What is Buddhism?

Buddhism started in India over 2,500 years ago. Buddhists follow the teachings of a man called Siddhattha Gotama. He became known as the Buddha, which means 'enlightened'.

What do Buddhists believe?

Siddhattha Gotama was a prince who lived a life of luxury. When he was 29, Siddhattha went outside his palace and saw people suffering for the first time.

He decided to leave his palace and live among holy men in search of truth. His search took him six years, but he became enlightened while meditating under a fig tree.

Following this, Siddhattha became known as the Buddha, which means the 'awakened' or 'enlightened' one. From then on, he dedicated his life to spreading his teachings.

Buddha meditating

The Buddha discovered that the answer lay in what have become known as the Four Noble Truths. Buddhists try to achieve enlightenment by understanding these important principles.

Buddhists try to live a good life by following the Buddha's teachings, helping them to avoid suffering and bad feelings. They believe nothing in life is perfect and the way to avoid suffering is to follow a set of important guidelines known as the Noble Eightfold Path.

Buddhism in pictures

Novice Buddhist monks in a temple

Buddhist monks

Young boys are able to leave home and join Buddhist monasteries as a samanera (novice monk). They can become monks at the age of 20. Young Buddhist girls can train to become nuns.

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What is the Buddhist holy book?

The Buddhist scriptures are known as the Tipitaka which means 'three baskets'. This is because the original writings were made on palm leaves and stored in baskets.

The Tipitaka contains the teachings of the Buddha and his companions, comments on those teachings, as well as rules for monks. Buddhists call the teachings of the Buddha dharma which means ‘truth’.

Where do Buddhists worship?

In Buddhist countries there are many temples. People bring flowers and incense for the shrine and food for the monks.

When entering a temple, Buddhists will take off their shoes, put their hands together and bow to the image of the Buddha. They may also use prayer beads called malas.

Some Buddhists may also have a shrine within their home too.

Bitesize - KS2 Religion - Buddhist shrine

Where next?

What is Wesak?
What is Nirvana Day?
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