Buddhism is a religion and dharma that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on teachings attributed to the Buddha. 2-buddham-saranam-gachami

The history of Buddhism is the story of one man’s spiritual journey to enlightenment, and of the teachings and ways of living that developed from it.

Key facts

  • Buddhism is 2,500 years old
  • Buddhists are estimated half a billion, making it one of the world’s major religions.
  • Buddhism arose as a result of Siddhartha Gautama’s (Buddha) quest for Enlightenment in around the 6th Century BC
  • There is no belief in a personal God. It is not centered on the relationship between humanity and God
  • Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent – change is always possible
  • The two main Buddhist sects are Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, but there are many more
  • Buddhists can worship both at home or at a temple
  • The path to Enlightenment is through the practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom.
  • All schools of Buddhism seek to aid followers on a path of enlightenment.
  • Buddhism originated in India, from where it spread through much of Asia, where after it declined in India during the middle ages.
  • Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada (The School of the Elders) and Mahayana (The Great Vehicle).
  • Practices of Buddhism include Refuge, Samatha, Vipassanā, the Mahayana practice of Bodhicitta and the Vajrayana practices of Generation stage and Completion stage.

Theravada –  the ultimate goal is the attainment of the sublime state of nirvana, achieved by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path (also known as the Middle Way), thus escaping what is seen as a cycle of suffering and rebirth.

Mahayana – which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon and Tiantai (Tendai). Rather than Nirvana, Mahayana instead aspires to Buddhahood via the bodhisattva path, a state wherein one remains in the cycle of rebirth to help other beings reach awakening

Buddhism is a spiritual tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development and the attainment of a deep insight into the true nature of life.

Buddhists seek to reach a state of nirvana, following the path of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who went on a quest for Enlightenment around the 6th century BC.

There is no belief in a personal god. Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent and that change is always possible. The path to Enlightenment is through the practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom.

Buddhists believe that life is both endless and subject to impermanence, suffering and uncertainty. These states are called the tilakhana, or the three signs of existence. Existence is endless because individuals are reincarnated over and over again, experiencing suffering throughout many lives.

It is impermanent because no state, good or bad, lasts forever. Our mistaken belief that things can last is a chief cause of suffering.

The Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was born into a royal family in present-day Nepal over 2500 years ago. He lived a life of privilege and luxury until one day he left the royal enclosure and encountered for the first time, an old man, a sick man, and a corpse. Disturbed by this he became a monk before adopting the harsh poverty of Indian asceticism. Neither path satisfied him and he decided to pursue the ‘Middle Way’ – a life without luxury but also without poverty.

Buddhists believe that one day, seated beneath the Bodhi tree (the tree of awakening), Siddhartha became deeply absorbed in meditation and reflected on his experience of life until he became enlightened.

By finding the path to enlightenment, Siddhartha was led from the pain of suffering and rebirth towards the path of enlightenment and became known as the Buddha or ‘awakened one’.

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