religion and philosophy that developed from the teachings of the Buddha Gautama (or
Gotama), who lived as early as the 6th century BC. Spreading from India to Central and
Southeast Asia, China, Korea, and Japan, Buddhism has played a central role in the
spiritual, cultural, and social life of the Eastern world and during the 20th century has
spread to the West. This article surveys Buddhism from its origins to its elaboration in
various schools, sects, and regional developments.
Ancient Buddhist scripture and doctrine developed primarily in two closely related literary
languages of ancient India, Pali and Sanskrit. In this article, Pali and Sanskrit words that
have gained some currency in English are treated as English words and are rendered in
the form in which they appear in English-language dictionaries. Exceptions occur in special
circumstancesas, for example, in the case of the Sanskrit term dharma (Pali: dhamma),
which has meanings that are not usually associated with the English dharma. Pali forms
are given in the sections that deal with Buddhists whose primary sacred language was Pali
(including discussions of the teaching of the Buddha, which are reconstructed on the basis
of Pali texts). Sanskrit forms are given in the sections that deal with Buddhists whose
primary focus was on Sanskritic traditions.