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Historical Basis of Buddhism

by Ron Kurtus (updated 22 December 2022)

Examining the historical basis of Buddhism is good for gaining a better perspective and understanding of the belief.

Buddhism was started by Siddhartha Gautama, who had grown up in luxuries but denounced them after seeing how poor people suffered. He started a spiritual path and formulated a philosophy that became the Buddhist religion. It is primarily a belief in a method of achieving liberation from suffering. The philosophy spread to become a major religion in Asia.

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Start of spiritual path

Siddhartha Gautama was born in the 6th century BC. He was son of a regional Chieftain in what is now Nepal. Gautama grew up with the luxuries of court life, but at the age of 29 he felt his life was shallow and meaningless. He renounced his wealth and all his worldly possessions in order to embark on a life dedicated to attaining spiritual insight.

Formulates spiritual philosophy

After formulating his spiritual philosophy in northern India and gaining followers, he became known as The Buddha, a title which means "The Awakened One" or one who has been awakened to the true nature of existence. The Buddha was a spiritual teacher (guru) who was a human being and not a deity as many today believe. 

Religion spreads

After Buddha's death in the 5th century BC, Buddhism thrived in India for about 1200 years. Then Hinduism became more prevalent in that country. Buddhism also spread south to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Southeast and Central Asia, and China. The teachings became established in Japan in the 9th century AD. 

Recently Buddhism has gained some following in the West. It is one of the few major religions in history to spread peacefully without any military conquest or political aggression. There are over 600 million people who follow the Buddha's teachings, mostly in Asia.


Buddhism was started as a philosophy of easing suffering about 2600 years ago. Although the creator of the religion was a man, he is often treated as a deity. The religion has millions of followers, mainly in Asia.

Look and learn

Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials


Introduction to Buddhism - From a course on Buddhist Psychology

BuddhaNet - Buddhist Information Network

Overview of Buddhism - Including links and references from

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