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Buddhism a major world religion founded in northeastern India and based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama who is known as the Buddha or Enlightened One Originating as a monastic movement within the dominant Brahman tradition of the day Buddhism quickly developed in a distinctive direction The Buddha not only rejected significant aspects of Hindu philosophy but also challenged the authority of the priesthood denied the validity of the Vedic scriptures and rejected the sacrificial cult based on them Moreover he opened his movement to members of all castes denying that a persons spiritual worth is a matter of birth See Hinduism Buddhism today is divided into two major branches known to their respective followers as Theravada the Way of the Elders and Mahayana the Great Vehicle Followers of Mahayana refer to Theravada using the derogatory term Hinayana the Lesser Vehicle Buddhism has been significant not only in India but also in Sri Lanka Thailand Cambodia Myanmar formerly known as Burma and Laos where Theravada has been dominant Mahayana has had its greatest impact in China Japan Taiwan Tibet Nepal Mongolia Korea and Vietnam as well as in India The number of Buddhists worldwide has been estimated at between 150 and 300 million The reasons for such a range are twofold Throughout much of Asia religious affiliation has tended to be nonexclusive and it is especially difficult to estimate the continuing influence of Buddhism in Communist countries such as China Origins As did most major faiths Buddhism developed over many years Buddhas Life No complete biography of the Buddha was compiled until centuries after his death only fragmentary accounts of his life are found in the earliest sources Western scholars however generally agree on 563 BC as the year of his birth Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha was born in Kapilavastu near the present Indian-Nepal border the son of the ruler of a petty kingdom According to legend at his birth sages recognized in him the
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