It was here that Siddharta attained a knowledge of the way things really are; it was through this knowledge that he acquired the title Buddha (meaning "awakened one"). This awakening was achieved during a night of meditation, which passed through various stages as the illumination that Gautama had sought slowly welled up in his heart. He knew the exact condition of all beings and the causes of their rebirths. He saw beings live, die and transmigrate. In meditating on human pain, he was enlightened about both its genesis and the means of destroying it.
Although initially hesitant to share his insight on the grounds that humanity might not be ready for such a teaching, the Buddha decided to communicate his discovery to those willing to listen. His first converts were the five ascetics with whom he had lived when he himself followed the lifestyle of the ascetic. To these he preached his first sermon in the Deer Park at Benares, outlining to them the Four Noble Truths. Out of this small group the community of monks (or Sangha) grew to about 60 in size and came to include Buddha's cousin, Ananda, and his son, Rahula. Later the Buddha was persuaded by his stepmother and cousin to accept women into the sangha. The remaining 45 years of the Buddha's life were spent journeying around the plain of the Ganges, teaching and receiving visitors.
In Burmese Buddhist tradition, the date of the Buddha's death is 13 May 544 BCE, whereas in Thai tradition it is 11 March 545 BCE. At his death, the Buddha is famously believed to have told his disciples to follow no leader. Mahakasyapa was chosen by the sangha to be the chairman of the First Buddhist Council, with the two chief disciples Maudgalyayana and Sariputta having died before the Buddha.