Judaism is the religion of the Jews. There are an estimated 14 million
followers of the Jewish religion around the world. Most of the world's Jews are
concentrated in three countries: the United States (six million), Israel (3.7
million), and the Soviet Union (2.5 million). Other nations with significant
Jewish populations are France (650 thousand), Great Britain (400 thousand),
Canada (300 thousand), Argentina (300 thousand), and Brazil (150
Judaism was the first religion based on monotheism, the belief in one God. All
of the major Western religions found their roots in Judaism.
A central tenet of Judaism is that God, the Creator of the World, made a
special agreement called a covenant (berit in Hebrew) with Abraham, from
whom the Jewish people descended. The covenant provided that the Jews
would be blessed with God's love and protection if they remained true to
God's law and faithfully worshipped Him, and be accountable for sins and
transgression against God and His laws. The Jewish People have often been
referred to throughout history as the "Chosen People" because of the belief
that the Jews were singled out among all of the ancient peoples to receive
God's laws and His blessings. According to Judaism, the Jews were chosen to
be His servants although God is the universal Creator of all humanity.
Jews traditionally do not encourage converts, although converts are accepted
after they demonstrate knowledge about the faith and their sincerity in
accepting its laws.
The tenets of Judaism include a belief in a coming Messiah (derived from the
Hebrew, meaning, "the anointed one") who will unite the Jewish people and
lead them under a Kingdom of God on earth and bring peace and justice to
all mankind.
While Judaism recognizes an "afterlife," it is principally a "this world" religion.
The Creator in Judaistic theology is all-knowing and does not have a corporal
Judaism is traditionally decentralized. There is no equivalent to a Pope or
other central, international decision-making authority who determines
religious dogma or practice. Each Jewish congregation is responsible for its
own affairs and is usually, but not always, led by a spiritual leader called a
rabbi. Many rabbis are trained in a seminary or university established for the
purpose of furthering religious scholarship and teaching. Each of the major
groups of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist)
has its own institution in the United States for training rabbis, and each sect,

As is true with adherents of all religions. Jewish worship and study often takes place at a synagogue. This law has been supplemented by oral law and interpretations of the law which comprise the Talmud. burial. prayer. 2. which is based on the phases of the moon. Jewish months are thus either 29 or 30 days. These laws also describe how animals must be slaughtered so as to minimize suffering. the doctrine which does exist through written and oral Jewish law is continually being reinterpreted to respond to modern developments.25 days and a lunar year is about . The time from new moon to new moon is 29 days. The Jewish system of law. Because a solar year is 365. which consists of the Five Books of Moses (also known as the Pentateuch) and which forms the first part of the Old Testament. Judaism traditionally emphasizes ethical conduct and the treatment of others "as one would wish to be treated themselves. The major body of Jewish law is found in the Torah. also referred to as Halacha. The dates of holidays and festivals are determined by a lunar calendar. and may not mix dairy and meat products at the same meal. Dietary Laws Strict Jewish law requires that Jews may not eat certain foods. who leads the chanting and songs which accompany prayer. Jewish Calendar Jewish law utilizes both a lunar and solar calendar to set the dates of holidays. ritual purity. relationships with non-Jews and education. and religious services often include prayer and readings from the Torah. Services held in a synagogue are traditionally led by a rabbi and assisted by a cantor." Thus." These 613 commandments govern Jewish law covering such areas as philanthropy. each congregation. sacrifices. 12. and observances of the Sabbath and other holy days. Among the practices of observant Jews are: 1. which also includes the "Ten Commandments.and for that matter. the degree to which individual Jews observe Jewish laws and traditions varies. Halacha regulates Jewish life. maintains its own practices. and interpretations of Jewish law. There are 613 commandments included in the Torah. dietary laws. includes a civil and criminal justice system which is followed by observant Jews. certain seafood. or food without the blood removed. such as pork.75 hours. such as marriage and divorce. traditions.

