What is Buddhism?

photo of golden gautama buddha

It is one of the largest religions in the world.

Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world, with nearly 500 million followers. The three largest religions are Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism.

It is also one of the oldest religions in existence today. The first Buddhist monks lived around 563 B.C., which means Buddhism has been around for more than 2,500 years!

World religions histogram. Number of followers in millions. Major religious  groups chart. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Sikhism and  Judaism. English labeling. Illustration. Vector. Stock Vector | Adobe Stock
The Largest Religions By Followers

It was founded by a prince from India called Siddhartha Gautama

Siddhartha Gautama was born in Lumbini, Nepal. His father was King Suddhodana, who was the ruler of the Shakya clan. His mother was Maya Devi.

King Suddhodana wanted his son to be king and tried to keep him from seeing the suffering of people so he would not want to become a monk when he grew up. However, at age 29 Siddhartha decided he would not become king and left home in search for answers about life and death.

What does Buddhism mean?

The word Buddhism comes from “budhi”, which means “to wake up”. This refers to waking up to the truth of reality, and letting go of ignorance and suffering.

Buddhism is a religion and philosophy that originated in India. It is also a way of life based on teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (also known as the Buddha). The Buddha taught that we can reach enlightenment by practicing mindfulness and compassion through meditation, karma yoga (selfless action), generosity, vipassana (mindfulness) and jhana (concentration).

The three marks of existence are impermanence, suffering, and non-self.

The three marks of existence are impermanence, suffering and non-self. According to Buddhist philosophy, nothing lasts forever. Everything is in a state of constant flux and change; birth and death occur constantly. The second mark of existence refers to the fact that life does not always go the way we want it to—things are not always good or bad, but they can be both at once sometimes; it’s important to keep this in mind when making decisions about your future. The third mark refers to the impermanence of all things including ourselves: nothing is permanent so don’t get too attached!

The Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path.

The Four Noble Truths are the first of the Buddha’s teachings. They are:

  • The truth of suffering (Dukkha)
  • The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudaya)
  • The truth of cessation (Nirodha)
  • The truth of path leading to cessation (Magga).

The Noble Eightfold Path is a set of eight interconnected factors or conditions, that when developed together, lead to the cessation of suffering (Dukkha). It consists from Right View or Understanding, Right Intention and Resolve; Right Speech; Right Action; Right Livelihood; Right Effort; Mindfulness and Concentration.

Buddhist philosophy claims that there is no permanent self or fixed identity.

According to Buddhist philosophy, your sense of self-identity is a construct created by your mind. This means that you are not the same mental construct all the time; rather, you are constantly changing because of what you think and feel. You change based on how much sleep you get and how well you eat, for example. Your body changes with age (and depending on how much weight training or yoga practice). And when something dramatic happens in your life—for example, when someone close to you dies—your world changes dramatically as well.

Also according to Buddhist philosophy: “There is no permanent self or fixed identity.” In other words, there isn’t one solid thing called “you” that does not change over time; instead there are many different things called “you” that come together at certain times but then eventually go away again later on down the road.

The Buddhist view of karma recognizes that people cannot be completely held responsible for their actions because they are a product of their environment and inherited traits.

The law of karma is not an excuse to blame others for your own misdeeds, but rather a recognition that no one is completely free from sin or culpability.

Some Buddhists believe in free will, while others do not.

A statue of Buddha Purnima with clear skies.
The Buddha

Prescription for happiness in Buddhism is to “do good” and avoid “doing evil.”

A way to do good is by avoiding evil. This is because doing and thinking evil is what makes us unhappy, and becoming happy is the best thing we can do. 

In order to avoid doing evil, you must first recognize what constitutes an action as either good or bad; then take appropriate action based on that knowledge.

The Buddha was asked what he thought was most important for a human being: living a life of virtue or leading a virtuous life? He replied that it’s not about choosing between one or the other but rather combining them together so that they complement each other as one complete whole (e.g., skillful speech + right deed = true happiness).

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