'''Buddha''' (Sanskrit: lit. ''Awakened One'', ''Enlightened One''. from the Sanskrit: "Budh", ''to know'') is a title given to individuals who have realized their complete potential for personal development and conscious evolution. In contemporary usage, it often refers to Gautama Siddhartha, the religious teacher and spiritual founder of Buddhism (considered to be "the Buddha of this age"). In the other usage, it is an appellative and exemplar for an Enlightened ''human'' being.
Buddhists do not consider Siddhartha Gautama to have been the first or last Buddha. Technically, a Buddha, one who rediscovers the Dharma (i.e., Truth; the nature of reality, of the mind, of the affliction of the human condition and the correct "path" to liberation) by Bodhi, comes to be after skillful or good karma (intention) is perfectly maintained and all negative unskillful actions are abandoned. The attainment of Nirvana between the three types of Buddhas is exactly the same, but the Samma-Sambuddha expresses more qualities and capacities than the other two. These three types of Buddhahood are:
*the ''Samma-Sambuddha'' who, without a teacher, gains full Enlightenment by his own effort
*the ''Pacceka-Buddha'' or ''Pratyeka-Buddha'' who is like the Samma-Sambuddha, but remains silent and keeps the discovered Dharma to himself
*the ''Savaka-Buddha'' who is an Arahant (enlightened disciple), but has attained Enlightenment by hearing of the Dhamma.
Due to popular misconceptions, it must be emphasized that a Buddha is not a God. Not only was this denied by Gautama Siddhartha himself, but also the clear distinction is made in Buddhist cosmology that the position of Buddhahood is attainable only by human beings (although not limited to this particular Humanity), in whom reside the greatest potential for Enlightenment. Gautama Buddha also stated that there is no intermediary between mankind and the divine; distant gods and God are subject to karma themselves in decaying heavens. The Buddha is solely an exemplar, guide and teacher for those sentient beings who must tread the path themselves, attain spiritual Awakening, and see truth & reality as it is. The Buddhist system of philosophy and meditation practice was not divinely-revealed, but rather, the understanding of the true nature of the human mind which can be rediscovered by anyone for themselves. Penetration of this reality accompanies the shocking truth that ignorance can be eliminated.
According to Gautama Siddhartha, the Awakening bliss of Nirvana he attained under the Bodhi tree, is available to all beings once they achieve rebirth as a human. Emphasizing this concept, the Mahayana school of Buddhism in particular refers to many Buddhas and also bodhisattvas (beings committed to Enlightenment but who vow to postpone their own Nirvana in order to assist others on the path). In the holy Tipitaka - the core sacred text of Buddhism - the numerous past Buddhas and their lives are spoken of, including the next Buddha-to-be, the Maitreya Buddha.