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Siddhartha Gautama (Pāli: Siddhattha Gotama) is the name of the man who came to be known as the Buddha in ancient India approximately 2,500 years ago. His charisma, in part, provided the stimulus for the formation of the religion now called “Buddhism.” Siddhartha is his personal name, while Gautama refers to his family's clan name. The term buddha is an honorary epithet literally meaning “awakened” and refers to a fully enlightened being who has attained perfect knowledge and full liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth (saṃsāra). In discussing events prior to his enlightenment, Siddhartha is frequently referred to in sources as the bodhisattva (Pāli: Bodhisatta), a term that refers to a being on the path to enlightenment.

Few today seriously question Gautama's actual existence; ...

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