Ritual foods are eaten during these eight days which are not eaten at other times of the year. In addition to the Sabbath. and refrain from eating or drinking for the entire holiday. Sabbath and Festival Observance The fourth of the ten commandments is "Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy" (Exodus 20:8). Observant Jews do not work or go to school on Shavuot. adjustments are made to the Jewish calendar to assure that holidays remain within the same season (which themselves are solar-based calculations rather than lunar) every year. each of which have their own rituals associated with observance.eleven days shorter (12 times 29. The Jewish Sabbath and holidays traditionally begin at sunset the evening before the day the Sabbath or holiday is observed. A ritual feast on the first two nights of this holiday. Observant Jews do not perform any work on the Sabbath. includes the recounting of the Passover story. but began at sunset on September 20th. It is both a joyous and a solemn holiday. Shavuot (Feast of Weeks): Shavuot is a festival which marks the giving of the Torah to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai by God. It is considered by Jews to be the day in which every individual is judged by God. with a total of seven months being added every 19 years. called a Seder. Yom Kippur: This is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Jews around the world do not work and do not attend school on that day. which is spent in prayer and religious study. Jews do not go to work or to school on Yom Kippur. Succot: Succot is a commemoration of the wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness before they received the Torah.5). It is also a commemoration of the . The ram's horn (shofar) is blown ritually to serve as the beginning of ten days of repentance which culminates in Yom Kippur. 3. A lunar month is inserted as a "leap month" as a part of this adjustment. Jews both in ancient times and today celebrate holidays and festivals. It is a two-day holiday which is often celebrated by having an all night study session on religious topics with friends. Passover: Passover is an eight-day festival commemorating the freeing of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Thus the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah in 1990 was observed September 21st and 22nd. Observant Jews do not work or go to school the first two days and the last two days of this holiday. and thus it is a solemn day marked by prayer and repentance. Among these are: Rosh Hashanah (New Year): Rosh Hashanah marks the new year of the Jewish calendar.

and observant Jews do not work or go to school the first two days or the last day. observant Jews have dressed differently than citizens of their host countries while engaged in secular and non-secular activities. Circumcision (Bris) male Jewish children are circumcised on the eighth day after their birth as a sign of a covenant between Abraham and God. yarmulka): head covering.C. Jews light a candle for each night of this holiday until there are eight on the eighth day. It is a joyous holiday and is celebrated by reading the Megillah (a scroll which tells the story of Purim) by baking hamintaschen (triangular-shaped cookies containing jams) and by dressing up in costumes. it has become traditional to exchange gifts on this holiday.C. over the Syrian-Greek army in 165 B. In recent times. led by Judah Maccabee. Hanukkah: Hanukkah is an eight-day holiday which marks the victory of the ancient Israelites.E. It is an eight-day holiday. Jewish males have traditionally worn the following: a.final harvest before the winter rains. it is in no way a comparable holiday to Christmas for the Jews. The boy is given his name at this ceremony. It is customary to build a structure called a Succah as a symbol of the types of structures the Israelites lived in while they were wandering in the dessert. Phylacteries (Tefillin): these are small boxes containing Torah passages written on parchment with leather straps which are worn on the forehead and left arm during prayers. . Life Cycle Events a. Simchat Torah: Simchat Torah commemorates the conclusion and the beginning of the cycle of Torah readings which lasts one year. During prayer. Ritual Clothing For centuries. Fringed Shawl (Tallit): these are worn during prayer. Traditionally. Purim: Purim is a minor festival of the Jewish calendar which commemorates the triumph of the Jews over a murderous plot by an advisor to King Ahasuerus in Persia in the fifth century B. b. 4. Skull cap (Kippah. Although Hanukkah usually occurs during the time of Christmas. It occurs the day after Succot ends. plus an extra "shammash" candle.E. 5. c. Observant Jews do not work or go to school on Simchat Torah.

