Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama.  He lived about 25 centuries ago in what is now Nepal and northern India.  He came to be called “the Buddha,” which means ” the awakened one,” after he experienced a profound realization of the nature of life, death and existence.  In English, the Buddha was said to be enlightened, although in Sanskrit it is bodhi, “awakened.”

Buddha traveled and taught.  However, he didn’t teach people what he himself had realized when he became enlightened.  Instead, he taught people how to realize enlightenment for themselves.  He taught that awakening comes through one’s own direct experience, rather than through beliefs and dogmas.

The central focus of most religions is God, or gods.  Buddhism, however, is non-theistic which teaches how we can realize truth for ourselves.  In this context, the Buddha taught that believing in gods was not useful for those seeking to realize enlightenment.  It is a practice of contemplation and inquiry that doesn’t depend on belief in God or a soul or anything supernatural.   Therefore, the theory goes, it is noy a religion.

To many, Buddhism is more of a philosophy or a way of life.  It is a philosophy because philosophy literally means “love of wisdom.”

The Buddhist path can be summed up as:

(1) to lead a moral life,
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding

The major outline of Buddhist practice is the called Eightfold Path.

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