Introduction

standing Buddha statue with draped garmet and halo
Standing Buddha statue at the Tokyo National Museum. One of the earliest known representations of the Buddha, 1st–2nd century CE.

Buddhism (/ˈbʊdɪzəm/, US also /ˈbd-/) is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. Buddhism originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada (Pali: "The School of the Elders") and Mahayana (Sanskrit: "The Great Vehicle").

Most Buddhist traditions share the goal of overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth, either by the attainment of Nirvana or through the path of Buddhahood. Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the path to liberation, the relative importance and canonicity assigned to the various Buddhist texts, and their specific teachings and practices. Widely observed practices include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, observance of moral precepts, monasticism, meditation, and the cultivation of the Paramitas (virtues).

Theravada Buddhism has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia such as Myanmar and Thailand. Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon and Tiantai (Tendai), is found throughout East Asia.

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Buddha, known for his philosophy of ahimsa
Ahimsa is a Sanskrit term meaning to do no harm (literally: the avoidance of violence - himsa). It is an important tenet of the religions that originated in ancient India (Hinduism, Buddhism and especially Jainism). Ahimsa is a rule of conduct that bars the killing or injuring of living beings. It is closely connected with the notion that all kinds of violence entail negative karmic consequences. The extent to which the principle of non-violence can or should be applied to different life forms is controversial between various authorities, movements and currents within the three religions and has been a matter of debate for thousands of years. Though the origins of the concept of ahimsa are unknown, the earliest references to ahimsa are found in the texts of historical Vedic religion, dated to 8th century BCE. Here, ahimsa initially relates to "non-injury" without a moral connotation, but later to non-violence to animals and then, to all beings. The idea emerges again in the Hindu texts Mahabharata and Manu Smriti, where ahimsa is said to be merited by good Karma. Though meat-eating and slaughter of animals are criticized by some Hindu texts, other texts present counter-arguments in support of hunting and ritual sacrifice. In the 19th and 20th centuries, prominent figures of Indian spirituality such as Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharishi, Swami Sivananda and A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami emphasized the importance of ahimsa.

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Mahasi Sayadaw


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Dae Soen Sa Nim shortly before his death (photo by Joan Halifax)
Seung Sahn Haeng Won Dae Soen-sa (Korean: 숭산행원대선사, Hanja: 崇山行願大禪師) (c. 1927—November 30, 2004), born Dok-In Lee, was a Korean Jogye Seon master and founder of the international Kwan Um School of Zen—the largest school of Zen present in the Western world. He was the seventy-eighth teacher in his lineage. As one of the first Korean Zen masters to settle in the United States, he opened many temples and practice groups across the globe. He was known for his charismatic style and direct presentation of Zen, which was well tailored for the Western audience. Known by students for his many correspondences with them through letters, his utilization of Dharma combat, and expressions such as "only don't know" or "only go straight" in teachings, he was conferred the honorific title of Dae Soen Sa Nim in June 2004 by the Jogye order for a lifetime of achievements. Considered the highest honor to have bestowed upon one in the order, the title translates to mean Great honored Zen master. He died in November that year at Hwa Gae Sah in Seoul, South Korea, at age 77.

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Vũng Tàu

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Robert Baker Aitken
Renunciation is not getting rid of the things of this world, but accepting that they pass away.

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