| Siddhartha Gautama's
“”My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.
|—The Dalai Lama, whose religion justified a brutal feudal society well into the 20th Century|
Buddhism is a religion native to the South Asian subcontinent. It arose out of the local Shramanic tradition, and spread throughout South and East Asia. Buddhism was founded around 500 BCE by Siddhartha Gautama. Buddhism grew out of the same religious and cultural context as Hinduism, but differs from the latter on one central doctrinal point. Hinduism teaches that each individual has a soul, called atman, while Buddhism denies that an eternal soul exists (anatman).
 Buddhist philosophy
At its most basic level, Buddhist philosophy is built around a set of four axioms, the Four Noble Truths. This leads to the Eightfold Path, the code of conduct developed by the Buddha to combat the unpleasantness of existence. A Buddhist community is called a Sangha, the Buddhist teachings are referred to as Dharma. These two, along with the Buddha himself, make up the Three Jewels, the foundation of Buddhist tradition and practice.
 The Four Noble Truths
The Four Noble Truths purport to describe the central problem of existence according to the historical Buddha.
- Existence is dukkha.
- Commonly translated as "suffering", dukkha is more accurately described as a state of unsatisfactoriness.
- Dukkha is caused by desire.
- Dukkha can be overcome
- 'The method for overcoming dukkha is the Eightfold Path.
 The Eightfold Path
The Eightfold Path can be summed up as follows:
- Right View - There are many ways to understand this; the most common is "perceive and know the Four Noble Truths"
- Right Intention - 1. the intention of renunciation, 2. the intention of non-violence, 3. the intention of non-ill will
- Right Speech - abstention from lies, harsh speech, malicious speech, and idle speech
- Right Action - abstention from killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct
- Right Job - Any career that causes suffering must be avoided (e.g. tanner or Fox news anchor)
- Right Effort - 1. preventing harmful states from arising, 2. abandoning arisen harmful states, 3. promoting the arising of beneficial states, 4. preserving arisen beneficial states
- Right Mindfulness - cultivating careful attention with respect to 1. the body, 2. the feelings, 3. the moods or mental climate, 4. phenomena
- Right Concentration - Meditate!
 Further development
In reality, the Buddha did more than sit around navel gazing-- he founded what amounted to a university, and ran it until his death at a ripe old age. Not listening and then asking silly questions could get a student called "stupid" by the Buddha himself. In the Kalama Sutta the Buddha encouraged some townspeople not to accept teachings blindly, but to see how they work in practice and to consult the wise about them. Two and a half thousand years later, there is an enormous body of oral tradition and written text about the teachings, but they may be neatly summarized with remarkably few notions:
- dependent arising, that all causes and effects are interdependent
- impermanence – the directly observable truth that all phenomena of experience (i.e. everything you are perceiving right now anywhere in your mind and body) are subject to change and instability
- suffering – the phenomena of experience are, due to their impermanence, sooner or later only suffering, or unsatisfying
- not-self – the phenomena of experience are, as a direct consequence of their impermanent and suffering nature, not you, not yours, not your self; once this is directly perceived, grasping at and clinging to these phenomena will cease and liberation will occur
 Buddhist teachings
The Tripitaka ("Three Baskets") contain what is regarded as the word of the Buddha. Its three divisions are Sutra (teachings), Vinaya (monastic codes), and Abhidharma (metaphysics). The Tripitaka exists in the form of the Pali, Tibetan, and Chinese canons. Historically speaking, none of these can be assumed to represent the teachings of the historical Buddha, who lived some 500 years before the earliest extant records. (For the sake of comparison, the earliest extant records of Jesus, an equally legendary figure, can be traced to mere decades after his death.)
In most Buddhist societies, these scriptures would be encountered in mediated form, through teachings by a monk. This makes it difficult to reduce Buddhism to a concise set of fundamental teachings, though the "Four Noble Truths" are widely emphasized.
The Buddhist teaching of "no-self" (anatta, anatman) is usually held to mean that there exists no permanent self, such as an immutable soul (notwithstanding their metaphysical doctrines of reincarnation and karma, see below). Conversely, liberation occurs when one has grasped (perhaps directly or nonconceptually) the truth of the "no-self" doctrine. One may wonder whether Buddhists would offer any objection to the concepts of "self" assumed by mainstream psychology. (The characterization of "selfish" desires as inherently negative points to one likely area of difficulty.)
Most forms of Buddhism promote the practice of meditation.
While there are hundreds of precepts which apply to monastic practitioners, for everyday use the list may be reduced to five:
- Preserve life; do not kill.
- Use what you have; do not take what is not given.
- Contain your sexual drive; do not screw around inappropriately.
- Do not lie, except to preserve life and the like.
- Contaminating your body with intoxicants is not useful, and to be avoided.
 Buddhism in the East
Buddhism, like other religions enjoys a good schism and now has three main factions, Mahayana, Theravada, and the much smaller Vajrayana. In Theravada Buddhism, when one attains enlightenment, one transcends to nirvana (The destruction of greed, anger and ignorance, not the grunge band). Theravada is considered the oldest branch, and is often pejoratively called Hinayana ("Lesser Vehicle", contrasted with the Mahayana "Greater Vehicle") by other types of Buddhists. Therevada Buddhism is the most popular form of Buddhism in Southeast Asian countries like Myanmar, Cambodia, and Thailand.
