I take refuge in the Buddha.
I take refuge in the doctrine.
I take refuge in the monastic order.
-Traditional and Liturgical
Buddhism is probably the most simple religion describable, although it often is practiced with a modicum of cultural flair. Buddhism's chief tenets are called the Four Noble Truths, stated here:
1. Suffering exists.
2. Suffering has a cause, namely, desire.
3. Desire is the only cause of suffering.
4. There is a way to end desire.
That is the core of Buddhism; and one need only accept these statements to be a Buddhist. However, Buddhist practice also has specific traditions about applying these statements to real life. An elaboration on the fourth Noble Truth is the below Eightfold Path, which is a series of steps for Buddhist adherents to follow in order. Buddhists should attain these:
1. Right views
2. Right intention
3. Right speech
4. Right conduct
5. Right livelihood
6. Right strivings
7. Right mindset
8. Right concentration
The different ways in which the fourth Noble Truth is sought can define different religions. If one uses the Eightfold Path to
attempt to achieve the fourth Noble Truth, then one uses Buddhist tradition.
The term "Buddha" comes from a Sanskrit word meaning "enlightened," "knowing," or "awake." In Buddhism it is used as a title for anyone who has achieved enlightenment.
The historical person called Buddha was Siddhartha Gautama, a prince born around 560 BCE in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. His parents' wealth shielded him from all grief until his manhood, at which point he decided to explore places away from his luxurious upbringing.
For the first time in his life, he saw and learned of old age, disease, and death. He become horrified with the realization of the human condition, but then he saw an ascetic (monk) who was satisfied. He left his royal lifestyle and pursued the end to suffering; when he achieved this end, he taught the path he learned as the Buddha.
Buddhism as a faith tradition does not necessarily incorporate teachings about spirituality; however, various cultures often apply their own understandings about spirituality to Buddhism.
Some traditions teach that the aim of Buddhism is the actualization of nirvana, which is a form of enlightenment which is distinctly spiritual as well as earthly. Nirvana is neither nihilistic nor inclusive of all knowledge; it is a state associated with righteousness through moderation. Those who have achieved nirvana are free from samsara, or the cycle of death and rebirth.
Buddhism has no central authority but practitioners often adopt their culture's mores to interpret the faith.
The Dalai Lama, a Tibetan Buddhist, is an internationally renowned figurehead of the faith but not specifically a religious leader. He is only, in his own words, "a simple monk."