in approximately 1580 B. The marriage ceremony. While in the desert. Jewish law recognizes divorce. as described in the Bible. Moses died before the Israelites entered the "Promised Land" of Israel. Jacob. However. Loved ones observe a seven-day period of mourning called Shiva at which time religious services are held in the home of the bereaved. begins with the patriarch Abraham. Following the death of Moses. so he made them slaves. The anniversary of the death of a parent (Yahrzeit) is observed by lighting a candle and saying a prayer (Kaddish) in memory. As a result of a famine. Isaac. A special service is held in the boy's honor. Moses led the Jews out of Egypt after the Egyptians were afflicted with ten plagues. the remainder of Joseph's family resettled in Egypt where they and their descendants lived in peace for several generations. the twelve tribes of Israel (one tribe descending from each of Jacob's twelve sons) were led by Joshua into the . made official by a document called a Get. Bar Mitzvah: at the age of thirteen. the spouse is unable to remarry in the absence of obtaining a Get from a Jewish court. The story of Joseph. Abraham was the first to forsake the polytheism and idol worshipping of his people for a belief in one God. The Israelites then spent 40 years wandering in the desert under Moses' leadership. has been ritualized and often includes the breaking of a glass by the groom to symbolize the destruction of the Temple. and he is permitted to read from the Torah for the firs time. In the Book of Exodus. Marriage and Divorce: at a marriage ceremony. The comparable ceremony for girls is a Bat Mitzvah which varies in religious significance depending on the sect of Judaism. Moses ascended Mt. A Brief History of the Jewish People The history of the Jews. the story of Moses and his liberation of the Jews from Egyptian bondage is told. The Ketuba describes the conditions of marriage.E. are also considered to be patriarchs by the Jews. is also found in the Bible. generally the day after death. d.C. Abraham's son. Even if observant Jews obtain a civil divorce. Jewish law considers boys to have reached adulthood. a new Pharaoh (ruler) in Egypt felt threatened by the Jews as well as other peoples who had settled there.b. observant Jews sign a marriage contract called a Ketuba. He was sold as a slave to the Egyptians by his own brothers. c. according to tradition.. as in many other religions. Death and Mourning: upon the death of a Jew. Sinai and. and Isaac's son. the body is ritually washed and placed in a coffin for burial. returned with the Ten Commandments from God as well as the Torah. one of Jacob's twelve sons.

the prophet Samuel. the son of the King and BathSheba.) was peaceful. including the First Temple in Jerusalem. the ten northern tribes broke away and established their own kingdom. which he felt necessary to create his lavish palaces and public buildings.. a member of the tribe of Judah. the latter people suffering a defeat at the hands of Samson. After capturing Jericho. . King Rehoboam. The destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem is commemorated by the Fast of Tishah be-Av. Samaria was conquered by the Assyrians. In 722 B. Samuel secretly anointed David.E.C.C.E. and the capital of the Southern Kingdom remained in Jerusalem. In exile." In 598 B. However. the Israelites systematically conquered the rest of Israel.E. and they are referred to as the "Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.E. Samuel became disillusioned over the autocratic way King Saul ruled the country. Challenges from Canaanites and Philistines were repelled. The first king was Saul (1020-1000 B. a member of the tribe of Benjamin. who won victories over the Ammonites and the Philistines.E. The heir to King David's throne was Solomon. The fate of the Jews of Samaria is unknown. having established a new life there. the ninth of the Jewish month of Av.E. the Persian King Cyrus permitted all conquered peoples to return to their homelands..C. Following his death.000 Jews returned to Judah. About 50.Promised Land. the Israelites captured Jerusalem and made it both their religious and secular capital. which eventually made him king over all of Israel.. Jerusalem itself fell under siege in 586 B. David had won renown as the warrior who had slain the giant Goliath. During David's reign. The Israelites.C. Judah was invaded by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia. the Israelites found themselves to be able to participate in the economic and social life of their new land. the historic city in Judah under Jewish control. while the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to Solomon's successor. There was discontent among the tribes which settled in the north concerning the heavy taxation and forced labor policies of King Solomon. to anoint a king. King Solomon's reign (961-922 B.C. David was the eventual victor of a power struggle. He was noted for lavish building projects. then inhabited by the Canaanites.C. Instead of passing leadership of the nation onto Saul's son. and was destroyed. convinced the religious leader at the time. although many stayed in Babylon. Jonathan. Much of the population of the Israelites was sent into exile in Babylonia. When the Persians conquered Babylon in 538 B. seeking an alternative to theocratic leadership. The capital of the Northern Kingdom was established in Samaria.). as Israel's second king. and to reorganize and maintain Jewish life.

Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire at the beginning of the fourth century. After a siege. By the beginning of the . King Herod (37-4 B. Triumph over the Syrians was short-lived. The focus of Jewish intellectual life following the destruction of the Second Temple was established in Yavneh. by R. which kindled a revolt. the Second Temple was built and dedicated in 516 B. Following centuries of relative peace and calm in which the ancient land of Israel was ruled by the Egyptians.E. Jewish legal rights were restricted. During the first three centuries of Christianity. public works. creating magnificent temples. the Second Temple was destroyed (once again. The Roman Empire engulfed the area.E. When Antiochus IV Epiphanes began his rule.C. At first. he sought to forbid the practice of Judaism in favor of Hellenism. and is known as the Gemara. This oral law was written down at the end of the second century C. The ruins of many of his works.After several decades of delays. The Festival of Hanukkah commemorates these victories. When defeat of the revolt was inevitable. New centers of Jewish scholarship were established in the diaspora. The Jewish scholars in Babylon also developed a Talmud.E. ports and palaces. controlled what became known as Palestine for almost 700 years. He was a master builder. and is known as the Mishnah. the defenders drew lots and killed themselves rather than surrender. and with brief exceptions.C. principally in North Africa and Muslim Spain by the end of the 10th century. on the 9th of Av of the Jewish calendar) and resistance was crushed except for a company of zealots who took over a fortress at Masada.C. Judah ha-Nasi. He required the erection of a statue of the Greek god Zeus in the Temple. Following these victories which bordered on the miraculous. The Mishnah and Gemara together are called the Talmud. near the Dead Sea.E. Judah Maccabee reentered the Temple. cleansed it of its desecrations. including the reconstructed Second Temple.) ruled over Judah with the sanction of the Roman Senate. Syrian rule was benign. the Syrians gained the upper hand in 198 B. the issue that separated Jew from Christian was whether Jesus was the true Messiah. who overcame a superior force of highly equipped Syrians to win several battles. The Roman army tried for three years to crush that resistance. Discussion on the Mishnah was also put to writing. The Jews revolted against Roman rule in 70 C. Jewish scholars met here and during the end of the second century and beginning of the third established an oral Jewish law to complement the Torah. Jerusalem was restored by the Romans as a pagan city.E. may still be viewed today. and rededicated it. which eventually supplanted the Palestinian version as the ultimate authority in Jewish legal matters. The military commander for the Jews was Judah Maccabee.

Austria (1420). Jewish culture developed for 2. Christianity had evolved with customs. Germany. the lending of money. Reform. There were local expulsions throughout Europe including those in Germany. and settled in Spain. Jewish life in the Middle Ages was for the most part a story of social and economic isolation. Jews flourished in Spain and North Africa. and Spain (1492). the isolation of Jews in ghettos had the effect of eliminating assimilation with the host communities. This was partly for selfprotection. arts . Many Jews served in the Arab armies which conquered the Iberian peninsula. While the ghettos permitted Jews to live peacefully. Ghettos At first. For centuries. conditions were often crowded and inadequate. Jews in the diaspora segregated voluntarily. Unlike its modern 20th century counterpart. It was not until the Enlightenment (see Chapter 5) that Jews had the opportunity to participate in modern society free from persecution.000 years in pre-World War II Europe. persecution and massacres. and the result was the development of reformist movements which eventually culminated in the establishment of Conservative. Those governments unwilling even to tolerate Jews who were segregated in ghettos expelled them. Christianity outlawed usury. However.fourth century. The concept of segregating Jews involuntarily behind walls was developed in ancient times. Some expulsion policies were reversed when governments realized that the Jews served a useful purpose. but it was not actually implemented as a policy until 1462 in Frankfurt. France (1306 and 1394). and Reconstructionist movements. The fundamentalist acceptance of Jewish law underwent a severe challenge. rituals and laws far different from Judaism. Jews of both Western and Eastern Europe created a culture of religious practice. philosophy and culture. medicine. Jews were permitted to fill this vacuum by acting as moneylenders and financiers. At one time or another. Yet they filled an important niche. and preserved and enhanced the survival of the Jewish culture. the ghetto of 16th century Europe permitted Jews to leave during the day and do their business. The idea caught on in the rest of Europe and became the norm in the 16th century. and recorded achievements in science. all Jews were expelled from England (1290). Palestine was conquered by the Arabs in the 7th century. but it was perhaps more the result of the requirements of the Jewish religion: to be close to a synagogue and other religious institutions. music. Jews were isolated both physically and socially from the fabric of life in the Middle Ages and the period following the Middle Ages.

