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Buddhism Portal

Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha (Pāli/Sanskrit "the awakened one"). Buddha who was born as a prince in Kapilvastu, in modern day Nepal, lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. He is recognized by adherents as an awakened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end suffering, achieve nirvana, and escape what is seen as a cycle of suffering and rebirth. Two major branches of Buddhism are recognized: Theravada ("The School of the Elders") and Mahayana ("The Great Vehicle"). Theravada—the oldest surviving branch—has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, and Mahayana is found throughout East Asia and includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Shingon, Tendai and Shinnyo-en. In some classifications Vajrayana, a subcategory of Mahayana, is recognized as a third branch. While Buddhism remains most popular within Asia, both branches are now found throughout the world. Various sources put the number of Buddhists in the world at between 230 million and 500 million, making it the world's fourth-largest religion.

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Ben Ngu Bridge, the location of the attacks
In the Hue chemical attacks of June 3, 1963, soldiers belonging to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) poured chemicals on the heads of praying Buddhists in Huế, South Vietnam, who were protesting the religious discrimination of the regime of the Roman Catholic President Ngo Dinh Diem. The use of the substance caused 67 people to be hospitalised and the United States threatened privately to withdraw support for Diem's government. The protests were part of the Buddhist crisis, a period during which the Buddhist majority campaigned for religious equality after eight people had been killed while protesting a ban against the Buddhist flag on Vesak. An inquiry determined that the substance was acid within old French tear gas grenades, which failed to vapourise, exonerating the ARVN from charges that it had used poison or mustard gas. However, the outcry over the attack did have the effect of prompting Diem to appoint a panel of three cabinet ministers to meet with Buddhist leaders.

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Vatadage Temple, in Polonnaruwa
Credit: Lankapic

The second most ancient of Sri Lanka's kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders in 1070 CE to reunite the country once more under a local leader.

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Today, the car in which Thích Quảng Đức traveled to his self-immolation is parked at Huế's Thien Mu Pagoda
Thích Quảng Đức (born Lâm Văn Tức in 1897 – died June 11, 1963) was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who burned himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection on June 11, 1963. Thích Quảng Đức was protesting the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam's Ngô Đình Diệm administration. Photos of his self-immolation were circulated widely across the world and brought attention to the policies of the Diệm regime. Malcolm Browne won a Pulitzer Prize for his iconic photo of the monk's death, as did David Halberstam for his written account. After his death, his body was re-cremated, but his heart remained intact. This was interpreted as a symbol of compassion and led Buddhists to revere him as a bodhisattva, heightening the impact of his death on the public psyche. Thích Quảng Đức's act increased international pressure on Diệm and led him to announce reforms with the intention of mollifying the Buddhists. However, the promised reforms were implemented either slowly or not at all, leading to a deterioration in the dispute. With protests continuing, the Special Forces loyal to Diệm's brother, Ngô Đình Nhu, launched nationwide raids on Buddhist pagodas, seizing the holy heart and causing deaths and widespread damage. Several Buddhist monks followed Thích Quảng Đức's example and burned themselves to death. Eventually, an Army coup toppled and killed Diệm in November. The self-immolation is widely seen as the turning point of the Vietnamese Buddhist crisis which led to the change in regime.

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All know the Way, but few actually walk it.


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