Having revived himself with food, Siddhartha resolved to sit under a great bodhi tree until either he attained enlightenment or died. For six days he sat, and on the morning of the seventh, with the rising of the morning star, he came to the realization that all things are interconnected, that there is no distinction between self and other. He had reached enlightenment.
Siddhartha arose and sought out his former companions. While passing through the forest, Siddhartha met a man who stopped him and asked, "Are you a god?" Siddhartha smiled and said "No." "Are you a spirit?" asked the man. Again, Siddhartha smiled and said "No." " What are you then?" asked the man again. "I am awake," replied Siddhartha. This is the story which led to Siddhartha's more commonly known name. In Sanskrit, the word "Buddha" means the Awakened One. In returning to his old companions, the Buddha began a teaching career that would continue until his death at the age of 80. His followers traveled with him from village to village, begging for their food and teaching villagers the path out of a world of suffering. During the rainy seasons, the Buddha and his disciples gathered in parks in shelters-given to them by wealthy followers. These became the early monasteries that formed the basis of the expansion of Buddhism. From its beginning, Buddhism has been a technique or way to eliminate suffering. It takes no position on the existence or nonexistence of gods or an afterlife. The Buddha is supposed to have said to a philosopher who insisted on answers to metaphysical questions that insisting on answers to such questions is like a wounded man on the battlefield refusing treatment for his wounds until he is told the name of his assailant, his family background, what he had for breakfast, and the name of his pet dog.
The Buddha described his method using what he called the Four Noble Truths-that life is dissatisfaction, that dissatisfaction has a cause, that the cause has a cure, and that the cure is to follow the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path is simply having the right views and the right intention; engaging in right speech, right action, right livelihood, and right effort; and pursuing right mindfulness and right concentration. This path offered a way out of suffering that did not rely on metaphysics or a god. It is not that the Buddha denied the existence of a god, but rather that he considered God's existence to be beside the point.
From its origin in northeastern India, Buddhism extended to the southeast into what is now Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. It moved south from India into Sri Lanka, and it followed the Silk Road through what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan and then Central Asia, on into China. From China, it spread to Korea and Japan. Sometime later, it moved north from India into Tibet. Today, it is practiced worldwide.