Germany. the Tanakh. most of them had a history of feeling that they were "German" rather than "Jewish. and Solomon. Poland. Jewish history begins with the covenant established between God and Abraham around 1812 BC. they were able to live side by side with their non-Jewish neighbors. It was an entire culture which the Nazis sought to make extinct. more likely to be formally educated. In 2007.and music. whilst the remaining is spread around the world (the diaspora). and Italy. Latvia. The Temple contained the Ark of the Covenant. and more likely to affiliate with generic political parties which represented more than just Jewish interests. less likely to be religiously observant. 41 percent of which reside in Israel. Generally. David. more likely to intermarry. For many Jews in Western Europe. Lithuania. They were more likely to speak the language of their host nation. free from the threat of physical attacks and anti-Semitism. the Jews became a powerful nation with kings such as Saul. being considered the Patriarch and progenitor of the Jewish people. Abraham is a central figure in Judaism. There were distinct differences in the cultures of Jews who settled in the "East" and "West" in the 18th. more likely to be middle-class. Eastern European Jews did not feel safe from pogroms. Under God’s guidance. Western European Jews were more likely to be accepted by their host countries as full citizens. they were Jewish by religion. which are expanded and explained in the Talmud. and early 20th centuries. language (principally Yiddish). and was the exclusive site for certain religious rituals. during the Bronze Age. more likely to be urban settlers. Subsequently. It is based on the principles contained in the Hebrew Bible. who built the first Temple. for example) were more assimilated than their "eastern" counterparts of the Soviet Union. Austria. Thus. but identified with their host country. and Hungary." Judaism is the religion commonly linked to Jewish people. . in the Middle East. For the most part. the world Jewish population was of 13. Rumania. Jews who settled in Western Europe (France. 19th. when the Jews of Germany were targeted by the Nazis.2 million. Holland. this was the site around which Jewish worship was centred. and education.

. along with Muslims. and thus the State of Israel was born. Jewish people experienced times of great expansion and advance in knowledge (both theological and scientific) which were interspersed by periods of persecution and massacres.Throughout their history. It is their belief that the Jews are God’s chosen people. War crimes trials of those involved in the Holocaust continue to this day. they consider themselves to be an integrating part of a global community. whose responsibility is to set an example of holiness and morality to the rest of the world. Many of the Jewish traditions are based around the family and home activities. as given to Moses on the Mount Sinai reveals His character and His will for his children. Since then there have been several wars between the Arab countries around Israel and the latter. In 1948 the British military forces withdrew from the region after a period of violence against them by the Jews. and that He establishes a personal relationship with every one of His followers. during the Holocaust. The most notable living example of the political instability between Israel and the surrounding Arab states is revealed by the ongoing political and military battles between Israel and the Palestinian people. were persecuted and object of hatred in Europe in the 13th and 15th centuries and most recently. God’s law. The experience of Judaism is very much a community one. the Torah. all-knowing and all-present God. The Jews were slaughtered during the Christian Crusades and. In 1947 the United Nations agreed to create the State of Israel in what was then Palestine. which have been marked by several invasions and great loss of lives. It is the Jewish belief that God still acts in the world as it is today. It is the Jewish tradition to keep God’s laws and to bring holiness into every aspect of their lives. who is fair and just and the creator of the universe and mankind. 1 million of which were children. In this period alone 6 million Jewish people were killed. Beliefs and principles The Jewish religion is based on the principle that there is only one indivisible all-powerful.

The Jewish holidays are summarized below. . throughout times it has been influenced by other religious currents. Even though Judaism is one of the oldest religions still in place today. they are still considered Jews. Perhaps one of the most striking aspect of Jewish theology is the rejection of Christ as the Messiah. Islam and the Bahai faith. However. It is generally accepted that Jesus was a Jew himself. The facts that Jesus was crucified and no peace was established. most probably a Pharisee (teachertheologian) of the more liberal wing. There is substantial overlap between the cultural and religious aspects of the Jewish identity. it is not easy to convert to Judaism. and that there was a putative openness to discussion in synagogues (making Christ’s somewhat revolutionary concepts unsurprising) are some of the Jewish arguments for their stance on Jesus.   Days of repentance During the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur everyone gets a chance to repent. sometimes the children of Jewish fathers are also considered Jews. if not born into this culturalreligious setting. The Jews are therefore still waiting for their Messiah. Often. namely Christianity. in sharp contrast to the Christian belief.Being a Jew is very much a blood matter. It dates back to two centuries before the beginning of Christianity. Conversely. in order to be considered a Jew. Even if a Jew converts to a different religion. Hanukkah Hanukkah or Chanukah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. Interesting facts The Jewish calendar is marked by several holidays which reflect both their beliefs and history. a child must be born of a Jewish mother.

