As one of the major world religions. Buddhism was originally founded by Siddhartha Gautama, a prince of Lumbini Kingdom in ancient India (now in the present Nepal area).
‘Buddhism’ is the teachings of Buddha rather than a religion of Buddha worship. It is neither a religion nor a philosophy, though colloquially referred to as a religion. The nature of Buddhism is a life way. It specifically involves eliminating sufferings, cultivating our true nature and thus attaining enlightenment.
A few hundred years after Shakyamuni passed away, Buddhism spread throughout the Indian subcontinent. As doctrinal differences arose, various schisms occured, forming many schools. The two main divisions are Mahayana and Theravada, while the later is the predominant religion of Sri Lanka and most of continental Southeast Asia, the former became widespread in North Asia and the Far East, including countries such as China, Korea and Japan.
The Mahayana school particularly focused on the bodhisattva ideal, which involves the notion that those individuals attaining enlightenment should choose to remain in this world to help others achieve the same state. Mahayana Buddhism possesses a whole host of bodhisattva figures and they feature in popular religious traditions.
The Theravada school places emphasis on becoming an arhat, which is a perfect saint who has achieved nirvana and has escaped the cycle of rebirth. This path is believed to only be accomplished through monastic practice. The Mahayana school however does not stress the need for monasticism and teaches that enlightenment can be achieved by a layperson and in this lifetime.