“Just as the great ocean has one taste, the taste of salt, so also this teaching and discipline has one taste, the taste of liberation.” The Buddha (from the Udana)

The Buddha, originally named Siddhartha Gautama, was born in what is now modern-day Nepal, and it is thought he lived from 566-486 BCE. Shortly after the birth of his son, at age 29, the Buddha left home in search of freedom from the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. For six years, he engaged in several austerity measures, such as food deprivation and extreme breath control, but he found them wanting. He came to see the most productive course of action is the “middle way.” He began advocating for a life of moderation.

The Buddha achieved enlightenment at the age of 35 and taught his followers “The Four Noble Truths” which are: “(1) life is suffering, (2) suffering is caused by craving, (3) suffering can have an end, and (4) there is a path which leads to the end of suffering.”

The Buddha did not regard himself as the leader of his community and he rejected calls to appoint a successor upon his death. Accordingly, Buddhism has no central authority, which has resulted in different traditions or schools of Buddhism throughout history. When Buddhism enters into a new region, it tends to blend with existing beliefs rather than eradicate them. Consequently, the form of Buddhism in each country has different characteristics. For example, in Zen Buddhism, which can be found primarily in Japan, meditation plays a central role and focuses less on the study of texts, whereas Tibetan Buddhism has at its core a set of treatises known as the Tantras.

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