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Buddha statue in the Seokguram grotto
The International Buddhist Flag was first used in 1885 and has been an international symbol of Buddhism since 1950

The Buddhism is one of the great world religions . In contrast to Hinduism and the Abrahamic religions , Buddhism is not a theistic religion and therefore does not have the worship of an almighty God as its center. Rather, the beliefs of most Buddhist teachings refer to extensive philosophical-logical considerations , as is also the case in Chinese Daoism and Confucianism . Therefore, Buddhism is not a revelation religion either , in the sense that it does not refer to a divinely inspired script, although there is a canon of central teaching texts that has grown over time. As with any religion, the term Buddhism encompasses a wide spectrum of manifestations, ranging from philosophical teachings to monasteries as well as church or club-like religious communities to simple popular piety . In the case of Buddhism, however, they are not held together by any central authority or teaching body that proclaims dogmas.

What all Buddhists have in common is that they refer to the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama , who lived in northern India, according to the dating approaches that are predominant in research today in the 6th and possibly the early 5th century BC. He is referred to as the "historical Buddha " to distinguish him from the mythical Buddha-figures that are not historically attested. "Buddha" (literally "awakened") is an honorary title that refers to an experience called bodhi ("awakening"). According to the Buddhist doctrine, this means a fundamental and liberating insight into the basic facts of all life, from which the overcoming of painful existence results. Following the example of the historical Buddha, attaining this knowledge by following his teachings is the goal of Buddhist practice. The two extremes of self-destructive asceticism and unbridled hedonism , but also radicalism in general, are advised against, rather a middle path should be taken.

Depending on the source and counting method, Buddhism has between 230 and 500 million followers worldwide - making it the fourth largest religion on earth (after Christianity , Islam and Hinduism ). Buddhism originated in India and is most widespread today in South, Southeast and East Asia. About half of all Buddhists live in China . In the 19th century, however, it began to gain a foothold in the western world.



The five first disciples of the Buddha with the Dharmachakra , a symbolic representation of the teaching that also stands for the Buddha himself in early Buddhist art

Buddhism originated on the Indian subcontinent through Siddhartha Gautama . According to tradition, at the age of 35, through the experience of "awakening", he acquired a series of insights that enabled him to formulate Buddhist teaching. Soon afterwards he began to spread the teaching, won over the first disciples, and founded the Buddhist community. Until his death at the age of 80, when he reached final nirvana ( Parinirvana , "extinction") according to Buddhist belief , he wandered teaching through northern India.

From the north Indian homeland of Siddhartha Gautama, Buddhism first spread to the Indian subcontinent , Sri Lanka and Central Asia . A total of six Buddhist councils contributed to the “canonization” of the teachings and, together with the further dissemination in East and Southeast Asia , to the development of various traditions. Northern Buddhism ( Mahayana ) reached Central and East Asia via the Silk Road , where other traditions such as Chan (China), Zen (Japan) and Amitabha Buddhism (East Asia) developed. Buddhism also came to the Himalayan region directly from northern India; there was the Vajrayana (Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia and others). Aspects of Buddhism also penetrated other religious traditions or gave impulses for their institutionalization (see Bön and Shintō or Shinbutsu-Shūgō ). From southern India and Sri Lanka, southern Buddhism ( Theravada ) reached the countries of Southeast Asia, where it became the Mahayana repressed. Buddhism interacted in many ways with the religions and philosophies of the countries in which it was spread. It was also combined with religious and philosophical traditions, the teachings of which differ greatly from those of original Buddhism.


The Dharmachakra (wheel of teaching) is the symbol of the Buddha's teaching. The eight spokes of the wheel indicate the Noble Eightfold Path .

The foundations of Buddhist practice and theory were formulated by the Buddha in the form of the Four Noble Truths : The First Noble Truth is that life is usually characterized by suffering ( dukkha ) from birth , old age , illness and death , as well as more subtle Forms of suffering that are often not recognized as such by humans, such as clinging to a happiness that is however transitory. The second noble truth is that this suffering arises depending on causes, namely mainly through the three poisons of the mind: greed , hatred and delusion . The Third Noble Truth is that suffering, because it is caused by causes, can be removed in the future and complete freedom from suffering can be achieved. The Fourth Noble Truth says that the means to achieve this liberation, and thus the development of real happiness, can be found in the practice of the exercises of the Noble Eightfold Path . These consist in: right knowledge, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right exercise, right mindfulness and right meditation , where rightly the agreement of the practice with the four noble truths, i.e. avoidance of suffering, is meant.

