Buddhism is a very old religion, but it is one that has undergone changes into the modern day. At the same time, it is one that has changed very little. Though this may seem like a contradiction, the truth lies in the fact that Buddhism did shift from the time that it began and the modern movement is a return to the old practices that made Buddhism so strong and powerful as a spiritual practice and as a way of life. Today's Buddhist is someone who adheres to the teachings that Buddha passed down when he began his search for Enlightenment so long ago.
Buddha was not always so enlightened as many people now think of him. His Enlightenment actually came about because he was very cut off from the struggles of everyday life. He lived in a palace and thought that everything in the world was easy -- and for him, it was. He did not have to face hunger, poverty, strife, or any of the other challenges that afflict the common people. One day he left the palace and saw how hard and cruel the world really was, and it was a revelation to him. He knew there had to be a better way. He then sat to meditate and search for Enlightenment; his teachings were passed down so that Buddhists could all follow the Eightfold Path to a better way
Today's Buddhist is someone who is against violence, someone who does not try to force their religion onto other people or act out with violence toward anyone else. He or she is someone who tries to ignore the distractions of the world and distance themselves from the things that create stress and strife. With the return to a more traditional form of Buddhism without as many rituals and traditions, the emphasis is on seeking a better way of life. Today's Buddhist knows that the main vices of the world -- greed, for example -- cause many of the problems. He or she tries to put these aside and life a deeper, more meaningful life.
While it is true that today's Buddhist could be a monk and follow this path of seclusion, many Buddhists do not leave the world in order to rise above it. They live in everyday society and attempt, through meditation and other tactics, to stay clear of the vices that it throws against them.