Buddhism Facts: Enlighten Yourself on the Key Beliefs

, Staff Writer
Updated March 9, 2021
The Marble Temple, Bangkok, Thailand
    The Marble Temple, Bangkok, Thailand
    Chadchai Ra-ngubpai / Moment / Getty Images
    Used under Getty Images license

Buddhism is a fascinating religion that is very different from other faiths. Whether you're interested in becoming Buddhist or simply want to learn more about the key beliefs of this religion, you're sure to find these facts about Buddhism's key beliefs to be quite fascinating.

Basic Buddhism Facts

Start the process of enlightening yourself about Buddhism by discovering some core facts about this religion.

  • Buddhism is one of the top five main world religions.
  • Only three religions (Christianity, Islam and Hindu) have more followers than Buddhism.
  • Unlike other religions, there is not a god or divine being in Buddhism.
  • The Buddha is a human, Siddhartha Gautama. He founded Buddhism in Asia during the 5th Century.
  • People who ascribe to the Buddhist faith are followers of the Buddha, but they do not worship him.
  • Buddhists don't use the term church. Instead, the structures where they gather are Buddhist temples or monasteries.
  • Worship services are performed by Buddhist priests. Most priests are men, but some are women.
  • Buddhist contemplatives focus on meditation. Some live in a monastery, while others live in private homes.
  • Male contemplatives are often referred to as monks, while female contemplatives are typically called nuns.
  • Buddhism has three primary branches. They are Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism and Vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism.
  • The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism. He has been living in exile in India since 1959.
  • The Dalai Lama holds many public events, primarily via webcast. They are free and open to the public.
  • The vast majority (98.6%) of Buddhists reside in Asia, approximately half of whom live in China.
  • The remaining 1.4% of Buddhists are concentrated in North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa.
  • Thailand's population is almost entirely Buddhist. Around 93% of Thai citizens are followers of Buddhism.
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Oct. 2020
    Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Oct. 2020 used under Getty editorial license
    SOPA Images / Light Rocket / Getty Images
    Used under Getty Images editorial license

Key Buddhist Beliefs

Once you understand a few basic Buddhism facts, it's time to explore the core beliefs of this faith and way of life.

  • Buddhists do not believe in permanence. They believe that everything changes, so they also believe that nothing in this world is permanent.
  • Buddhism teaches that there are four noble truths: (1) suffering exists, (2) attachment — the desire to have or control things — causes suffering, (3), suffering ends when attachment ceases, and (4) following Buddhism's path is the key to ending suffering.
  • In Buddhism, there are five rules that everyone should observe. They are (1) do not kill, (2) do not steal, (3) do not lie, (4) do not engage in adultery or otherwise misuse sex, and (5) do not partake of alcohol or drugs.
  • There are eight aspects of the Buddhist path to enlightenment. They are (1) right understanding, (2) right thinking, (3) right speech, (4) right action, (5) right livelihood, (6) right effort, (7) right mindfulness, and (8) right concentration.
  • Karma is a central focus of Buddhist teachings. Buddhists believe that whatever actions a person commits will reflect what that individual can expect in return.
  • Buddhists believe in reincarnation and rebirth. They believe that individuals are reincarnated and reborn multiple times, stopping only after attaining enlightenment (freedom from suffering), which is referred to as Nirvana.
    • Reincarnation means that a person could come back to Earth as the same individual after dying.
    • Rebirth is not the same as reincarnation. With rebirth, a person would be reborn as a different entity rather than returning as the same being.
  • Some believe that people cease to exist once they die after reaching enlightenment. Others believe that those who reach enlightenment can opt to be reborn if they wish, in order to help others find their way to enlightenment.
largest golden buddha statue at Muang temple
    largest golden buddha statue at Muang temple
    kampee patisena / Moment / Getty Images
    Used under Getty Images license

Further Explore Buddhism and Asian Culture

You can incorporate some elements of Buddhism into your daily life with these Buddha prayers for good luck. You may also want to explore some amazing pictures of Buddha from around the world. Don't stop there. Now that you know some facts about Buddhism, take the time to learn more about the culture of the continent that the vast majority of Buddhists call home. Start by exploring some of the extinct languages of Asia.