Sri Gautama Buddha was a Hindu Prince in India. His name was Siddhartha. According to the custom of the time, he was married quite young, at the age of sixteen, to a beautiful and devoted young princess named Yasodhara. The young prince lived in his palace with every luxury at his command. He was well protected. However, once he set out of the palace into the real world. There he encountered some of the great miseries of the world such as very old age, dangerous diseases and death itself. He was moved and touched by these phenomena. At the age of 29, soon after the birth of his only child Rahula, he left the worldly life and the riches and pleasures in search of an answer to the universal suffering that accompanied them. He felt that the answer must come from deep within himself and not from outside. So he sat under the legendary Bodhi tree and went into deep self-enquiry. At the age of 35, he attained enlightenment. Thereafter, he was known as the Buddha, ‘The Enlightened One.”
After his Enlightenment, Gautama the Buddha delivered his first sermon to a group of five ascetics, his old colleagues, in the Deer Park at Isipatana (modern Sarnath) near Benares. From that day, for 45 years, he taught all classes of men and women – kings and peasants, Brahmins and outcasts, bankers and beggars, holy men and robbers – without making the slightest distinction between them. He recognized no differences of caste or social groupings, and the Way he preached was open to all men and women who were ready to understand and follow it. At the age of 80, the Buddha passed away at Kusinara (in modern Uttar Pradesh in India).
Due to their over-enthusiasm and extreme zealousness to spread the teachings of Sri Buddha, many followers started misinterpreting Hinduism and caused chaos and confusion among the people – about the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Righteous Way of Life of the Hindus. So came Sri Adi Sankaracharya who swiftly and efficiently conducted several debates to dispel the myths spread by the then Buddhists about Hinduism. He also established several missions all over India, all accomplished in the total 32 years of his life as a human being, after which he gave up his body. Thus it is a pity that the Great Teachings of the Great Buddha are not formally followed as much in India as it is followed in other parts of the world. However, the teachings of Buddha are the essential teachings of the Upanishads and the Sanatana Dharma of India.
The Indians exalted Sri Buddha as an incarnation of God. They respected him and adored him. They still do. Because, after all, He is a Great Sage of India!