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Hinduism, like any other living religion, produced its share of free thinkers. Prince Siddhartha who became Gautama the Buddha, was the most exceptional of them. The Hinduism that caught Siddhartha's attention had lost much of its primal energy and pristine purity.
He refused to subscribe to the caste system, which had ceased to be Dharma and had instead become, a tool for oppression. He would not accept the power-drunk priests as sole agents of God. He questioned the authority of the Vedas. He was convinced that penance and meditation as mere rituals, without the accompanying sincerity and contemplation, were futile.
So he set out alone to seek the ultimate truth. His search led him to enlightenment that liberated him as he pondered under a Bodhi tree. He returned to preach what he had known and experienced and did it with compassion for his fellow beings -- as converting was never his aim.
Today, he has followers all over the world but the largest numbers are concentrated in the Far-Eastern countries.