Proponents of Mahayana Buddhism argue that the Therevada focus on individual enlightenment is selfish, and so members of Mahayana sangha take what is called the "Boddhisattva vow", meaning that they voluntarily choose to forgo nirvana in order to aid others in their spiritual journeys. Individual Mahayana sects tend to appear much more similar to Abrahamic religions than other forms of Buddhism - sects such as Pure Land Buddhism believe in a semi-divine savior who intercedes on behalf of the faithful and allows them to reborn into the Pure Land. Mahayana Buddhism tends to be more popular in East Asia countries like Japan, China, Korea, and Vietnam. Zen Buddhism lacks the focus on universal salvation of most Mahayana sects, but is still classified as Mahayana because of its historical development.
The third major school of Buddhism, Vajrayana (the "Thunderbolt vehicle") is the "youngest" and smallest sect of Buddhism, and focuses primarily on esoteric practices. This includes various Tantra and Yogic practices, as well as elaborate rituals intended to replace the more abstract meditation practices of other sects. Mandala, elaborate pieces of sacred art, are typical of Vajrayana tools. Shingon Buddhism is the primary representative of Vajrayana thought in Japan. Shingon rituals are largely centered around setting things on fire in a practice derived from the proto-Hindu worship of Agni, god of fire. Depending on who you ask, Tibetan Buddhism is either one of the major sub-schools of Vajrayana Buddhism or a Mahayana school, that borrows heavily from Vajrayana teachings.Traditionally, in Tibetan Buddhism, someone who reached enlightenment was promptly made head of state of an obscure mountainous country, then hunted down by the Chinese government, while writing a series of bestselling meditation handbooks and making offhanded comments about how everyone who is not a Tibetan Buddhist is ultimately doomed.
 Buddhism in the West
Buddhism has successfully marketed itself in the Western world as a very peaceful religion, devoted to internal contemplation and personal enlightenment. The standard versions of Buddhism promoted in the West leave out much of the public ritual element, as well as traditional sexism and religious hierarchies. Western-style Buddhism appeals instead to Western individualism and non-authoritarianism, importing much of the "personal growth and spirituality" features of religion while happily discarding its undesired institutional features.
 Common Misconceptions about Buddhism
Unlike the Abrahamic or Vedic religions, the existence of an all powerful God is either dismissed completely or denied/refuted. (although some Buddhists do not fully deny the existence of (a) god(s)). The Buddha himself went to great lengths to make it clear he was not a god, merely “awake”
The commonly held Buddhist stance on the matter is that any god (s) that may exist are trapped in the same cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth as all other living creatures. Hence these gods should be working on preventing their own suffering rather than inflicting it on the heathen masses below. Although Buddhists may accept the existence of numerous local gods, most Buddhist schools do not promote worshiping of those gods as it hinders a person from enlightenment.
There are numerous heavens and hells in Buddhist cosmology, along with other planes such as that of animals. If you don’t achieve enlightenment in this lifetime you are reborn in one of these planes. In essence you are effectively screwed over and have to start life all over again, which is pretty close to hell if you happen to be reborn in Bombay. This cycle to which all living creatures are bound is commonly referred to as samsara.
Nirvana translates as “snuffed out” or "cooled" and signifies the condition of an enlightened being who has obtained freedom from the cycle of rebirth and suffering. The Buddha described Nirvana as “incomprehensible, indescribable, inconceivable, unutterable”. In another text he described it as "the complete destruction of the underlying tendencies to greed, anger and ignorance.  So basically, with the lights out, it's less dangerous.
 The Soul/Self
Buddhists deny the existence of any immaterial/eternal soul (the same as the Christian soul). What Buddhists posit is a being composed of five aggregates (skandhas) changing over time, a self without permanent existence.
Buddhist believe in Karma. Whereas Karma in Hinduism has a divine presence, Karma in Buddhism is a form of cause-effect.
Belief in what happens after an individual dies varies greatly between Buddhist schools of thoughts. Generally, Buddhists believe in rebirth rather than reincarnation, since the Buddhist doctrine of anatman means that the individual has no permanent "soul". The analogy below is a rough illustration of the difference.
Reincarnation is like Pouring water from one cup into another. The water is the same but the vessel is different.
Rebirth is more like using a flame from one candle to light another. There is a deep connection between the two, but they exist independent of one another.
 Buddhism as just another religion
It has become popular, especially by liberals, to see Buddhism as some kind of "special" religion, that does not have the same trappings as other religions. Often, people will claim "Buddhism has not been responsible for any wars" (despite Buddhists attacking Muslims in Sri Lanka ,), "Buddhism is more rational, even slightly scientific" (despite its numerous metaphysical teachings, and appeals to authority.) The Kalama Sutta (in which the Buddha calls upon his listeners not to accept his teachings blindly, but to test them) is often cited as evidence of Buddhism's scientific bona fides. Suffice it to say that this has not led to a fundamental critique of Buddhist principles from within; nor does the existence of scholastic debate traditions or ancient monastic universities such as Nalanda indicate that Buddhism was ever anything other than a dogmatic enterprise.
When everything is looked at, Buddhism really is just another religion, with good points as well as bad, rallying fundamentalists as well as liberals under a common banner.
 See also
- ↑ This pejorative was for some time repeated as the "legitimate" name of the division in academic texts for a number of years, since Mahayana Buddhists have had the greatest influence in western academia
- ↑ Dating from about the 3rd century, it is only "young" relative to the other two groups
- ↑ http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha068.htm
- ↑ http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/beliefs/atheism.htm
- ↑ http://www.teachingsofthebuddha.com/i_am_awake.htm
- ↑ http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/beliefs/afterlife.htm
- ↑ Why are Buddhists attacking Muslims in Sri Lanka
- ↑ At this point, the true seeker after enlightenment may wish to follow up: Noble savage, Magical Asian or Native American.