Buddhists believe that Siddhartha Gautama, who lived about 2,500 years ago in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, experienced a deep realization about life and became enlightened while meditating under a bodhi tree. He became known as "the Buddha" and taught that all human beings contain the seed of enlightenment, a deep understanding about life that can be achieved in a single lifetime.
The Buddha set forth teachings that he encouraged people to experience for themselves rather than relying on blind faith or dogmas. Because of this, Buddhism is often considered to be a philosophy rather than a religion. Most religions are based upon a belief in God, or gods. However, the Buddha saw such faith as an obstacle to realizing enlightenment. The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, which focus on the nature of existence. He also taught the Eightfold Path, a practice and discipline that guides people to realize truth for themselves. The development of wisdom and compassion is the primary emphasis of Buddhism.
The aim of Buddhism is to become aware of a spiritual self that is not subject to birth and death, and leads to a state of nirvana. Buddhism is widely practiced in Asia and many Western countries. It is the fourth largest of the world's religions. While many shrines have been erected to commemorate the Buddha, he explicitly stated that he did not want to be worshiped, only wanting to be remembered by his teachings.