brings the Days of Repentance to a close Buddhism The teachings of the historic Buddha form the basis of the Buddhist worldview and practice. the Jewish holy day. He was born into a royal clan yet he abandoned worldly power and wealth in pursuit of truth and enlightenment. Tisha B’av Tisha B'av is a solemn occasion because it commemorates a series of tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people over the years Tu B’Shevat Tu B'Shevat is the Jewish 'New Year for Trees'.retell this life history of the Buddha to convey basic principles of Buddhist philosophy. Paintings depicting the key events in the historic Buddha's life adorn monasteries and temples throughout the Buddhist world. Yom Hashoah Yom Hashoah is a day set aside for Jews to remember the Holocaust. Teachers in the Buddhist tradition -. It is considered a highly important historical event. Yom Kippur. Purim Purim commemorates the time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination by the courage of a young Jewish woman called Esther. and keep its laws and customs. the most sacred and solemn day of the Jewish year. Shavuot Shavuot marks the time that the Jews received the Torah on Mount Sinai. The Buddha (Shakyamuni or Siddhartha Gautama) was born about 2565 years ago in what is now part of Nepal. . in monasteries. Academic historians find the basic narrative of the Buddha's biography as related in Buddhist teachings to be consistent with archaeological and other historical evidence. It is one of the four Jewish new years (Rosh Hashanahs). Rosh Hashanah Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year festival and commemorates the creation of the world.The Day of Atonement Yom Kippur. Sukkot Sukkot commemorates the years that the Jews spent in the desert on their way to the Promised Land. Sabbath Every week religious Jews observe the Sabbath.          Passover Passover is one of the most important religious festivals in the Jewish calendar. celebrated to commemorate the liberation of the Children of Israel who were led out of Egypt by Moses.whether in village meeting places. or in modern universities -.

The normal condition of this world is misery or suffering. right speech. right action. Buddhism has always been open to everyone. right mindfulness. and death that occurred on a sojourn beyond the protected world of the palace compound in which he lived. a village in North India and a principal site of contemporary Buddhist pilgrimage. the Buddha gained acute understanding of human psychology and physiology which formed the basis for later philosophical developments of Buddhism as well as the foundation for many advanced meditative practices. The Buddha himself. Quelling attachment can be achieved through following the eightfold path of right views. 2. The end of suffering can be attained by quelling attachment to this world. 3. After the Buddha's death. right intention. Along with this basic analysis of the human predicament as one of suffering. right concentration. decay. the life-transforming experience for the young Shakyamuni was his encounter with human suffering. his teachings or dharma. 4. Those who joined the Buddha as mendicant renouncers formed the earliest Buddhist community or sangha out of which later monastic communities emerged. The most fundamental teachings of the Buddha are encapsulated in the "four noble truths": 1.In Buddhist tradition. this community of disciples compiled and continued the teachings. and the community of disciples or sangha constitute the "three jewels" of Buddhism. right livelihood. He went on to teach for some 40 years and the power of his teachings attracted more and more followers from multiple walks of life. right effort. The teachings in their concise analysis of the human condition and their clear guidance in achieving release from suffering spread extensively across northern India and were especially attractive because they provided an alternative to the rigid social and ritual strictures prevalent in Hindu north India at the time. The heart of the Buddha’s teachings relates to human suffering and release from misery. Essential to this teaching was the principle of "no-soul" or no essence to . At age 29 he renounced the world and set out on a quest for meaning and enlightenment which he attained at age 37 after intense meditation at Bhodhgaya. People from all walks of life can enter into the Buddhist community either as monastic renouncers or lay devotees. Suffering stems from desire or attachment to this world that is in its essence impermanent.

