Who was Gotama Buddha?


Key Questions

  1. Where and when was Gotama Buddha born?
  2. Why did Gotama Buddha leave home?
  3. What enlightenment happened to Buddha?
  4. What are the Buddha’s main teachings?
  5. How helpful are the Buddha’s teachings for today?
  6. How did meditation help the Buddha?
  7. How important is the Buddha today?


About the unit

In this unit pupils find out about the life and teachings of Gotama Buddha – the founder of Buddhism. They use a range of written and visual sources to select, record and evaluate information on the importance of this religious figure. Pupils will reflect on and evaluate the concepts of truth and wisdom. They will reflect on questions of human existence and purpose, and consider their own beliefs in the light of their learning about the religious figure. The structure of this unit could be applied to studies of other religious figures from other traditions.

This unit is expected to take approximately 7 hours.

Where the unit fits in

This unit builds on work done on a religious figure in the key stage 2 scheme of work, eg unit 3C ‘What do we know about Jesus?’ and unit 5A ‘Why is Muhammad important to Muslims?’ It links with unit 9A ‘Where are we going? Rites of passage’ in that it gives one person’s journey and answer to that question as well as raising other ultimate questions.

The unit prepares for evaluative work in GCSE RE/RS.


At the end of this unit

most pupils will: know about the life of Gotama Buddha and describe accurately key events in his life; understand the reasons for and results of these key events and explain how the principal beliefs and teachings of Gotama Buddha impact on the lives of Buddhists today; explain clearly the experience of inspirational people and relate it to their own and others’ lives; reflect on ultimate questions raised through difficult situations in life; evaluate the importance of the Buddha as a perfect example of how to live for Buddhists today; reflect on questions about the meaning and purpose of human existence and formulate their own response

some pupils will not have made so much progress and will: know that Gotama Buddha lived BCE and describe some of the key events from his life; know some important beliefs and teachings of Gotama Buddha and make links between Buddhist symbols, stories and beliefs; make informed responses to other people’s values and commitments in the light of their learning and respond to questions of meaning and purpose

some pupils will have progressed further and will: know in detail the life story of Gotama Buddha and understand the importance of key events in their historical and cultural setting; explain how religious beliefs, teachings, practices and lifestyles of Buddhists today relate to Gotama Buddha’s teachings; evaluate Buddhist answers to questions of meaning and purpose, using appropriate evidence and examples; think about their own answers to ultimate questions and evaluate the importance of the Buddha as a perfect example for Buddhists today

Prior learning

It is helpful if pupils have:

Language for learning

Through the activities in this unit pupils will be able to understand, use and spell correctly words relating to the study of:

Speaking and listening – through the activities pupils could:

Reading – through the activities pupils could:

Writing – through the activities pupils could:


As well as a range of textbooks and published resources, this unit will be enhanced by the use of original ancient and modern materials from Buddhist sources, including:

Out of school learning

Pupils could:

Future learning

Pupils could go on to: