The founder of Buddhism, The Buddha was a man, not a god. His name was Siddhartha Gautama and he was born approximately 480 BCE in Kapilavatthu on the borders of present-day Nepal and India. Right from his early years, he was intrigued by the mysteries of existence and the purpose of life, and asked such questions as: What is life for? Are beings born just to die? Within his own mind, his own being, he discovered the total freedom from all conditions.

This was the liberation of mind from ignorance and sorrow. Siddhartha, the Buddha, informed fellow seekers of his findings and began to attract followers. By the time of his passing, a large community of monks and nuns had formed and become a strong movement which lasted for well over a thousand years in India, at which time it all but disappeared from this, the land of its origin. In the meantime, however, the teachings had spread to Sri Lanka, China, Korea, Japan, Burma, Thailand, various parts of Southeast Asia and Tibet.

Buddhism first found its way into Britain in the 19th century through translations of scriptures from the various schools in different parts of the east. In 1907 a number of people got together and formed The Buddhist Society of Great Britain and Ireland. This was succeeded in 1924 by The London Buddhist Society, founded by Christmas Humphreys. It was the first really successful organisation in Britain to provide a platform for all schools and traditions of Buddhism. Today almost every Buddhist tradition is represented in Britain. Whatever the tradition of Buddhism in Britain, however, the teaching has generally remained faithful to its origins. It could be said, therefore, that the essence of Buddhism, its practices, and teachings, are the same in Britain as in the east, but not necessarily its cultural customs. According to the 2021 census there are 273,000 Buddhists in Britain.

The types of Buddhism practised around the world can be vastly different. After all, it has been evolving and developing over twenty-five centuries in a variety of cultures. Therefore, there have been temples, monasteries and centres of all kinds set up in Britain over the last hundred years. Some of these have their roots in Sri Lanka, China, Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia and Tibet.

Some Buddhist groups in Britain are principally concerned with the practice of meditation, while paying little attention to the rest of the Buddhist teachings or cultural trappings. They do not chant, bow, or have much by way of Buddha-statues, for example. Neither do they emphasise the study of scriptures. They rather stress the basic meditation techniques of mindfulness and awareness in daily life.

Other Buddhist groups follow various traditional rituals, including chanting, and place more emphasis on the practical application of Buddhist teachings, such as compassion and loving-kindness in the wider community.

For more detailed information on Buddhism go to https://www.westernchanfellowship.org/dharma/dharma-library/dharma-article/2000/introducing-buddhism-a-guide-for-western-beginners/

For local contacts see The Directory of Northamptonshire Faith Groups