Friday, 11 March 2016

Buddhism in Ancient History of India

Life of Gautama Buddha:

  • The founder of Buddhism was Gautam Buddhawas born as Siddhartha.
  • Siddhartha was born in 566 BC at Lumbini (now falls in territory of Nepal) in the Sakya clan of Kshatriya.
  • That is why Buddha is also known as Sakyamuni.
  • He died at 80 years of age in 486 BC at Kushinagar (near Gorakhpur in uttar Pradesh).
  • The mother of Siddhartha was ‘Mahamaya’ who died after giving birth to him.
  • Thereafter, he was brought up by ‘Prajapati Gautami’ his maternal aunt. Therefore, he was also called Gautam.
  • The name of  his father was Sidhdhodhana
  • He was the only son of his father.
  • Siddhartha was married to Yashodhara.
  • He also had a son named Rahul.
  • But neither his wife nor his son were able to tie him to the worldly life.
  • He then left his home and became an ascetic at the age of 29 in search of truth and end of sorrows .
  • This event in Buddha’s life is known as “Mahabhishkramana”.
  • Buddha’s teachers were – Alara and Udarak.
  • After seven years of roaming around, at the as of 35, Siddhartha got enlightenment at Uruvela while meditating on the bank of river Niranjana under a Peepal(Banyan) tree.
  • This tree is called the Bodhi Tree.
  • The place is known as Bodh gaya.
  • Buddha attained the knowledge on the Poornima of Vaishakha month.
  • He then gave his first sermon at Sarnath(Varanasi).
  • This historic event in buddha’s life is known as “Dhammachakra Parivartan”.
  • As mentioned above, Buddha passed away in 486 BC under a Sal tree in Kushinagar (Kushinagar was under Licchhavi Kingdom).
  • Various notable rulers of his time were Buddha’s disciples such as Prasenjit, Bimbisara, and Ajatsatru.
  • Vardhman Mahavir(Jainism) was a contemporary of Gautam Buddha(Buddhism).
  • The events in Buddha’s life are depicted by various symbols in Buddhism:

Event in Life of Buddha

Buddha’s Birth
Lotus & Bull
The Great Departure (Mahabhinishkramana)
Enlightment (Nirvana )
Bodhi Tree
First Sermon (Dhammachakraparivartan)
Death (Parinirvana)
Buddhist Philosophy:
  • The Buddhist philosophy is based on Madhyama marga or the middle path.
  • According to madhyam marga philosophy, both the extremes of the world- indulgence and strict abstinence both are avoided and a middle path between them is followed.
  • The main teachings of Buddha are summerised in four noble truths(Arya satya) of Buddhism:
    • The world is full of sorrow(Dukkha)
    • Desire is the cause of sorrow(Dukha samudya)
    • If desire is conquered all sorrow is won over(Dukha nirodha)
    • Desire can be conquered by following eight fold paths (Ashtangirka Marg)
  • To conquer the desire, Eight Fold Path has to be followed:
    • Samyak Drist: Right Understanding
    • Samyak Sankalpa: Right Resolve
    • Samyak Vani: Right Speech
    • Samyak Karma: Right Action
    • Samyak Ajiv: Right Living
    • Samyak Vyayam: Right Efforts
    • Samyak Smriti: Right Mindfulness/thought
    • Samyak Samadhi: Right Self-Concentration
  • There are three base Pillars known as Tri-ratnas in Buddhism: Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha.
  • Buddha means the highest spiritual potential in every human being.
  • Dhamma refers to the teachings of Buddha.
  • Sangha is the organization of the monks practicing Buddhism.
  • China adopted Buddhism in 1st century AD
Buddhist Works:
  • One of the reasons of spread of Buddhism across the subcontinent was its use of Pali.
  • Pali was the language of common people, unlike sanskrit which had become restricted to the elite Brahamans.
  • The literary sources of Buddhism are the three “Tripitaka” written in Pali –  Sutta Pitak , VinayaPitak, and AbhidhammaPitak.
  • Dhammapad is known as the Gita of Buddhism.  It is basically canonical text of Buddhism.
  • Aswaghosathe buddhist monk was the writer of Buddhacharita.
  • MilindaPanho is a Buddhist Treatise about a dialogue between the Indo-greek king Menander and Buddhist monkNagasena.
  • Sunyavada or the theory of void is propagted by a south Indian Buddhism Philosopher, Nagarjuna.
  • he wrote  Mulamadhyamakarika, where he wrote that sunyata is the nature of all things.
Buddhist Councils:
There were four councils/Sangeethis of Buddhism organised under different regimes:

