Buddha was not always so enlightened as many people now think of him. His Enlightenment actually came about because he was very cut off from the struggles of everyday life. He lived in a palace and thought that everything in the world was easy -- and for him, it was. He did not have to face hunger, poverty, strife, or any of the other challenges that afflict the common people. One day he left the palace and saw how hard and cruel the world really was, and it was a revelation to him. He knew there had to be a better way. He then sat to meditate and search for Enlightenment; his teachings were passed down so that Buddhists could all follow the Eightfold Path to a better way
Today's Buddhist is someone who is against violence, someone who does not try to force their religion onto other people or act out with violence toward anyone else. He or she is someone who tries to ignore the distractions of the world and distance themselves from the things that create stress and strife. With the return to a more traditional form of Buddhism without as many rituals and traditions, the emphasis is on seeking a better way of life. Today's Buddhist knows that the main vices of the world -- greed, for example -- cause many of the problems. He or she tries to put these aside and life a deeper, more meaningful life.
While it is true that today's Buddhist could be a monk and follow this path of seclusion, many Buddhists do not leave the world in order to rise above it. They live in everyday society and attempt, through meditation and other tactics, to stay clear of the vices that it throws against them.