English III-period 1
April 14, 2012
Buddhism is an ancient religion that was founded in the late 6th century B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as the "Buddha". Although this religion originated in Asia, its followers can now be found on all continents of the world. In fact, there are approximately 300 - 500 million followers of this belief system (A Five Minute Intro to Buddhism). The name of the religion comes from the word "bodhi", which means "to awaken". Buddhism is an extremely tolerant religion, that focuses on a few principals called the Dharma, or Truth. There are several branches of the religion but they all share the same core values of the Dharma. The two main branches of Buddhism that are worldly recognized are Theravada ("The School of the Elders") and Mahayana ("The Great Vehicle").
Siddartha Gautama was born a prince circa 563 B.C. at a place called Lumbini near the Himalayan foothills in Northern India (The Origins of Buddhism). According to legend, a soothsayer predicted that he might choose to one day withdrawal from his everyday life in search of "truth" or "enlightenment". To prevent this, he was provided with many luxuries by his father, the king. As the story goes, as a young boy Siddartha went on a series of four chariot rides where he was exposed to the harsh realities of human suffering that he was never able to see while being guarded in a palace his whole life. He was able to experience old age, illness, death and an "enlightened one" or a renouncer. The differences he saw between his own life and what was going on right outside his walls made him believe that earthly pleasures are worthless and can only mask human suffering, not fix it. After this he took on many teachers and tried a severe renunciation in a nearby forest until he nearly starved to death. It is said that he finally decided to sit down underneath a Bohdi tree to eat and meditate. After an unknown period of time spent...