Buddhism is a nontheistic religion that is based on the teachings of the Buddha, or "the awakened one." The philosophy aims to help sentient beings end their suffering by eliminating the greed and ignorance from their lives. Buddhism arose during the fifth century BCE in India and is currently practiced by approximately 500 million people throughout the world. .
Buddhism first spread to the western world in the second half of the nineteenth century when Chinese immigrants settled in Hawaii and California. These immigrants built temples to practice Mahayana Buddhism, and their ideas encouraged Buddhist teachings towards the end of the century. Buddhist ideas became more known when Americans returned from Asia after the Second World War and the Korean War and brought back an interest in Asian culture. In the 1960s, the American interest in Buddhism grew even more among artistic groups, and new departments of Buddhist studies were established in universities. .
Today, approximately 3 million Americans identify as Buddhists. Buddhism's aim to end suffering as well as its therapeutic meditation are two factors that attract individuals to the religion. People in the western world strive to relieve the high levels of mental and physical stress they endure. By practicing meditation, one's mind becomes liberated of unnecessary thoughts. Meditation is actually a free form of therapy that can be done anywhere. As the meditator becomes more advanced, he or she can even unearth thoughts from their subconscious mind and find solutions to their struggles. .
Buddhism is also growing in western societies because it appeals to societies' ambitions to better themselves. The religion stresses the idea that one should live in the moment; they should not worry about what went wrong in the past or what may go wrong in the future. Practicing Buddhism leads an individual on a personal quest to free their life of suffering, greed, and ignorance.