According to Buddhist teaching, all unenlightened beings are subject to an endless, painful cycle ( samsara ) of birth and rebirth . The aim of Buddhist practice is to step out of this cycle of the otherwise perpetual state of suffering. This goal should be achieved through the avoidance of suffering, i.e. ethical behavior, the cultivation of the virtues ( Five Silas ), the practice of "immersion" ( Samadhi , cf. meditation) and the development of compassion (here clearly distinguished from compassion ) for all beings and all-encompassing wisdom ( prajna ) can be achieved as a result of the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path. In this way, suffering and imperfection are overcome and the state of nirvana is realized through enlightenment (awakening) . Nirvana is not simply a state in which no suffering is felt, but a comprehensive transformation of the mind in which all tendencies to ever cause suffering have also disappeared.

By taking refuge in the Buddha (the state), the Dharma (teaching and path to this state) and the Sangha (the community of practitioners), one testifies to the will to recognize and practice the Four Noble Truths and to belong to the community of practitioners of the Dharma. The Sangha itself is divided into the practitioners of the lay community and the ordained monks and nuns .

Siddhartha Gautama

Siddhartha Gautama, here as a statue on the Lower Rhine portrayed as Buddha Shakyamuni (honorary title: The sage from the Shakya family )

The dates of Siddhartha Gautama's life are traditionally the starting point for the chronology of South Asian history, but they are controversial. Conventional dating (563–483 BC) is rarely used today. The more recent research assumes that Siddhartha was not 563 BC. Was born, but several decades, maybe a century later. The currently prevailing approaches to dating death vary between about 420 and about 368 BC. Chr.

According to tradition, Siddhartha was born in Lumbini in the north Indian principality of Kapilavastu , now part of Nepal , as the son of the ruling house of Shakya. Therefore he is nicknamed Shakyamuni , "sage from the house of Shakya".

At the age of 29 he realized that wealth and luxury are not the basis for happiness. Realizing that suffering such as aging, disease, death and pain are inseparable from life, he set out to explore various religious teachings and philosophies to find the true nature of human happiness. Six years of asceticism , study and then meditation finally led him on the path of the middle . He had the experience of awakening ( Bodhi ) under a poplar fig in Bodhgaya in what is now northern India . A little later he gave his first discourse in Isipatana, today's Sarnath , and set the “wheel of teaching” ( Dharmachakra ) in motion.

He then spent the rest of his life as a Buddha teaching and passing on the doctrine, the Dharma , to the community he had established. This quadruple community consisted of the monks ( bhikkhu ) and nuns ( bhikkhuni ) of Buddhist monasticism as well as lay men ( Upāsaka ) and lay women (Upasika). The Buddhist calendar begins with his (alleged) year of death at the age of 80 .

History and Spread of Buddhism

The first three councils

Three months after the Buddha's death , his disciples met in Rajagarha for the first council ( sangiti ) to discuss the Dhamma (the doctrine) and the Vinaya (the monastic rules) and to record them according to the Buddha's teachings. The further transmission took place orally. About 100 years later the second council took place in Vesali . Above all, the rules of the monastic community were discussed, as by then different groups had been formed with different interpretations of the original rules.

During the second council and subsequent meetings, up to 18 different schools ( Nikaya schools) were formed, each referring to the Buddha's original teachings in different ways. In addition, the Mahasanghika , which advocated adapting the rules to the changed circumstances and which can be regarded as an early forerunner of Mahayana , also emerged. The first two councils are recognized by all Buddhist schools. The other councils are only accepted by some of the schools. The historicity of the councils is, however, classified by the sinologist Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer as unlikely.

In the 3rd century BC The 3rd council met in Pataliputra (today Patna), under the auspices of King Ashoka and the presidency of the monk Moggaliputta Tissa . The aim of the meeting was to agree on a uniform Buddhist teaching again. Heretics in particular should be excluded from the community and false doctrines refuted. In the course of the council, the book Kathavatthu was written for this purpose, which summarized the philosophical and scholastic treatises. This text became the core of the Abhidhammapitaka , a collection of philosophical texts. Together with the Sutta Pitaka , the written down discourses of the Buddha, and the Vinayapitaka , the collection of monastic rules, it is the in Pali wrote Tipitaka ( Sanskrit : Tripitaka, German: "three baskets", and Pali Canon), the oldest great summary Buddhist scripture Good .

Only these writings were recognized by the council as the authentic basis of Buddhist teaching, which sealed the division of the monastic community. While the Theravada, the doctrine of the elders, agreed on the unchanged adoption of the original doctrines and rules, the Mahasanghika did not set a fixed canon of scriptures and also included scriptures whose origin could not be clearly proven by the Buddha.

