HISTORY OF BUDDHISM
The Buddha was born Siddharta Gautama c563 BCE in Lumbini, Northern India, now Nepal, as the son of the head of the Shakya clan. According to legend, he led a privilaged life of luxury, sheltered from the harsh realities of life.
When, on a rare excursion from the palace, he encountered examples of sickness, old age and death, he was so shocked that he vowed to find the answer to human suffering.
At the age of 29 he left the palace and became a wandering mendicant, studying under the leading spiritual teachers of his time and practising asceticism and meditation until after 6 years seeking he sat under a tree at Bodhgaya, India, and vowed not to get up until he had found what he was looking for. That night he realised Enlightment and spent the rest of his long life travelling the Gangetic Plain teaching what he had found and helping people, both monastic and lay, find inner peace and happiness.
Since then Buddhism has spread around the world adapting to the needs of the times and cultures it found itself in, resulting in a variety of approaches but all holding to the core teachings of the Buddha himself.
The Buddha emphasised that his teachings were not to be taken on faith, but that one should put them into practice in one's own life and test their efficacy for one's self before accepting them.
"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense" - The Buddha, Kalama Sutta.