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BuddhismBooksBuddhism is one of the world's great religions. It is called the religion of the "awakened one" based on the teachings of the historical Buddha, born Siddhartha Gautama (c. 566 B.C. - 486 B.C.). It originated in India, where it died out after the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and spread through Asia and eventually to the West. In the view of Buddhism, life is full of suffering and is impermanent and without essence. Because of earthly cravings and ignorance, the individual is caught on the wheel of samsara, or rebirth. Only by overcoming those conditions can the individual break the cycle and attain nirvana, the merging with the Absolute (Brahman).
The growth of Buddhism in the West has necessitated adaptations to the Western culture. Western Buddhism, particularly in the United States, has grown more democratic and open to the full participation of women. Western practitioners seldom desire to withdraw from the world, and so Buddhism is integrated into daily life.