a widespread Asian religion or philosophy, founded by Siddartha Gautama in north-eastern India in the 5th century bc.
Buddhism is a faith that was founded by Siddhartha Gautama (“the Buddha”) more than 2,500 years ago in India. With about 470 million followers, scholars consider Buddhism one of the major world religions. Its practice has historically been most prominent in East and Southeast Asia, but its influence is growing in the West. Many Buddhist ideas and philosophies overlap with those of other faiths.
Some key Buddhism beliefs include:
Siddharth Gautama, the founder of Buddhism who later became known as “the Buddha,” lived during the 5th century B.C.
Gautama was born into a wealthy family as a prince in present-day Nepal. Although he had an easy life, Gautama was moved by suffering in the world.
He decided to give up his lavish lifestyle and endure poverty. When this didn’t fulfill him, he promoted the idea of the “Middle Way,” which means existing between two extremes. Thus, he sought a life without social indulgences but also without deprivation.
After six years of searching, Buddhists believe Gautama found enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree. He spent the rest of his life teaching others about how to achieve this spiritual state.
When Gautama passed away around 483 B.C., his followers began to organize a religious movement. Buddha’s teachings became the foundation for what would develop into Buddhism.
In the 3rd century B.C., Ashoka the Great, the Mauryan Indian emperor, made Buddhism the state religion of India. Buddhist monasteries were built, and missionary work was encouraged.
Over the next few centuries, Buddhism began to spread beyond India. The thoughts and philosophies of Buddhists became diverse, with some followers interpreting ideas differently than others.
In the sixth century, the Huns invaded India and destroyed hundreds of Buddhist monasteries, but the intruders were eventually driven out of the country.
Islam began to spread quickly in the region during the Middle Ages , forcing Buddhism into the background.
Today, many forms of Buddhism exist around the world. The three main types that represent specific geographical areas include:
Each of these types reveres certain texts and has slightly different interpretations of Buddha’s teachings. There are also several subsects of Buddhism, including Zen Buddhism and Nirvana Buddhism.
Some forms of Buddhism incorporate ideas of other religions and philosophies, such as Taoism and Bon.
Buddha’s teachings are known as “dharma.” He taught that wisdom, kindness, patience, generosity and compassion were important virtues.
Specifically, all Buddhists live by five moral precepts, which prohibit:
The Four Noble Truths, which Buddha taught, are:
Collectively, these principles explain why humans hurt and how to overcome suffering.
The Buddha taught his followers that the end of suffering, as described in the fourth Noble Truths, could be achieved by following an Eightfold Path.
In no particular order, the Eightfold Path of Buddhism teaches the following ideals for ethical conduct, mental disciple and achieving wisdom: