Buddhism is a vast and complex religious and philosophical tradition which stretches back over 2,500 years. Over the last 30 years Buddhism has seen growth in the West as its non-dogmatic nature, rationality, possibility of a spiritual guide, and opportunity for personal transformation have all
made it attractive to post-modern society.
It has about 500 million adherents around the world-45,000 active Buddhists in UK
'Buddha' means 'one who has woken up'. Most people live asleep, never knowing or seeing life as it really is. As a consequence they suffer. A buddha is someone who awakens to the knowledge of the world as it truly is and so finds release from suffering.
A Buddha teaches out of sympathy and compassion for the suffering of beings and for the benefit and welfare of all beings.
Buddhism does not actively look for converts, but it is thoroughly welcoming to those who do want to convert. Buddhism can coexist with other faiths
As Buddhism expanded across Asia, it evolved into two main forms, which evolved largely independently from each other:
--Theravada Buddhism (sometimes called Southern Buddhism; occasionally spelled Therevada) "has been the dominant school of Buddhism in most of Southeast Asia since the thirteenth century, with the establishment of the monarchies in Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Laos."
--Mahayana Buddhism (sometimes called Northern Buddhism) is largely found in China, Japan, Korea, Tibet and Mongolia.
To which might be added:
--Tibetan Buddhism, which developed in isolation from Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism because of the isolation of Tibet.
Since the late 19th century:
Modern Buddhism has emerged as a truly international movement. It started as an attempt to produce a single form of Buddhism, without local accretions, that all Buddhists could embrace.