Spread in South Asia and East Asia

Buddhist monument in Horyu-ji

In the centuries that followed, the teaching spread to South and East Asia. During the reign of King Ashoka (3rd century BC) Buddhism spread across India and far beyond. Parts of Afghanistan were also part of his empire. In Gandhara , in the border area with Pakistan, influenced by Greek sculptors who came with Alexander the Great , the Graeco-Buddhist culture, a mixture of Indian and Hellenistic influences , arose . In their tradition, among other things, the Buddha statues of Bamiyan were created .

Ashoka sent envoys to many realms at that time. Thus the teaching gradually spread beyond the borders of the region in which the Buddha lived and taught. In the west, Ashoka's envoys traveled to the Middle East , Egypt , the Greek islands, and Macedonia . In the following centuries, the Buddha's teachings reached the Malay archipelago ( Indonesia , Borobudur ) and Southeast Asia , i.e. Cambodia ( Funan , Angkor ), Thailand , Myanmar ( Pegu ) and Laos via Sri Lanka . In the north and northeast, Buddhism became known in the highlands of the Himalayas ( Tibet ) as well as in China , Korea and Japan .

Push back in India

Sanchi , India (3rd century BC)

As Buddhism became more widespread, it disappeared from most parts of India from the 12th century. The reasons are seen on the one hand in the mutual penetration of Buddhism and Hinduism , on the other hand in the Muslim invasion of India, in the course of which many monks were killed and monasteries destroyed. The last Buddhist strongholds still known today on the Indian subcontinent ( Sindh , Bengal ) belonged to the Islamized areas. On the Malay Archipelago (Malaysia, Indonesia) today (with the exception of Bali) only ruins can be seen that show that Buddhist cultures once flourished here.

Further development

A diverse further development of the doctrine was predetermined by the words of the Buddha: As a doctrine that can be expressly questioned, Buddhism has mixed with other religions that also know notions of deities or that the commandments of abstinence are less strict or even less strict not handled.

The Theravada ("the teaching of the elders") adheres to the teaching of the Buddha as laid down at the Council of Patna. It is especially widespread in the countries of South and Southeast Asia (Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia). The Mahayana ("the big vehicle") mingled more with the original religions and philosophies of the cultures in which Buddhism entered. So came z. In China, for example, elements of Daoism were added, which ultimately led to the development of Chan Buddhism and, later, Zen in Japan .

In particular, the colonialism of the 19th century led to a renaissance of Buddhism in many Asian countries. The creation of an international Buddhist flag in 1885 is a symbolic expression of this. The foundation of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) in 1950 is particularly thanks to the initiatives of Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Today's distribution in Asia

Today there are approximately 450 million Buddhists worldwide. However, this number is not binding as there are strong fluctuations between individual statistics. The countries with the greatest spread of Buddhism are China , Bhutan , Japan , Cambodia , Laos , Mongolia , Myanmar , Sri Lanka , South Korea , Taiwan , Thailand and Vietnam .

In India, the proportion of the population is less than one percent today. Recently, however, an intellectual interest in Buddhist teachings has reawakened among the educated class. Also among the Dalit (“untouchables”), initiated by Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar , the “father of the Indian constitution”, there has been a movement since 1956 that sees conversion to Buddhism as a way to escape the oppression of the caste system.

country Share of the Buddhist population
in the respective country (in percent)
China 18th
Japan unknown
Bhutan 72
Cambodia 93
Laos unknown , much of belonging to the Theravada Buddhism in
Mongolia 40
Myanmar 87.2 according to official information (with local religions)
Sri Lanka 70.2
South Korea 23.7
Taiwan unknown
Thailand 95
Vietnam 22nd
India 00.7

Situation in other parts of the world

Since the 19th and especially since the 20th century, there has also been a growing tendency in the industrialized countries of Europe, the USA and Australia to turn to Buddhism as a world religion . In contrast to the Asian countries, there is the situation in the West that the numerous and often very different forms of the various teaching directions appear side by side.

Organizations such as the EBU ( European Buddhist Union ), founded in 1975, have set themselves the goal of networking these groups with each other and involving them in a discourse that is intended to promote a long-term process of inculturation and thus the development of a European Buddhism. Another goal is integration into European society so that Buddhist associations can exercise their spiritual, humanitarian, cultural and social commitment without any obstacles.

In many European countries, Buddhism was publicly and state recognized as a religion towards the end of the 20th century. In Europe, Buddhism first received full state recognition in Austria (1983). In Germany and Switzerland, Buddhism is not officially recognized as a religion.

See also:

The teachings of Buddhism

A motto attributed to the Buddha can be found in the Karlsruhe Garden of Religions . It is the fifth verse of the Dhammapada . Correctly translated, it would mean “non-hate” instead of “love”.

