Buddhism Facts

Michael Bryan

Michael Bryan

Published: 13 Sep 2021

statue, religious, buddha, buddhism facts

Have you wondered how Buddhist monks keep their vows despite the ever-advancing technological comfort that the world can easily provide? Like how can a person who has an option to choose to live comfortably in the city prefer staying in the monasteries and just meditate? The answer for that should come from those people who follow the laws and teachings of Buddha. That’s why we have here a list of Buddhism facts that might help you get a deeper understanding of their religion.

To begin, Buddhism teaches its followers to detach themselves and commit to the vows that will provide them their own path to enlightenment. All Buddhists do not desire heaven, instead, they want to achieve Nirvana. Becoming a follower of Buddha requires a 360-degree lifestyle change, but by observing it properly, one can end suffering and attain happiness.

  1. Buddhism is an Indian religion based on a series of original teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha.
  2. It originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia.
  3. Buddhism has over 520 million followers or over 7 percent of the global population.
  4. Buddhist is a term for a person who follows the teachings of Buddha.
  5. The goal of Buddhism is to overcome suffering caused by desire and ignorance of reality’s true nature.
  1. Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the path to liberation.
  2. Widely observed practices include meditation, observance of moral precepts, monasticism, and taking refuge in Buddha.
  3. There are two major extant branches of Buddhism namely; Theravāda (The School of the Elders) and Mahāyāna (The Great Vehicle).
  4. Theravada has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and in Southeast Asia, such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand.
  5. While Mahayana is present in countries like Nepal, Malaysia, Bhutan, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
  6. Countries of the Himalayan region, Mongolia, and Kalmykia are practicing the Vajrayana.
  7. Tibetan Buddhism has preserved the Vajrayana teachings of 8th-century India.
  8. Buddhism was also present in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the early times.
  9. Buddhism is an Indian religion founded on the teachings of Gautama Buddha, who lived c. 5th to 4th century BCE.
  10. Early texts have the Buddha’s family name as Gautama. His social background and life details are difficult to prove, and the precise dates are uncertain.
  1. Buddha himself rejected the existence of a creator deity, but the notion of divinity is not incompatible with his teachings.
  2. It also had a foothold to some extent in other places including the Philippines, the Maldives, and Uzbekistan.
  3. Buddhism is not a unified religion.
  4. The Bodhi Tree is the main sacred object of Buddhism
  5. There are four main pilgrimage sites and eight great places in Buddhism.
Table of Contents

Buddha has been in dozens of movies.

Gautama Buddha has inspired many filmmakers over the last century. The most famous of them, at least to Western audiences, is Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha from 1993, featuring Bridget Fonda, Keanu Reeves, and Chris Isaak.

Buddhism has no holy book.

Unlike most religions that center holy texts, like the Bible for Christianity and Judaism, and the Quran for Islam, Buddhism has no such single writing. However, Buddhists consider buddhavacana to be the original Buddha’s teachings as holy.

Siddhartha Gautama is not the only Buddha.

Buddhists believe that there were other individuals who became Buddhas before him. In Theravada Buddhism, it teaches that there are 28 Buddhas having Gautama Buddha as the last, while Mahayana Buddhism also recognizes various other Buddhas of celestial origin.

28 Buddhas, religion, Buddhism facts
Image from: Wikimedia Commons

The earliest Buddhist monasteries are caves.

In the earlier times, Buddhists would meditate and perform rituals in caves. These caves are considered to be sacred places, and that they are mostly found in the Deccan Plateau area of India. However, India’s monasteries have evolved with time, giving them a standard structure and were called Viharas.

The four noble truths that lead to Nirvana.

Buddhists believe that following the four noble truths can lead them to Nirvana. They all value these things and would apply them to their daily lives. They are the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.

Karma is not just a Buddhist concept.

The idea of karma is not originally from the teachings of Buddha. Other religions like Hinduism, Taoism, Jainism, and Sikhism also held it as one of their key concepts. Karma is a concept that emphasizes cause and effect. Mainly, it explains the output of one’s action and how does it affect one’s future self.

The concept of trinity is also present in Buddhism.

Similar to the Christian concept of the Trinity, which is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, a concept like this is also present in Buddhism. The Buddhist trinity refers to the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

Buddha’s teachings were once only preserved orally.

Before it was known as Pali Canon or the Tipitaka, Gautama’s teachings were only preserved orally in the first 400 years after his death. It was first written down during the Fourth Buddhist Council in Sri Lanka in 29 BC.

Nobody knows when Siddharta Gautama was born.

