Siddhartha was born into the family of Queen Maya, and King Shuddhodana. He was conceived when he descended from heaven and entered his mothers womb in the form of a baby white elephant, which is a symbol of purity. His mother gave birth on the full moon day in May, where a tree lowered a branch to assist her during his birth. When Siddhartha was born, he immediately took 7 steps and said, "this is my last birth", meaning one day he would be a great ruler or religious teacher.
After the death of his mother, Siddhartha's father decided he wanted to isolate him, in their luxury palace, in hopes that he would become a great ruler, rather than a religious teacher.
Siddhartha craved spiritual satisfaction, so he left the kingdom to see the outside world. When Siddhartha went out into the streets of the city, he saw an old man, broken from life; a sick man lying by the roadside; a corpse being prepared for cremation; and lastly he was drawn to a monk who practiced self denial. He became inspired by the thought of finding a spiritual solution to the problems of human life.
Siddhartha became a wandering seeker of spiritual knowledge, where he gave up everything he once had, including his money, food, wife, and son, to live in the forest where he met his first teacher that taught him to meditate and attain a state of deep trance. He then tried controlled breathing, which resulted in headaches. Next, he tried reducing food intake, to just one grain of rice a day. He became ill, and gave up this form of self denial, as he realized that extremes of any kind were not productive. He came to the conclusion that the best path, is the middle way.
Siddhartha came to be known as the Buddha, meaning 'the enlightened one'. In India, he began to share his new understanding of life, with 5 Hindu ascetics, who accepted and became Buddha's monks; this was the beginning of the Buddhist community. After 5 years, an order of monks, the sangha, was established. For the next 45 years, the Buddha traveled all over Northern and Central India preaching his philosophy.
The middle way is a path between both extremes. Siddhartha concluded that the best lifestyle was one of moderation.
Siddhartha sat under a tree where he remembered all of his previous lives in detail, in his state of higher consciousness (comparable to a psychic state). He saw the death and rebirth of all kinds of beings, as a consequence of their good and bad deeds. In realizing this, he removed craving and ignorance for himself. He was able to achieve a state of supreme realization and enlightenment. By doing so, he experienced the end of suffering, and was released from the endless cycle of rebirth; he had now obtained perfect wisdom and absolute peace. He stayed in this state for 7 days, pondering his future and deciding to publicize his teaching and ideas.
When Buddha died, he declared that the dharma, together with the rules of the monastic life would be the people's spiritual guide. He believed that each person should decide which teaching to follow, as each person is responsible for his/her own salvation. When he died, he reached a state of parinirvana, which had released him from the endless cycle of involuntary rebirth.