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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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Stupa & Borobudur
Borobudur is a ninth-century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument comprises six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome is located at the center of the top platform, and is surrounded by seventy-two Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupa. The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path circumambulating the monument while ascending to the top through the three levels of Buddhist cosmology, namely, Kamadhatu (the world of desire); Rupadhatu (the world of forms); and Arupadhatu (the world of formless). During the journey, the monument guides the pilgrims through a system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the wall and the balustrades. Evidence suggests Borobudur was abandoned following the fourteenth century decline of Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms in Java, and the Javanese conversion to Islam. It was rediscovered in 1814 by Sir Thomas Raffles, the British ruler of Java. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction.

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In this month

8888 Uprising anniversary observance


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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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Richard Gere
My first encounter with Buddhist dharma would be in my early twenties. I think like most young men I was not particularly happy. I don't know if I was suicidal, but I was pretty unhappy, and I had questions like, "Why anything?" Realizing I was probably pushing the edges of my own sanity, I was exploring late-night bookshops reading everything I could, in many different directions. Evans-Wentz's books on Tibetan Buddhism had an enormous impact on me. I just devoured them.

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