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10 Apr 2022

  • Buddhism is one of the major religions of the world.
  • It originated from the Indian sub-continent and spread to the large parts of South-east Asia.
  • It is world’s fourth largest religion in the world.
  • It is largely attached to life and events of Siddharta, the Buddha.


Origin of Buddhism

  • Disturbed by poverty, sickness etc, Siddhartha left his home in search of enlightenment.
  • Siddhartha got enlightenment under a papal tree at Bodh Gaya and became Buddha.
  • He delivered his first Sermon at Sarnath (Uttar Pradesh). It is represented by Dhamchakraparbartana i.e. turning of wheel of law.

About Buddha

  • Other names of Gautam:
    • Sakya Muni
    • Amitabh
    • Tathagat
  • He passed away at Kushinagara.
  • Rummindevi Pillar by Asoka is built at the native place of Buddha.

Four Nobel truths

  1. Life is full of sorrow
  2. Desire is the cause of sorrow
  3. Sorrow can be ended by giving up desire
  4. The eight-fold path is recommended to end desire.

Buddhist Philosophy

  • The world is transient and constantly changing
  • It is soulless (anattia) i.e. nothing is permanent.
  • Sorrow (dukkha) is internal to human existence.
  • It believes in the doctrine of Karma.
  • Buddha rejected the concept of caste.

Teachings of Buddhism

  • It talks of middle path i.e. neither extreme indulgence nor self-mortification rather way for self-restraint.
  • It talks of four great truths.
  • It also talks of Eight fold path
  • Doctrine of Karma is believed to be true in Buddhism.
  • Emphasis is given on devotion, charity and prayer and not austere self- restrain.

Three Pillars of Buddhism

  • Buddha
  • Dhamma i.e. the teachings
  • Sangha i.e. order of Buddhist monks and nuns.

Buddhist Councils

  • The first council was held at Rajgriha (Saptapani Cave) under Ajatsatru.
    • It took place around 400 BCE after Mahaprinirvana.
    • Its aim was to preserve the sayings of Buddha (Suttas) and the monastic description (Vianaya).
    • Suttas were recited by Ananda, disciple of Buddha.
    • Upali recited by Vinaya.
    • Abhidhamma pitaka was also included.
  • The second council took place at Vaishali.
  • The third council took place at Patliputra, under Asoka.
  • The fourth council took place under the King Kaniska. It was presided by Vasumitra.

Branches of Buddhism

  • Theravad: means teaching of elders.
    • It is a conservative and early Buddhism branch.
    • It focuses on self-teaching for Nirvana.
    • Mainly practised in Sri Lanka, Mayanmar, Indonesia.
  • Hinayana: It is more orthodox branch of Budhhism.
    • It depicts Buddha and incidents associated with his life only through symbols and prohibits Buddha in life form.
    • Some of the symbols are:
      1. Lotus: Birth
      2. Horse: Renunciation
      3. Wheel: First Sermon
      4. Bodh Tree: Nirvana
      5. Stupa: Parinirvana
      6. Empty Chair: Mahaparinirvana
  • Mahayana: It originated in India during Kushanas.
    • It was popularised by Kanishka.
    • Buddha is depicted in human form.
    • Bodhisattvayna: path of seeking complete enlightenment for benefit of all sentient beings. Bodhi means ‘Gyaan i.e. knowledge’ and sattava means ‘existence’. Thus Bodhisattava is minor God who helps others to achieve nirvana.
    • Padmapani: is the most popular Bodhisattva.
    • Jatakas: These are the stories of Buddha’s lives depicting the various attempts to achieve Bodhisattava.
    • The unique features of Mahayana include use of Statues and pictures and belief in Bodhisattavas.
  • Vajrayana: It is tantric Buddhism.

    • It is the infusion of Tribal ideas.

    • New Goddess is Tara

    • New form of painting is Thanka Painting belonged to this sect.

    • Main scriptures of this sect were called Tantras.

Buddhist Literature

Two branches of the Buddhist literature:

  • Canonical: Tripitaka
    • Tripitaka: It was compiled at Vaishali
      • Sutta Pitaka: Sermons of Buddha it also contained Nikayas.
      • Vinaya Pitaka: Rules and regulations for angha or monastic order.
      • Abhidharma: It contains philosophical matters and Buddhist principles.
  • Non-Canonical: Jatakas, Milind Panha(questions of Milinda (Indo-Greek King) vs Buddha), Dipavansa (Chronicles of Island) --> It is the oldest historical record of Sri Lanka. Mahavasma (written in Pali) and Buddha Charita.

  • Nirvana: It is not extreme asceticism but it is a state of peace of mind.
  • Parinirvana: It is final nirvana i.e. death.
  • Therigatha: It is Buddhist literature compiled by Buddhist nuns.
  • Pavarna: A ceremony where monks confess their offense committed at monastery by them.
  • Sangha: Where monks lived after leaving their homes.
  • Viharas: temporary shelters build for monks who traveled.
  • Madhyamaka School: by Acharya Nagarjuna. He belonged to Satvahana Kingdom. It is an extension of Mahayana.

The Causes for the decline of Buddhism

  • By the early 12th century AD, Buddhism became extinct in India. It had continued to exist in a changed form in Bengal and Bihar till the 11th century but after that this religion almost completely vanished from the country.
  • In the beginning every religion is inspired by the spirit of reform, but eventually it succumbs to rituals and ceremonies which it originally denounces. Buddhism underwent a similar metamorphosis.
  • Buddhist monks were cut off from the mainstream of people’s life, they gave up ‘Pali’, the language of the people and took ‘Sanskrit’ the language of intellectuals.
  • From 1st century onwards, they practiced idol worship on a large scale and received numerous offerings from devotees, the rich offerings supplemented by generous royal grants to the Buddhist monasteries made the life of the monks easy. Some of the monasteries such as Nalanda collected revenue from as many as 200 villages.
  • By the 7th century AD, the Buddhist monasteries had come to be dominated by ease loving people and became centers of corrupt practices which Gautam Buddha had strictly prohibited. (The new form of Buddhism was known as Vajrayana).
  • The enormous wealth in the monasteries with women living in them led to further degeneration, Buddhists came to look upon women as object of lust.
  • Persecution of Buddhist by:
    • Brahmana ruler ‘Pushyamitra Sunga’ (6th century AD – 7th century AD)
    • By Huna king Mihirakula.
    • By Shaivite Shashanka of Gauda – cut off the bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya.
  • According to Hiuen Tsang, around 1600 stupas and Monastries were destroyed and thousands of monks and followers were killed.
  • In South India, both the Shaivites and Vaishnavites bitterly opposed the Jainism and Buddhism in early medieval time.
  • For their riches, the monasteries came to be coveted by the Turkish invaders.
  • To meet the Buddhist, challenge the Brahmanas reformed their religion.
    • They stressed the need for preserving the cattle wealth and assured women and shudras of admission to heaven.