August 8, 2013

Buddhism - birth, rise, spread, impact and decline in India

Buddhism (The Path to Enlightenment)
  • Historically, Buddhism began in North India in the 6th or 5th century BC, when Siddhartha attained "enlightenment".
  • Gautama Buddha - The Light of Asia
  • Gautama Buddha was born in 566 B.C. as Prince Siddhartha, in the Lumbini grove of Sal trees near Kapilavastu
  • The site of his birthplace is marked by the celebrated Rummindei Pillar of Asoka.
  • To turn Siddharth's mind towards wordly matters his father had him married at the age of 16 to a beautiful princess, Yashodhara
  • He had also a son named Rahul born to him.
 What are the four Great Signs that are turning point in Gautama Buddha Life:
On separate occasions he saw :
1. An old man burdened with age, walking with great difficulty.
2. A very sick man shivering with pain and fever.
3. A funeral procession with the relatives weeping loudly.
4. An ascetic clad in simple yellow robe with an expression of peace on his face.
 These four events, known as the Four Signs, led to Gautama's inner struggle to search for a meaning in life.

What is  Great Renunciation in Buddha's Life? Why did he leave Royal Life?
  • Gautama set his mind on finding a solution to the problem before him. One night while his wife and child were sleeping he took a last look at them and left his home riding on his horse Kanthaka. He was 29 years old at that time.
  • Gautama's decision to leave his family is known as the Great Renunciation. 
  • He left home in The Search for Knowledge

 Who are the Guru's  and disciples of Gautama Buddha?
  • For the next six years Gautama lived as a homeless ascetic seeking instruction from two sages,
  • Alara Kalama and then with
  • Ramaputta Alara.
  •  But he did not find answers to the questions that troubled him. He spent the years in Uravela forest near Gaya, where he subjected his body to strict ascetism, with practices such as severe fasting and holding of the breath. This reduced his body to a skeleton.
  • He realised that self-torture was of no help in reaching his goal and gave up his strict ascetism after realizing that perfection comes by observing the middle path between the extremes of self-mortification and hedonism.
  • The five Brahmins who had followed him, deserted him thinking that Gautama had left the path of right knowledge.
 Enlightenment - Gautama becomes the Buddha
  • Gautama sat under a pipal tree in Gaya in deep meditation. While meditating under the Bodhi tree light and truth dawned on him and he saw a way out of suffering and sadness.
  • He learnt "the Four Noble Truths". From that time onwards he was known as the Buddha (or one who became enlightened). He was then 35 years old.
  • Gautama preached his first sermon, or we may say "set in motion the wheel of dharma (law)" at the Deer Park near  Sarnath, and went about from place to place teaching his gospel to the princes and the people. The first five Brahmins who had deserted him were so impressed that they became his first disciples. Thus was laid the foundation of the Buddhist Sangha (Buddhist Order).
  • King Presanjit of Kosala became his disciple. When he returned to Kapilavastu his wife and son were also admitted into the Sangha. Besides Magadha, he visited Kashi, Kosala, Vaji, Avanti and made many disciples.
  • Gautama preached continuously for 45 years winning the heart and mind by his noble teachings, moral grandeur and deep sympathy. His sangha which started with just five Bhikshus (monks) became a mighty organisation. Buddha died at Kusinagara at the age of 80.
 Buddha's Teachings
  • The religion he preached knew no barriers of caste, creed and colour.
  • His ideas were simple and he spoke in the language of the common man.'
  • Buddha realised that all life is suffering; that the cause of suffering is desire, that the end of desire means the end of suffering;
  • that desire can be stopped by following the Eightfold Path.
 What are The Four Great (or Noble) Truths in Buddhism?
Buddha laid emphasis on the four great truths :
1.Everything is misery and everything is imperfect.
2.Desire (trishna) or craving for individual satisfaction is the root cause of this misery.
3.To escape the eternal wheel of Karma this desire must be curbed and only then one can find peace.
4.This can be done by taking the middle course (marg) between extreme asceticism and self-indulgence. This is the famous Eightfold Path.

The Buddha and four Disciples
  • At the first sermon in Sarnath, Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths as well as the Middle Path between the extremes of self-indulgent pleasures and self-denial.
  •  Four of the five ascetics traditionally believed to have attended the sermon.
  • The lotus shown at the base (upon which the Buddha sits in meditation in lotus pose) has come to be the symbol of the doctrine of Buddhism.

