Book: Buddhism in Five Minutes
Chapter: 9. What do we Know about the Historical Buddha?
The question is more difficult than it appears, and I propose to answer it by analyzing three of its component terms—know, historical, and buddha—before attempting an answer to the what. It would seem that traditional Buddhists of Asian lands were not concerned with this kind of question. For them, as indeed for many modern Western Buddhists, the term “buddha” did not primarily refer to a particular historical personage but rather to
the discoverer of the way to awakening, the founder and teacher of what has become known as Buddhism, a guide and exemplar, the first of the Three Jewels or precious things (the Triple Gem), to which Buddhists go for refuge. In short, for Buddhists, the Buddha is an object of faith and devotion.