Religion is nothing new. There are probably hundreds of thousands if not millions of religious beliefs in this world, but one of the oldest faiths is Buddhism.
History of Buddhism
Buddhism was founded in India by Siddhartha Gautama, also known as Buddha. He was not a god nor divine being, but rather, he was an extraordinary man who grew up in a wealthy family. Despite living a comfortable life, he decided to give up his lavish lifestyle and dedicate his life to those in need.
After leaving his kingdom, Gautama went on a spiritual journey to deliver peace and truth to the people around him. He encountered countless religious figures and scholars during his travels, but not many of them held the same principles he did.
One day, Buddha left his child and wife and moved to the forest. There, he was on the brink of starving to death, but his renunciation of modern civilization did not lead him to the answers he was seeking. Instead, he sat down beneath a tree and began meditating.
This was an essential turning point in his life. From this point in time, he started to teach Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path to others. He wandered across India, preaching his beliefs to anyone who would lend an ear. His views on religion and life had affected numerous people belonging to different castes.
At the age of 80 years, Buddha passed away. However, he had already garnered a following of thousands of people whom believed everything Buddha had taught. After his death, his teachings were preserved and spread across many countries in Asia.
The Development of Buddhism
Although he passed away in 483 BC, Buddha’s teachings were forever etched in stone. His followers developed a religious movement based on Buddha’s teachings. This movement and adherence to his word later became known as Buddhism.
Buddhism became more widespread in the third century BC when Ashoka the Great made Buddhism is official religion of India. At that time, Ashoka dedicated resources to construct numerous places of worship and meditation across the lands.
Ashoka the Great also helped his son spread Buddhism in South India and Sri Lanka. This was the first time the religion began gaining traction in the East Asia Pacific. However, in the first century AD, there was a split between Buddhists that led to the creation of two branches: Mahayana and Hinayana. The source of the division of the religion was caused by a difference in understandings.
Both branches of Buddhism preach about the four immeasurable attitudes of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. However, the Hinayana believe that they should not accept salvation until everyone else has done the same. The Mahayana neglects the notion that their salvation should not be sacrificed for the sake of others.
Despite their differences, both the Mahayana and Hinayana view the Tripitaka as their main holy book. In the Tripitaka, all of Buddha’s teaching were recorded to be used to spread the religion to all four corners of the world.
Although Buddhism isn’t popular in the Western world as it is in much of Asia, it has become a mainstream religion since the early 1970s. However, there are only three countries in Europe that recognize Buddhism as a formal religion, namely, Austria, Italy, and Russia.