Paragraphs on Buddhism!
The Buddha, variously termed Sakyamuni or Thathagata, is considered the founder of Buddhism. He was born as Siddhartha to Suddhodhana, the ruler of the Sakyan republic, and his wife Maya, on Vaisakha Purnima in the Lumbini gardens near Kapilavasthu (in Nepal) in the 6th century BC.
His family name was Gautama. He married Yashodhara, and had a son Rahula. But the life of luxury left him dissatisfied, and he was troubled by the signs of sickness, old age and death that he observed in the worldly life.
At the age of 29, he decided to leave the palace in search of peace and understanding of the world’s ills. At the age of 35, again on a Vaisakha Purnima, he attained enlightenment at what is now renowned as Bodh Gaya, in Bihar, and came to be known as the Buddha.
He gave his first sermon in the deer park at Sarnath before his first disciples. After more than forty years of wandering about, giving discourses and spreading his spiritual thought, the Buddha attained mahaparinirvana at Kusinara (now in Uttar Pradesh).
The philosophy of Buddhism is to avoid the extremes of life, whether it is addiction to worldly pleasure or a life of painful asceticism and self-mortification. The Buddha did not concern himself with metaphysical controversies.
Repudiating the idea of God, he emphasised on moral progress which was independent of any creator of the universe. The essence of Buddhism lies in the realisation that life is transient, what transient causes sorrow is, and where sorrow and change prevail, the idea of an immortal or permanent soul is meaningless. Despite this questioning of the existence of an immortal soul, the Buddha seems to have accepted the idea of transmigration.
The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism are: the existence of suffering; suffering is caused by trishna; suffering can cease; there is a path that leads to the cessation of suffering. The path to nirvana or cessation of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path—a middle way, avoiding all extremes—comprising steps that progress from morality through concentration to wisdom.
The steps are: (i) right speech, kind and truthful; (ii) right action, honest and peaceful; (iii) right livelihood without hurting any living being; (iv) right effort involving self-control; (v) right mindfulness; (vi) right concentration and meditation on the meaning of life; (vii) right thoughts worthy of the sincere and intelligent man; and (viii) right understanding, avoiding superstition.
The Buddha brought about a change in the social thinking of the day by speaking up for equality and rejection of rigid rituals. His teachings made people aware of the importance of tolerance, ahimsa, service, compassion and personal morality.
After the Buddha’s death, four Buddhist Councils were held at which his teachings were compiled into Pitakas—Vinaya, Sutta and Abhidhama, referred in their combined form as Tripitaka. Their language is Pali. It was at the Fourth Council in Kanishka’s reign that Buddhism split into the Hinayana and the Mahayana sects.
The former considered the Buddha as a man and gave his teachings an ethical value; the Theravada doctrine emphasised the salvation of the individual. The Mahayanists laid emphasis on the Boddhisattva concept and on the salvation of all sentient individuals.
They also subscribed to the theory of Eternal Buddhas who resemble the gods of theistic sects. Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana evolved from the interaction of Buddhist thought and Brahmanical speculations. Today, however, sectarian differences have been minimised to the extent that all schools emphasise on the universal teachings of the Buddha and work on the basis of dhamma.
Indian culture got a fresh impetus from Buddhism in the intellectual, literary, artistic and architectural fields. Indeed, the missionaries of Buddhism spread India’s culture beyond its boundaries to Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, China, Laos, Thailand and other places.