Buddhism is a religion and dharma that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on teachings attributed to the Buddha. Buddhism originated in India, from where it spread through much of Asia, whereafter it declined in India during the middle ages. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada ( Pali: "The School of the Elders") and Mahayana ( Sanskrit: "The Great Vehicle").
Buddhist schools vary on the exact nature of the path to liberation, the importance and canonicity of various teachings and scriptures, and especially their respective practices. Practices of Buddhism include Refuge, Samatha, Vipassanā, the Mahayana practice of Bodhicitta and the Vajrayana practices of Generation stage and Completion stage.
In Theravada the ultimate goal is the attainment of the sublime state of nirvana, achieved by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path (also known as the Middle Way), thus escaping what is seen as a cycle of suffering and rebirth. Theravada has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.
Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon and Tiantai ( Tendai), is found throughout East Asia. Rather than Nirvana, Mahayana instead aspires to Buddhahood via the bodhisattva path, a state wherein one remains in the cycle of rebirth to help other beings reach awakening. Vajrayana, a body of teachings attributed to Indian siddhas, may be viewed as a third branch or merely a part of Mahayana. Tibetan Buddhism, which preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth century India, is practiced in regions surrounding the Himalayas, Mongolia and Kalmykia. Tibetan Buddhism aspires to Buddhahood or rainbow body.
Buddhists number between an estimated 488 million and 535 million, making it one of the world's major religions.
The Collaborative International Dictionary
Buddhism \Bud"dhism\, n. The religion based upon the doctrine originally taught by the Hindu sage Gautama Siddartha, surnamed Buddha, ``the awakened or enlightened,'' in the sixth century b. c., and adopted as a religion by the greater part of the inhabitants of Central and Eastern Asia and the Indian Islands. Buddha's teaching is believed to have been atheistic; yet it was characterized by elevated humanity and morality. It presents release from existence (a beatific enfranchisement, Nirv[^a]na) as the greatest good. Buddhists believe in transmigration of souls through all phases and forms of life. Their number was estimated in 1881 at 470,000,000.
n. The religion and philosophy derived from the teachings of (w: Gautama Buddha).
Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary
1801, from Buddha + -ism.
Usage examples of "buddhism".
Buddhism, supposedly preserving a fossilised form of that religion after it had disappeared from its last Indian centres in Kashmir, Bihar and Bengal.
The strongholds of Buddhism from AD 700 became increasingly confined to certain parts of Bihar and Bengal, where the religion began, and to the north-west, particular the Swat Valley and Kashmir.
The Priests of Brahma, professing a dark and bloody creed, brutalized by Superstition, united together against Buddhism, and with the aid of Despotism, exterminated its followers.
In its ground germs it was, it seems to us, unquestionably imported into Celtic thought and Cymrian song from that prolific and immemorial Hindu mind which bore Brahmanism and Buddhism as its fruit.
Both Brahmanism and Buddhism are in essence nothing else than methods of securing release from the chain of incarnated lives, and attaining to identification with the Infinite.
Buddhism had to divide itself from Brahminism, and why in every age and country outside Christendom there has been a feud for ever between the philosopher and the priest.
Japan before it was altered by Confucian rationalism and the complex religious doctrines of Buddhism.
In his famous Seventeen-Article Constitution of 604, Prince Shotoku, in addition to calling for the reverence of Buddhism, sought also to propagate Confucian values among the Japanese.
The Japanese had, of course, absorbed Confucian thinking from the earliest centuries of contact with China, but for more than a millennium Buddhism had drawn most of their intellectual attention.
During the early and middle seventh century the Japanese appear to have experimented with various ideas, drawn from Confucianism and Buddhism as well as Shinto, to justify imperial rule.
Sung China were much impressed by the general availability of printed books on a great variety of subjects, including history, Buddhism, Confucianism, literature, medicine, and geography, and carried them in ever greater numbers back to Japan.
In addition to exegetical studies on Buddhism and Confucianism, they compiled dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference-type materials that provided the groundwork for nearly all subsequent scholarly activity in premodern Japan.
Of samurai origin, Soko earned a reputation as a brilliant scholar, delving into such varied subjects as Shinto, Buddhism, and Japanese poetry, as well as Confucianism, which he studied in Edo under Hayashi Razan.
Zoroastrianism lies partly in its introduction of abstract concepts as gods, and partly in its other features, some of which find echoes in Buddhism and Confucianism, and some of which appear to have helped form Judaism, and therefore Christianity and Islam.
They, as we shall see, developed the idea of one true God, and that history has a direction, whereas with the Greeks and in particular with Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, the gods stood in a different relation to humans as compared with the West.