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Buddha Rising
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In Learn More the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information to expand your knowledge of our featured subjects. Special thanks to the Research Division.

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Did You Know?Did You Know?

Siddhartha Gautama, the historical figure born 2,500 years ago who we today recognize as "the Buddha" is not the "one and only" Buddha. Buddha is a title that means "enlightened one" or "awakened one" and refers to someone who has awakened to the true nature of things. All schools of Buddhism recognize more than one Buddha—there were Buddhas before Siddhartha and there will be many that follow him; he was the Buddha for our time. For this reason, he is often referred to as Shakyamuni Buddha. 
The "Laughing Buddha," the popular Buddha image of a big-bellied jolly man, is not a representation of Siddhartha, or the Buddha, but of a wandering Chinese monk who lived over a thousand years ago and is believed to be the future Buddha Maitreya. Today there are many Buddhist sects that revere the Amitabha, or Amida, Buddha, who oversees a pure land, or paradise, where followers hope to go upon their death because it is viewed as a jumping off point for enlightenment.
In Buddhist theory, we all have the potential to become a Buddha, although it may take many lifetimes to reach enlightenment.
—Heidi Schultz


Related Links

A mega-site offering lectures on Buddhist theory and belief, meditation instruction, e-books, directories of retreat centers and hospices, and photo documentaries.
The Buddhist Channel
This dedicated Buddhist news service provides daily updates and in-depth coverage on topics ranging from world events to archaeology to Buddhist teachings.
Prison Dharma Network
An international nonprofit, nonsectarian support network for Buddhist prisoners, volunteers, and prison staff, including a newsletter, resource guides, and a publishing press.
Access to Insight
A collection of translations of ancient Theravada Buddhist texts including the Dhammapada, a short anthology of verses that offers a simple introduction to the Buddha's teachings.
A store of more than 40,000 statistical and religious geography citations for more than 4,200 religions, churches, denominations, religious bodies, faith groups, tribes, cultures, and movements.

In the Footsteps of the Buddha
This website tells you everything you need to know to plan a tour of India's Buddhist pilgrimage sites, a journey author Perry Garfinkel considers "the best introduction to the Buddha's life."



Garfinkel, Perry. Buddha or Bust: In Search of Truth, Meaning, Happiness, and the Man Who Found Them All. Harmony, 2006.

Landaw, Jonathan. Buddhism for Dummies. Wiley Publishing, 2003.
Coleman, James. The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Tradition. Oxford University Press, 2001.
Armstrong, Karen. Buddha. Penguin Lives, 2001.
Queen, Christopher. Engaged Buddhism in the West. Wisdom Publications, 2000.
Fields, Rick. How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America, 3rd ed. Shambhala, 1992.
Dumoulin, Heinrich. Zen Buddhism: A History. MacMillan, 1988.

NGS Resources

Hitchcock, Susan Tyler. National Geographic Geography of Religion: Where God Lives, Where Pilgrims Walk. National Geographic Books, 2004.
Garfinkel, Perry. "Spiritual Epicenter." National Geographic Traveler (November/December 2004), 39.

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