It was said that the prince was born either in 536 BC or in 480 BC. The details of his life were only passed orally from generation to generation, and that is why there are no completely reliable sources regarding the date of his birth. However, it is certain that he was born in Nepal.

Siddharta Gautama, Buddha, Buddhism facts
Image from Flickr

Buddha is a title, meaning, the awakened one.

The term is applicable to anyone who has realized the true nature of things. According to Buddhist teachings, there have not been that many since Gautama was the last Buddha among us. However, it is not impossible for anyone to become Buddha.

The Famous Philosopher Nietzsche Was a Strict Critic of Buddhism.

A lot of philosophers have become critics of Buddhism, however, Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher from the 19th century criticizes Nirvana as a form of nihilism, meaning that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.

Buddhism is popular among many top celebrities.

Famous American celebrities have also followed the path to Nirvana, like Kate Bosworth, Steven Seagal, Richard Gere, Tina Turner, Orlando Bloom, Tiger Woods, Steve Jobs, Naomi Watts, Jack Kerouac, and Sharon Stone to name some.

Buddhists are expected to decrease to roughly 5% by 2060.

Buddhists have relatively low fertility rates compared with other religious groups. Most of them are also converting or switching to other religions. That is why their population is expected to decrease to roughly 5% by 2060.

Half of the world’s Buddhists live in China.

However, they make up only 18 percent of the country’s population. Most of the rest of the world’s Buddhists live in East and South Asia, including 13 percent in Thailand where 93 percent of the population is Buddhist, and 9 percent in Japan. There is only about 1.4 percent of the world’s Buddhists living in countries outside of Asia.

Buddhism in Asia is a matter of both identity and practice.

People in academics have recorded that the majority of people in Asian countries may engage in Buddhism or in other religious practices without formally considering themselves as part of any religion.

monks, boys, Asia, Buddhism facts
Image from Pixabay

Siddhartha Gautama was born in Nepal.

Siddharta was born in Nepal, where the vast majority of the people identify as Hindu. Born in a Hindu family, it is a fact that Buddhism originated from Hindu religious traditions. In fact, some Hindus worship Buddha as an incarnation of a Hindu deity.

Buddhists make up roughly 1% of the adult population in the United States.

The majority of these Asian Americans are Vietnamese Americans with 43 percent and a quarter of Japanese Americans identify themselves as Buddhist. It is understandable that these Asian American families still hold previous values and beliefs from their country of origin.

Buddhists are older than the world’s overall population.

They are also older than people in other major religious groups, such as Muslims, Hindus, and Christians. Religiously unaffiliated adults have the same median age as Buddhists which is 36 years old.

Being a monk is the ultimate act of filial piety.

Monks have traditionally been an important part of religious life in Theravada-dominated Thailand, Laos Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, and Tibet. For many, is the ultimate act of filial piety demonstrating obedience, respect, gratitude, and devotion to the people who raised him. Men may also become monks to honor relatives who have passed away, with a belief that spirits can be given extra merit.

Monk culture is not as widespread in China and Japan.

These countries are dominated by Mahaya Buddhism that does not think of monk culture as ideal. This type of Buddhism does not put much of an importance on monk culture, unlike Theravada Buddhism. Also, because of the political pressures and modern life’s comfort, men have been discouraged from becoming monks.

Gautama Buddha uses Tathagata when referring to himself.

The term has a lot of interpretations, but the most generally adopted is the one who has thus (tatha) gone (gata) or the one who has thus (tatha) arrived (agata). This implies that Guatama Buddha was not the first person who has achieved Nirvana.

Bodh Gaya is the site where Siddharta achieved enlightenment.

Buddhists refer to Bodh Gaya in India as the most important religious site and a place of pilgrimage. Buddha’s followers believed that this place cradles the Bodhi Tree where Siddharta Gautama attained his Nirvana and became the Buddha.

Bodh Gaya, India, Buddha, statue
Image from: Wikimedia Commons

Zen Buddhism is a mixture of Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism.

Zen Buddhism started in China and became well-spread in Korea, Japan, and the West from the mid 20th century. It commits to understanding the meaning of life directly without being misled by logical thoughts or languages.

Zen is a state of being at peace with your own thoughts.

Zen meditation is an act that you train yourself to be at peace with your own thoughts and being aware of your place within the universe. In fact, the Buddha achieved the ultimate enlightenment through this meditation.

Buddhist monks choose not to marry.

Buddhist monks choose not to marry and remain single while living in the monastic community so that they can focus on achieving enlightenment. Moreover, monks do not have to spend the rest of their life in the monastery – they are completely free to re-enter mainstream society and some only spend a year as a monk.

Buddhist monks can only bless a marriage.

