Buddhism is a unique religion. Unlike most mainstream religions, Buddhists do not believe in any Gods, or souls. They instead believe in training the human mind to extinguish all negative desires, and thus become free of an eternity of suffering.
The story of Buddhism started around 2500 years ago in India when Siddhartha Gautama was born into a royal family. His upbringing was the finest imaginable, being the son of a king. He was extremely well-educated and had all the qualities one would desire of a future king. He was however shielded from the harsh realities of life, in fear that he might give up his family and follow a path of meditation, something his father did not desire of him.
This form of living in extreme luxury continued until one day, by chance Siddhartha was riding on a chariot when he encountered an old man. Having never encountered such a sight before, he asked why the man looked the way he was. "That is old age," said the charioteer, "the ravisher of beauty, the ruin of vigour, the cause of sorrow, destroyer of delights, the bane of memories and the enemy of the senses..." (http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/history/buddha.htm)
This was a new experience for Siddhartha who was brought up to live without pain or suffering. He later also saw a sick man and a dead man. He then began to wonder why we grow old, get sick and die. Later he met an ascetic, “a person who dedicates his or her life to a pursuit of contemplative ideals and practices extreme self-denial or self-mortification for religious reasons” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ascetic). Siddhartha then decided to follow leave his family and follow the ascetic, in order to try and find the mystery of life.
The sightings of the old man, the sick man, the dead man and the ascetic are known as the ‘Four Sights,’ and is one of the most important turning points in Siddhartha’s life.
He lived as an ascetic for six years with very little food or sleep. Then one day he collapsed and was found and nourished by a young woman. He then realised that his ascetic lifestyle was as bad as his life of luxury. He determined the only way to rid himself of suffering and attain enlightenment (perfect understanding) was to follow the ‘middle way,’ in other words, not living a life of total luxury, but at the same time not living in so much pain that one is on the brink of death.
Then Siddhartha came to a tree known as the ‘Bodhi Tree.’ He decided to not move from the tree and meditate until he attained enlightenment and how to find nirvana (a state of complete peace). After many hours, Siddhartha was able to detach any sense, emotions or desires. It was then that he attained enlightenment and found the illusive cause of suffering and how to cure it. Siddhartha was then known as the ‘Buddha’ which means ‘The Awakened One,’
The Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching others about what he had found through his enlightenment. He preached his new ideas for 50...