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ARC Home > Faiths and Ecology > Buddhism > Buddhist origins :

Buddhist origins

Buddhism was founded around 550 BC by Siddhartha Gautama, born in North India as a Hindu prince. When he was still a young man he abandoned his palace and went alone to the forest in search of an end to suffering. For six years he practiced penance and meditation, before achieving enlightenment under a Bodhi tree.

The Buddha, or Enlightened One, as he came to be known, dedicated the remainder of his life – he lived to be 80 – to travelling the Ganges plains teaching the path to enlightenment to whomever would listen. By the time he left this world he had gathered a large following of monks, nuns and householders, organised into communities called Sanghas.

The Dhammapada

As a bee gathering nectar
does not harm or disturb
the colour and fragrance of the flower;
so do the wise move
through the world. Dhammapada: Flowers, verse 49
His teachings were memorised by his disciples and passed down orally. In 80 BC they were written down in the collection of texts now known as the Pali cannon. The best known record of his teachings is a short collection of his sayings called the Dhammapada.

The Spread of Buddhism

Buddhism spread far beyond India to countries throughout Asia, particularly Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. Altogether there are about 500 million Buddhists today.

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