In its original form, which can only be reconstructed to a limited extent from the oldest tradition available, and due to its diverse further development, Buddhism partly resembles a tradition of thought or philosophy applied in practice .

The Buddha saw himself neither as a god nor as a messenger of the teaching of a god. He made it clear that he did not receive the teaching, Dhamma (Pali) or Dharma (Sanskrit), on the basis of divine revelation , but rather gained an understanding of the nature of one's own mind and the nature of all things through his own meditative vision ( contemplation ). This knowledge is accessible to everyone who follows his teaching and methodology. In doing so, the teaching he pointed out was not to be followed dogmatically . On the contrary, he warned against blind faith in authority and emphasized human responsibility. He also referred to the futility of efforts to grasp the world with the help of concepts and language, and warned of a skepticism towards the written word or established teachings that is rarely found in other religions in this radicalism.

Buddhism differs fundamentally from the monotheistic religions ( Judaism , Christianity , Islam ). The Buddhist teaching knows neither an almighty God nor an eternal soul . This, and also the failure to observe the caste system , also distinguishes him from Hinduism and Brahmanism , with which he shares the karma teaching on the other hand . Developed in their environment, it is sometimes viewed as a reform movement to the Vedic belief systems of India. With this anti-ritualistic and anti-theistic attitude, the original teaching of Siddhartha Gautama is very probably the oldest hermeneutic religion in the world.


Dharma (Sanskrit) or Dhamma (Pali) essentially means two things in Buddhism:

  • The teachings of the Buddha (in Theravada that of the Buddha, in Mahayana and Vajrayana also together with the teachings of the Bodhisattvas and great realized masters). The four noble truths are the basis of the Dharma. It forms one of the three jewels , the so-called “objects of refuge”, consisting of the teacher, the teaching and the community of monks (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha ). It is also part of the Ten Meditations (Anussati).
  • The totality of all worldly phenomena , nature itself and the laws on which it is based (see section The dependent arising ).

The core of the teaching of the Buddha are the four noble truths named by him , from the fourth of the truths follows the eightfold path as the way out of suffering . At the center of the “Four Noble Truths” is suffering ( dukkha ), its causes and the way to extinguish it. The eightfold path is divided into three parts, the main groups are: the insight into the teaching, its ethical basis and the focus of the spiritual training (meditation / mindfulness).

The dependent arising

The " dependent origin ", also " originating in dependence" or "conditional nexus" (Pali: Paticcasamuppada, Sanskrit: Pratityasamutpada), is one of the central concepts of Buddhism. In a chain of 12 interwoven elements, it describes the mode of being of all phenomena in their dynamic development and mutual dependency. The essence of this teaching can be summed up in the sentence: "This is because that is".

Cause and effect: karma

Kamma (Pali) or Karma (Sanskrit) means “action, work” and describes the sensual desire and clinging to the phenomena of the world (greed, hate, self-addiction), the deeds that arise from them and the effects of Actions and thoughts from a moral point of view, especially the repercussions on the actor himself. It corresponds roughly to the principle of cause and effect. Karma refers to all doing and acting as well as all levels of thinking and feeling. All of this creates either good or bad karma, or can be karmically neutral.

Both good and bad karma produces the result of rebirths, samsara . The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to escape this cycle by no longer generating karma - actions then no longer leave any traces in the world. In Buddhism this is referred to as the entrance to nirvana .

Since this goal was often considered unattainable in one life in the history of Buddhism, it was more about accumulating good karma than attaining nirvana in this life, especially among laypeople. Coupled with this is the belief that the earned merit (through good deeds, temporary membership in the Sangha, donations to monks, copying sutras and much more) can also be ritually passed on to others, even to the deceased or entire nations.

The cycle of life: samsara

The term samsara , “constant wandering”, common to the important Indian religions , describes the continuous cycle of life from death and birth, becoming and passing away. The goal of Buddhist practice is to leave this cycle. Samsara encompasses all levels of existence, both those we know as human beings and everyone else, from the hell beings ( niraya beings) to the gods ( devas ). All beings are caught in the cycle of life, tied to it by karma: their actions, thoughts and emotions, by desires and desires. Only the recognition and overcoming of these karmic forces make it possible to leave the cycle. The Mahayana also gave rise to the theory of the identity of samsara and nirvana (in Western philosophical terms, immanence instead of transcendence).

Not-self and rebirth

The Astika schools of Indian philosophy taught the " self " ( p. Attā , skt. Ātman ), comparable to the concept of a personal soul . The Buddha denied the existence of ātta as a personal and permanent entity. In contrast, he spoke of the “ not-self ” (p. Anattā , skt. Anātman ). The idea of ​​a constant self is part of the delusion about the nature of the world. According to the teachings of the Buddha, the personality with all its experiences and perceptions in the world consists of the five groups (p. Khandhā , skt. Skandhas ): body, sensations, perceptions, mental impulses and consciousness. From the Buddhist point of view, the self is not a constant unity, but a process characterized by constant becoming, changing and passing away.

