A Brief History of Buddhism
The religion of Buddhism has 150 to 350 million followers around the world. The wide range is due to two reasons. The tendency for religious affiliation to be nonexclusive is one. The other is the difficulty in getting information from Communist countries such as China. It's followers have divided into two main branches:
Theravada and Mahayana. Theravada, the way of the elders, is dominant in India,
Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia. Mahayana, the greater vehicle, refers to the Theravada as Hinayana, the lesser vehicle. It is dominant in
India, Tibet, Japan, Nepal, Taiwan, China, Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia.
Guatama was born in Kapilivastu. His father was the ruler of the small kingdom near the Indian/Nepal border. As a child, his future was foretold by sages. They believed that he would someday be a fellow sage or leader of a great empire. He led a very pampered and sheltered life until the age of twenty-nine. It was at that time that he realized that he had led an empty life. He renounced his wealth and embarked on a journey to seek truth, enlightenment, and the cycle of rebirths.
In the first years of his journey, Siddhartha Guatama practiced yoga and became involved in radical asceticism. After a short time, he gave up that life for one of a middle path between indulgence and self-denial. He meditated under a bo tree until he reached true enlightenment by rising through a series of higher states of