Buddhism Facts
Buddhism Facts

60 Enlightening Buddhism Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published December 8, 2017Updated August 12, 2019
  • "Buddha" is not a personal name. It is an honorific title that means "awakened one." Buddha's real name was Siddhartha Gautama.[9]
  • Approximately 500 million people around the world, or about 10% of the world's population, practice Buddhism.[5]
  • Some Buddhist monks practice sokushinbutsu ("a Buddha in this very body"), which is a type of self-mummification. Between the 12th and early 20th century, monks would eat pine needles, berries, tree bark, resin, and certain herbs to help starve and preserve the body.[5]
  • Unlike many other religions, there is no central text in Buddhism.[3]
  • According to legend, Buddha was born in Nepal under a full moon in a beautiful garden; the sky rained flower petals and the earth shook.[3]
  • Gautama Buddha Fact
    Queen Māyā of Sakya, the Buddha's mother, died seven days after miraculously giving birth to him
  • According to legend, the Buddha was conceived by a mortal mother (Queen Maya) and a baby white elephant in the eastern part of India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BC.[9]
  • Often, statues of the Buddha depict him with short, curly hair to show that he denounced his privileged past. Usually, the wealthy elite would sport a fashionable topknot.[2]
  • Statues of the Buddha often show him with half closed eyes, which is meant to show a state of meditation and, moreover, a state of indifference to the material world.[2]
  • Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) came from a Hindu family, and both religions overlap somewhat. The major difference is that Hinduism is clearly a theistic religion, whereas Buddhism is mostly non-theistic.[3]
  • Unlike other religious practices, Buddhism does not require a person to believe in a creator god or gods. Buddhism believes in three elemental concepts: 1) nothing is permanent, 2) all actions have consequences, and 3) it is possible to change.[9]
  • Because the earliest Buddhist texts were orally transmitted and written down hundreds of years after Buddha's death, scholars cannot say with certainty what Buddha himself taught.[3]
  • When the Buddha was asked to sum up his teachings in a single word, he said, "Awareness."[9]
  • If there is any religion that could respond to the needs of modern science, it would be Buddhism.

    - Albert Einstein

  • The Buddha has often been called the "Great Physician" because he was primarily concerned with identifying the cause of human suffering and finding way to eliminate it.[3]
  • According to the Buddha, the secret to happiness is simple: To want what you have and not want what you don't have.[3]
  • Many people in India at the time of the Buddha were Hindus, and he is often depicted alongside Hindu gods, such as Brahma "the Creator," and Indra, "God of Rain and Warfare."[9]
  • According to Marco Polo, "had [Buddha] been a Christian, he would have been a great saint of our Lord Jesus Christ, so good and pure was the life he led."[12]
  • Laughing Buddha
    The image of the Budai, or Laughing Buddha, is often confused with Gautama Buddha
  • The "fat" Buddha that people often see in restaurants is not The Buddha, Gautama Buddha. Rather, he is a character in Chinese folklore called Budai.[11]
  • Depictions of the Buddha often show him with webbed toes, rounded ankles, and projecting heels, which, according to legend, are signs of a great man.[9]
  • The Buddha is a canonized saint of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.[12]
  • According to tradition, the Buddha lived during the 5th century BC and died at the age of 80. He died lying on his right side between two Sal trees, which, according to legend, miraculously bloomed out of season.[5]
  • While different theories of Buddhism may have claimed that women could not achieve Nirvana, the Buddha himself said that there was no reason that women could not achieve enlightenment.[10]
  • Buddha is usually shown with elongated earlobes, which symbolize wisdom and understanding. Some scholars also suggest it represents his former life as wealthy person[14]
  • The Buddha is often depicted wearing a flamelike headdress, which represents the light of supreme knowledge.[14]
  • The Buddha's teachings are also referred to as the dhamma, which means doctrine, truth, or law.[14]
  • Buddhists do not believe in an essential soul or self.[14]
  • When scientists studied the brains of Buddhist monks, they found that meditation actually changed the monks' brainwaves in a way that increased feelings of happiness and resiliency.[4]
  • Buddhism Pyschology
    MRIs show that meditation changes the brain

