Hinduism, like any other living religion, produced its share of free thinkers. Prince Siddhartha who became Gautama the Buddha was the most noteworthy of them all. The Hinduism that Siddhartha saw, had lost much of its primal energy and its pristine purity. He refused to subscribe to the caste system which had ceased to be Dharma
and had become a tool of oppression. He would not accept the power-drunk priests as sole agents of God. He questioned the authority of the Vedas
. And 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 the enlightenment that liberated him as he pondered under a Bodhi tree. He returned to preach what he had known and experienced and he did this out of compassion for his fellow beings as converting them was never his aim. Today, he has followers all over the world but the largest number are concentrated in the far-eastern countries.