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    (circa 531 BC- )
    Founded in North-East India by Siddhartha Gautama, later known as Buddha or ‘Enlightened One’
    Developed from Hindu traditions
    Its main branches are Theravada (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar) and Mahayana (China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Tibet, Mongolia and Nepal)
    Followers are required to acknowledge the Four Noble Truths (teachings about suffering) and follow the Eightfold Path (the means to end suffering)
    Ultimate goal of followers is to reach nirvana (liberation from desire)
    Approximately 350 million followers
    They are taught to avoid suffering rather than actively seek happiness or enlightenment.
    They cannot agree as to whether Buddha is divine or not.
    Some believe it is wrong to harm others even in self defense.
    They had no written scriptures until centuries after Buddha’s death.
    Like Hindus, they believe if you behave badly, you may be reincarnated as an animal.
    Many are trendy Western college students or celebrities.
    There is disagreement as to whether they follow a true religion or a philosophy.
    Buddhism has almost disappeared from its country of origin, India.
    Despite their pacifism, Buddhist monks helped develop Asian martial arts.
    Theravadans believe only monks and nuns can attain nirvana.
    They avoid both extreme self denial and self indulgence (‘The Middle Way’).
    They respect all living beings.
    They are relatively tolerant of other faiths.
    They are generally accommodating of science and technology.
    They focus on personal spiritual growth rather than distant supernatural beings.
    Mahayanans stress social awareness and responsibility.
    Unlike Hindus, they reject the caste system.
    They have been frequently persecuted by other religious groups and Communists.
    Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in many Western countries.
    There are intriguing similarities between some Buddhist principles and modern physics.

Credit: Georgina

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