Life's goal is nirvana. Toward that end, Buddha's teachings are capsulized in the Four Noble Truths, chatvari arya satyani:
1. THE TRUTH OF SUFFERING: Suffering, duhkha, is the central fact of life. Being born is pain, growing old is pain, sickness is pain, death is pain. Union with what we dislike is pain, separation from what we like is pain, not obtaining what we desire is pain.
2. THE TRUTH OF THE ORIGIN (SAMUDaYA) OF SUFFERING: The cause of suffering is the desire (icchha), craving (tanha) or thirst (trishna) for sensual pleasures, for existence and experience, for worldly possessions and power. This craving binds one to the wheel of rebirth, samsara.
3. THE TRUTH OF THE CESSATION (NIRODHA) OF SUFFERING: Suffering can be brought to an end only by the complete cessation of desires -- the forsaking, relinquishing and detaching of oneself from desire and craving.
4. THE TRUTH OF THE PATH (marga) TO ENDING SUFFERING: The means to the end of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path (arya ashtanga marga), right belief, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right meditation.
FOUNDED: Buddhism began about 2,500 years ago in India.
FOUNDER: Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha, or "Enlightened One."
MAJOR SCRIPTURES: The Tripitaka, Anguttara-Nikaya, Dhammapada, Sutta-Nipata, Samyutta-Nikaya and many others.
ADHERENTS: Over 300 million.
SECTS: Buddhism today is divided into three main sects: Theravada or Hinayana (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia), Mahayana (China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea), and Vajrayana (Tibet, Mongolia and Japan).
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