By: Pablo Romo, Ryan Wallace, and Joseph Overman


  • Origin: 550-500 BCE, Founder: Siddhartha Gautama , North India
  • Basic beliefs: Life is full of suffering because of desires and craving. Removing desires and craving is key to escape suffering. Following the Eightfold Path allows humans to escape the cycle of life and death and achieve Nirvana
  • Classification: Universalizing
  • Branches: Theravada and Mahayana

Geographic Distribution

  • Diffusion: Diffused from its origin (Northern India) to Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and Indo-China along with diffusing into the Himalayan kingdoms, Tibet, Mongolia, other countries in Central Asia, and also Indo-China, Japan and Korea
  • Holy places: (Eight Great Places)


    Lumbini - birthplace of Buddhism in present day Nepal.
    Bodh Gaya - Where Gautama Buddha is said to have attained Enlightenment.
    Sarnath (Isipathana) - Where Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths that he had discovered.
    Kusinara - Where Gautama Buddha had attained Parinirvana (the Buddha’s final Nirvana, entered by him at the time of his death).
    Sravisiti - Buddha performed his greatest miracle of creating multiple images of himself and visited heaven in front of competing religious leaders.
    Samkasya - ascended to heaven, preached to his mother, and returned to Earth.
    Rjagrha - Buddha tamed a wild elephant and after Buddha’s death it became the site of the first Buddhist council.
    Vaisali - site of Buddha’s announcement of his impending death and the second Buddhist Council.

  • Where it's practiced today: Practiced primarily in Southeast Asia, but has
    diffused throughout the rest of the world.
  • Number of followers: 360 million followers

Unique Features

  • Key figures: Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), Ananda (Buddha's cousin who memorized and recited the teachings of Buddha)
  • Holy texts: Tripitaka (Pali Canon); Mahayana sutras like the Lotus Sutra
  • Place of worship: A vihara, temple, or at home. It consists of an open court surrounded by open cells. They were originally sanctuaries for roaming Buddhists while they were on their journey to achieve Nirvana.
  • Impact on social and family structures: It is not very family centered, because of the individuals journey to personal enlightenment, and the goal of detachment.
  • Impact on cultural beliefs and expectations: The Five Precepts are very important since the are “(1) abstaining from harming living beings; (2) abstaining from taking what is not given; (3) abstaining from sexual misconduct; (4) abstaining from false speech; and (5) abstaining from intoxicants.” Buddhism is more on pre-existing cultural aspects. The parents are expected to instilling Buddhist ethics and practices, and that the children have to be obedient and keep the traditions of the family.

Visual representations of Buddhism

What Is Buddhism?

Considering all the actions you have made over the course of your life, and your lifestyle, would you achieve Nirvana in the eyes of Buddhist traditions?