Around 560 BCE, one of the most influential personages in human history was born. He was born as a prince named Siddhartha, but throughout the ages we have come to know him simply as “the Buddha.”
Legend and popular folklore tells us that Siddhartha was born a prince somewhere in northern India, near the present-day border with Nepal. Growing up in relative wealth and opulence but also sheltered from the true nature of the world outside the palace walls, Siddhartha eventually became discontent and troubled at the suffering that he realized existed outside his home. A compassionate soul (some would say the most compassionate person to have lived), Siddhartha left his home and life of luxury at an early age to seek real knowledge as well as find a way to end the suffering of the people surrounding him.
One day while meditating under a tree, he came to the realization, or “enlightenment” that suffering could be, if not taken from the world entirely, mitigated as the result of training one’s mind and practicing unconditional compassion for others. He began to teach his philosophy and developed a large number of disciples who called him “the Buddha,” meaning “the enlightened one.”
The Buddha’s philosophy spread far and wide throughout what is now India, Central Asia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, China, Tibet, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Japan and many other nations. Today, Buddhism has at least 300-400 million adherents in countries in every inhabited continent all over the world.
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