Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha ("the awakened one"). The Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. He is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end ignorance of dependent origination, thus escaping what is seen as a cycle of suffering and rebirth.
Buddhism TheravadaMahayanaVajrayana Two major branches of Buddhism are recognized: Theravada ("The School of the Elders") and Mahayana ("The Great Vehicle"). Theravada has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Mahayana is found throughout East Asia and includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Shingon, Tiantai (Tendai) and Shinnyo-en. In some classifications Vajrayanaas practiced mainly in Tibet and Mongolia is recognized as a third branch, while others classify it as a part of Mahayana. There are other categorisations of these three Vehicles or Yanas.
While Buddhism remains most popular within Asia, both branches are now found throughout the world. Estimates of Buddhists worldwide vary significantly depending on the way Buddhist adherence is defined. Lower estimates are between 350–500 million.
Buddhist schools vary on the exact nature of the path to liberation, the importance and canonicity of various teachings and scriptures, and especially their respective practices. The cardinal doctrine of dependent origination is the only doctrine that is common to all Buddhist teachings from Theravada to Dzogchen to the extinct schools. The foundations of Buddhist tradition and practice are the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community). Taking "refuge in the triple gem" has traditionally been a declaration and commitment to being on the Buddhist path and in general distinguishes a Buddhist from a non-Buddhist.
Karma Karma ("action, work") in Buddhism is the force that drives sa sārathe cycle of suffering and rebirth for each being. Good, skillful deeds ("kusala") and bad, unskillful ("akusala") actions produce "seeds" in the mind which come to fruition either in this life or in a subsequent rebirth. The avoidance of unwholesome actions and the cultivation of positive actions is called śīla ("ethical conduct").
Rebirth refers to a process whereby beings go through a succession of lifetimes as one of many possible forms of sentient life, each running from conception to death. Buddhism rejects the concepts of a permanent self or an unchanging, eternal soul. According to Buddhism there ultimately is no such thing as a self independent from the rest of the universe (the doctrine of anatta). Rebirth in subsequent existences must be understood as the continuation of a dynamic, ever-changing process of "dependent arising" determined by the laws of cause and effect (karma) rather than that of one being, transmigrating or incarnating from one existence to the next. Rebirth
Realms Each rebirth takes place within one of five realms according to Theravadins, or six according to other schools.six Naraka beings: those who live in one of many Narakas (Hells) Preta: sometimes sharing some space with humans, but invisible to most people; an important variety is the hungry ghost Animals: sharing space with humans, but considered another type of life Human beings: one of the realms of rebirth in which attaining Nirvana is possible Asuras: variously translated as lowly deities, demons, titans, antigods; not recognized by Theravāda (Mahavihara) tradition as a separate realm Devas including Brahmas: variously translated as gods, deities, spirits, angels, or left untranslated
Sa sāra Sentient beings crave pleasure and are averse to pain from birth to death. In being controlled by these attitudes, they perpetuate the cycle of conditioned existence and suffering (sa sāra), and produce the causes and conditions of the next rebirth after death. Each rebirth repeats this process in an involuntary cycle, which Buddhists strive to end by eradicating these causes and conditions, applying the methods laid out by the Buddha and subsequent Buddhists.
The Four Noble Truths Life as we know it ultimately is or leads to suffering/uneasiness (dukkha) in one way or another. Suffering is caused by craving. This is often expressed as a deluded clinging to a certain sense of existence, to selfhood, or to the things or phenomena that we consider the cause of happiness or unhappiness. Craving also has its negative aspect, i.e. one craves that a certain state of affairs not exist. Suffering ends when craving ends. This is achieved by eliminating delusion, thereby reaching a liberated state of Enlightenment (bodhi); Reaching this liberated state is achieved by following the path laid out by the Buddha.
Middle way The practice of non-extremism: a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self- mortification The middle ground between certain metaphysical views (for example, that things ultimately either do or do not exist) An explanation of Nirvana (perfect enlightenment), a state wherein it becomes clear that all dualities apparent in the world are delusory Another term for emptiness, the ultimate nature of all phenomena (in the Mahayana branch), a lack of inherent existence, which avoids the extremes of permanence and nihilism or inherent existence and nothingness
Nirvana Nirvana means "cessation", "extinction" (of craving and ignorance and therefore suffering and the cycle of involuntary rebirths (sa sāra), "extinguished", "quieted", "calmed"; it is also known as "Awakening" or "Enlightenment" in the West. The term for anybody who has achieved nirvana, including the Buddha, is arahant.