Buddhism began in India 2,500 years ago and remains the dominant world religion in the East. There are over 360 million followers of Buddhism worldwide and over a million American Buddhists today. Buddhist concepts have also been influential on western culture in general, particularly in the areas of meditation and nonviolence.

Buddhism is based on the teachings of an Indian prince named Siddharta Gautama who lived around 500 BCE. According to Buddhist tradition, the sheltered young prince was shocked by the suffering he saw outside his palace walls, so he left his life of luxury to seek answers. Eventually he succeeded, becoming the Buddha--the "Enlightened One." He spent the remaining 45 years of his life teaching the dharma (the path to liberation from suffering) and establishing the sangha (a community of monks).

Over its long history, Buddhism has taken a wide variety of forms. Some emphasize rituals and the worship of deities, while others completely reject rituals and gods in favor of pure meditation. Yet all forms of Buddhism share respect for the teachings of the Buddha and the goal of ending suffering and the cycle of rebirth.

Theravada Buddhism, prominent in Southeast Asia, is atheistic and philosophical in nature and focuses on the monastic life and meditation as means to liberation. Mahayana Buddhism, prominent in China and Japan, incorporates several deities, celestial beings, and other traditional religious elements. In Mahayana, the path to liberation may include religious ritual, devotion, meditation, or a combination of these elements. Zen, Nichiren, Tendai, and Pure Land are the major forms of Mahayana Buddhism.

  • Buddhist Beliefs

    Religious beliefs are important in Buddhism, but its central doctrines aren't necessarily the same as those of other world religions. Depending on the sect, Buddhist beliefs may include gods... read more

  • Buddhist Sects and Schools

    There are many subdivisions within Buddhism, but most can be classified into three major branches: Theravada ("Way of the Elders"), Mahayana ("Greater Vehicle") and... read more

  • Buddhist History
  • Buddhist Practices

    Buddhism incorporates a variety of rituals and practices, which are intended to aid in the journey to enlightenment and bring blessings on oneself and others. While some activities are unique... read more

  • Buddhist Sacred Texts

    In Buddhism, there are a vast number of Buddhist scriptures and religious texts, which are commonly divided into the categories of canonical and non-canonical. The former, also called the... read more

  • Buddhist Holidays and Festivals

    Buddhism celebrates many holidays and festivals, most of which commemorate important events in the life of the Buddha or various Bodhisattvas. The date of the holidays are based on the... read more

  • Bodhi leaf Buddhist Symbols

    In the earliest centuries of Buddhism, statues of the Buddha were not used. Instead, Buddhist art consisted of images symbolizing the Buddha and his teachings, such as the lotus, the... read more

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UpdatedNovember 10, 2015
MLA Citation“Buddhism.” ReligionFacts.com. 10 Nov. 2015. Web. Accessed 1 Dec. 2015. <www.religionfacts.com/buddhism>