Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama on the foothills of Lumbini, in what is now Nepal, in about 563 BCE. His father, King Shuddhodana was the ruler of the Shakya clan and his mother was Queen Mayadevi. The legends surrounding Buddha suggest that both his conception and birth were miraculous. His mother, Queen Mayadevi, conceived him when she dreamt that a white elephant entered her womb. She gave birth to him in a standing position while holding onto a tree in a garden. The child emerged from Mayadevi's right side, fully formed. He then proceeded to take seven steps and proclaimed, "I am the foremost of all. This is my last birth. I will cross the ocean of existence." Queen Mayadevi died seven days after the birth and Siddhartha was raised by his aunt Mahaprajapati, the King's second wife.
It was predicted at his birth that Siddhartha would become either a world ruler or a world teacher.
Siddhartha's father felt very strongly about him taking over as ruler. He therefore gave Siddhartha everything he wanted and every luxury he could have. Siddhartha was kept inside and was not permitted to see the elderly, the sickly, the dead, or anyone who had dedicated themselves to spiritual practices. King Shuddhodana was afraid that these things would cause him to become disillusioned with his life at home and cause him to take a spiritual path in life. Only beauty and health surrounded Siddhartha. Because Siddhartha was a prince, he was taught the skills of archery, horsemanship, swordplay and martial arts. He was given the staff of beautiful young women to care for him and to look after him.
When he was sixteen, he married a princess named Yasodhara. She chose Siddhartha after a number of competitions between princes, which...