Buddhist imagery includes paintings, diagrams, and statues that function as meditational aides and focus for one's reflections. Buddhist sutras are religious texts that present the Buddha's teachings and insights. MORE
Buddhism is a set of teachings rooted in the teachings of a buddha (awakened one) named Shakyamuni, whose given name was Siddhartha Gautama and who lived on the Indian sub-continent in the 5th-6th centuries B.C. As a practical and philosophical system, it took shape over time as succeeding generations of his disciples developed the teachings further and spread over a wide area. Shakyamuni preached in ways that spoke directly to the unique needs and capacities of each individual and culture. There are consequently many different approaches and focuses in Buddhism, but common to all of them is the attainment of wisdom that helps one to overcome delusive passions and understand what he called the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path: suffering and dissatisfaction are a part of life, there is a cause for such suffering, suffering can indeed come to an end, and there is a way to correctly train and practice (the Eightfold Path) in order to bring about the end to suffering. Buddhists believe that a life lived in such a state of lasting joy (sometimes called nirvana) is the source of unshakable happiness.
The 2500-year history of Buddhism is rich with the deep realizations and devoted efforts of many Buddhist masters, monks, and lay practitioners to understand and know the buddha within themselves. Many denominations exist today, each having its own traditions and representation of buddhahood.