meditative mindfulness. He tried to achieve enlightenment by living a life of extreme austerity, limiting his food consumption to almost nothing.

After a physical collapse, he realized that while meditation was the path to liberation, extreme ascetism did not work. He discovered the "middle way," preaching a life of moderation out of all extremes. It is said, at the age of 35, he went to sit under a tree where he meditated for 49 days until he reached enlightenment (the tree is now well-known as the bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India). He discovered the Four Noble Truths, another essential teaching of Buddhism that explains the cause of suffering and possible actions to prevent it.

Gautama spent 45 years traveling and teaching various kinds of people, including criminals, nobles, beggars and even cannibals. He gave sermons to his followers, forming a Buddhist sangha, a community of his followers.

It is believed that Gautama died at the age of 80, allegedly due to old age.

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