The Buddha emphasized that he was not a god nor the messenger of a god and that his system of thought was not divinely-revealed, but rather that it was an understanding of the nature of the human mind which could be rediscovered by anyone for themselves.
According to statistics from adherents.com, estimates of the number of Buddhists vary between 230 and 500 million, with most around 350 million.
There are two main branches of Buddhism: Theravada ("Teachings of the Elders") and Mahayana (The "Large Group" or
"-Vehicle"). Theravada is most common in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and Indochina. Mahayana is found in China, Japan, Korea, and Tibet. Zen is one of the better-known Mahayana subdivisions. Tibetan Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana is sometimes listed as a third branch of Buddhism. Theravada is sometimes called Hinayana (The "Small Group" or "-Vehicle"), though that name is often considered pejorative.
Different branches of Buddhism have different scriptures. Mahayana Buddhism has a large number of scriptures, called sutras: different Mahayana sects use different texts. Theravadins have a canon of texts written in the Pali language called the Tipitaka (perhaps better known in the West by its Sanskrit name Tripitaka). The name means 'three baskets', after its three sections:
1) The Vinaya Pitaka, containing disciplinary rules for the Sangha of Buddhist monks and nuns.
2) The Sutta Pitaka, containing discources of the Buddha.
3) The Abhidhamma Pitaka, containing a philosophical systematization of the Buddha's teaching.
The Buddha's Four Noble Truths
- All of life involves dukkha or suffering.
- This suffering is caused by attachment.
- There is a way out of suffering.
- The way out of suffering is to follow the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path
- Right Understanding
- Right Thought
- Right Speech
- Right Action (See entry on Pancasila)
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
There are a number of movements in Asia and the West to "modernize" Buddhism. Although these minorities are sometimes viewed as digressing and deviating from the actual teachings of the Buddha, others hold that they do represent the thoughts and philosophy of a considerable amount of Buddhists, particularly the Buddhist youths living in Asia. Major categories of such movements include Evangelical Buddhism and Universal Vehiclism.
- The "Snelling Sutra", a very good and *very* concise introduction
- Google directory for Buddhism
- About.com entry for Buddhism
- Pali Canon, presented by "Access to Insight"
- The aRo gTer- A Tibetan Buddhism
- The Buddhanet network