Buddha is a person who has achieved the spiritual state of bodhi. The word buddha literally means "the awakened one" – someone who has no ignorance and can see the universe as it really is. People who have achieved this state can be called a buddha. There are many buddhas, and no one has the right to say, "I am the one and only buddha."
The religion of Buddhism takes its teaching from spiritual guidance. It holds that everything in the universe is linked and related, but it is to ourselves that we must ultimately answer. If we harm another person, we are harming ourselves, because everything is linked. This is also where the idea of karma comes into play; what we give out, we shall receive, and vice versa.
Siddattha Gotama, an Indian prince, is considered the original teacher of Buddhism. During his lifetime, he reached an enlightened state. Until his 29th birthday, Siddattha led a luxurious life, as befits royalty. Slowly, up until that age, he began to realize that everything in the universe will eventually die. Sorrow and pain are a prelude to death. Siddattha decided to find a cure for humanity's sorrow and became a seeker of peace.
On his travels, Siddattha learned the teachings and philosophies of the most prominent thinkers and spiritual wisemen of the time, but none of the answers he gained satisfied him. It was a case of the blind leading the blind. Siddattha soon joined a group of five pupils of a former teacher. They tried to become in touch with their senses through abstinence and penance.
Siddattha practiced this form for six years. He abstained until his body became shrunken and withered. His veins protruded from his skin, which had dried up. For the six years he suffered, he eventually realized the absolute futility of complete abstinence and penance.
Taking guidance from all his findings, Siddattha came upon the Middle Path of thinking, or the Majjhima Patipada. Sitting under a Bodhi tree in deep meditation, he attained enlightenment and became buddha. Buddha taught that suffering was due to the selfishness of clinging to life and its passions. As buddha, Siddattha taught his philosophy until the age of 80, when he passed into Nirvana.
Buddha was therefore a man, and anyone who has attained enlightenment can be buddha. A buddha exists to teach and to point out the path of salvation. Buddha teaches people to rely on themselves and no one else. Depending on others for salvation is negative, while depending on oneself is positive. According to Buddhism, anyone can reach a state of perfection and enlightenment. The concept is far more spiritual than religious.