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Home > History of religion > Buddhism
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Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world, being exceeded in numbers only by Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. The Gautam Buddha founded it in Northern India. In 535 BCE, he attained enlightenment and assumed the title Lord Buddha (one who has awakened).

Buddhism It is a very old religion about 2,500 years old. There are about 350 million Buddhists worldwide. It encourages the practice of morality meditation and wisdom. Buddhists do not believe in a creator God nor a personal God, but Buddhists are tolerant of those whose beliefs are different from theirs. Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent - change is always possible. Buddhism teaches that all life is interconnected, so compassion is natural and important.

Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development. Buddhist practices, such as meditation, are means of changing oneself in order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness and wisdom.Buddhism Because Buddhism does not include the worshiping a creator or God, some people do not see it as a religion in the normal Western sense. Buddhism addresses itself to all people irrespective of race, nationality, or gender. It teaches practical methods (such as meditation). These teachings enable people to be fully responsible for their lives and to develop the qualities of wisdom and compassion.

Buddhism started with the Buddha. The word `Buddha` is a title and not a name. It means `one who is awake` in the sense of having `woken up to reality`. It was first given to a man, who was born in Nepal 2,500 years ago. He did not claim to be a God and Buddhists have never regarded him as such. Buddhists believe that while he travelled through India seeking the truth and practicing meditation. He attained a state of being that goes beyond anything else in the world. It was a state in which the Buddha gained insight into the deepest workings of life.

Buddhism sees life as a process of constant change. It means that one can change for the better. The decisive factor in changing oneself is the mind and Buddhism has developed many methods for working on the mind. Most importantly, Buddhists practice meditation, which is a way of developing more positive states of mind that are characterised by calm, concentration, awareness and emotions such as friendliness. Using the awareness developed in meditation it is possible to have a fuller understanding of oneself, other people and of life itself. Buddhists do not seek to `evangelise` or force other people to adopt their religion, but they do seek to make its teachings available to whoever is interested.

The basic teachings of Buddha:
Karma: Actions have consequences; so our lives are conditioned by our past actions
Rebirth: Consciousness continues after death, and finds expression in a future life
Liberation from karma: By following the Buddha`s path one escapes the cycle of craving and suffering
The Four Noble Truths: The essentials of Buddhism
Enlightenment: The highest goal of life is to reach Enlightenment; a state of being that goes beyond suffering
Dharma: The teachings of the Buddha are known as Dharma.

Buddhists can worship both at home or at a temple. It is not considered essential to go to a temple to worship with others. Worshippers may sit on the floor barefoot facing an image of Buddha and chanting. They will listen to monks chanting from religious texts, perhaps accompanied by instruments, and take part in prayers.

At Home
Buddhists will often set aside a room or a part of a room as a shrine. There will be a statue of Buddha, candles, and an incense burner.

Buddhist temples come in many shapes. Perhaps the best known are the pagodas of China and Japan. Another typical Buddhist building is the Stupa. All Buddhist temples contain an image or a statue of Buddha.
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