Key facts about Buddhism

Buddhism is the name of the religion, and its followers are known as Buddhists.

Buddhists follow the teachings of the Buddha, which means 'enlightened one'. The Buddha was a man called Siddhartha Gautama, who is said to have lived nearly 2,500 years ago in India.

Today there are around 376 million Buddhists living around the world, with approximately 180,000 living in the UK.

Five key facts

Watch to find out how Hivin lives his life according to Buddhist teachings, including how he worships and what he eats.

What do Buddhists believe and how do they worship?

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Religious symbol

The dharmachakra, also known as wheel of dharma, is widely used as the symbol of Buddhism. It shows a wheel with eight spokes, representing the Noble Eightfold Path and the teachings of the Buddha.

The Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths are the basis of the Buddha’s teachings, and they explain why people suffer and how they can end that suffering. Click on the picture below to discover more about The Four Noble Truths.


There are two main groups in Buddhism: Theravada and Mahayana.

Theravada was the tradition spread by King Ashoka who lived in India 100 years after the Buddha died. It states that each person has to find their own enlightenment (the truth about the meaning of life which the Buddha gained) through meditation and help from wise monks. Their special books are written in an ancient Indian language called Pali and they will remember the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha during the festival of Wesak.

Mahayana is split into the Northern Traditions (found in countries such as Tibet and Nepal) and the Eastern Traditions (found in countries such as China and Japan). Their special books are written in another ancient language of India called Sanskrit and during the festival of Wesak they only celebrate the birth of the Buddha.

Mahayana Buddhists believe there are many different ways to gain enlightenment and that the Bodhisattvas will help them. A Bodhisattva is someone who can gain enlightenment but decides to stop this from fully happening in order to help others gain enlightenment as well.


Meditation is important in all branches of Buddhism. It can help clear the mind, so that negative thoughts of anger or hatred can be replaced with positive ones of loving kindness and peace. By meditating frequently, Buddhists hope to develop insight and wisdom, helping them to see the true nature of things.

There are many different forms and aims of meditation. The two major traditions are called samatha and vipassana.

Where next?

Key facts about Sikhism
Key facts about Hinduism
Key facts about Islam