Buddhism according to scholars (older version)

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For criticism see Criticism of Buddhism according to scholars (older version)
See also Budhism.


The Buddha

"Buddha" is a title, meaning "Awakened". His (family) name was Gautama, in its Sanskrit form, or Gotama in Pali. His own native dialect would have been different from both. There is now a more or less established consensus among specialist scholars placing his death around 400 BC. The traditional site of his birthplace was marked by a commemorative pillar in the 3rd century BC, and this was rediscovered by archaeologists in the 1890s, in a piece of territory that had been transferred to Nepal in 1860. Historians accept that he existed, taught, and founded a monastic order, but regard most details of his traditional biographies as questionable. The teachings were written down only centuries later. However, certain teachings are found with such frequency throughout the early texts that most scholars conclude that he must have taught at least something of the sort.

Early teachings

The teachings of early Buddhism can be summarized as rebirth, karma and the "Four Noble Truths".

After death, beings normally start a new life, beginning from conception. These lives can be of various sorts, later systematized as 5 (in Theravada) or 6 (in Mahayana) realms:

  • human beings
  • animals
  • ghosts
  • gods
  • hell inmates
  • (in Mahayana) demons

Theravada believes a new life follows immediately after death, but Mahayana that there is an intermediate state.



East Asia

The Tibetan tradition

Buddhism in the Modern World