See also introductory courses in Buddhism.
On this level of life we live under the law of accident - everything just happens...This is the level of machines. The level of sleeping people. Sleeping people fight one another. Sleeping people hate one another...And on this level of life it can not be otherwise. So what happens to us in life is really unimportant. But what is important, however, is what we do with what happens to us in life. Because doing is magic. Doing means action. And action means understanding. And understanding means to be awake.
“Buddha” is a word that means “Intelligent One” or “Enlightened One” or “One who is Awake”. The Buddha, a human being named Siddhartha Gautama at birth, was born into a wealthy tribe in India in about 500 BCE. Emerging from a sheltered and comfortable life, the Buddha ventured out on his own into the world. There, he saw the reality of poverty, sickness and death. It was at this point in his life that Buddha decided to go forth into the world on his own and leave behind the security of family, friends and wealth. And so the story goes that through meditation and other pursuits, at the age of about 35, Buddha became an enlightened human being. Having understood the nature of reality at a very deep and fundamental level, he reached the pinnacle of human kindness and understanding.
Relying upon individual and collective effort rather than supernatural power, Buddhism is a path of self-transformation which leads to liberation from greed, hatred and delusion. While becoming increasingly aware of oneself and others, we develop our capacity for kindness and ethical action. It is a movement toward our 'true nature', and deep understanding of the interdependence and ephemeral nature of life.
Buddhism is practical and appeals to both the heart and mind. It does not ask us to put aside our rational faculties and "believe", rather it gives us the tools by which we can make positive changes in our lives. According to the Buddha, one could recognize his teachings as they all had one "taste", the taste of freedom. Buddhism encourages us to test the truth of its teachings against our own experience.