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Here is an overview of Buddhism, the main religion of many countries in Asia.
Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) grew up in a wealthy family. He decided to follow a path of self-sacrifice, but did not find the truth until he sat down under a tree, now known as the Bo tree. There he was “enlightened” and gained the knowledge he sought.
According to legend, Buddha sat under the Bo tree for 49 days and was tempted by demons. He discovered four noble truths and the eightfold path to Nirvana, or ultimate happiness.
The four noble truths of Buddhism: 1) suffering as a characteristic of existence, 2) the cause of suffering is desire and attachment, 3) the cessation of suffering, called Nirvana, and 4) the path to Nirvana, consisting of eight stages, sometimes called the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path to Nirvana is to be “right” in all of these areas: focus, opinions, speech, resolution, action, livelihood, effort, and mindfulness.
There are two major schools of Buddhism: Mahayana and Theravada or Hinayana. There is a third school, the Vajrayana, but it has only a small number of followers.
Dozens of different sects of Buddhism grew out of these schools, all with different characteristics, but sharing basic beliefs.
Buddhists believe in reincarnation and that one must stop the cycle of rebirth as a suffering and selfish individual, and must attain Nirvana, which is the culmination and end of oneself.
Karma is the belief that good deeds/behaviors will be passed on to individuals as well as bad deeds/behaviors. This is the basis for living a good moral life.
The Pali Tipitaka is the earliest collection of sacred Buddhist writings; used primarily in the Theravada school. Translated, this means the “Three Baskets”.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are approximately 488 million Buddhists in the world.
Less than 1% of the general public in the United States is Buddhist.
563-483 BC – Siddhartha Gautama, or Buddha, lives in India. Others (especially the Japanese) believe he lived about 100 years later, from 448 to 368 BC. India was in religious disarray at the time of the creation of Buddhism. People have become disillusioned with Hinduism.
150 AD – Trade brings Indians and their beliefs to Asia, particularly to China.
3rd century – Buddha’s teachings are translated into Chinese.
4th century – Introduced in Korea.
6th century – Introduced in Japan.
1100-1200 – Muslims dominate India and Buddhism becomes a very minor religion in the country.
1800 – Introduced to the United States, mainly on the West Coast.
1959 – The Dalai Lama, the Buddhist leader in Tibet, fled to India to escape Chinese rule.
Present – Buddhism remains a minority religion in its country of origin, India, with approximately eight million followers, or 0.7% of the total Indian population.
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