A Buddha is not a god, but rather one who through complete wisdom and compassion, has attained full enlightenment and is thus beyond the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. A Buddha exemplifies the highest form of morality and is the supreme teacher, showing people the way to relieve suffering. The word “Buddha” is derived from the root budh meaning “to awaken and be aware or completely conscious”. Buddhists believe that all beings have the Buddha nature and therefore the potential to become a Buddha.
Cultivating and awakening this potential in oneself is what Buddhism is all about. According to the Mahayana thoughts, there are many Buddhas. When Buddhists generally speak of “the” Buddha, they are usually referring to Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.