Against this background, the concept of rebirth , punabbhava , (p .; puna 'again', bhava ' becoming ') , which already existed at the time of the Buddha , was reinterpreted in Buddhism, because the traditional Vedic doctrine of reincarnation was based on the idea of ​​a transmigration of souls. In Buddhism, however, rebirth does not mean the individual continuation of a permanent core being, nor does it mean the wandering of a consciousness after death. Rather, it is impersonal karmic impulses that emanate from an existence and shape a later form of existence.

The awakening (Bodhi)

Bodhi is the process of "awakening", often inaccurately represented by the non-Buddhist term "enlightenment". The prerequisites are the complete understanding of the “Four Noble Truths”, the overcoming of all needs and deceptions that bind to existence and thus the passing away of all karmic forces. Bodhi leaves the cycle of life and suffering ( samsara ) and attains nirvana .

There are three types of Bodhi in the Buddhist tradition :

  • Pacceka-Bodhi is achieved through one's own efforts, without the help of teachers. Such an awakened one is called a Pratyeka Buddha .
  • Savaka-Bodhi denotes the awakening of those who attain Bodhi with the help of teachers. Such an awakened one is called an arhat .
  • Samma-Sambodhi is obtained from a Samma-Sambuddha (" fully awakened"). Such a "fully awakened" one is considered to be the perfect, most compassionate, and all-knowing form of a Buddha. The historical Buddha Shakyamuni of the Shakya family is referred to as such a Samma Sambuddha.

Extinction: Nirvana

Nirvana (Sanskrit) or Nibbana (Pali) denotes the highest level of realization of consciousness, in which all I-attachment and all ideas / concepts are extinguished. Nirvana cannot be described in words, it can only be experienced and experienced as a result of intense meditative practice and sustained mindfulness practice . It is neither a place - so not comparable with the ideas of paradise of other religions - nor a kind of heaven and also no bliss in a hereafter. Nirvana is also not a nihilistic concept, not "nothing" as Western interpreters believed in the early days of Buddhism, but describes the dimension of the ultimate that can be experienced by consciousness. The Buddha himself lived and taught 45 years after attaining nirvana. The final rising or "going out" of nirvana after death is called parinirvana .

Meditation and mindfulness

Neither the purely intellectual understanding of the Buddha's teachings nor the following of its ethical guidelines is sufficient for successful practice. Meditation and mindfulness practice are therefore at the center of the Buddha-Dharma . The regional Buddhist schools have developed a multitude of forms of meditation from breath observation to loving-kindness meditation ( metta ), mantra recitations, walking meditation, visualizations and themed contemplations. The goals of meditation are above all the gathering and calming of the mind ( samatha ), the training of clear-conscious perception, the "deep seeing" ( vipassana ), the cultivation of compassion for all beings, the training of mindfulness and the gradual dissolution of the suffering I-arrest.

Mindfulness (also awareness, being present) is the exercise of staying completely in the here and now, of perceiving everything present in a clear-conscious and non-judgmental way. This turning to the momentary moment requires full alertness, complete presence and an unrelenting attention to all physical and mental phenomena emerging at the moment.

Buddhist schools

There are three main directions of Buddhism: Hinayana ("small vehicle"), from whose tradition only the form of Theravada ("teaching of the elders") exists today, Mahayana ("large vehicle") and Vajrayana (in the west mostly as Tibetan Buddhism known or misleadingly referred to as "Lamaism"). In all three vehicles, the monastic orders are the main bearers of the teaching and are responsible for passing it on to the following generations. Usually the Vajrayana is also considered part of the great vehicle. The term Hinayana was and is rejected by the followers of the schools belonging to it, because it comes from the Mahayana.


Theravada literally means “teaching of the elders of the order” and goes back to those monks who have heard the discourses directly from the Buddha, e.g. B. Ananda, Kassapa, Upali. Theravada Buddhism is the only surviving school of the various directions of Hinayana . His tradition refers in its practice and teaching exclusively to the oldest surviving scriptures of the Buddhist tradition, which are summarized in the Tipitaka ( Pali ) (also Tripitaka (Sanskrit) or Pali canon ). This "three basket" (Pitaka: basket) consists of the following parts:

The emphasis in Theravada is on the individual's way of liberation through his own strength according to the Arhat ideal and the maintenance and promotion of the Sangha . Theravada is especially common in the countries of South and Southeast Asia (Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia).


