Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
Buddhism was developed in India about 2,500 years ago by Siddhartha Gautama, or Buddha (“the enlightened one”). He reinterpreted Hindu ideas about KARMA and rebirth to show how suffering could be avoided. His teachings spread throughout eastern Asia.
The Buddha is believed to have found nirvana (enlightenment) while meditating under a bodhi tree. Meditation involves emptying the mind of all thoughts and distractions in order to achieve inner peace and greater understanding.
Many Buddhists visit temples or shrines to pay homage to Buddha or ask for his help. The oldest style of Buddhist shrine is a stupa (a bell-shaped mound) and holds holy relics. Chinese and Japanese shrines are multistory towers, known as pagodas.
Karma refers to the idea that a person’s good or bad actions have consequences in this and future lives. Buddhists believe that the inequality of mankind is the result of karma accumulated over many lives, but that it is always open to change.
Nirvana is enlightenment, which means freedom from the cycle of rebirth and suffering, and is imagined as a blissful, everlasting state. This is reached when a person is completely free from greed, hatred, and ignorance, and attachments to the human world. Unlike Hindus, Buddhists do not believe in an everlasting soul.