Buddhism began in northeastern India and is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. The religion is nearly 2,600 years old and is followed by 350 million Buddhists worldwide.
Buddhism is the main religion in many Asian countries. It is a religion about suffering and the quest to be rid of it. A key concept of Buddhism is Nirvana, the most enlightened, and blissful state that one can achieve. A state without suffering. 

How is Buddhism different to all those other religions?
Buddhism is different from many other faiths because it is not centred on the relationship between people and God. Buddhists do not believe in a personal creator God.

Who is the founder of Buddhism?
The Buddhist tradition is founded on and inspired by the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. He was called the Buddha and lived in the 5th or 6th century B.C. in India.

Why is this Siddhartha Gautama guy so important to Buddhists then?
Siddhartha Gautama found the path to Enlightenment. By doing so he was led from the pain of suffering and rebirth towards the path of Enlightenment and became known as the Buddha or "awakened one".

Who was Siddhartha Gautama really?
The story is told that he was born around the year 580 BCE in the village of Lumbini in Nepal. He was born into a royal family and for many years lived within the palace walls away from the sufferings of life; sufferings such as sickness, age, and death. He didn't even know what they were!

One day, after growing-up, marrying and having a child, Siddhartha went outside the royal palace and saw, each for the first time, an old man, a sick man, and a dead person. He was worried by what he saw. 

He learned that sickness, age, and death were the inevitable fate of human beings — a fate no-one could avoid. He chose to find a way out of suffering.

Why on earth did Siddhartha Gautama stop being a prince and become a Holy Man!?! Is he crazy?

Siddharta had also seen a holy man, and he decided this was a sign that he should leave his protected royal life and live as a homeless Holy Man too!

Siddharta's travels showed him much more of the the suffering of the world, but also understood that it isn't owning things like ipods and fast cars that make us happy (Not that there were fast cars or ipods around then anyway! But you get the point!)

He searched for a way to escape the inevitability of death, old age and pain first by studying with religious men. This didn't provide him with an answer though, in fact he got quite unhappy as they didn't eat much at all. He realised that there are some things we need like food, but somethings we want that we don't need to worry about, like lots and lots and lots of money!

What is Enlightenment and Nirvana? (Aren't they a band?)
Some Buddhists believe that there is a cycle of birth, life and death and rebirth. This goes on and on. They believe that unless someone gains Enlightenment, when they die they will be reborn. If a person can gain Enlightenment, they can break out of this cycle. Breaking out of the cycle is called Nirvana (sometimes called Nibbana). It is the end of everything that is not perfect. It is perfect peace, free of suffering (No more fights with your younger sibling! YES!)

What's all this meditation stuff Buddhist's do?
Some Buddhists try to reach Nirvana by following the Buddha's teaching and by meditating. Meditation means training the mind to observe its thoughts. when this happens what is important comes clearer (maaaaybbee saying sorry to that friend you have upset) and the things that aren't important (that goal you missed in football 15 minutes ago).

What do Buddhist actually believe in then?
Buddhist believe that the Buddha saw the truth about what the world is like. They believe that nothing in the world is perfect, and that the Buddha found the answer to why it is like this. They do not believe that the Buddha was a god. He was just a regular person like you or I! They do believe that he was important though, because he gained Enlightenment, and he chose to teach other people how to reach it too (nice guy!)

What do you usually need to believe to be a Buddhist?
Well Buddhists sure do like numbers! They have the Three Jewels, Four Nobles Truths, Five Precepts (check out our school precepts here! - they are much easier to understand!) & The Eightfold Path! Blimey!