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Buddhism Fast Facts

By CNN Library
updated 3:31 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Pilgrims meditate at the Maya Devi Temple, with ancient remains in the background, at Lumbini in Nepal. The site is said to be the birthplace of the Buddha. Pilgrims meditate at the Maya Devi Temple, with ancient remains in the background, at Lumbini in Nepal. The site is said to be the birthplace of the Buddha.
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(CNN) -- Here's a look at what you need to know about Buddhism, the major religion of many countries in Asia. Known as Buddha-Dharma in the East.

Beliefs/Practices:
Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) grew up in a wealthy family. He decided to follow a path of self-denial, but did not find truth until he sat down under a tree, now known as the Bo tree. There he was "enlightened" and obtained the knowledge he had been looking for.

According to legend, Buddha sat under the Bo Tree for 49 days and was tempted by demons. He discovered four noble truths and the Eightfold Path to Nirvana, or ultimate bliss.

The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism: 1) existence is suffering, 2) the cause of suffering is craving and attachment, 3) suffering ceases at some point and turns to Nirvana (liberation or total bliss) and 4) there is a path to Nirvana which is made up of eight steps, sometimes called the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path to Nirvana is to be "right" in all these areas: concentration, views, speech, resolve, action, livelihood, effort, and mindfulness.

There are two major schools of Buddhism: Mahayana and Theravada or Hinayana. There is a third school, the Vajrayana, but it only has a small following.

Dozens of different sects of Buddhism are derived from these schools, all having different characteristics, but sharing the basic beliefs.

Buddhists believe in reincarnation and that one must stop the cycle of rebirth as a suffering, selfish individual, and must attain Nirvana, which is the highest point and the end of the self.

Karma is the belief that good deeds/behavior will be visited back on individuals as well as bad deeds/behavior. This is the basis for living a good, moral life.

The Pali Tipitaka is the earliest collection of sacred Buddhist writings; used mostly in the Theravada school. Translated, it means the "Three Baskets."

Other Facts:
Approximately 488 million Buddhists worldwide (Pew Research Center, 2012).

One in seven Asian Americans, or 14 percent, are Buddhist. Just over one percent of the general public in the United States is Buddhist (Pew Research Center, 2012).

Timeline:
563-483 BC - Siddhartha Gautama or Buddha lives in India. Others (especially the Japanese) believe he lived about 100 years later, from 448 to 368 BC. India is in religious disarray at the time of Buddhism's creation. People had become disillusioned with Hinduism.

150 AD - Trade brings Indian people and beliefs to Asia, particularly China.

3rd century - Teachings of Buddha are translated to Chinese.

4th century - Introduced to Korea.

6th century - Introduced to Japan.

1100-1200 - Muslims dominate India and Buddhism becomes a very minor religion in the country.

1800s - Introduced to the United States, mostly on the west coast.

1959 - Dalai Lama, the Buddhist leader in Tibet, flees to India. Many monks are persecuted and temples are destroyed.

Present - Buddhism remains a minor religion in its country of origin, India, with about eight million followers, or 0.8 percent of the total Indian population.

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