Brief history of Buddhism
Buddhism is one of the major religions of the world. It
was founded by Siddhartha Guatama (Buddha) in Northeastern
India. It arose as a monastic movement during a time of
Brahman tradition. Buddhism rejected important views of
Hinduism. It did not recognize the validity of the Vedic
Scriptures, nor the sacrificial cult which arose from it. It
also questioned the authority of the priesthood. Also, the
Buddhist movement was open to people of all castes, denying
that a person's worth could be judged by their blood.
The religion of Buddhism has 150 to 350 million
followers around the world. The wide range is due to two
reasons. The tendency for religious affiliation to be
nonexclusive is one. The other is the difficulty in getting
information from Communist countries such as China. It's
followers have divided into two main branches: Theravada and
Mahayana. Theravada, the way of the elders, is dominant in
India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia.
Mahayana, the greater vehicle, refers to the Theravada as
Hinayana, the lesser vehicle. It is dominant in India,
Tibet, Japan, Nepal, Taiwan, China, Korea, Vietnam, and
Siddhartha Guatama was born in Kapilivastu. His father
was the ruler of the small kingdom near the Indian/Nepal
border. As a child, his future was foretold by sages.
They believed that he would someday be a fellow sage or
leader of a great empire. He led a very pampered and
sheltered life until the age of twenty-nine.
It was at that
time that he realized that he had led an empty life. He
renounced his wealth and embarked on a journey to seek
truth, enlightenment, and the cycle of rebirths.
In the first years of his journey, Siddhartha Guatama
practiced yoga and became involved in radical asceticism.
After a short time, he gave up that life for one of a middle
path between indulgence and self-denial.
He meditated under
a bo tree until he reached true enlightenment by rising
through a series of higher states of consciousness. After
realizing this religious inner truth, he went through a time
of inner struggle. Renaming himself Buddha (meaning