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Buddhism and Buddha Basics

Buddhism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who lived between approximately 563 and 483 BCE. Originating in India, Buddhism gradually spread throughout Asia to Central Asia, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, as well as the East Asian countries of China, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan.

Buddhism teaches followers to perform good and wholesome actions, to avoid bad and harmful actions, and to purify and train the mind. The aim of these practices is to awaken the practitioner to the realization of true reality and the achievement of Nirvana.

Buddhist morality is underpinned by the principles of harmlessness and moderation. Mental training focuses on moral discipline (sila), meditative concentration (samadhi), and wisdom (prajña).

While Buddhism does not deny the existence of supernatural beings (indeed, many are discussed in Buddhist scripture), it does not ascribe power for creation, salvation or judgement to them. Like humans, they are regarded as having the power to affect worldly events, and so some Buddhist schools associate with them via ritual.

What is a Buddha?
Buddha is a word in ancient Indian languages including Pali and Sanskrit which means "one who has been awakened". It is derived from the verbal root "budh", meaning "to awaken" or "to be enlightened", and "to comprehend".

The word "Buddha" denotes not just a single religious teacher who lived in a particular epoch, but a type of person, of which there have been many millions, billions, and infinite ones throughout the course of cosmic time. (As an analogy, the term "American President" refers not just to one person, but to everyone who has ever held the office of American presidency.) The Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, then, is simply one member in the spiritual lineage of Buddhas, which stretches back into the dim recesses of the past and forward into the distant horizons of the future.

Gautama, who is referred to by Buddhists as Shakyamuni Buddha, did not claim any divine status for himself, nor did he assert that he was inspired by a god or gods. A Buddha is anyone who has fully awakened to the true nature of existence and who is liberated from the cycle of birth, dead, and rebirth. Anyone can free themselves from suffering as Gautama did, regardless of age, sex, or caste.

The principles by which a person can be led to enlightenment are known as the Buddhadharma, or simply the Dharma, meaning (in this context) "law, doctrine, or truth".

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