I. First Council :
  • It was held under the patronage of Ajatshatru(Haryanka Dynasty) in 486BC.
  • Monk Mahakassapa Upali presided over the first council.
  • It was held at Sattapani caves in RajGriha just after the death of Buddha.
  • Compilation of VinayPitaka and SuttaPitaka was accomplished here.
II. Second Council :
  • In 383 BC. under the patronage of Kalashoka (Shishunaga Dynasty).
  • It was held at Vaishali after one century of Buddha’s death(parinirvana).
  •  The second council was presided over by Sarvakamini.
  • First division in Sangha took place. Theravedin and Mahasanghika split up here.
III. Third Council :
  • In 250 BC under the patronage of King Ashoka.
  • It was held at Pataliputra.
  • It was presided by Mogaliputta Tissa.
  • Compilation of AbhidhamPitaka was done.
IV. Fourth Council :
  • In the 1st century AD, under patronage of King Kanishka(Kushan dynasty).
  • It was held in Kundalvana of Kashmir.
  • Under the presidency of Vasumitra along with Asvaghosha.
  • Buddhism was divided into two sects namely, Hinayana and Mahayana.

1.Theravada Buddhism (HINAYANA)

  • Oldest surviving school of Buddhism.
  • Considered closest to early Buddhism.
  • Emerged from the Third Buddhist Council held under Asoka at Pataliputra (c. 250 BCE).
  • Introduced to Sri Lanka by Mahinda, the son of Asoka, during the reign of Devanampiya Tissa.
  • Based on the Pali Canon.
  • Practiced today in Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand.
2.Mahayana Buddhism

  • Flourished from the 5th century CE onwards.
  • Patronized by the Gupta dynasty.
  • Nalanda University was a centre of Mahayana learning.
  • Practiced today in Japan, China, Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.
3. Vajrayana Buddhism

  • Involves tantric practices.
  • Became prominent after the fall of the Gupta dynasty.
  • Tibetan Buddhism belongs to this tradition.

1.Pali Tipitaka (Pali Canon)
  • Refers to three main books
  • Vinaya Pitaka: contains disciplinary rules for Buddhist monks
  • Sutta Pitaka: contains disclosures ascribed to the Buddha .
  • Abhidhamma Pitaka: systematic explanations of the Buddha’s teachings.
  • The Pali Tipitaka is the only one to survive in its original language.
  • Originated from the First Buddhist Council (c 400 BCE) under the leadership of monk Mahakasyapa.
  • Used primarily by the Theravada tradition.
2.Mahayana Sutras
  • Composed from the 1st century CE onwards.
  • Claim to articulate the Buddha’s more advanced doctrines for followers of the bodhisattva path.
  • Used by the Mahayana tradition .

    Buddhism’s four holiest sites are Lumbini(Buddha’s birth), Bodh Gaya (enlightenment), Sarnath (first sermon) and Kusinagara (death).
    1.   Lumbini (Nepal)
    ·        Site of the Buddha’s birth .
    ·        In the present-day region of Terai (southern Nepal) .
    ·        Houses the Mayadevi Temple and Pusakarini or Holy Pond (where the Buddha had his first bath) .
    ·        It Is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1997) .
    2.   Bodh Gaya (Bihar)
    ·        Site of the Buddha’s enlightenment .
    ·        Home of the Mahabodhi Temple (constructed 6th century CE by the Guptas) .
    ·        It Is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (2002) .
    3.   Sarnath (Uttar Pradesh)
    ·        Site of the Buddha’s first sermon .
    ·        Place where the first Sangha came into existence .
    ·        Home of Asoka’s famous Sarnath Pillar .
    ·        Contains the Dhamek Stupa, Chaukhandi Stupa, Dharmarajika Stupa, Mulagandhakuti Vihara .
    ·        Presently on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List .
    4.   Kusinagara (Uttar Pradesh)
    ·        Site of the Buddha’s death .
    ·        Contains the Mahipariniravana Stupa .
    ·        Houses the Makutabandhana, cremation site of the Buddha .
    ·        Current plans: Maitreya Project to build a 500 ft statue of the Buddha .
    5.   Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh)
                    ·        Houses several Buddhist monuments from 3rd century BCE to                   12th century CE .
                    ·        The Great Stupa at Sanchi was commissioned by Asoka in the                    3rd century BCE .
                    ·        Is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1989).

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