Religion, Buddhist

BUDDHISM IS THE leading religion of east and southeastern Asian countries. With about 400 million adherents, it exercises great religious, cultural, and social influence in Asia and beyond.

Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama around 2,500 years ago in northern India. After he achieved enlightenment, he was hailed as the Buddha, “the enlightened one.” Although the Buddha could have entered a state of bliss at a higher level of existence, he remained on earth out of compassion for the sufferings of his fellow human beings until he experienced a natural death through accidental food poisoning.

For many centuries after the Buddha's death, his teachings were transmitted orally. When they were committed to writing, the earliest texts were in the Indian language of Pali. Buddhist schools compiled the ...

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