A Religion Profile from International Students, Inc.
The Period of Enquiry (534-528
As a result of his encounter with suffering, Siddhartha left his
family—including a wife and child—and his life of luxury.
He committed himself to discovering the source of suffering
and how to eliminate it.
Convicted by the ascetic he had seen, Siddhartha began to
practice extreme asceticism. After six years, his body became
so weak that he almost drowned while bathing in a river. He
realized that extreme asceticism did not produce the
enlightenment that he was seeking concerning the source of
suffering and how to eliminate it.
The Period of Enlightenment (528-483
Siddhartha then walked to a city named Bodh Gaya where he
sat under a fig tree by the edge of a river. He vowed not to
rise again until he had attained enlightenment, and thereupon
went into a deep state of meditation.
During his meditation, Siddhartha was severely tempted by
Mara, the evil one. Siddhartha resisted the temptations,
though, and after a period of time (some say one night, others
as many as 49 days) he attained enlightenment and became
the Buddha,which means “the enlightened one.” (From now
on this profile will refer to Siddhartha as Buddha.) Bodh
Gaya is now the site of the holiest shrine in the Buddhist
world, the Mahabodhi Temple.
Buddha called his path to enlightenment the Middle Way,
because it avoided the extremes of affluence and asceticism,
both of which had caused suffering. Shortly after his enlight-
enment, Buddha traveled to Benares, and in the Deer Park he
preached his first sermon—the contents of which have come
to be known as the Four Noble Truths. Eventually, he won
thousands of followers, who formed communities called
Buddhism: An Overview
Number of Adherents
It is estimated that there are over 360 million Buddhists in the
world, accounting for six percent of the world’s population
Buddhism Among the Nations
Theravada Buddhism (the distinctions between the major
forms of Buddhism will be covered later) exists primarily in
Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
Mahayana Buddhism exists primarily in mainland China,
Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Vajrayana Buddhism exists primarily in Bhutan, Mongolia,
The Founding of Buddhism
Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama during the
. His life (563-483
.) coincides with the
time when the people of Judah were exiled in Babylon.
Buddha’s life can be divided into three periods: enjoyment,
enquiry, and enlightenment.
The Period of Enjoyment (563-534
Siddhartha Gautama was born into the warrior caste of the
Shakya tribe in the town of Kapilavastu, which was at that
time northeastern India but is now part of Nepal.
Tradition says that Siddhartha’s father sought to shelter his