Buddhism gets its name from a man known by his followers as the Buddha, or the awaken one. He was born in a princely family in a region of Northern India that now lies in Southern Nepal.
There are about 500 million Buddhists worldwide.
Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddharta Gautama, known as the Buddha. His basic teachings are The Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path.
The Four Noble Truths are:
The Truth of Suffering: All is suffering.
The Arising of Suffering: Suffering arises from desire and delusion.
The Cessation of Suffering: Nirvana is the solution.
The Truth of the Way: How to achieve Nirvana.
The Noble Eightfold Path includes eight concepts that would lead to Nirvana. This path is often divided in three categories:
Sila: moral conduct.
Samadhi: mental concentration (meditation).
Buddhism has spread through two main schools or branches: Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism.
Theravada means “Doctrine of the Elders”. It’s the oldest of the surviving schools of Buddhism. It represents a conservative option and it maintains many of the practices and beliefs of the early followers of the Buddha.
Mahayana means “The Great Vehicle”. It’s a reform movement that changes the content of Buddhist practice in profound ways. It is the greatest (with more practitioners) surviving school.
Both the Theravada and Mahayana accept the Tripitakas (also known as Pali Canon) as their scriptures.
The Mahayana also have the Mahayana Sutras, which they regard as more important than the Pali Canon. The Theravada finds these Sutras as irrelevant.