About the symbol: The wheel with eight spokes represents the Eightfold path (the Middle Path).
Four Noble Truths
Life is suffering
Suffering is caused by craving
Eliminate craving and suffering is extinguished
Follow the middle path
Explanation of the 8 fold Path (The middle path)
Right Understanding is the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. In other words, it is the understanding of oneself as one really is. The keynote of Buddhism is this Right Understanding. Buddhism, as such , is based on knowledge and not on unreasonable belief.
Right Thoughts are threefold. They are:
The thoughts of renunciation which are opposed to sense-pleasures.
Kind Thoughts which are opposed to ill-will.
Thoughts of harmlessness which are opposed to cruelty. These tend to purify the mind.
Right Speech deals with refraining from falsehood, stealing, slandering, harsh words and frivolous talks.
Right Action deals with refraining from killing, stealing and unchastity. It helps one to develop a character that is self-controlled and mindful of right of others.
Right Livelihood deals with the five kinds of trades which should be avoided by a lay disciple. They are:
trade in deadly weapons
trade in animals for slaughter
trade in slavery
trade in intoxicants
trade in poisons
Right Livelihood means earning ones living in a way that is not harmful to others.
Right Effort is fourfold, namely:
the endeavor to discard evil that has already arisen.
the endeavor to prevent the arising of unrisen evil.
the endeavour to develop that good which has already arisen.
the endeavour to promote that good which has not already arisen.
Effort is needed to cultivate Good Conduct or develop one's mind, because one is often distracted or tempted to take the easy way out of things. The Buddha teaches that attaining happiness and Enlightenment depends upon one's own efforts. Effort is the root of all achievement. If one wants to get to the top of a mountain, just sitting at the foot thinking about it will not bring one there. It is by making the effort of climbing up the mountain, step by step, that one eventually reaches the summit. Thus, no matter how great the Buddha's achievement may be, or how excellent His Teaching is, one must put the Teaching into practice before one can expect to obtain the desired result.
Right Mindfulness is also fourfold:
mindfulness with regard to body
mindfulness with regard to feeling
mindfulness with regard to mind
mindfulness with regard to mental objects.
Right Mindfulness is the awareness of one's deeds, words and thoughts.
Meditation means the gradual process of training the mind to focus on a single object and to remain fixed upon the object without wavering. The constant practice of meditation helps one to develop a clean and concentrated mind and help to prepare one for the attainment of Wisdom and Enlightenment ultimately.
Original Buddhism had no belief in god/gods. Gautama Siddhartha(the Buddha meaning Enlightened One) never discussed a deity. Therefore Buddhism is often criticized for being atheistic.
It was founded about 563 B.C.
About the symbol of Buddhism
The wheel with eight spokes represents the Eightfold path (the Middle Path) described above.
Another way of expressing Buddhism
The fundamental beliefs of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. These were taught by the Buddha (a word which means The Enlightened One) about 2500 years ago. They are essentially the same through every sect and tradition of Buddhism. They are:
All life knows suffering. Nobody gets what they want out of life.
The cause of suffering is ignorance and clinging. Wanting it is the problem.
There is a way to end suffering. By learning not to want it.
This is the way to end suffering: The Eightfold Path.
Right Understanding Learning the nature of reality and the truth about life.
Right Aspiration Making the commitment to living in such a way that our suffering can end.
Right Effort Just Do It. No Excuses.
Right Speech Speaking the truth in a helpful and compassionate way.
Right Conduct Living a life consistent with our values.
Right Livelihood Earning a living in a way that doesn't hurt others.
Right Mindfulness Recognizing the value of the moment; living where we are.
Right Concentration Expanding our consciousness through meditation.
Beyond this, Buddhism is a mixture of monastic tradition and folklore. Buddha had the human condition figured out correctly.