Buddhism is a spiritual tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development and the attainment of a deep insight into the true nature of life. There are 376 million followers worldwide.
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 sixth 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 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.
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’.
Schools of Buddhism
There are numerous different schools or sects of Buddhism. The two largest are Theravada Buddhism, which is most popular in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Burma (Myanmar), and Mahayana Buddhism, which is strongest in Tibet, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Mongolia.
The majority of Buddhist sects do not seek to proselytise (preach and convert), with the notable exception of Nichiren Buddhism.
All schools of Buddhism seek to aid followers on a path of enlightenment.
~Buddhism is 2,500 years old
~There are currently 376 million followers worldwide
~There are over 150,000 Buddhists in Britain
~Buddhism arose as a result of Siddhartha Gautama’s quest for Enlightenment in around the 6th Century BC
~There is no belief in a personal God. ~It is not centred 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.