A Living Portrait of India
Buddhism originated from the teachings of Gautama Buddha, a prince from the Nepalese terai, who relinquished palace life for a life of meditation and spiritual upliftment, emphasized dhamma or right conduct, and organized monks and nuns into monasteries called samghas. The philosophy of Buddhism is to take the Middle Path, avoiding the extremes of getting addicted to worldly pleasures and subjecting oneself to unnecessary rigours. It rejects the idea of God, and stresses on moral progress independent of any God or Godlike figure. It questions the idea of a permanent or immortal soul, but accepts the idea of transmigration of souls.
A most important idea of Buddhism is that of the Four Noble Truths: Suffering exists; it is caused by desire; suffering can cease; and there does exist a path to nirvana or cessation of suffering. This Noble Eightfold Path consists of : Right resolve, Right speech, Right conduct, Right livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness, and Right concentration.
Later Buddhism split into two sects, Mahayana and Hinayana (Theravada). Mahayana laid stress on the concept of the Bodhisatta or `one destined to be the Buddha' and also conceived of Eternal Buddhas who resemble gods or deities. Hinayana regarded the Buddha as a man and had a doctrine, Theravada, stressing the salvation of the individual. Later, the interaction of Mahayana philosophy and Hinduism gave rise to Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana.