Introduction to Buddhism I. A brief overview
The term "Buddhism" refers to a religion that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices throughout Asia, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as the Buddha. "Buddha" is a Sanskrit word meaning "the awakened one" or "the enlightened one". According to Buddhist tradition, Siddhartha Gautama, after a period of asceticism and meditations, "awakened" and discovered the Truth or Law of the Things (Dharma) and started preaching it. In fact, Buddhists tend to identify themselves as the "followers of Dharma".
The fundamental doctrinal core of Buddhism, virtually common to any denomination, is a path towards the elimination of ignorance and craving, in order to obtain a blissful state, free from any kind of suffering, called Nirvana. Buddhism has played a central role in the spiritual, cultural, and social life of Asia, and during the 20th century it spread to the West.