Buddhist mythology is the body of myths, stories, and beliefs associated with the religion of Buddhism. Buddhism is a religion that originated in ancient India and is based on the teachings of the Buddha. Buddhist mythology often revolves around the concept of karma, which is the belief that a person’s actions in this life determine their fate in future lives.

Buddhist myths often explain the origins of the world, natural phenomena, and the customs and traditions of Buddhist communities. Many Buddhist stories also feature gods and goddesses, as well as other spiritual beings. These myths play an important role in the cultural and spiritual traditions of Buddhist communities.

The beginning of the buddhism mythology

Siddhartha Gautama, who is known as the Buddha. The Buddha was born into a royal family in Lumbini, Nepal in the 6th century BCE. According to traditional accounts, he was a prince who lived a life of luxury and was sheltered from the suffering of the world.


However, at the age of 29, the Buddha had a series of encounters with suffering that led him to renounce his royal status and embark on a quest for enlightenment. He spent many years practicing and studying with various spiritual teachers, but ultimately he rejected their teachings and set out on his own path.

After six years of intense spiritual practice, the Buddha attained enlightenment, or nirvana, under a bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India. From that point on, he dedicated his life to teaching others the path to enlightenment and helping them to overcome suffering.


The Buddha’s teachings, known as the dharma, are centered on the Four Noble Truths, which are the truths of suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering, and the path to the end of suffering. The Eightfold Path is the path prescribed by the Buddha for attaining enlightenment and ending suffering. It consists of eight practices: right understanding, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

Buddhism spread throughout Asia and beyond, and it has millions of followers worldwide. It is a major world religion and is practiced in many different forms, including Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism.

Origin and founder of the Buddhist mythology


Siddharta Gautama, also called Sakyamuni, lived in Northern India between the 6th and 5th centuries BC. After a princely and then ascetic life, it is through meditation that he reached the state of supreme consciousness that made him the Buddha, “the Awakened One”. Through his sermons, he founded a path distinct from Hinduism: the Buddha-shâsana or Buddha’s teaching.

Reference texts of the Buddhist mythology


The ancient scriptures are divided into three baskets: Vinaya, rules of monastic life, Sutra or sermons of the Buddha and Abhidharma, study of certain points of doctrine. The tradition has continued to grow through the ages and cultures, so that each Buddhist school has its own collection of sutras, in Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan.

Branches and currents

The different schools are grouped into three branches which diverge in their understanding of the Buddha, their philosophy and their discipline: Theravada is the doctrine of the elders, practiced in Sri Lanka and as far away as Vietnam; Mahâyâna or the great vehicle, developed in China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan, with in particular the schools of Zen and the Pure Land; Vajrayâna or the diamond vehicle characterizes the Tibetan tradition

Fundamental beliefs in Buddhist mythology


Based on the Indian notions of karma, retribution for acts, and samsara, the cycle of rebirths or reincarnations, the Buddha’s teaching focuses on the absence of the Self – anâtma -, the impermanence of all things – anitya – and suffering – dukkha -; He develops the “Four Noble Truths” on the universality of suffering arising from desire and the path that leads to its cessation through the “Noble Eightfold Path” (correctness of understanding – thought – speech – action – means of existence – effort – attention – concentration). Nirvana is the extinction of all attachments. The Mahayana current emphasized the emptiness – shûnyatâ – of all apparent reality and exalted the ideal of the Bodhisattva, committed by vows to deliver humanity.

Precepts of conduct in Buddhist mythology

Buddhist morality – shîla – is based on ten prescriptions; the first five concern all the people: respect for life, respect for property, refusal of disordered sexuality, respect for truth and abstinence from intoxicating drinks; the five supplementary ones are reserved for the monks. In relation to the Bodhisattva model, the Mahayana tradition cites ten perfections – pâramitâ -: charity – morality – patience – energy – meditation – wisdom, to which are added: method – vows – resolution – knowledge of all the Dharma.

Prayers and worship practices

One goes to the temple to venerate and make an offering to the Buddha represented by a statue, often surrounded by secondary deities. In Mahayana, everyone is called to become Buddha through detachment from all passions and meditation that leads to a correct perception of reality. Some schools, such as Zen, insist on the necessary effort (sitting, intellectual paradox, discipline, relationship to the master, visualization); others, such as Pure Land, open wide the doors of paradise. The monks, and to a lesser extent the nuns, play an important role by the example and the teaching that they perpetuate.

Main festivals in Buddhist mythology

Every month, the full moon is the occasion of a festival. At Wesak, the Theravada tradition celebrates the birth, the enlightenment – Bodhi – and the final extinction – Paranirvana – of Gautama Buddha, which the Mahayana current celebrates independently. Asala recalls the first preaching in Benares and Kathina marks the end of the monks’ retreat during the rainy season. In Mahayana, the masters of the different schools are also celebrated.

Rites from birth to death

Buddhism has specific ceremonies for birth and death which differ from one country to another. The entry into the monastery with the provisional or perpetual vows is an important moment.

Prescriptions and prohibitions

In principle, Buddhists abstain from intoxicating drinks; many, especially monks, are vegetarians.

Organization, structures and functions

The heart of the Buddhist organization is the community – samgha. There is no single teacher in Buddhism. The different schools are completely autonomous with their own superior, or patriarch, often surrounded by a college. Maintained by lay donations, temples and monasteries remain the place par excellence for teaching and practice.

Attitude to other religions

Starting in India and spreading throughout Asia, the Buddhist teaching has shown a great capacity for religious and cultural adaptation. Coexisting with other religions, it manifests an unrestricted tolerance.

Attitude towards the State and society

Open to all strata of the population, without distinction of race or class, Buddhism has always endeavored to have the support of the representatives of political power. It owes its first expansion outside India to the famous emperor Ashoka (3rd century BC). Like Tibet and Japan, some countries, including Bhutan, still recognize Buddhism as a state religion. In several countries, such as Sri Lanka and Thailand, Buddhism plays an important political role, whereas in China, Tibet, Mongolia, Indochina and North Korea, it has suffered persecution under communism.

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