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Siddhartha Gautama

(6th - 4th Century BC)  


"I teach about suffering and the way to end it."


Myths and legends have been passed down through the generations about the life of the Buddha. Historians say he was Siddhartha Gautama, the son of a royal family in India. He renounced his family life and became a wanderer after seeing the realities of old age, sickness, and death outside the palace. He sought enlightenment through acts of extreme self- denial that almost led to his death. Through meditation he claimed to have achieved ultimate understanding. He felt reluctant to become a teacher because one could not be taught what he had learned in words, only through the disciplines he had endured. Later, he felt compassion for the people and traveled and taught until his death. He didn’t believe in God but some followers worship him as a god.


BUDDHISM: A religion, originated in India by Buddha (Gautama) and later spreading to China, Burma, Japan, Tibet, and parts of southeast Asia, holding that life is full of suffering caused by desire and that the way to end this suffering is through enlightenment that enables one to halt the endless sequence of births and deaths to which one is otherwise subject. 


Followers of Buddhism: Close to 6% of the world's population (note).


Authoritative Text: The Tripitaka

Siddhartha Gautama's (Buddha) teachings were passed down orally and put into writing in the third century BC. The Tripitaka includes:
• Poems
• Songs
• Stories of Buddha's life and past lives
• His discussions
• Monastery rules
• Meditation techniques


Authors: Buddhist councils

*Note: Today there are many sects of Buddhism and there are many texts and scriptures that some accept and others reject and vice versa. Zen Buddhism rejects the use of scripture, claiming it to be an unproductive way to reach enlightenment. Meanwhile, the Theravada Buddhists accept The Tripitaka, claiming it to be the actual words of Buddha.

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