Cambodia and parts of Southwest China and bases its practice on texts written in the ancient Indian language of Pali. Theravada Buddhism thrives in contemporary Sri Lanka." Over the twelve centuries immediately succeeding the historic Buddha's death. Laos. Korea. Vietnam. Thai Buddhism. Thailand. and nirvana. Japan. Buddhism also began to spread throughout Asia. These basic teachings are framed in a fundamental distinction between samsara or "this world. Burma. Thus in addition to these three main philosophical strands we can identify distinctive cultural developments of Buddhist thought and practice in Tibetan Buddhism. Vajrayana practitioners concentrated on developing "skill in means" or distinctive practices in pursuing enlightenment. Nepal and parts of Inner Asia. China. Buddhism also developed in unique ways according to the cultural environments in which it thrived. From this period of intellectual ferment and philosophical development emerged three major traditions of Buddhism now commonly recognized by Buddhist scholars. the early mendicant communities transformed into permanent monastic institutions in India with the generous support of lay patrons. Japanese Buddhism and so forth as Buddhism was integrated with local traditions. and parts of China. Nepal. Vajrayana as an extension of Mahayana developed principally in Tibet. rDo-rje in Tibetan) stands for the absolute truth of Buddhism." The powerbolt (vajra in Sanskrit." a world of suffering and impermanence. Mahayana particularly elaborated the idea of Boddhisattvas or enlightened ones who put off their own attainment of nirvana until it is possible for all sentient beings to do so. Sinhalese Buddhism. northern India. . Mahayana Buddhism or "the greater vehicle" took recognizable form within 600 years after the Buddha's death." In Buddhist world view the self is momentary and the production of a personality itself is conditional and impermanent. Although Buddhist scholars distinguish these three main philosophical schools. Consistent with and elaborating on Mahayana teachings is the third major Buddhist tradition generally referred to as Vajrayana or "powerbolt vehicle. Theravada Buddhism or the "the way of the elders" claims a close adherence to the original teachings as passed down by the immediate disciples of the Buddha. a state defined by one scholar as "transcendence beyond all conceptualization. Chinese Buddhism.what we consider the "self. Mongolia. In the textual traditions of Mahayana Buddhists are sutras or discourses of the Buddha not found in Theravada tradition. Mahayana Buddhism had particular impact in Tibet.

trace their origins to the 10th and 11th centuries. Tsong-ka-pa (1357-1419).the bKa'-gdams-pa. The Dalai Lamas based at the Potala in Lhasa along the Panchen Lamas based at the Tashilhunpo Monastery located in Shigatse became the temporal and spiritual leaders of Tibet and remained so until 1959. The rNying-ma-pa or the old order continued practices associated with the very early introduction to Buddhism in the 8th century. Tenzin Gyatso. The situation changed radically for Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism in 1959 when the Chinese invaded Tibet and took over direct administration of political Tibet which then became incorporated into China as the Tibetan Autonomous Region. In the century following this initial introduction. The next major impetus to Buddhist development as recorded in Tibetan history was the arrival of the Indian Mahayana scholar Atisha in the 11th century that fully consolidated the centrality of a disciplined Mahayana practice in Tibet. Of particular note. to flee Tibet along with thousands of other monks and Tibetan laity. The seventh century King of Tibet Srong-brtsan-sgam-po is usually credited with the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet and most critically he sponsored the introduction of a new script which was used to translate Indian Buddhist works written in Sanskrit into Tibetan language. The dGe-lugs-pa path stressed monastic discipline and a gradual path to enlightenment along with esoteric meditative and ritual practice. the Sa-skya-pa. The earliest of the major orders -. and the bKa'-gyud-pa (and offshoot Karma-pa) -. founded a monastery out which a new order known as the dGelugs-pa or "model of virtue" order emerged. Many of these texts were lost in India and contemporary scholars study the Tibetan texts to reconstruct the history of Buddhist philosophy and practice in India. During the early part of the 15th century a Buddhist scholar. The first Tibetan monastery was established at Samye where a great debate took place in 792 which set the course of Tibetan Buddhism along the lines of particular Mahayana discipline. . What has been described as a "restoration" of Buddhism during this period set the stage for the further institutionalization and development of the major monastic orders in Tibet. Buddhism made significant advances in Tibet with a profusion of translations of texts. During the 16th and 17th centuries the dGelugs-pa order came to a prominent position politically and spiritually in Tibet. the position of Dalai Lama which passed through a process of reincarnation came to be associated with the dGe-lugs-pa order. The Chinese forced His Holiness the fourteenth Dalai Lama.Tibet became especially important in the preservation and transformation of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist philosophy and practice.

