Welcome to the world of Buddhism!
Americans and others in the West have certain expectations and images that come to mind when the word Buddhist comes up. Most people have seen the Dalai Lama on the news or in magazines, and he has almost become synonymous with Buddhism in general. The truth is that by far, the majority of the world's Buddhists are not bald Asian men in orange robes. Buddhists look like you or me--just normal people who try to fit the ideas developed by Buddha into normal modern life.
What follows is a compilation of the very foundations of Buddhism. There are many sects or denominations of Buddhism, and they are all very distinctive, but the material included here is common to all of them. Whether you want to practice Buddhism as a religion or as a philosophy, whether you want to experience Zen or Tibetan, whether you want to pray or meditate, you'll need to understand the basics.
There are five short chapters:
What is Buddhism?
Who was the Buddha?
The Four Noble Truths
The Eightfold Path
The Five Precepts
What is not included?
You will not find any religious doctrine, prayers, or rituals beyond some very basic ideas. The Buddha set down some very clear philosophical ideas, and those ideas were later expanded into many varied religious traditions. You will also find very little jargon and only a few foreign words.