There are two main forms of Buddhism.
Mahayana Buddhism, predominate in China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, and Mongolia teaches that any one can achieve enlightenment and that several people have. This explains why Mahayana has several types of Buddha statues from the jolly round one that frequently gets his belly rubbed for luck, to heavily armed warriors clad in armor (the great Deva Wei-to, the Protector of Buddhist temples and the Buddhist Faith).
Theravada Buddhism is the other main form, primarily practiced in southeast Asia, Theravada displays the thin Buddha. Buddha is a title as opposed to a name and means the “enlightened” or “awakened” one. The historical Buddha was born in northern India (an area now in Nepal) and was a prince of great wealth, destined to be the ruler of a very powerful kingdom. He walked away from his power and wealth to find a way to break free from the suffering felt by all men and an existential concern for the human condition. The young prince named Siddhartha Gautama set out to find the path of enlightenment and studied under several teachers. After nearly starving to death in an attempt to become awakened he settled into the “middle path” which involved neither starving oneself nor gluttony. He was tempted by demons but avoided their trappings, Siddhartha sitting under the bodhi tree became enlightened and received the title Buddha.
This Buddha is representative of the Theraveda form.
Further notes regarding Buddhism:
Buddhism is a religion that was founded by Siddhartha Gautama (“the Buddha”) more than 2,500 years ago in India. With about 470 million followers, scholars consider Buddhism one of the major world religions. The religion has historically been most prominent in East and Southeast Asia, but its influence is growing in the West. Many Buddhist ideas and philosophies overlap with those of other faiths.
Buddhism Beliefs. Some key Buddhism beliefs include:
Followers of Buddhism don’t acknowledge a supreme god or deity. They instead focus on achieving enlightenment—a state of inner peace and wisdom. When followers reach this spiritual echelon, they’re said to have experienced nirvana.
*The religion’s founder, Buddha, is considered an extraordinary man, but not a god. The word Buddha means “enlightened.”
The path to enlightenment is attained by utilizing morality, meditation and wisdom. Buddhists often meditate because they believe it helps awaken truth.
There are many philosophies and interpretations within Buddhism, making it a tolerant and evolving religion.
Some scholars don’t recognize Buddhism as an organized religion, but rather, a “way of life” or a “spiritual tradition.”
Buddhism encourages its people to avoid self-indulgence but also self-denial.
Buddha’s most important teachings, known as The Four Noble Truths, are essential to understanding the religion.
Buddhists embrace the concepts of karma (the law of cause and effect) and reincarnation (the continuous cycle of rebirth).
Followers of Buddhism can worship in temples or in their own homes.
Buddhist monks, or bhikkhus, follow a strict code of conduct, which includes celibacy.
There is no single Buddhist symbol, but a number of images have evolved that represent Buddhist beliefs, including the lotus flower, the eight-spoked dharma wheel, the Bodhi tree and the swastika (an ancient symbol whose name means "well-being" or "good fortune" in Sanskrit).
There are considered three 'branches' of Buddhism:
Theravada Buddhism has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia such as Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon and Tiantai (Tendai), is found throughout East Asia.
Vajrayana, a body of teachings attributed to Indian adepts, may be viewed as a separate branch or as an aspect of Mahayana Buddhism.
Tibetan Buddhism, which preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth-century India, is practiced in the countries of the Himalayan region, Mongolia, and Kalmykia.
His Holiness, The Dalai Lama is a title given by the Tibetan people for the foremost spiritual leader of the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" school of Tibetan Buddhism, the newest of the classical schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The 14th and current Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso, who lives as a refugee in India.