Buddhist monks can only bless a marriage but will never conduct the actual ceremony. There is also no obligation for Buddhists to marry because for them marriage is a choice. They believe that as long as both are happy with each other then it is enough.

Buddhism is the religion in Japan next to Shinto.

According to the data gathered by the Japanese Government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs, at the end of 2018, there are about 84 million or about 67 percent of the Japanese population who are Buddhists. It is the second most known religion next to Shinto.

Sculptural representations of the Buddha appeared in northwestern India.

The most common types of Buddha images are those that represent his calling the earth to witness against Mara by touching it with the fingertips of the right hand, the meditating Buddha protected by a cobra’s hood, and the Buddha lying on his right side as he enters the final nirvana.

Buddhism was also a key driver in fostering education in Japan.

Introduced to Japan via Korea, Buddhism got a favorable view by the Japanese people since it mainly complimented the existing Shinto beliefs. Buddhist monasteries became also an important part of the local community since they provide facilities to cater education, libraries, and food and shelter to the needy.

Theravada Buddhism emphasizes attaining self-liberation through one’s own efforts.

To achieve enlightenment, meditation and concentration should be mastered. Mahayana Buddhists aim to attain self-liberation by following the teachings of Buddha and by breaking from the cycle of samsara. However, these Buddhists may choose to stay in the cycle out of compassion for others.

monks, buddhists, meditation
Image from Pixabay

Korea introduced Buddhism to Japan.

The Korean kingdom of Baekje introduced Buddhism into Japan in either 538 CE or 552 CE. They sent sacred objects that were important in Buddhism in Japan. These include an image of Buddha, several ritual objects, and sacred texts.

Tibetan Buddhism is a religion in exile.

When Tibet was conquered by China, Tibetan Buddhism was forced out of its home. Tibetan Buddhism combines the essential teachings of Mahayana Buddhism with Tantric and Shamanic, and material from an ancient Tibetan religion called Bon.

Nichiren Buddhism is a Japanese Buddhist movement in the Mahayana tradition.

Nichirin Buddhism is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism, and it is based on the teachings of the 13th-century-old Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren. It has been a hot topic in the West and is growing fast in the UK.

Some Buddhists abstain from eating some vegetables.

Most Buddhist monks abstain from eating garlic, Chinese onion, asafoetida, and mountain leek since they excite the senses and promote impulse. It is believed that when these vegetables are eaten raw, these can cause distemper and can also be aphrodisiacs when eaten cooked. Eating these vegetables will hinder achieving a peaceful mind.

They also avoid meat consumption.

It is because of the first general rule in Buddhism that refrains from taking a life. Other Buddhists disagree with this conclusion, but many Buddhist vegetarians also oppose meat-eating based on scriptural injunctions against flesh-eating recorded in Mahayana sutras.

Anyone can become a Buddhist.

All you have to do is take refuge in the Triple Gem and observe a ceremony in which you take a vow upholding the Five Precepts namely; to not kill, not steal, not commit sexual misconduct, refrain from false speech and not take intoxication that would lessen your awareness.

Buddhism does not allow alcohol intake since the earliest times.

The Five Precepts states that intoxication through alcohol is a big red flag, and Buddhists should abstain from drinking alcohol because it clouds the mind and hinders the path to enlightenment.

Buddhists abstain from doing specific acts.

Aside from intoxication, there are four remaining vows that Buddhists should take into heart. These precepts prevent them from committing murder, stealing, sexual misconduct, and lying. Since the ultimate goal in the Buddhist doctrine is to achieve the path of enlightenment, they have to develop a strong mind and character.

The monastic ordination of Buddhism always includes a head shave.

Shaving one’s head is a sign of religious devotion and humility. It is also a sign that the person has already disregarded vanity and worldly ego. In modern times, this act of shaving off the hair is called, Tonsure.

Karma in Buddhism has a direct effect on the afterlife.

For Buddhists, karma has implications beyond this life. Karma can determine a person’s rebirth and status in their next life. Being a good person would lead you to one of the heavenly realms and at the same time, people with bad karma can wake up as a mindless beast or in a realm similar to hell.

Buddhists are not aiming to go to heaven.

In Buddhism, there are several heavens, but all are still part of samsara or the illusionary reality and because heaven is temporary, Buddhists focus more on escaping the cycle of rebirth and reaching enlightenment or Nirvana.

Buddhism does not believe in reincarnation.

Buddhism believes that there is no permanent essence of an individual self that survives death, so the idea clashes with reincarnation as the transmigration of a soul to another body after death.

It also does not require believers to believe in a creator.

Surprisingly, there are no forcing people to believe in God or a creator in Buddhism. The term Buddha is not intertwined with the term God, too. It is a title that is used to address a few people who have achieved the ultimate enlightenment.

