Other Spellings / Synonyms : Buddhadhamma in Pali and Buddhadharma in Sanskrit.
About Buddhist : Adherents of Buddhism are called Buddhists. Buddhism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in northern India between 563 and 483 BCE. It is said that Buddhism grew out of Hinduism around 300 BC. Buddhists believe in the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth of the Hindus. Buddhists look at the Buddha as their guide to Nirvana, the state of enlightenment reached when one breaks out of the cycle of life. Buddhist believes in moderation in everything, the so-called middle way. It is a mellow gentle religion, which is usually tolerant of other faiths. Many Buddhists are vegetarian abhorring the taking of life.
The Four Noble Truths : Or Chatur Arya Satya in Sanskrit. These are:
The Eight fold Path : In order to fully understand the noble truths and investigate whether they were in fact true, Lord Buddha recommended that a certain lifestyle or path be followed which consists of:
Buddhist Precepts : There are five precepts taught by Buddha that all Buddhists should follow:
Founder : Gautama Buddha also known as Siddhartha
Time of Origin : Around 480 BC
Place of Origin : Ganges Valley, India
Population : Buddhism is considered a major world religion with approx. 700 million followers.
Regional Spread : Buddhism spread from India to Sri Lanka, Tibet (and thence to China and Japan), but is strongest in South-East Asian countries like Thailand, Burma and Cambodia.
Major Sects : Buddhism is divided into two main branches:
Religious Texts : In Theravada Buddhism, there are three groups of writings considered as Holy Scripture, known as the "Three Baskets" or Tripitaka. The Vinaya Pitaka (discipline basket) contains rules for the higher class of Buddhists; the Sutta Pitaka (teaching basket) contains the discourses of Buddha; and the Abidhamma Pitaka (metaphysical basket) contains Buddhist theology. Mahayana Buddhism contains an incredibly large amount of holy writings, over five thousand volumes.
Sacred Symbols : There are Eight Auspicious Symbols, known in Sanskrit as Ashtamangala - Dharmachakra (Wheel), Lotus, Deer, Buddhapada (Footprints), Bodhi Tree, Empty Throne, Lions and Swastika.
Food Habits : There is no such clear distinction between permitted and forbidden foods in Buddhism. Therefore, there is a great deal of diversity in Buddhist practice. There are some, particularly in the Mahayana school, who eat meat, fish and eggs. Others, particularly from China and Vietnam, refrain from eating the Five Pungent Spices such as garlic, onion and leek, because they are considered to increase one's sexual desire and anger. Tibetans will never eat fish, and usually stay away from foul. The reason is that different kinds of meat supposedly give different kinds of obscurations.
The first Precept of Buddhism is 'do not harm,' and many Buddhists choose to be vegetarian because of this precept. One basic tenet of Buddhism is that of reincarnation and the belief that animals can be reincarnated as humans and vice versa. As a result, Buddhists do not kill animals, and many do not eat meat or fish because this is considered to be bad for their karma.
Marriage Traditions : Marriage in Buddhism is purely a secular affair. A Buddhist's decision to wed is not affected by or intertwined with a desire to continue the Buddhist faith. Marriage is considered a personal concern and there are no religious directions on whether or not one should marry or remain unwed. There is also no formal wedding service. However, this does not mean that Buddhist weddings do not have a rich tradition. Throughout the subcontinent, Buddhist communities have assembled creative wedding ceremonies out of Asian and Buddhist rituals.