Exactly when and where Prince Siddhattha Gotama, the man destined to become The Buddha (‘Awakened One’), lived and died is uncertain.
Between 563 BCE to 483 BCE are the dates frequently cited by scholars, though others believe the Buddha’s death most likely occurred later between 411 and 400 BCE. Early Buddhist texts mention four major pilgrimage sites: Lumbini where he is said to have been born, Bodh Gaya where he is said to have awakened, Benares where he is said to have first expounded the ‘Four Noble Truths’ doctrine, and Kusinagara where he is said to have sickened and died at the age of 80.
Like most people, the young prince is said to have been disturbed by the realities of birth, ageing, sickness and death. Resolving to put an end to his distress once and for all, he renounced his hedonistic lifestyle and practiced almost to the point of death the austere purification methods as taught by various holy men at that time.
Eventually he renounced asceticism for the ‘Middle Way’, which he discovered upon attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree at the age of 30.
For the next fifty years he then wandered Northern India with his retinue of monks, nuns and lay followers and taught the Dhamma (experiential truth) to all who would listen.
His dying words to those paying their final respects to him were: ’All compounded things are impermanent. Strive on heedfully’.