According to accounts in the Buddhist scriptures, the founder of Buddhism was born to the king of the Shakyas, the people of a small state in northeastern India, about twenty-five hundred years ago. Today, the historical buddha is best known by the appellation Shakyamuni, meaning “The Sage of the Shakyas.”
Many people, especially those from the Judeo-Christian tradition, often ask, “Is Buddhism a religion?” In fact, Buddhism may not appear to be a religion in the usual sense of the word. This is mainly because the founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni, did not recognize the existence of a transcendent god controlling human destiny, nor did he ever teach belief in a creator deity who presides over the workings of nature, or an absolute being who offers salvation in response to prayer or worship.
A hundred years after Shakyamuni Buddha’s passing, varied understandings of his teachings eventually led to the development of about twenty different branches within the sangha. Several hundred years later, the Buddha’s followers were roughly separated into two opposing traditions: a conservative group and a reformist group. It was in these circumstances that the Lotus Sutra was introduced as an inclusive teaching for both, called the One Buddha Vehicle, or simply One Vehicle.