Most historians agree that Buddhism originated in northern India in the 5th century BCE. Siddhartha observed the suffering in the world and set off in search of an antidote. Through meditation and analysis, he attained a state of enlightened being which marked the end of attachments (and therefore suffering), and ultimately, upon his death, release from the cycle of rebirth (samsara). The teachings of the Buddha are often summarized in the Four Noble Truths, which form the basis of the first sermon he delivered after attaining enlightenment, and the Eightfold Path, which provides a basic guide on how to live in the world. During its 2,500 year history, Buddhism has known many schisms and modifications; there are currently three main branches of the tradition – the Theravada (“Doctrine of the Ancients”), the Mahayana (“Great Vehicle) and the Vajrayana (” Diamond Vehicle “, often referred to simply as” Tibetan Buddhism “), although there are many sects and groups within each of these branches.The Buddhist canon consists of a vast body of texts that cover philosophical, devotional and monastic topics, and each of the major divisions of Buddhism has its own distinct version of what he considers canonical. Buddhism has spread from its roots in India to virtually every corner of the world, and in every place it has spread, it has adopted and adapted local practices and beliefs. Although Buddhism is a distinct religious tradition, many people in the contemporary West have adopted philosophical and practical aspects of Buddhism and incorporated them into their religious practices and so ciales; thus, there are people who identify as “Buddhist Christians”, “Buddhist Jews” and “B Uddhist atheists.”
Details at a glance:
- Form: The exact dates of the Buddha’s birth and death are disputed.
- Deity: Some branches of the greater Buddhist tradition (including the Mahayana) include a variety of gods and goddesses; others, especially the Theravada, reject the belief in an omnipotent deity.
Sources of quick facts include www.adherents.com, www.bbc.co.uk/religion, The Oxford Handbook of World Religions (2006), The Encyclopedia of Religion (2005), the Religious Movements page of the University of Virginia, The Illustrated History of Cambridge Religions (2002) and the Encyclopedia of World Religions (1999).