The Indian king who did most in patronizing Buddhism and spreading it into foreign lands was King Asoka. Thanks to this great king, Buddhism came to be established in Suwannadhumi, where it was finally embraced by the Thai people, and under the benevolent rule of King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai, Buddhism became the Thai state religion.
The Buddha accepted many men as followers. He even accepted some from the lowest caste, called the Untouchables, which set a new precedent and angered many people who suggested that this would disrupt the existing order of the society.
The Buddha himself wrote nothing. His teaching was communicated entirely orally and the details we have today are from the writings many years after his death. When he was about to die, at the age of eighty, he lay down on his right side, and urged his followers to ask him questions. At this point, however, they were all silent. Then he spoke his final words, which were: "All component things decay, work on your own salvation with diligence."
Then he passed into a state which is called Parinirvana, and where he completed the process he had begun under the Bodhi tree many years before
All alone now, he decided to tackle the quest once again, and he sat himself under a Bodhi tree at a place called Bodh Gaya.and determined not to move until he had found the answers he sought. His meditation was deep, and, on the night of the full moon in May, complete Enlightenment came to him. His mind became calm and clear and he understood the cycle of birth, death and the wheel of life. He understood his true nature and that of all living beings. This was the end of his spiritual journey, and at that moment he became "the Buddha".
Siddhartha observed the suffering in the world and set out to find an antidote. Through meditation and analysis, he attained an enlightened state of being that marked the end of attachments (and therefore suffering), and ultimately, upon his death, release from the cycle of rebirth (samsara).
Siddhartha in his early twenties, became discontent. The basis for this is a famous legend of the four encounters, or passing sights. If Siddhartha went out of the palace, the king had always first ordered that all those with any disability be hidden from view. The story is told that, one day, Siddhartha saw an old man, bent and trembling, and discovered old age. On the second encounter, he saw a sick man suffering from disease, and on the third journey, he witnessed a funeral procession and a corpse. Finally, on the fourth journey, he met a wandering monk who had an inner tranquillity despite living an austere life, suggesting to Siddhartha that he had come to terms with old age, sickness and death.
Mahayana Buddhism emerged in the first century CE as a more liberal, accessible interpretation of Buddhism. As the "Greater Vehicle" (literally, the "Greater Ox-Cart"), Mahayana is a path available to people from all walks of life - not just monks and ascetics.
Mahayana Buddhism is the primary form of Buddhism in North Asia and the Far East, including China, Japan, Korea, Tibet and Mongolia, and is thus sometimes known as Northern Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhists accept the Pali Canon as sacred scripture with the Theravadans, but also many other works, the Sutras, which were written later and in Sanskrit.
The most distinctive teaching of the Mahayana is that the great compassion that is an inherent component of enlightenment is manifest in bodhisattvas (enlightenment beings); these beings postpone nirvana (final enlightenment) in order to assist and guide those beings still suffering in the cycle of rebirths.
Mahayana Buddhists teach that enlightenment can be attained in a single lifetime, and this can be accomplished even by a layperson. The various subdivisions within the Mahayana tradition, such as Zen, Nichiren, and Pure Land, promote different ways of attaining this goal, but all are agreed that it can be attained in a single lifetime by anyone who puts his or her mind (and sometimes body) to it.
Theravada (pronounced — more or less — "terra-VAH-dah"), the "Doctrine of the Elders," is the school of Buddhism that draws its scriptural inspiration from the Tipitaka, or Pali canon, which scholars generally agree contains the earliest surviving record of the Buddha's teachings.
Over the course of its 2500-year history, Buddhism has experienced many schisms and modifications; there are currently three major branches of the tradition — the Theravada ("Doctrine of the Elders"), the Mahayana ("Great Vehicle), and the Vajrayana ("Diamond Vehicle," often simply called "Tibetan Buddhism"), although there are many sects and groups within each of these branches.
The Four Noble Truths contain the essence of the Buddha's teachings. It was these four principles that the Buddha came to understand during his meditation under the bodhi tree.
The truth of suffering (Dukkha)
The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudāya)
The truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha)
The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga)
Most historians agree that Buddhism originated in northern India in the 5th century B.C.E. The tradition traces its origin to Siddhartha Gautama (or Gotama), who is typically referred to as the Buddha (literally the "Awakened" or "Enlightened One").
Buddhism is a philosophy, a moral code, and, for some a religious faith which originated 2,500 years ago in India. It offers a diagnosis of the suffering of mankind and provides a formula for individuals to resolve that suffering. It offers a moral code based on compassion and non-violence, and through meditation a way to achieve spiritual insight. Buddhism provides a path to reach a deeper understanding of the nature of reality. Although it directs us inwards, Buddhism offers a practical way to connect with everyday life and with others. Today, an estimated 500 million people follow one of the many varieties of Buddhism.