Buddhism

Buddhism (/ˈbʊdɪzəm/ BUU-dih-zəm, /ˈbd-/ BOOD-),[1][2] also known as Buddha Dharma or Dharmavinaya (transl."doctrines and disciplines"), is an Indian religion or philosophical tradition based on a series of original teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha.[3] Originating in ancient India as a movement professing śramaṇa between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, it gradually spread throughout much of Asia via the Silk Road. Presently, it is the world's fourth-largest religion,[4][5] with over 520 million followers (Buddhists) who comprise seven percent of the global population.[6][7] Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs, and spiritual practices that are largely based on the Buddha's teachings and their resulting interpreted philosophies.

The Dharmachakra, a sacred symbol which represents Buddhism and its traditions
An image of a lantern used in the Vesak Festival, which celebrates the birth, enlightenment and parinirvana of Gautama Buddha

As expressed in the basic teachings of the Buddha, the goal of Buddhism is to overcome suffering (duḥkha) caused by ignorance about the three marks of existence: desire (taṇhā), impermanence (anitya), and non-self (anātman).[8] The Buddha taught the Middle Way, a path of spiritual development that avoids both extreme asceticism and hedonism, and the Noble Eightfold Path, a training of the mind through techniques such as meditation and the observance of Buddhist ethics. Most Buddhist traditions emphasize transcending the individual self through the attainment of nirvāṇa (lit.'quenching') or by following the path of Buddhahood, ending the cycle of death and rebirth (saṃsāra).[9][10][11] Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the paths to liberation (mārga) as well as the relative importance and canonicity assigned to various Buddhist texts, and their specific teachings and practices.[12][13] Widely observed practices include:meditation; observance of moral precepts; monasticism; "taking refuge" in the Buddha, the dharma, and the saṅgha; and the cultivation of perfections (pāramitā).[14]

Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravāda (lit.'School of the Elders') and Mahāyāna (lit.'Great Vehicle'). The Theravāda branch has a widespread following in Sri Lanka as well as in Southeast Asia (namely Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia). The Mahāyāna branch—which includes the traditions of Zen, Pure Land, Nichiren, Tiantai, Tendai, and Shingon—is predominantly practiced in Nepal, Bhutan, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. Additionally, Vajrayāna (lit.'Indestructible Vehicle'), a body of teachings attributed to Indian adepts, may be viewed as a separate branch or an aspect of the Mahāyāna tradition.[15] Tibetan Buddhism, which preserves the Vajrayāna teachings of eighth-century India, is practiced in the Himalayan states as well as in Mongolia[16] and Russian Kalmykia.[17] Historically, until the early 2nd millennium, Buddhism was widely practiced in the Indian subcontinent;[18][19][20] it also had a foothold to some extent in other places such as Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines.


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