[From Sanskrit budh: to awaken or to know.]

  1. (religion) In ancient India, a buddha was a person who had achieved deep or even divine enlightenment. The historical Buddha of Buddhist thought was Siddhartha Gautama (5th or 6th century BCE), who lived a life of detachment from worldly affairs, distrust of perceptual appearance and social conventions, inner-directed reflection and meditation, and suppression of pain, sorrow, and desire. Traditionally, Buddhism has stressed self-denial (similar to Stoicism but sometimes bordering on asceticism), the unity of all things (see holism), and a kind of spiritualized individualism. Although many Buddhists consider Gautama to be divine, Buddhism is not a form of theism in the Western sense. Through the centuries, several major schools of Buddhist thought emerged (most prominently Mahayana and Theravada) and Buddhist ideas were combined with traditional Chinese beliefs like Taoism, resulting in Ch'an (or Zen) Buddhism. In fact, Buddhism is quite similar to Taoism in many ways, although Buddhism is closer to transcendentalism since it puts a greater value on ultimate detachment and eternal enlightenment, a state known as nirvana. Early Buddhism probably also influenced ancient Greek skepticism since the founder of Pyrrhonism was converted to philosophy in Gandhara on the northwestern fringes of India.

The Ism Book by Peter Saint-Andre

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