Towards the end of the seventh century B.C., in the city of Kapilavastu, the capital of a small kingdom of the same name siiuated in Central India at the foot of the mountains of Nepaul, north of the present kingdom of Oudh, the Buddha was born. His father Suddhodana, of the tribe of the Sakyas, a descendant of the great solar race of the Gautamides, ruled over the country. His mother, Maya Devi, was the daughter of the King Suprabuddha, and her beauty was so transcendent that the name of Maya, or the Vision, had been given to her, her form seeming to be - as is related in the Lalita-vistara - the creation of some enchanting dream. Maya Devi's virtues and talents surpassed even her excessive beauty, for she was endowed with the highest and choicest gifts of intelligence and piety. Suddhodana was worthy of his consort, and 'King of the Law, he ruled according to the Law. No other prince among the Sakyas was more honoured and respected by all classes of his subjects, from his councillors and countries, down to the householders and merchants.'
Although Sakya-muni devoted himself more to the practical side of religion, it is impossible to doubt that he had also a theory. He had been a pupil of the Brahmans, and the reflective tendency of his own genius led him to seek for the essential basis of his doctrine. He did not, it is true, positively separate metaphysics from ethics, but the latter naturaly obliged him to seek for higher principles, and in his teaching he joins to the precepts he gives on the discipline of life, axioms which explain and justify these precetps. Hence, in the very first Council, his disciples made under the name of Abhidharma, a collection of his metaphysical axioms, one of the Three Baskets (Tripitaka), in which the canonical books were divided.