The Hinayana ( Sanskrit , n. हीनयान, Hīnayāna, "small vehicle") refers to one of the two large main streams of Buddhism. Hinayana is older than the other main discipline, the Mahayana. In Hinayana, a person strives to awaken in order not to have to suffer any more. So Hinayana only refers to a person who strives to be perfect. In this aspect it differs from Mahayana, in which one tries to lead other living beings to awakening.


The Mahayana ( "great vehicle") is at the core of the Mahasanghika back ( "big church"), a tradition that had developed (about 100 years after the death of the Buddha) in the wake of the second Buddhist Council. In addition to the Tripitaka, the Mahayana also uses a number of scriptures originally written in Sanskrit ("Sutras"), which together form the Sanskrit canon . The most important texts include the Diamond Sutra , the Heart Sutra , the Lotus Sutra and the Sutras of the Pure Land. Some of these writings are only preserved today in Chinese or Tibetan translations.

In contrast to the Theravada tradition, in which the achievement of Bodhi through one's own effort is in the foreground, in Mahayana the Bodhisattva ideal takes on a central role. Bodhisattvas are beings who already experienced Bodhi as human beings, but who refrained from entering the Parinirvana in order to instead help all other people, ultimately all beings, to also achieve this goal.

Important schools of Mahayana are, for example, those of Zen Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism and Amitabha Buddhism .


Vajrasattva (Tibet)

Vajrayana ("diamond vehicle") is actually part of the Mahayana. In the West it is mostly wrongly known only as Tibetan Buddhism or Lamaism, but in fact it is a collective name for various schools that are common in Japan, China and Mongolia (historically also in India and Southeast Asia) in addition to Tibet.

It is based on the philosophical foundations of Mahayana, but supplements them with tantric techniques that are intended to significantly accelerate the path to awakening. In addition to meditation, these techniques include visualization (mental projection), reciting mantras and other tantric exercises, including rituals, initiations and guru yoga (becoming one with the spirit of the teacher).

This side of Mahayana places particular emphasis on secret rituals, scriptures, and practices that practitioners learn only gradually. This is why Vajrayana is also called "esoteric teaching" within Mahayana, as a distinction from "exoteric teaching", i.e. publicly accessible practices such as the Nenbutsu of Amitabha Buddhism .

Tibetan Buddhism places particular emphasis on the direct transmission of teachings from teacher to student. An important authority in Tibetan Buddhism is the Dalai Lama .

The four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism are:

Tibetan Buddhism is now widespread in Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, India ( Ladakh , Sikkim ), Mongolia and parts of Russia ( Buryatia , Kalmykia , Tuva , Altai Republic ).

Around the 9th century, the Vajrayana spread in China. It did not hold up as a school of its own, but it did influence other teaching traditions there. Only in the Qing period did the Vajrayana of the Manchu become a state religion again, with the support of the Tibetan schools.

It was transferred to Japan in the same century as it was introduced in China. There Vajrayana is taught in the Shingon school. Mikkyō (Japanese translation of Mizong ) had an influence on Tendai and all later main directions of Japanese Buddhism .

Buddhist festivals and holidays

Ignition of incense sticks in a temple in Malaysia

Buddhist ceremonies , festivals and holidays are celebrated in different ways. Some are celebrated in the form of a puja , which in Christianity would roughly correspond to a devotion - supplemented by a transfer of merit. Other festivals are organized around central street processions . These can then also take on the character of a folk festival with all associated elements such as stalls and fireworks. In Japan, for example, they are then called Matsuris . The dates for the festivals were originally based mainly on the lunisolar calendar . Today, however, some are set to a fixed date in the solar calendar.

Surname occasion meeting region
Visakha Puja ( Vesakh ) The Buddha's birth, enlightenment and entry into nirvana. It is the highest Buddhist holiday, also called "Buddha Day". Late May, early June universal
Anniversary of the birth of the Buddha The Buddha's birth, see also Kambutsue Hana-Matsuri April 8th Japan
Anniversary of the enlightenment of the Buddha The Buddha's enlightenment Bodhitag , Jodo-e December 8th Japan
Anniversary of entering nirvana The Buddha's entry into nirvana Nirvana day , Nehan-e February 15th Japan
Uposatha Day of inner contemplation, the renewal of Dhamma practice, especially in Theravada Buddhism, comparable to the Jewish Sabbath Depending on the calendar, regularly every 5 to 7 days universal
Magha Puja (Māgha Pūjā) Remembering a spontaneous gathering of 1,250 disciples of the Buddha, in Theravada Buddhism Late February, early March Thailand , Laos , Cambodia
Abhidhamma day The Buddha's ascent into Tushita to teach Abhidhamma to his mother seventh month in the lunar calendar (June) Myanmar
Ullambana All Souls Day, Festival of Universal Redemption, see also: Obon Full moon day of the seventh month (August) Japan, possibly elsewhere
Asalha puja The Buddha's first speech to his followers, also called “ Dhamma Day”. eighth month in the lunar calendar (July) Thailand
Vassa three-month retreat for Buddhist monks, Buddhist "Lent", see also: Khao Phansa , Ok Phansa from July to October universal
Kathin ceremony Thank you to the monks Mid October, November Thailand
  • The "universal" holidays are highlighted in bold . This means holidays that are not only celebrated in a certain country or school of Buddhism, but that are of fundamental importance for Buddhist practice (comparable to Christian Easter or Christmas, for example).

