563 BC: Birth of Buddhism

One of the world's great religions was founded in India in the 6th century BC by a man who rejected wealth and turned to meditation. He was born a Hindu prince named Siddhartha Gautama, or Gotama. As a result of his meditations, he achieved a spiritual awakening and was considered by his followers to be the enlightened one, or the Buddha.

The Buddha taught a way of life that avoided both self-indulgence and self-mortification. A Buddhist's life consists largely of meditation, which leads to the profound understanding of the impermanence of the physical world. This realization is the Buddhist path to enlightenment.

In the 3rd century BC, the Indian ruler Asoka helped unite the diverse schools of Buddhism into a coherent religion. In the 4th and 5th centuries AD Buddhism became the dominant religion of China and was introduced into Korea, where the Ch'an, or Zen, sect became dominant. In the 6th century AD Korean missionaries brought Zen Buddhism to Japan, spreading the view of meditation as a means of achieving enlightenment. The monk Nichiren, who lived in the 13th century AD, attempted to find the one true doctrine of Buddhism, and claimed he found it in the ancient scripture known as the 'Lotus Sutra'.

Today Buddhism is practiced in both Eastern and Western countries, including Japan, Europe, the United States, Canada, and many Southeast Asian nations. New Buddhist communities have also formed in India again, where the religion had been virtually extinct for about 500 years.

Introduction to BUDDHISM

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Last modified: 2006-03-22