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Buddhism is a nontheistic religion or philosophy (Sanskrit: dharma; Pali: dhamma), that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha ("the awakened one").
According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries (BCE). He is recognized by Buddhists an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end their suffering through the elimination of ignorance and craving.
Buddhists believe that this is accomplished through direct understanding and the perception of dependent origination and the Four Noble Truths. Depending on the branch of Buddhism, the final goal could be Arahantship, Buddhahood, or rainbow body.
Buddhism is a religion and dharma that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on teachings attributed to the Buddha. Buddhism originated in India, from where it spread through much of Asia, whereafter it declined in India during the middle ages. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars:Theravada (Pali: "The School of the Elders") and Mahayana (Sanskrit: "The Great Vehicle").
Buddhist schools vary on the exact nature of the path to liberation, the importance and canonicity of various teachings and scriptures, and especially their respective practices. Practices of Buddhism include Refuge, Samatha, Vipassanā, the Mahayana practice of Bodhicitta and the Vajrayana practices of Generation stage and Completion stage.
In Theravada the ultimate goal is the attainment of the sublime state of nirvana, achieved by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path (also known as the Middle Way), thus escaping what is seen as a cycle of suffering and rebirth. Theravada has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.
Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon and Tiantai (Tendai), is found throughout East Asia. Rather than Nirvana, Mahayana instead aspires to Buddhahood via the bodhisattva path a state wherein one remains in the cycle of rebirth to help other beings reach awakening. Vajrayana, a body of teachings attributed to Indian siddhas, may be viewed as a third branch or merely a part of Mahayana. Tibetan Buddhism, which preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth century India is practiced in regions surrounding the Himalayas, Mongolia and Kalmykia. Tibetan Buddhism aspires to Buddhahood or rainbow body.
Buddhists number between an estimated 488 million and 535 million making it one of the world's major religions.