Buddhism is a religion that leads its believers toward spiritual development and enlightenment. Founded by Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as “the Buddha” 2,500 years ago, it’s one of the world’s oldest faiths.
Here are 15 important facts about Buddhism that will set you on the path to enlightenment.
Central beliefs in Buddhism
1. Buddhists don’t believe in a god or supreme being
The followers of Buddhism don’t acknowledge a god or supreme being, unlike many religions. Instead, they focus on achieving Nirvana, or the state of enlightenment, where the individual experiences inner peace and wisdom. In fact, the Buddha, although important, is not a god. He is referred to as the “Enlightened One”.
2. Buddhism has no central text
Buddhists have many sacred scriptures, but they don’t have a central text universally referred to by all traditions. Some Buddhist scriptures include the Sutras and the Tipitaka, which are collections of Buddhist teachings.
3. Anyone can be a Buddha
It’s a little-known fact that in the Buddhist tradition, everyone has the potential to become a Buddha. A Buddha is someone who has reached Nirvana, which is the aim of its followers. Also, Buddha is not the personal name of the founder. His real name is Siddhartha Gautama.
4. Buddhism has three major branches
The three major branches of Buddhism are Theravada, Vajrayana and Mahayana. Each of these traditions reveres its own sacred texts and has slightly varied interpretations of the Buddha’s teachings.
5. Buddhists believe in the noble eightfold path
One of the most important Buddhist teachings is the fact that life is full of suffering. But they can minimise suffering if they follow the Noble Eightfold Path as they journey towards Nirvana. This includes:
- Right Understanding
- Right Resolve
- Right Speech
- Right Conduct
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
6. The Wheel of Dharma represents these eight steps
The Wheel of Dharma, also known as the Dharmachakra, represents the Noble Eightfold Path, as well as the teachings of the Buddha. It is a wheel with eight spokes, representing each step.
7. Buddhists believe in karma
Karma is one of the key Buddhism beliefs. It states that every present action will have a consequence later in life, although it is not certain when. Every good deed will get good karma, while evil acts will bring bad karma.
Practices in Buddhism
8. Each person should keep good karma
Because Buddhists believe that every action will affect our future, they aim to keep good karma as they work their way towards Nirvana.
9. Meditation is an important part of Buddhism
In the Buddhist tradition, meditation is the key to achieving Nirvana. Meditation relieves the mind of negative thoughts like hatred and anger and clears the path toward wisdom. It helps people see the true nature of things.
10. Monks shave their heads
The Pali Vinaya-Pitaka, a Buddhist scripture, states that monks should shave their hair when it is two-finger-widths long. This is a symbolic gesture, showing that the monk is ready to leave the past behind and commit to the teachings of the Buddha. Shaving also discourages vanity.
11. Some Buddhist monks practised self-Mmummification
Some Buddhist monks in Japan practised the Sokushinbutsu or self-mummification. The monks adopted a special diet of tree roots, nuts, and more. Then, they sealed themselves alive into pine burial chambers. Interestingly, the Buddhist monks still meditated in their final days in the pine box.
Buddhists around the world
12. 535 million people practise Buddhism
Half a billion people believe in the Buddha’s teachings, and most of them live in Asia. Two hundred fifty million alone are in China, while a vast number are found in Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
13. 7 million Buddhists are found outside Asia
Though only about 1.4% of the world’s Buddhists live outside Asia, that still numbers to nearly 7 million faithful. They can be found in Italy, Egypt and the Latin American countries.
14. Buddhism is the 4th largest religion in the world
With 535 million followers, Buddhism is the fourth most widely practised religion in the world, behind Christianity (2.3 billion followers), Islam (1.8 billion followers) and Hinduism (1.1 billion followers).
15. Three of the tallest statues in the world are of the Buddha
The second, third and fourth tallest statues in the world are of the Buddha. The second tallest is the Spring Temple Buddha in Henan, China, which stands at 128 m (420 ft) and was finished in 2008. The Buddha stands on a beautiful 20-metre lotus throne. The third tallest is the Laykyun Sekkya in Khatakan, Taung, Myanmar, which stands at 115.8 m (380 ft), and even has an elevator to bring tourists to higher levels. The fourth tallest is the Ushiku Daibutsu in Ibaraki, Japan, standing at 100 m (330 ft) and is made of bronze.
Do you know any interesting facts about Buddhism? Share them in the comments below!
If you want to learn more about religions, take a look at facts about the world’s largest faith, Christianity.