The Buddha is a canonized saint of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

The Buddha has led ascetic life to find the meaning of suffering and his ideals have become a positive force in the spiritual life of Christians. It is also simple to get admission for sainthood—to die in a suitable gruesome way while thanking the Lord for the privilege.

Meditation changes monks’ brainwaves.

Another study at the University of Wisconsin–Madison found that during meditation, Zen Buddhist monks show an extraordinary synchronization of brainwaves known as gamma synchrony.

monk, meditation, zen
Image from Pixabay

A tooth that dictates leadership of Buddhism.

When the Buddha was cremated, a single tooth remained, and whoever possessed the tooth would become the rightful leader of Buddhism, however, this is just according to the legend. Moreover, the tooth is currently housed in a $62 million dollar temple in Sri Lanka.

Warrior monks were real in early Japan.

Sōhei or warrior monks were Buddhist warrior monks of both medieval and feudal Japan. The warriors protected land and intimidated rival schools of Buddhism, becoming a significant factor in the spread of Buddhism and the development of different schools during the Kamakura period.

Our ego causes suffering.

In Buddhism, there is no such thing as the devil. Instead, Buddhism considers things as evil if it causes suffering. According to the teachings of Buddha, our suffering is the result of our ego and desires. Happiness begins when these end.

Steve Jobs had strong leanings toward Buddhism.

Steve Jobs traveled through India in 1974 and studied Zen Buddhism. He leans to its emphasis on focus, simplicity, and perfection which he tries to apply in his Apple designs.

The lotus is an important symbol in Buddhism.

Looking at a lotus flower as it rises from the muddy water toward the light symbolizes how Buddha achieved Nirvana. Legend says that the Gautama Buddha can make lotus flowers appear wherever he goes.

flower, lotus, plant, zen
Image from: Maxpixel

The Buddha has only one son.

The Buddha had only one son named Rahula. His son would later become the first novice monk. Some would say that the Buddha was not a model father, but his son was the grandchild of King Suddhodana of the Shakya clan, meaning, he would be well taken cared of.

Every person is responsible for finding enlightenment.

There is no Jesus Christ in Buddhism to save them from their sins. It does not offer any type of grace; rather, each person is responsible for finding enlightenment, and according to Buddhism, anyone can be a Buddha after they successfully attain enlightenment.

The Fat Buddha is not Gautama Buddha.

The Fat Buddha is known to be Budai, and to break all misconceptions he is not the actual Gautama Buddha. He is known as Budai, a Zen Monk from China around the 10th century. Budai was a bold man with a big tummy, big smile, large ears, wearing a simple robe, prayer beads, and a large sack.

Budia, laughing buddha, statue
Image from Wikimedia Commons

The Buddha is a full vegetarian.

Gautama Buddha’s final teachings include the disdain of eating meat from any living thing. He also instructed that even vegetarian food that has been touched by meat should be washed before being eaten.

The Buddha devised the Middle Way to enlightenment.

During the Buddha’s quest to reach Nirvana, he observed a lot of religious practices or rituals that he considers as extreme and intense, like starving oneself for weeks or inflicting pain to ask for forgiveness. After that, he looked and devised a path with a balanced emphasis on the inner renunciation. This path that he devised would later be known as The Middle Way to enlightenment.

The Buddha died at the age of 80.

His final words to his followers were, “All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.” Truly, his work has changed a lot of people, and that his name has forever remained not only in books, but also in the people who looked up to his teachings.

Some Buddhist monks practiced self-mummification.

Some Buddhist monks in Japan practiced the Sokushinbutsu or self-mummification. The monks adopted a special diet of tree roots, nuts, and more. Then, they seal themselves alive into pine burial chambers. Moreover, the Buddhist monks still meditated in their final days in the pine box.

There are reasons why the Buddha accepted a patch robe.

The robes were mostly brownish in color and the different shades of the color did not signify the strictness of the wearers at the time of the Buddha, nor do they today. Wearing such patched robes will easily distinguish a monk from the citizens and it is also to discourage thieves since monks have no expensive possession in their belongings.

The daily life of a Monk.

Monks do things that make them communal. On a regular day, they pray, reflect and serve. They also do exercise and collecting, as well as cooking. They also do the most important thing when they are alone which is to meditate.

lunch, monks, eating, communal, daily life
Image from: Maxpixel

The Buddha does not approve of giving money to monks.

Monks are not allowed to make a living as established by Buddha in the monastic codes. It is the lay followers’ responsibility to support the monks with the four necessities, like food, medicine, and so forth, but no money.