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Buddha (6th–5th century BC)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-F015-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 20, 2024, from

Article Summary

The title of Buddha is usually given to the historical founder of the Buddhist religion, Siddhārtha Gautama, although it has been applied to other historical figures, Buddhist and non-Buddhist, and to many who may be mythological. The religion which he founded was enormously successful and for a long period was probably the most widespread world religion. It is sometimes argued that it is not so much a religion as a kind of philosophy. Indeed, Buddhism bears close comparison with some of the philosophical schools of the Hellenistic world in this respect. The Buddha himself does not seem to have known the concept of a transcendent God and most schools of Buddhism have repudiated it on the grounds, among others, that it undermines personal responsibility for action. Buddhism could be considered as a kind of ‘metareligion’, open to many religious practices and tolerating others, but not identifiable with religious activity as such – more a kind of philosophical structuring of religion together with a methodology for self-development. Associated with this latter is an elaborate and sophisticated account of mental states and the functioning of consciousness. Characteristic of earlier Buddhist thought is a positive emphasis upon balanced states and a strong rejection of any form of underlying substance and most types of changelessness.

Citing this article:
Cousins, L.S.. Buddha (6th–5th century BC), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-F015-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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