As mentioned above Buddha can refer to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni or to anyone who has attained full enlightenment. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso explains in Introduction to Buddhism. A Buddha is a person who is completely free from all faults and mental obstructions. There are many people who have become Buddhas in the past, and many people will become Buddhas in the future….
There is nothing that Buddha does not know. Because he has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and has removed all obstructions from his mind, he knows everything of the past, present, and future, directly and simultaneously.
The life of the Buddha
Moreover, Buddha has great compassion which is completely impartial, embracing all living beings without discrimination. He benefits all living beings without exception by emanating various forms throughout the universe, and by bestowing his blessings on their minds. Eventually, through meeting an emanation of Buddha in the form of a Spiritual Guide, everyone will have the opportunity to enter the path to liberation and enlightenment. As the great Indian Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna said, there is no one who has not received help from Buddha.
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Meeting that man gave the future Buddha a first and enticing taste of mind, a true and lasting refuge, which he knew he had to experience himself for the good of all. The Buddha decided he had to leave his royal responsibilities and his family in order to realize full enlightenment. He left the palace secretly, and set off alone into the forest. Over the next six years, he met many talented meditation teachers and mastered their techniques. At the moment of full realization, all veils of mixed feelings and stiff ideas dissolved and Buddha experienced the all-encompassing here and now.
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All separation in time and space disappeared. Past, present, and future, near and far, melted into one radiant state of intuitive bliss. He became timeless, all-pervading awareness. Through every cell in his body he knew and was everything. He became Buddha , the Awakened One.
Gautama Buddha - Wikiquote
After his enlightenment, Buddha traveled on foot throughout northern India. He taught constantly for forty-five years. People of all castes and professions, from kings to courtesans, were drawn to him. He answered their questions, always pointing towards that which is ultimately real. Throughout his life, Buddha encouraged his students to question his teachings and confirm them through their own experience.
Something—something as persistent as his own shadow—drew him into the world beyond the castle walls. There, in the streets of Kapilavastu, he encountered three simple things: a sick man , an old man , and a corpse being carried to the burning grounds. Nothing in his life of ease had prepared him for this experience.
When his charioteer told him that all beings are subject to sickness, old age, and death, he could not rest. As he returned to the palace, he passed a wandering ascetic walking peacefully along the road, wearing the robe and carrying the single bowl of a sadhu. After bidding his wife and child a silent farewell without waking them, he rode to the edge of the forest. There, he cut his long hair with his sword and exchanged his fine clothes for the simple robes of an ascetic.
With these actions Siddhartha Gautama joined a whole class of men who had dropped out of Indian society to find liberation. There were a variety of methods and teachers , and Gautama investigated many—atheists, materialists, idealists, and dialecticians. The deep forest and the teeming marketplace were alive with the sounds of thousands of arguments and opinions, unlike in our time.
Gautama finally settled down to work with two teachers. From Arada Kalama, who had three hundred disciples, he learned how to discipline his mind to enter the sphere of nothingness.
But even though Arada Kalama asked him to remain and teach as an equal, he recognized that this was not liberation, and left. Next Siddhartha learned how to enter the concentration of mind which is neither consciousness nor unconsciousness from Udraka Ramaputra. But neither was this liberation and Siddhartha left his second teacher. For six years Siddhartha along with five companions practiced austerities and concentration. He drove himself mercilessly, eating only a single grain of rice a day, pitting mind against body. His ribs stuck through his wasted flesh and he seemed more dead than alive.
His five companions left him after he made the decision to take more substantial food and to abandon asceticism. Then, Siddhartha entered a village in search of food. There, a woman named Sujata offered him a dish of milk and a separate vessel of honey. His strength returned, Siddhartha washed himself in the Nairanjana River, and then set off to the Bodhi tree.