History

Who: Buddhism was founded by Prince Siddhartha Gautama (Gotama), also known as Sakyamuni, or the sage of the Sakya clan. When he attained nirvana, Gautama was given the name Buddha, or enlightened one. It is thought that the Buddha lived many lives before his birth as Gautama, and that he continues to live through his teachings and his relics.

What: Buddhism is the religion and philosophy which developed out of the teachings of Buddha Gautama. It is the one of the central religious, social and cultural institutions in Southeast Asia. Its goal is to allow adherents to gain freedom from the cycle of reincarnation through the practice of enlightenment.

When: Buddhism first appeared in the sixth century BCE (BCE stands for Before the Common Era, which is replacing BC, or Before Christ. CE, or Common Era, is replacing AD, Anno Domini).

Where: Buddhism began in India, and spread throughout Southeast Asia. Its influence in India declined, finally waning completely in the 12th century CE. It is currently practiced mainly in Southeast Asia, but has adherents around the world, because of both immigration and conversions. Buddhism mingled with Confucianism and Taoism in China and with Shinto in Japan, but neither country is considered to be a Buddhist country.