By: Jordan Brown, Yacine Issioui, and Alan Ritchie

Origins of the Religion

Origin of the Buddhist Religion

According to buddhist text, An indian prince named Siddhartha Gautama was a very rich and powerful figure. He gave up the high life to become a spiritual seeker. After years of looking for answers and wandering around he finally became enlightened, he had a realization about his own true nature. He realized his own thinking was what stopped him from understanding what he wanted to know spiritually. That obstacle was removed when he stopped thinking of himself as an individual rather than “one with all”. It was then that he had escaped from desire and suffering and was given the name Buddha (literal translation for the Awakened One). His sacred teaching are what later developed into the Buddhist religion.

Basic Religious Beliefs

Buddhism is divided into several different traditions. Most traditions share a common set of basic beliefs. One basic belief is reincarnation which is the belief that people are reborn after dying. They also believe that most individuals go through several cycles of reincarnation.
Buddha compares the difference between rebirth and reincarnation to a leaf growing on a tree. When the withering leaf falls off, a new leaf will eventually replace it. It is similar to the old leaf, but it is not identical to the original leaf. After many such cycles, if a person releases their attachment to desire and the self, they can attain Nirvana. This is a state of liberation and freedom from suffering.

Another thing that the Buddhists belive and adhere to is the 4 Noble Truths:
It is said that in a deer park in Sarnath, a small town outside modern Banaras, Buddha preached his first sermon in which he spoke of the outline for the four noble truths. They were:
1) that suffering is characteristic of human existence
2) that suffering is caused by longing for pleasure and avoidance of pain
3) that it is not necessary to suffer
4) that there is a path to end suffering known as the “Eightfold Path”

The Eightfold Path consists of....

  1. Sila: Virtue, good conduct, morality. This is based on two fundamental principles:
  2. Samadhi: Concentration, meditation, mental development. Developing one's mind is the path to wisdom which in turn leads to personal freedom. Mental development also strengthens and controls our mind; this helps us maintain good conduct.
  3. Prajna: Discernment, insight, wisdom, enlightenment. This is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and calm.

Classification of the Buddhist Religion

Buddhism is a universalizing religion, and is best described as an apatheistic religion, meaning that the existence of God or gods doesn't make any practical difference.

Branches and Divisions in the Buddhist Religion

There are 3 main branches or divisions of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.

Theravada (originally Hinayana) is the oldest form of the religion . (oldest way to reach enlightenment) and also the most gradual way.

Mahayana ( greater Vehicle) is a more direct form of reaching enlightenment but is a bit more rapid.

Vajrayana is the form of Buddhism that developed in Tibet (aka Tibetan Buddhism). It is a much faster and risky way of overcoming ignorance and reaching enlightenment. It is kind of referred to as a “shortcut” but is also not safe because many people who attempt this method could end up going “mad”.

Geographic Distribution of Buddhism

How Buddhism Diffused

Asoka the Emperor of the Magadhan Empire made 7 kingdoms in South Asia in the 6th Century BC- 8th Century AD. In 257 BC Asoka became Buddhist and made his kingdoms buddhist. Asoka’s son Madhina took a group of missionaries to Sri Lanka and converted them to buddhist. Sri Lanka has the longest continuing history of buddhism. Other countries that were converted are Kashmir, Burma, and people in the area of the Himalaya Mountains.

Holy Places for Buddhists

Lumbini - Buddah was born in this place.

Bodh Gaya - Buddah reached enlightenment at this place.

Sarnath - This is where Buddah gave his first sermon.

Kusinara - He died here and went into nirvana

The last four are places where a certain miraculous event is reported to have occurred:

Sravasti: Buddah performed the Twin Miracle, showing his miracles infront of others. Sravasti is also the place where Buddha spent the largest amount of time, being a major city in ancient India.

Rajgir: Buddah tamed an angry elephant here through friendship.

Sankassa: At this place buddah ascended into heaven, taught his mother and descended back.

Vaishali: Vaishali was the capital of the Vajjian Republic of ancient India. He announced his impending death at this location.

Places where Buddhism is Practiced Today

Buddhism is practiced mostly in East Asia, South East Asia and some parts of South Asia.The most practiced countries are Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos,Sri Lanka for the Theravada Buddhism and Tibet, Bhutan, China, Korea, Japan for Mahayana Buddhism.

Number of Followers of Buddhism

The number of followers od the Buddhist religion is 1,921,989,641.

Here is a map that shows the distribution of those followers around the world.

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Unique Features of Buddhism

Key Figures and Important People

This is a picture of a statue of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, the historical founder of Buddhism. Buddha was a spiritual teacher in the ancient Indian subcontinent. He was born with the name Siddhartha Gautama, but after a quest for the truth behind life and death, he underwent a transformative spiritual change that led him to claim the name of Buddha, which means the “awakened one” or the “enlightened one”, as he was the first awakened being in his era.
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Holy Texts of Buddhism

Buddhism actually does not have any specific holy book or text. There are multiple sacred books that are about buddhist teachings like this book called the Tripitaka, one of the earliest collections of Buddhist writings, but there is not one specific holy book in the buddhist religion because Buddha’s sacred words and teachings were passed down orally down through the generations.
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Religious Symbols in Buddhism

This stone structure is a representation of the Buddhist symbol called The eight spoked Dharmacakra. It is the main religious symbol of the Buddhist Religion. The eight spokes on the wheel represent the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism.
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Buddhist Places of Worship

This is a Buddhist temple in Japan. Most people that practice the Buddhist religion worship in a temple of some sort. Temples in different places where Buddhism prevails are called different things. For example places of worship in China and Japan are called Pagodas. But, It is not essential for buddhists to worship in temples with others, many buddhists set aside a room or a part of a room in their home as a shrine to worship in. The shrines normally have a statue of Buddha with candles around him and an incense burner.

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The Impact of the Buddhist Religion on Social and Family Structures

This Buddhist religion does not require the buddhist people to adhere to any specifications that impact social and family structures, but it does change their belief systems making them have a different view of the world. They are less selfish and have a different take on certain subjects because part of the buddhist religion is letting go of worldly desires and thoughts, and when that is accomplished, it makes them view the world differently. They also reap consequences more and are more careful about what they do and say in life in general. Because of this they live a happier more relaxed life with a happier social and family life too. This video shows some of the practices in Buddhism!
Practices of Buddhism

Impact of Buddhism on Cultural Beliefs and Expectations

The Buddhist faith talks about letting go of your worldly desires and this can raise the bar on cultures because Buddhism is the main religion in parts of Asia. This helps contribute to the already very high expectations of this culture. The religion will help the culture be an even better culture because the people will not be focused on the unnecessary worldly desires.
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Essential Question

Why do people adhere to Buddhism yet also adhere to other religions?