Buddhism is the name given to all that has emerged, over the past 2,500 years, from the teachings of the Buddha, Prince Gautama, who lived in northern India from 623 - 544 B.C.E. The forty-five years of intense teaching activity which followed his enlightenment has led to the development of many Buddist traditions, each of which emphasis one or another of his teachings.
Not interested in abstract philosophy for its own sake, the Buddha taught people how to follow a path of personal liberation, which would draw them ever closer to truth and ever farther from delusion and all its painful consequences. Because it enables people to discover the true nature of things, by direct observation, the path is known as the dharma, the Sanskrit word for thing or phenomenon. It shows each and every thing for what it is, above and beyond all the projections that the conditioned mind creates. Dharma could almost be called phenomenology,were it not that the true nature of things has an unexpected sacredness, being a peace, wisdom and state of loving compassion beyond anything one could imagine. Furthermore, dharma is not a cold, scientific analysis of things but a very compassionate study of how they work in synergy to bring about hte relative pains and joys of existence and, more importantly, how they can be forged into a path of total liberation.
The path to liberation relies heavily upon meditation. There are literally thousands of meditations within Buddhism, opening the mind to worlds of clarity and insight unknown to the intellect.
Buddhism developed and flourished in India from the time of the Buddha until the twelfth and thirteenthcenturies, when invading Islamic armies removed it from the subcontinent. During its seventeen centries in India, Buddhism had spread throughout Asia, going as far as the Greek empire in the West and Japan in the East. The Buddhism that went to Tibet, from the eighth to the twelfth century, reflects the broadest range of Buddhism and holds far more than went to any one other country. In its riches are to be found the individual techniques and philosophies which became the other well-known forms of Buddhism - Theravada, Ch'an, Zen and so forth.