 Why did Buddha followed Middle Path?
The Buddha called it the Middle Path as it avoided both the extremes of gross luxury and severe penance.
Buddha also asked his disciples to follow five moral rules which prohibited:
  1. killing (or injury) in thought,word and deed;
  2. taking what is not given;
  3. wrongful indulgence in the passions;
  4. speaking untruth, and
  5. consumption of intoxicants.

Wheel of Existence or What is karma according to Buddhism?
 According to the Buddha's teaching, when people die, they are reborn into one of the six realms of existence. Which realm depends on how they have behaved in their previous life. This is called karma - the law by which actions are rewarded or punished as they deserve.
Karma is the law of cause and effect in moral life. Your karma decides whether your next life will be better or worse than this one.

Did Buddha accept or reject the existence of God?
In his teachings, Buddha may be called an agnostic, because he neither accepts nor rejects the existence of God. He refused to be drawn into any theoretical discussion about God or nature of the soul. Whenever he was questioned he either maintained silence or remarked that Gods were also under the eternal law of karma. He was concerned with the deliverance of man from suffering.

How Buddhism spread from India after its Birth?
Causes of the rapid spread of Buddhism
1. Buddha had a magnetic personality.
2. His teachings were simple and they were preached in the popular language of the region - Prakrit, from which developed the Pali language of the early Buddhist scriptures.
3. He admitted everyone into his fold without any caste distinction.
4. The Buddhist Sangha was a very disciplined and democratic organisation.
5. The Buddhist monks travelled all over preaching Buddhist doctrines.
6. The most important factor for the rapid spread of Buddhism was that it received patronage from some of the greatest kings of India, for example, Bimbisara, Ajatasatru, Asoka, Kanishka and Harsha. 
7. Important republics of the time, the Sakyas, Lichhavis, Mallas of Pava and Kushinagara were also great patrons of the religion.
8. During Kanishka's time the first Indian Buddhist mission went to China to preach Buddhism. It was due to these missionary actvities that 186 Buddhist monasteries came to be erected and there were nearly 3,700 Indian monks in China by the end of the third century.
9.Mr. Havell has summed up the causes of the spread of Buddhism in the following words: "The success of Gautama's mission must have been partly due to his own magnetic personality and the deep human feelings which inspired his teachings and partly the fact that he opened wide the doors of the Aryan religion and satisfied the spiritual desires of the masses by offering them a religious law easy to understand, accessible to all, free from elaborate and costly ceremonies raising the social status of the lower orders, giving them the spiritual freedom, making the life of the whole community healthier and happier".

Buddhist Councils - Total 4 were held.
When Buddha was on his death-bed, he said to his favourite desciple Ananda, "the truths and rules of the Order which I have set forth and laid down for you all - let them, after I am gone, be the teacher to you".
First Buddhist Council
Shortly after his death, the First Buddhist Council was held in 483 B.C near Rajgriha in Bihar to compile Dharma (religious doctrines) and the Vinaya (monastic code) - the two pitakas.
Second Buddhist Council: 383 B.C at Vaisali (Bihar).
 Third Buddhist Council: Pataliputra during Asoka's reign to revise the scriptures.
Fourth Buddhist Council: During the reign of Kanishka in Kundalvana in Kashmir under the leadership of the elder Vasumitra and the great scholar Asvaghosha. Here three large commentaries of the three pitakas were composed.
What are the causes of decline of Buddhism in India?
While we discuss the causes of the decline of Buddhism we must remember that Buddhism had flourished in India for nearly seventeen centuries before its decline began. Some of the important causes of decline of Buddhism are as follows:
1. Many bhikshus became wordly and lived a life of luxury. The viharas became centres of corruption.
2. The split into Mahayana and Hinayana weakened Buddhism.
3. Buddhism ceased to receive support from the state.
4. Orthodox religious preachers like Kumarila Bhatt and Shan- karacharya (during the 8th and 9th centuries) revived Brahman- ism.
5. The invading armies of the Huns and then the armies of Islam gave a death blow to Buddhism.


1 comment:

Kalayan said...

Brahmanism is more responsible than "The invading armies of the Huns and then the armies of Islam.."