The Buddha

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early statue of the Buddha, thought to be from Sri Lanka

Buddhism grew out of a period of change in Hinduism. Many ideas emerged at this time which changed Hindu thought considerably, taking it away from the old Vedic religion and 

in a new direction. The concepts of reincarnation, samsara (the cycle of birth and rebirth), and moksha (liberation from the cycle) emerged. 

The Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama, a prince of the Shakyas somewhere around 566 BCE. At the age of 29 he left his home and family and renounced his life of privilege for the life of an ascetic. He came to believe that neither extreme offered the solution to happiness. He called this idea "The Middle Way"; the path to Enlightenment (release from the cycle of samsara).