Indian Arts and Culture Buddhism Aspects and Tenets of Buddhism Share Flipboard Email Print Marvin Fox / Getty Images Buddhism Origins and Developments Figures and Texts Becoming A Buddhist Tibetan and Vajrayana Buddhism By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated August 26, 2018 Buddhism is the religion of the followers of Gautama Buddha (Sakyamuni). It is an offshoot of Hinduism with many variations in practices and belief, including vegetarianism, in some, but not all branches. Like Hinduism, Buddhism is one of the major religions of the world with probably more than 3.5 million adherents. Common threads of Buddhism include the 3 jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha 'community'), and the goal of nirvana. The Buddha Buddha was a legendary prince (or the son of a nobleman), who founded the major world religion (c. the 5th century B.C.). The word Buddha is Sanskrit for 'awakened one'. The hanging lobes of the Buddha are supposed to represent wisdom, but originally they likely showed the Buddha's ears weighed down with earrings. Dharma Dharma is a Sanskrit word and concept with different meanings in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. In Buddhism, Dharma is a "truth" which is held in high regard as one of the 3 jewels. The other 2 jewels are the Buddha and the Sangha 'community'. 8-Fold Path to Enlightenment Nirvana is spiritual enlightenment and release from human suffering, lust, and anger. One way to nirvana is to follow the 8-fold path. All 8 paths contribute to and show the "right" way. The 8-fold path is one of the Buddha's 4 Noble Truths. The 4 Noble Truths deal with eliminating duhkha, or 'suffering'. Following the 8-fold path can lead to enlightenment and nirvana. Bodhi is 'enlightenment'. It is also the name of the tree under which the Buddha meditated when he achieved enlightenment, although the Bodhi tree is also called the Bo tree. The Spread of Buddhism After Buddha died, his followers enhanced the story of his life and his teachings. The number of his followers also increased, spreading throughout northern India and establishing monasteries where they went. Emperor Ashoka (3rd century B.C.) inscribed Buddhist ideas on his famous pillars and send Buddhist missionaries to various parts of his empire. He also sent them to the king of Sri Lanka, where Buddhism became the state religion, and the teachings of the form of Buddhism known as Theravada Buddhism were later written down in the Pali language. Between the fall of the Mauryan Empire and the next (Gupta) empire, Buddhism spread along the trade routes of Central Asia and into China and diversified. Great monasteries (Mahaviharas) grew important, especially as universities, during the Gupta Dynasty. Sources "An Introduction to Buddhist Archaeology," by Gina L. Barnes. World Archaeology, Vol. 27, No. 2, Buddhist Archaeology (Oct., 1995), pp. 165-182.Bodhi. (2009), Bo tree. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 17, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article-9080360, http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article-9015801."Buddhas and Bodhisats," by B. A. de V. Bailey. Parnassus, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Feb., 1940), pp. 26-30+51.Buddhism. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 19, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:"Buddhism" A Dictionary of Asian Mythology. David Leeming. Oxford University Press, 2001Dharma. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 17, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article-9030214Indian philosophy. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 18, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article-61575Monks, Caves and Kings: A Reassessment of the Nature of Early Buddhism in Sri Lanka, by Robin A. E. Coningham World Archaeology © 1995"Nirvana" A Dictionary of Asian Mythology. David Leeming. Oxford University Press, 2001.