were imprisoned. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has assumed a prominent position in this global era of philosophical and spiritual communication. Of particular note has been the expansion of Tibetan Buddhist institutions in Europe and America. with other religious and philosophical traditions. the center for Tibetan refugees and the Tibetan diaspora. Thousands of monastic institutions and much of the cultural heritage of Tibet was destroyed or looted at this time. He has not only sustained his place as the religious leader of the Tibetan people both inside and outside Tibet but he is recognized as a spiritual leader at a global scale. The Chinese have actively encouraged the colonization of Tibet by Han Chinese and the major Tibetan cities now have Chinese populations that rival in number the indigenous Tibetan community. They undertook a campaign in Tibet proper to destroy Buddhist institutions. His steadfast adherence to the Buddhist principles of nonviolence led to his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for peace in 1989 and has helped to make the message of Buddhism resonate throughout the world. Buddhists throughout the world find themselves in dialogue among themselves. Tibetan refugee communities in India and elsewhere -. More recent Chinese regimes have allowed a modicum of reconstruction of monastic buildings and monastic traditions but in a carefully limited way.His Holiness the Dalai Lama has overseen the Tibetan Government in exile since 1960 in Dharamsala. and Bhutan. and with modern science. This process came to a head during the Cultural Revolution which lasted from the mid 1960s until the mid 1970s when particular havoc was wrecked on cultural and religious traditions within political Tibet. Buddhist Ethics .often with the substantial support of followers in the West as well as other parts of Asia -have been able to keep traditions of teaching and learning alive. Nepal. continuing a process of intercommunication between Buddhist Asia and the West which began in the latter part of the 19th century. or were executed and thousands of people fled Tibet for refugee communities in the neighboring states of India. Chinese communist rulers considered Buddhism and Buddhist traditions "backward" and feudal. Thousands of people in Tibet as well as elsewhere in China starved. Buddhism has always been transnational but this process has accelerated in the contemporary world with new media for communication. India.

This precept goes further than mere stealing. 3) To undertake the training to avoid sensual misconduct. entail punishment by God.Essentially. 4) To undertake the training to refrain from false speech. according to Buddhist teachings. many Buddhists. The resultant of an action (often referred to as Karma) depends on the intention more than the action itself. which. The five precepts are: 1) To undertake the training to avoid taking the life of beings. These are the basic precepts expected as a day to day training of any lay Buddhist. which is to be avoided in order to cultivate a calm and peaceful mind. In Buddhism. whether connected to body or speech is likely to be harmful to one's self or to others and thereby avoiding any actions which are likely to be harmful. 5) To undertake the training to abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness. alcohol itself but indulgence in such a substance could be the cause of breaking the other four precepts. there is much talk of a skilled mind. if one were to break any of them. This precept applies to all living beings not just humans. the ethical and moral principles are governed by examining whether a certain action. Moral conduct for Buddhists differs according to whether it applies to the laity or to the Sangha or clergy. say. As well as avoiding lying and deceiving. which. 2) To undertake the training to avoid taking things not given. It entails less feelings of guilt than its Judeo-Christian counterpart. the Ten Commandments. would observe three additional precepts with a . This precept is often mistranslated or misinterpreted as relating only to sexual misconduct but it covers any overindulgence in any sensual pleasure such as gluttony as well as misconduct of a sexual nature. On special holy days. A mind that is skilful avoids actions that are likely to cause suffering or remorse. All beings have a right to their lives and that right should be respected. one should be aware of the breech and examine how such a breech may be avoided in the future. guilt etc. anxiety. Buddhism places a great emphasis on 'mind' and it is mental anguish such as remorse. especially those following the Theravada tradition. say. if broken. These are not like. The five precepts are training rules. A lay Buddhist should cultivate good conduct by training in what are known as the "Five Precepts". One should avoid taking anything unless one can be sure that is intended that it is for you. this precept covers slander as well as speech which is not beneficial to the welfare of others.This precept is in a special category as it does not infer any intrinsic evil in.

. music and entertainments as well as refraining from the use of perfumes. This would mean following the tradition of Theravadin monks and not eating from noon one day until sunrise the next. singing.strengthening of the third precept to be observing strict celibacy. 8) To undertake the training to abstain from using high or luxurious beds are rules regularly adopted by members of the Sangha and are followed by the layperson on special occasions. ornaments and other items used to adorn or beautify the person. Again. The additional precepts are: 6) To abstain from taking food at inappropriate times. 7) To abstain from dancing. this and the next rule.