Buddha Shakyamuni was a historical figure, believed to have lived from about 563 BCE to 483 BCE. Born a prince of the Shakya clan, Sidhartha Gautama at the age of 29 embarked on the quest for enlightenment and liberation from the world of sufferings. He finally attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya when he was 35 years old.
Buddha urged his disciples to seek truth within their own experiences. He taught that existence is based on the Four Noble Truths, namely: life is rooted in suffering; suffering is caused by craving for worldly things; one can find release from suffering by eliminating craving; craving can be eliminated by following the Eightfold Path. The path consists of: Right Understanding; Right Motivation; Right Speech; ; Right Action; Right Livelihood; Right Effort; Right Awareness; and Right Concentration
Buddha Shakyamnuni, after attaining complete enlightenment, spent over 40 summers in the samsaric world, teaching the holy Dharma and guiding the ignorant beings on the right spiritual path. The Buddha’s teachings were eventually documented by his disciples after his Mahaparinirvana and are contained in the Three Pitakas.
The Buddha said, “Bhikshus and Bhikshunis, after I passed away, the devout men and women should remember and visit these four holy places as long as they live. What are the four places? This is the place where the Buddha was born (Lumbini). This is the place where the Buddha attained complete enlightenment (Bodh Gaya). This is the place where the Buddha turned the wheel of the Dharma 12 times (Sarnath). And this is the place where the Buddha entered parinirvana (Kushinagar). Bhikshus and Bhikshunis, after I passed away, people will come and circumambulate the stupa and prostrate to the stupa, explain these to them. Those who have devotion to me will be born in the higher realms on their death. After my passing away, the new Bhikshus and Bhikshunis who come and ask of the doctrine should be told of these four places and advised that a pilgrimage to them will help purify their previously accumulated negative karmas, even the five heinous actions.”