  • According to legend, after the Buddha was cremated, a single tooth remained. Additionally, whoever is in possession of the tooth is the rightful leader of Buddhism. The tooth is currently housed in a $62 million dollar temple in Sri Lanka.[13]
  • After the Buddha died and was cremated, his ashes were divided and buried among his followers in India. A large, dome-shaped mound called a tupa was built at each burial site.[14]
  • The Buddha is sometimes symbolized as an umbrella. In Buddha's time, members of the royalty were protected from the sun and rain by parasols, hence it became a symbol of protection.[14]
  • An image of soccer star David Beckham is enshrined on a frieze in Bangkok, with the likes of bodhisattvas (buddhas) and gods. His popular status earned him a place among the gods.[14]
  • Steve Jobs Fact
    Jobs traveled through India in 1974 and studied Zen Buddhism (Matthew Yohe / Creative Commons)
  • Biographers note that Steve Jobs had strong leanings toward Buddhism, particularly its emphasis on focus, simplicity, and perfection, all of which he tried to implement in his Apple designs.
  • Actress Uma Thurman's father is a professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies and was the first Westerner to become a Tibetan Buddhist monk.[14]
  • The world's two largest standing Buddhas used to be in Afghanistan. However, in 2001 the Taliban destroyed the huge Buddhas.[14]
  • The largest seated Buddha in the world was carved out of the rock face of Lingyun Hill in Leshan, China, about 800 AD. The statue stands about 230 feet (70 m) tall and the shoulders measure 90 ft (30 m) across.[14]
  • In Buddhism, there is no devil. Instead, something is "evil" if it causes suffering. According to Buddha, the cause of the most suffering is our ego, or the concept that we are separate from the world. When the ego ends, happiness begins.[14]
  • The Buddha is not worshipped. While some in Hinduism view the Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu, most Buddhists think that Buddha is human.[14]
  • According to Buddhism, anyone can be a "buddha," after they successfully attain enlightenment.[3]
  • In Buddhism, there is no Jesus Christ to save a person from their sins. Simply believing in Buddhism does not offer any type of grace; rather, each person is responsible for finding their enlightenment.[14]
  • The lotus is an important symbol in Buddhism. It represents the journey of enlightenment because it grows from the muddy water into the light, just as a "buddha" or enlightened one does.[14]
  • Lotus Fact
    The lotus symbolizes wealth, prosperity, purity, and fertility

  • Buddhism can exist without Buddha. In other words, the Buddha shared his findings, but he did not create them. Additionally, Buddhism is not exclusive to just his followers.[14]
  • While most religions concern themselves with the creation and the afterlife, in Buddhism, the most important concept is to let go of the past and future to focus on the moment.[14]
  • While some Buddhist sects believe in heaven and hell, most Buddhists believe heaven or hell is a state of mind. In short, by shifting our awareness, we attain a different level of consciousness.[3]
  • While many Buddhists believe in reincarnation, some do not. A Buddhist is allowed to believe in whatever they wish while they practice Buddhism's main teachings.[3]
  • Famous Western Buddhists include Courtney Love, Allen Ginsberg, Kate Bosworth, Leonard Cohen, Orlando Bloom, Richard Gere, Sharon Stone, Tiger Woods, and Tina Turner.[8]
  • Guan Yin is a an important Buddhist goddess. Known as the "Goddess of Mercy" or "The One Who Perceives the Sounds of the World," this bodhisattva is sometimes depicted as both male and female to show the divinity's transcendence beyond gender.[3]
  • Schopenhauer and Buddhism
    Schopenhauer (1788–1860) is considered to be the first European Buddhist
  • The first major Western thinker to take an interest in Buddhism was German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860). He saw it as the most rational and ethically evolved of all the world religions.[9]
  • According to legend, the Buddha sat under a tree, the Bo tree, for 49 days. After being tempted by demons, he discovered the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to Nirvana (ultimate bliss).[3]
  • The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism are the following: 1) existence is suffering, 2) the cause of suffering is craving and attachment, 3) suffering stops at some point and turns into Nirvana, and 4) the path to Nirvana consists of eight steps, which is called the Eightfold Path.[9]
  • The three major branches of Buddhism in the modern world are Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism, and Vajrayana Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism is believed to be the largest branch, with Theravada Buddhism and Vajrayana coming in second and third, respectively.[3]
  • The Eightfold Path to Nirvana is to be moderate in 8 areas: 1) concentration, 2) views, 3) speech, 4) resolve, 5) action, 6) livelihood, 7) effort, and 8) mindfulness.[1]
  • According to Buddhism, karma is the basis for living a moral and good life. Literally translated as "action," "effect," or "fate," karma can be seen as a type of elevator that takes people from one floor of consciousness to another.[1]
  • Approximately 1 in 7 Asian Americans, or 14%, are Buddhist.[1]
  • Nearly four million Americans now practice Buddhism, which is more than the number of Episcopalians. Of these, about half have post-graduate degrees.[6]
  • The Buddha's last words were, "Decay is inherent in all things: be sure to strive with clarity of mind (for Nirvana)."[9]
  • The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to put an end to suffering and rebirth. The way to end suffering is by fulfilling the human potential for goodness and happiness.[3]
  • Fun Buddha Fact
    The eight parts of the path to liberation are grouped into three essential elements of Buddhist practice: moral conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom
  • The symbol of the Noble Eightfold Path represents the Buddhist faith. Its eight spokes represent the "Middle Way," which means a Buddhist life should not be too hard nor too easy.[14]
  • Buddhism doesn't have a single leader, and there is not a central office similar to that of the Pope in Catholicism, which means Buddhism tends to fissure readily.[9]
  • The Buddha had only one son named Rahula ("Fetter"). Shortly after he was born, the Buddha left his family to seek enlightenment. His son would later become the first Sāmanera (novice monk).[9]
  • Buddhists in Asia do not refer to their religion as "Buddhism." Rather, they call it either Dharma ("law") or the Buddha-sasana ("teachings of the Buddha").[9]
  • Tibetan Buddhists have adopted a policy of peaceful resistance to the invasion of their country by the Chinese in 1950 after a million Tibetans were killed and over 6,000 monasteries were destroyed.[9]
  • Essential Buddhism Facts INFOGRAPHIC
    Buddhism Infographic

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