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Introduction

standing Buddha statue with draped garmet and halo
Standing Buddha statue at the Tokyo National Museum. One of the earliest known representations of the Buddha, 1st–2nd century CE.

Buddhism (/ˈbʊdɪzəm/, US also /ˈbd-/) is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. Buddhism originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada (Pali: "The School of the Elders") and Mahayana (Sanskrit: "The Great Vehicle").

Most Buddhist traditions share the goal of overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth, either by the attainment of Nirvana or through the path of Buddhahood. Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the path to liberation, the relative importance and canonicity assigned to the various Buddhist texts, and their specific teachings and practices. Widely observed practices include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, observance of moral precepts, monasticism, meditation, and the cultivation of the Paramitas (virtues).

Theravada Buddhism has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia such as Myanmar and Thailand. Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon and Tiantai (Tendai), is found throughout East Asia.

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Ngo Dinh Diem
The Double Seven Day scuffle was a physical altercation on July 7, 1963 in Saigon, South Vietnam. The secret police of Ngo Dinh Nhu—the brother of President Ngo Dinh Diem—attacked a group of journalists from the United States who were covering Buddhist protests on the ninth anniversary of Diem's rise to power. Peter Arnett of the Associated Press (AP) was punched on the nose, but the quarrel quickly ended after David Halberstam of The New York Times, being much taller than Nhu's men, counterattacked and caused the secret police to retreat. Arnett and Browne were later accosted by police at their office and taken away for questioning on suspicion of attacking police officers. After their release, the journalists stormed the US embassy in Saigon to complain about their treatment at the hands of Diem's officials and asked for US government protection. Their appeals were dismissed, as was a direct appeal to the White House. Through the efforts of US Ambassador Frederick Nolting, the assault charges laid against the journalists were subsequently dropped. Vietnamese Buddhists reacted to the incident by contending that Diem's men were planning to assassinate monks, while Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu repeated earlier claims that the American government had been trying to overthrow her brother-in-law. Arnett's colleague, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Malcolm Browne, took photographs of Arnett's bloodied face, which were published in newspapers worldwide. This drew further negative attention to the behaviour of the Diem regime amidst the backdrop of the Buddhist crisis.

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Dalai Lama


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Shen Kuo
Shen Kuo was a polymath Chinese scientist and statesman of the Song Dynasty (9601279). Excelling in many fields of study and statecraft, he was a mathematician, astronomer, meteorologist, geologist, zoologist, botanist, pharmacologist, agronomist, ethnographer, encyclopedist, and poet. He was the head official for the Bureau of Astronomy in the Song court, as well as an Assistant Minister of Imperial Hospitality. In his Dream Pool Essays of 1088, Shen was the first to describe the magnetic needle compass, which would be used for navigation (first described in Europe by Alexander Neckam in 1187). Shen Kuo devised a geological theory of land formation, or geomorphology, based upon findings of inland marine fossils, knowledge of soil erosion, and the deposition of silt. He also advocated a theory for gradual climate change, after observing ancient petrified bamboos that were preserved underground in a dry northern habitat that did not support their growth in his time. Shen Kuo wrote extensively about movable type printing invented by Bi Sheng, and because of his written works the legacy of Bi Sheng and the modern understanding of the earliest movable type has been handed down to later generations.

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Somapura Mahavihara

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Penélope Cruz
I was raised as a Catholic, but I believe in God in my own way and I pray in my own way and I respect all kinds of philosophies. The one philosophy or religion that I find I am most close to is the Buddhist one. I think it is the one that respects the others and the one that doesn't say that this is the only way. I think happiness is the moment when-if you've forgotten those little things-they suddenly come back into focus for you.

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