What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is the world’s fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs, and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. Buddhism originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries B.C.E., spreading through much of Asia, and at times reaching as far west as (modern day) Afghanistan. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada (“The School of the Elders”) and Mahayana (“The Great Vehicle”), although a great many other Buddhist paths are known and practiced, including the Vajrayana tradition of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.


Most Buddhist traditions share the goal of overcoming dukkha (suffering) and Saṃsāra (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 Three Jewelsmeditation, observance of moral precepts, and monasticism.


Belief in the “future Buddha,” the Maitreya, a Bodhisattva who will eventually appear on earth, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma, is held by the vast majority of the world’s Buddhists, regardless of their particular doctrinal orientations. The Maitreya will usher in a millennial era of peace, harmony, and prosperity.

19th-century Dashavatara painting (from left): Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Kalki.

Articles about Buddhism

Common concepts in Indian religions

Reincarnation is a central tenet of Indian religions (Indian Philosophy).

Yoga (here Hanumanasana) is permitted in Malaysia as long as it does not contain religious elements

Yoga (here Hanumanasana) is permitted in Malaysia as long as it does not contain religious elements.

The Buddha

Branches of Buddhism

Buddhism Worldwide

Buddhist scriptures

Theravada texts

Mahayana texts

Vajrayana texts

Doctrines of Buddhism

Buddhist practices

Moral discipline and precepts 

Buddhist meditation


Buddhist cosmology

Buddhist philosophy

Buddhist culture

Comparative Buddhism

Topics related to Buddhism

Mandala Lotus Flower Decorative Ornamental

Mandala Lotus Flower Decorative Ornamental

Temple Buddha Culture Buddhist Wat Tourism

Buddhist Temple

Buddhist Temple A Buddhist temple or Buddhist monastery is the place of worship for Buddhists, the followers of Buddhism. They include the structures called vihara, chaitya, stupa, wat and pagoda in different regions and languages. Temples in Buddhism represent the pure land or pure environment of a Buddha. Traditional Buddhist temples are designed to inspire inner and outer peace. Architecture Main articles: Buddhist architecture and Architecture of Indic religions...

A wallpainting in a Laotian temple, depicting the Bodhisattva Gautama (Buddha-to-be) undertaking extreme ascetic practices before his enlightenment. A god is overseeing his striving, and providing some spiritual protection.

Buddhist Mythology

Buddhist Mythology Buddhist mythology is centered around the life of the Buddha. This is told in relatively realistic terms in the earliest texts, and was soon elaborated into a complex literary mythology. The chief motif of this story, and the most distinctive feature of Buddhist myth, is the Buddha’s renunciation: leaving his home...

Buddha Flower Buddhism Religion Peace Spiritual

Outline of Buddhism

Outline of Buddhism Buddhism (बौद्ध धर्म Buddha Dharma) is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha, “the awakened one”. The following Outline of Buddhism is provided as an overview of, and topical guide to, Buddhism....

A Buddha in Borobudur.

Culture of Buddhism

Culture of Buddhism Culture of Buddhism is exemplified through Buddhist art, Buddhist architecture, Buddhist music and Buddhist cuisine. As Buddhism expanded from the Indian subcontinent it adopted artistic and cultural elements of host countries in other parts of Asia. Features of Buddhist culture Buddhist Economics or the way in which work life is organized...

Il Won Sang, One Circle which Symbolizes Our True Self

Won Buddhism

Won Buddhism Won Buddhism, Wonbulgyo, a compound of the Korean won (circle) and bulgyo (Buddhism), means literally Circular Buddhism, or Consummate Buddhism. It is the name of an indigenous religion founded in Korea in the twentieth century. Instead of a statue or painting of Buddha figures, believers meditate before a won, or circle. During different stages in Korean history leading up...

Buddha Meditation Rest Buddhism Faith Relaxation

Humanistic Buddhism

Humanistic Buddhism Humanistic Buddhism (人間佛教; rénjiān fójiào) is a modern philosophy practiced by Buddhist groups originating from Chinese Buddhism which places an emphasis on integrating Buddhist practices into everyday life and shifting the focus of ritual from the dead to the living. Nomenclature Taixu, a Buddhist modernist activist and thinker who advocated the reform...

Buddhist temples at Mount Wutai.

Chinese Esoteric Buddhism

Chinese Esoteric Buddhism Chinese Esoteric Buddhism refers to traditions of Tantra and Esoteric Buddhism that have flourished among the Chinese people. The Tantric masters Śubhakarasiṃha, Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra, established the Esoteric Buddhist Zhenyan ( 真言, “true word”, “mantra“) tradition from 716 to 720 during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang. It employed mandalas,...

Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand.

Nikaya Buddhism

Nikaya Buddhism The term Nikāya Buddhism (or Nikaya Buddhism) was coined by Masatoshi Nagatomi as a non-derogatory substitute for Hinayana, meaning the early Buddhist schools. Examples of these groups are pre-sectarian Buddhism and the early Buddhist schools. Some scholars exclude pre-sectarian Buddhism when using the term. The term Theravada refers to Buddhist practices based on these early teachings, as preserved...

The infant Buddha taking the Seven Steps. Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara.

Miracles of Gautama Buddha

Miracles of Gautama Buddha The miracles of Gautama Buddha refers to supernatural feats and abilities attributed to Gautama Buddha by the Buddhist scriptures. The feats are mostly attributed to supranormal powers gained through meditation, rather than divine miracles. Supranormal powers the historic Buddha was said to have possessed and exercised include the six higher...

Sanchi Stupa from the Eastern gate, in Madhya Pradesh

History of Buddhism in India

History of Buddhism in India Buddhism is an ancient Indian religion, which arose in and around the ancient Kingdom of Magadha (now in Bihar, India), and is based on the teachings of the Gautama Buddha who was deemed a “Buddha” (“Awakened One”). Buddhism spread outside of Magadha starting in the Buddha’s lifetime....

Representatives from the three major modern Buddhist traditions, at The World Fellowship of Buddhists, 27th General Conference, 2014.

Schools of Buddhism

Schools of Buddhism The schools of Buddhism are the various institutional and doctrinal divisions of Buddhism that have existed from ancient times up to the present. The classification and nature of various doctrinal, philosophical or cultural facets of the schools of Buddhism is vague and has been interpreted in many different ways, often...

A page from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and Bhasya commentary (c. 2nd to 4th century CE), which placed the practice of asanas as one of the eight limbs of classical yoga

Salistamba Sutra

Salistamba Sutra The Salistamba Sutra or Śālistamba Sūtra (rice stalk or rice sapling sūtra) is an early Buddhist text that shows a few unique features which indicate a turn to the early Mahayana. It thus has been considered as one of the first Mahayana sutras. According to N. Ross Reat,...

Burmese-Pali Palm-leaf manuscript.

Early Buddhist Texts

Early Buddhist Texts Early Buddhist texts (EBTs), Early Buddhist literature or Early Buddhist discourses refers to the parallel texts shared by the Early Buddhist schools. The most widely studied EBT material are the first four Pali Nikayas, as well as the corresponding Chinese Āgamas. However, some scholars have also pointed out that some Vinaya material, like the Patimokkhas of the different Buddhist schools,...

Global Vipassana Pagoda, a Burmese style pagoda in Mumbai where Vipassana meditation is taught in the tradition of Ba Khin.

Vipassana Movement

Vipassana Movement The Vipassana movement (or Vipassanā movement), also called the Insight Meditation Movement and American vipassana movement, refers to a branch of modern Burmese Theravāda Buddhism which gained widespread popularity since the 1950s, and to its western derivatives which were popularised since the 1970s, helping give rise to the mindfulness movement. The...

The bodhisattva Maitreya and disciples, a central figure in Yogacara origin myth. Gandhara, 3rd century CE.


Yogachara Yogachara (Yogācāra; literally “yoga practice”; “one whose practice is yoga”) is an influential tradition of Buddhist philosophy and psychology emphasizing the study of cognition, perception, and consciousness through the interior lens of meditative and yogic practices. It is also variously termed Vijñānavāda (the doctrine of consciousness), Vijñaptivāda (the doctrine of ideas or...

Buddha Flower Buddhism Religion Peace Spiritual


Buddha-nature Buddha-nature refers to several related terms, most notably tathāgatagarbha and buddhadhātu. Tathāgatagarbha means “the womb” or “embryo” (garbha) of the “thus-gone” (tathagata), or “containing a tathagata”, while buddhadhātu literally means “Buddha-realm” or “Buddha-substrate”. Tathāgatagarbha has a wide range of (sometimes conflicting) meanings in Indian and later East Asian and Tibetan Buddhist literature, and the...

Meditate Relax Relaxing Calm Rest Relaxation


Samatha Samatha or śamatha ( शमथ; 止 zhǐ) is a Buddhist term that is often translated as the “tranquility of the mind”, or “mind-calmness”. The Pali Canon describes it as one of two qualities of mind which is developed (bhāvanā) in Buddhist meditation, the other being vipassana (insight). Samatha is said to be achieved by practicing single-pointed meditation....

Gautama Buddha statue and 500 arhats at the courtyard of Shanyuan Temple (善緣寺), Fushun, Liaoning province, China.


Arhat In Buddhism, an arhat (or arahant) is one who has gained insight into the true nature of existence and has achieved nirvana. Mahayana Buddhist traditions have used the term for people far advanced along the path of Enlightenment, but who may not have reached full Buddhahood. The understanding of the concept has changed over...

An image of Bodhisattva in Plaosan temple, 9th century Central Java, Indonesia


Bodhisattva In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is any person who is on the path towards Buddhahood. In the Early Buddhist schools as well as modern Theravada Buddhism, a bodhisattva (bodhisatta) refers to anyone who has made a resolution to become a Buddha and has also received a confirmation or prediction from a living Buddha that...

Antique Palm Leaf MANUSCRIPT Sutra Pali Canon Ramayana Story

Āgama in Buddhism

Āgama in Buddhism In Buddhism, an āgama (आगम Sanskrit and Pāli for “sacred work” or “scripture”) is a collection of Early Buddhist Texts. The five āgamas together comprise the Suttapiṭaka of the early Buddhist schools, which had different recensions of each āgama. In the Pali Canon of the Theravada, the term nikāya is used. The word āgama does not occur in this collection. Meaning In Buddhism, the term āgama is used...

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