History of Buddhism

Buddhism has been practiced primarily in Southeast Asia and other parts of Asia including China, India and Japan. Historically, Buddhism first began in ancient India during the first millennium BC. Buddhism was one of the movements that broke away from the Brahmanic tradition of ancient India. The Brahminical religion went through a number of changes and ultimately evolved into what is known as Hinduism. Today, Buddhism is almost non-existent in India.

There have been different phases of Buddhism beginning with the Pre-sectarian Buddhism followed by Early Buddhist Schools, Early Mahayana Buddhism and Later Mahayana Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism.

Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama who was born into a royal family around 580 BC in modern-day Nepal. Because of his rich upbringing and sheltered lifestyle, he was unfamiliar with the harsh realities of life. He finally ventured outside and was very bothered upon seeing the suffering that plagued mankind. Siddhartha left the royal life and traveled as a holy man. He sought to find a way to end human suffering.

Siddhartha then met an Indian who advised him to lead a disciplined life of self-denial. He tried this lifestyle but stopped it and followed the Middle Way, which was neither lavish nor very poor. One day, Siddhartha was sitting under the Bodhi tree and entered a deep meditation about the truth of life. Through this, he attained Enlightenment and became the Buddha or "awakened one." According to legend, Brahma, king of the gods, asked Buddha to educate the people. During the following 45 years, Buddha shared his knowledge.