See also


reference books
  • Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer: The speeches of the Buddha. dtv C. H. Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-423-34242-0 .
  • Hans W. Schumann: The historical Buddha - life and teaching of Gotama. Hugendubel, Kreuzlingen / Munich 2004, ISBN 3-89631-439-4 . (Diederich's yellow series).
Introductions and basic ideas
History and teaching
  • Heinz Bechert : Buddhism I: Indian Buddhism and its ramifications. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-17-015333-1 .
  • Edward Conze: Buddhist Thought. Three phases of Buddhist philosophy in India. Insel, Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig 1988. (2nd edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 3-518-38272-1 ) (Insel, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-458-34948-8 ) ( Conzes main work in the post-war period)
  • Sukumar Dutt: Buddhist Monks and Monasteries in India. Their History and their Contribution to Indian Culture. Allen & Unwin, London, first printed in 1962.
Intercultural and scientific aspects
  • Christian Thomas Kohl: Buddhism and Quantum Physics - Conclusions about Reality. 3. Edition. Windpferd-Verlag, Oberstdorf 2013, ISBN 978-3-86410-033-8 .
  • Marco S. Torini: Apophatic Theology and Divine Nothing. About traditions of negative terminology in occidental and Buddhist mysticism. In: Tradition and Translation. On the problem of the intercultural translatability of religious phenomena. De Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 1994, pp. 493-520.
Reception of Buddhism in the Western World
  • Roger-Pol Droit : L'oubli de l'Inde, une amnésie philosophique. Presses universitaires de France, Paris 1989. (New edition Le Seuil, "Points" series, Paris 2004)
  • Roger-Pol Droit: Le culte du néant, les philosophes et le Bouddha. Le Seuil, Paris, 1997. (New edition of the "Points" series, Paris, 2004)
  • Volker Zotz: On the blissful islands. Buddhism in German culture. Theseus, 2000, ISBN 3-89620-151-4 .

