Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, was born in 6 BC, in what is now modern Nepal. He lived the comfortable life of a young prince until one day he ventured out into the world and was confronted with the reality of the inevitable suffering of life. He left his kingdom to lead an ascetic life, submitting himself to rigorous ascetic practices for the next six years, refusing food and nearly starving himself to death.
Buddha undertaking extreme ascetic practices before his enlightenment. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Realizing that physical austerities were not the means to achieve liberation, he soon turned to the Middle Path—a path of balance rather than extremism. He attained enlightenment, and for the remainder of his eighty years, the Buddha taught other sentient beings reach enlightenment.