Buddhism Facts

An Overview of Buddhism

Buddhism is one of the oldest religions in the world. Historically, Buddhism has been centered in the Eastern world, but the faith has experienced increased popularity in the West in the last century, leading many people to want to learn more about it, starting with the facts.

While its true that there are many different expressions of Buddhism today, sometimes involving a variety of beliefs, that doesn't mean that there aren't "facts" about the religion. Information regarding its history, size, and location act as an important foundation in understanding their beliefs and practices.

Below you will find the basic facts about Buddhism with links to in-depth articles.

The Facts of Buddhism

Meaning of name "Buddhism":
System taught by the Buddha (Go here for more about Buddha)
Date founded:
c. 520 BCE (Go here for more about Buddhist history)
Place founded:
Northeastern India (See Buddhism symbols)
Siddharta Gautama ("the Buddha"), an Indian prince
360 million [1] (Go here for Buddhism main page)
Size rank:
Fourth largest world religion [2] (See religion statistics)
Main locations:
China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia (See religion in China and religion in Japan)
Major divisions:
Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana (See Theravada and Mahayana comparison chart)
Sacred texts:
Pali Canon (Tripitaka), numerous Mahayana sutras (See Buddhism sacred texts)
Original language:
Pali (See Buddhism timeline)
Spiritual leader:
Monk (lama in Tibetan Buddhism) (See Tibetan Buddhism)
Place of ritual:
Temple, meditation hall. (See Buddhism meditation)
Varies: Theravada is atheistic; Mahayana is more polytheistic. (Compare Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism)
Ultimate reality:
None. Nothing is permanent (See Is Buddhism atheistic?)
Human nature:
There is no self or soul. Human existence is nothing more than a combination of five impermanent components (khandas). (See human nature in Buddhism)
Purpose of life:
Theravada - Become an arhat, escape the cycle of rebirth, and attain nirvana. Mahayana - Become a boddhisatva then help others attain enlightenment. (See life purpose in Buddhism)
Rebirth or nirvana. Nirvana is seen simply as the cessation of suffering by some and as a heavenly paradise by others. (See Buddhism and the afterlife)
Vary by region, but often include Buddha's birthday, Buddha's enlightenment, lunar quarters (See holidays in Buddhism)
Three Jewels/Three Refuges:
1. The Buddha 2. The sangha (monastic community) 3. The dharma (truth or teachings) (See Buddhist beliefs)
Three Delusions:
1. Ignorance 2. Desire 3. Anger or hatred (See Buddhism symbols)
Three Trainings:
1. Moral discipline 2. Concentration 3. Wisdom (See Buddhism practices)
Three Marks of Existence:
1. Impermanence (anicca) 2. Unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) 3. No-self (anatta)
Four Noble Truths:
1. All of life is marked by suffering. 2. Suffering is caused by desire and attachment. 3. Suffering can be eliminated. 4. Suffering is eliminated by following the Noble Eightfold Path. (See more about the Four Noble Truths)
Four Immeasurables or Sublime States:
1. Equanimity (upekkha) 2. Loving-kindness (metta) 3. Compassion (karuna) 4. Sympathetic joy (mudita) (See Buddhism meditation)
Four Reminders:
1. Human life is precious. 2. Death is inevitable. 3. The laws of karma cannot be avoided. 4. Suffering permeates all existence. (See Buddhism prayer wheel)
Four Bodhisattva Vows:
1. I vow to rescue the boundless living beings from suffering. 2. I vow to put an end to the infinite afflictions of living beings. 3. I vow to learn the measureless Dharma-doors. 4. I vow to realise the unsurpassed path of the Buddha. (See Buddhism beliefs)
Five Precepts:
1. Do not kill. 2. Do not steal. 3. Do not engage in sexual misconduct. 4. Do not lie. 5. Do not use intoxicants. (See Buddhism practices)
Five Powers:
1. Faith and confidence 2. Energy and effort 3. Mindfulness 4. Samadhi 5. Wisdom (See Buddhism symbols)
Five Hindrances:
1. Sense craving 2. Anger or ill will 3. Sloth and torpor 4. Restlessness and worry 5. Doubt and the inner critic (See the purpose of life according to Buddhism)
Five Dhyani (Wisdom) Buddhas:
Vairochana Akshobhya Ratnasambhava Amoghasiddhi (See sacred texts in Buddhism)
Six Perfections:
1. Concentration 2. Effort 3. Ethical behavior 4. Generosity 5. Patience 6. Wisdom (Go to Buddhism main page)
Six Realms of Existence:
1. Hell-beings 2. Hungry ghosts 3. Animals 4. Humans 5. Anti-gods or demigods 6. Gods (See Buddhism holidays)
Noble Eightfold Path:
1. Right beliefs 2. Right aspirations 3. Right speech 4. Right conduct 5. Right livelihood 6. Right effort 7. Right mindfulness 8. Right meditational attainment (See more about the Eightfold Path)
Ten Paramita:
1. Giving or generosity 2. Virtue, ethics, morality 3. Renunciation, letting go, not grasping 4. Wisdom and insight 5. Energy, vigour, vitality, diligence 6. Patience or forbearance 7. Truthfulness 8. Resolution, determination, intention 9. Kindness, love, friendliness 10. Equanimity (See Buddhsim symbols)
Twelve Links of Dependent Arising:
1. Ignorance 2. Karmic formations 3. Consciousness 4. Name and form 5. Six senses 6. Contact 7. Feeling 8. Craving 9. Grasping 10. Becoming 11. Birth 12. Aging and Death (See Buddhism main page)
35 Buddhas of Confession:
Shakyamuni, Vajragarbhapramardin, Ratnarchis, Nageshvararaja, Viresena, Viranandin, Ratnagni, Ratnachandraprabha, Amoghadarshin, Ratnachandra, Vimala, Shuradatta, Brahman, Brahmadatta, Varuna, Varunadeva, Bharadrashri, Chandashri, Anantaujas, Prabhasashri Ashokashri, Narayana, Kusumashri Brahmajyotirvikriditabhijna, Padmamajyotirvikriditabhijna, Dhanashri, Smritishri, Suparikirtitanamashri, Indraketudhvajaraja, Suvikrantashri, Yuddhajaya, Vikrantagamishri, Samantavabhasavyuhashri, Ratnapadmavikramin, Shailendraraja


  1. As of 2002, according to Adherents.com.
  2. Ibid.
afterlife Reincarnation (understood differently than in Hinduism, with no surviving soul) until gain enlightenment
human life Purpose is to avoid suffering and gain enlightenment and release from cycle of rebirth, or at least attain a better rebirth by gaining merit.
origins Based on teachings of Siddharta Gautama (the Buddha) in c. 520 BC, NE India.
practices Meditation, mantras, devotion to deities (in some sects), mandalas (Tibetan)
texts Tripitaka (Pali Canon); Mahayana sutras like the Lotus Sutra; others.
adherents 360 million
god(s) Varies: Theravada atheistic; Mahayana more polytheistic. Buddha taught nothing is permanent.
Jesus was Wise and enlightened man who taught similar things to the Buddha.
divinity of Jesus no
Jesus' purpose To teach humanity wisdom and the way to enlightenment.
resurrection of Jesus not addressed
homosexual orientation Varies: Unnatural (Dalai Lama), a karmic punishment (SE Asian countries), an alternative. Not generally condemned in itself.
homosexual activity Unlawful for monks, who must be celibate regardless of orientation. For other Buddhists, "sexual misconduct" is prohibited under the Third Precept, which depends on the circumstances and the results.