Web links

Portal: Buddhism  - Overview of Wikipedia content on Buddhism
Wikisource: Buddhism  - Sources and Full Texts
Commons : Buddhism  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Buddhism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Michael von Brück : Buddhism - Philosophy or Religion? , P. 39–64 and Michael Zimmermann : The Buddhism - More than religion and philosophy , p. 65–70 in Carola Roloff, Michael Zimmermann (ed.): Buddhism in the west: a dialogue between religion and science. Edition, Waxmann, Münster 2011, ISBN 978-3-8309-2555-2 .
  2. Hans Wolfgang Schumann: The historical Buddha. Life and teaching of Gotama. Munich 2004, p. 82 f. (with source text).
  3. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 2005.
  4. ^ Todd M. Johnson, Brian J. Grim, The World's Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography. Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ 2013, p. 34. (pdf)
  5. Religions by adherents: Buddhism (english) , accessed on January 26, 2010.
  6. ^ Todd M. Johnson, Brian J. Grim, The World's Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography. Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ 2013, p. 35. Chapter 1 Global Religious Populations, 1910-2010
  7. Oliver Freiberger, Christoph Kleine: Buddhismus . Ed .: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-50005-7 , pp. 27 .
  8. Karenina Kollmar-Paulenz: Small history of Tibet . Ed .: CH Beck. 3. Edition. CH Beck, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-67094-7 , p. 13-15 .
  9. Oliver Freiberger, Christoph Kleine: Buddhism manual and critical introduction . Ed .: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-50005-7 , pp. 27-83 .
  10. Klaus-Josef Notz: Herders Lexikon des Buddhismus. Hohe, Erftstadt 2007, p. 133.
  11. Dalai Lama: Introduction to Buddhism. The Harvard Lectures. Herder Verlag, Freiburg 1998. In particular p. 42ff.
  12. Kevin Trainor: Buddhism . Ed .: Kevin Trainor. Evergreen GmbH, Cologne 2001, ISBN 978-3-8365-0253-5 , p. 64-66 .
  13. Oliver Freiberger, Christoph Kleine: Buddhismus. Manual and critical introduction. Ed .: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-50005-7 , pp. 201-202 .
  14. Kevin Trainor: Buddhism . Ed .: Kevin Trainor. Evergreen GmbH, Cologne 2004, ISBN 978-3-8365-0253-5 , p. 70 .
  15. Kevin Trainor: Buddhism . Ed .: Kevin Trainor. Evergreen, Cologne 2004, ISBN 978-3-8365-0253-5 , p. 71 .
  16. Kevin Trainor: Buddhism . Ed .: Kevin Trainor. Evergreen, Cologne 2004, ISBN 978-3-8365-0253-5 , p. 58-59 .
  17. Oliver Freiberger, Christoph Kleine: Buddhismus. Manual and critical introduction. Ed .: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-50005-7 , pp. 204 .
  18. Oliver Freiberger, Christoph Kleine: Buddhismus . Ed .: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-50005-7 , pp. 202 .
  19. Hans Wolfgang Schumann: The historical Buddha. Life and teaching of Gotama. 4th edition of the new edition. Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Munich 1997. Page 175.
  20. Bernard Faure: Buddhism . Ed .: Domino. tape 5 . Lübbe ,estrisch Gladbach 1997, ISBN 3-404-93005-3 , p. 24 ff .
  21. Bernhard Faure: Buddhism . Ed .: Domino. tape 5 . Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 1997, ISBN 3-404-93005-3 , p. 52-55 .
  22. Kevin Trainor: Buddhism . Ed .: Kevin Trainor. Evergreen, Cologne 2008, ISBN 978-3-8365-0253-5 , p. 38, 98-99 .
  23. ^ Heinz Bechert: The Date of the Buddha Reconsidered. ( Memento of November 14, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) In: Indologica Taurinensia. 10, 1982, pp. 29-36.
  24. Heinz Bechert: The Buddha's lifetime - the oldest fixed date in Indian history? In: News from the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen. Philological-historical class. Born in 1986, No. 4.
  25. Richard Gombrich: Review by Heinz Bechert: The lifetime of the Buddha. In: Göttingische learned advertisements. 246, 1994, H. 1/2, pp. 86-96; numerous controversial discussions in Heinz Bechert (ed.): The Dating of the Historical Buddha. 3 volumes. Göttingen 1991–1997.
  26. Bernard Faure: Buddhism . Ed .: Domino. tape 5 . Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 197, ISBN 3-404-93005-3 , p. 10 .
  27. a b c d Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer: The Buddhism. C. H. Beck, Munich 2005, p. 42.
  28. After: Edward Conze: A Brief History of Buddhism. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1986, p. 121ff.
  29. ^ BR Ambedkar, "The decline and fall of Buddhism," Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Vol. III, Government of Maharashtra. 1987, p. 238.
  30. ^ Buddhism in Austria ( memento of January 2, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on January 16, 2010.
  31. What is Buddhism? Retrieved November 2, 2012 .
  32. See also Helmuth von Glasenapp : Vedānta und Buddhismus (= treatises of the Academy of Sciences and Literature. Humanities and social science class. Born 1950, Volume 11). Verlag der Wissenschaft und der Literatur in Mainz (commissioned by Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden).
  33. Peter Antes : Outline of the history of religion . (= Theological Science. Volume 17). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-17-016965-3 , pp. 65-66.
  34. Daniel Tschopp: Buddhist Hermeneutics. Seminar paper. Institute for Philosophy at the University of Vienna, 2007, online version , pp. 2–4.
  35. Hans Wolfgang Schumann: Buddhism. Donors, schools and systems. Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Olten 1998, ISBN 3-424-01461-3 , pp. 87-98.
  36. ^ The Pali Text Society's Pali-English dictionary
  37. Hisao Inagaki, Harold Stewart (transl.): The Three Pure Land Sutras. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Berkeley 2003, ISBN 1-886439-18-4 PDF ( Memento of May 21, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  38. Oliver Freiberger, Christoph Kleine: Buddhismus . Ed .: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-50005-7 , pp. 357 .
  39. Oliver Freiberger, Christoph Kleine: Buddhismus . Ed .: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-50005-7 , pp. 360 .
  40. Oliver Freiberger, Christoph Kleine: Buddhismus . Ed .: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-50005-7 , pp. 358-359 .
  41. Oliver Freiberger, Christoph Kleine: Buddhismus . Ed .: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-50005-7 , pp. 361-363 .
  42. a b c Buddhist festivals and holidays. (No longer available online.) In: Wissen.de. Formerly in the original ; Retrieved June 11, 2012 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link / www.wissen.de