BUDDHISM INTRODUCTION Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism was a contemporary of Mahavira. Buddhism gave the greatest setback to Hinduism. Lord Buddha is known by different names like Tathagata, Sakyamuni, and ‘The Enlightened One’. Though certain mythological stories have been concocted by the followers of Buddhism about the life of Lord Buddha, there are lot of reliable sources that bring forth the historicity of Lord Buddha. EARLY LIFE OF LORD BUDDHA Lord Buddha was born in 566 B.C. Some historians disagree on this data and mention the date of birth of Lord Buddha as being 563 B.C. He was the son of Shuddhodhan who used to rule a small republic known as Kapilvastu. Mahamaya was the name of his mother. She gave birth to Siddhartha at Lumbini garden near Kapilvastu. The site is marked by the celebrated Pillar of Ashoka containing an inscription of 249 B.C. “Here Sakyamuni was born. Here Bhagwan was born”. The mother of Siddhartha could not survive more than seven days after the birth of the child. Therefore, Siddhartha was brought up by his step-mother, Prajapati Gautami. FOUR GREAT INCIDENTS AND RENUNCIATION Before his renunciation four great incidents occurred in his life which proved to be the turning point in his career and ultimately he became “the enlightened one”. • The First incident occurred. When he was driving in the city in a chariot, he saw an old man, staggering under the weight of the years with wrinkled body, twittering teeth and who was moving with great difficulty. Gautama realised that it is foolish of man to be proud of his youth which does not last. • At second time, be saw a sick man which made him realise that such health is useless which ends by diseases. • At the third time he saw a funeral procession in which relations of the deceased were weeping loudly. Gautam thought as to what was the attraction of life whose end is so tragic and sad. • Lastly, he saw an ascetic whose aim was to attain salvation by freeing himself so much so that at one night he left home while his wife and son were sleeping, and became an ascetic This leaving of home in the search of knowledge is called ‘Mahaparityajea’ SEARCH OF KNOWLEDGE After leaving home, Gautam spent seven days in a garden of mangoes at the place called Anupiya. Thereafter he went to Vaishali in the search of a Guru and lived with a philosopher ‘Alara Kalama’. Alara Kalama was a very famous philosopher and had 300 students. But Siddhartha was not satisfied with his teachings and moved to another philosopher, Rudraka in Rajgriha. He could also not satisfy Siddhartha and Siddhartha then went to an Acharya named Ramputtra but remained dissatisfied with him also. Thus being dissatisfied with these teachers Siddhartha himself started practising severest penance for six years and reduced himself to a skeleton. Despite the severest penances he could not obtain knowledge which he was searching and left the penance by taking a bowl of pudding milk which was given to him by a village girl named, Sujata. Considering that Gautama had left the path of right knowledge his five Brahman disciples deserted him. ENLIGHTENMENT Thereafter, he sat under a pipal tree in Gaya and started meditation with the resolve to continue it till he accquired the knowledge which he had been searching. He remained in meditation for seven days and seven nights and on the 8th day he was enlightend. From that day he was called ‘Tathagat or Buddha’ and this incident is called the ‘Great enlightenment’. GAUTMA AS A PREACHER After his enlightenment, Gautama decided to preach the knowledge thus acquired to the people for their benefit. First of all he went to Banaras and Saranath. At Saranath he preached the five monks who had left him in despair. These five monks became his first disciples and thus the foundation of Buddhist Sangha was laid. He preached his disciples the middle path. At Rajgriha King Bimbsara accorded him a great welcome and honour. After visiting Rajgriha, Gautama Buddha went to Kosala whose king Prasenjit became his disciple. There after he went to Kapilvastu where the great number of people including his wife Yashodhara and his son, Rahul were admitted to the Buddhist Sangha. The main centre of his activities was Magadha where he went again and again and preached. BesidesMagadha, he visited Kashi, Kosala, Vaijji, Avanti etc. and made many disciples and followeres. Thus Lord Buddha preached Buddhism till death. BUDDHA’S DEATH After having preached continuously for 45years, he attained Nirvana at Kusinagara at the age of eighty. At Vaishali while preaching the Buddhist Monks he had told that he would die after three months. From Vaishali he went to Patna. At the house of an iron smith, he ate the food which he could not digest. From there he went to Kusi Nagar and attained Nirvan there. His last words were “Now, Monks I have nothing more to tell you but that all that is composed is liable to decay strive after salvation energetically.” His remains were divided into eight parts and at different places eight stupas were erected on these remains. TEACHINGS OF LORD BUDDHA 1) The essence of his teachings may be found in his first preaching which set in motion his dharmachakra.’ According to this from birth to the end man’s life is full of suffering. In this connection be emphasised the following four truths. a) The World is full of miseries-The world is full of sorrows and miseries and sufferings. Birth, old age, death, separation with beloved and the contact with unpleasant. All give us sorrowed misery. b) Desire Is the cause of Sorrows—A man full of desire can never get rid of sorrow. c) The end of sorrow is possible by the end of desire. d) Remedy of Sufferings. To end the sufferings of human beings Lord Buddha suggested the following eight noble paths : 1.Right thought—By having right thought, man can distinguish between sin and piety, good and evil. 2.Right belief—It is to be free from violence and desire. 3.Right speech—It is polite and truthful. 4.Right action—To do good deeds in right action. 5.Right living—This is to adopt right means of livelihood. 6.Right endeavour –It is the right efforts taking towards the religion. 7.Right Re-col1ection—It is right mindfulness. 8.Right meditation—To concentrate the mind on right thing. 2) Middle Path—Lord Buddha called himself the follower of middle path. According to him an ascetic should avoid both extremes. Neither should he addict himself to the pleasures of the senses nor should he do severest penances or self mortification. 3) Ahimsa—Buddha condemned violence in any form and was angist killing of animals. Ahimsa occupied a prominent place in the teaching of Buddha. 4) Theory of Karma and Rebirth—According to Buddha that man’s present and the next lives depend upon his Karmas. He believed that irregularity in the society was due to Karma. Man is reborn due to ego and desire whereas good Karma frees him from the bondage of re-birth. 5) Disbelief In the existence of God—According to most of the scholars Buddhism does not believe in the existence of God. But the fact seems to be that due to his emphasis on Karma Buddha did not concern himself with the philosophic matters regarding God. 6) Disbelief in the existence of Soul—Lord Buddha did not believe in the existence of Soul. 7) Nirvana means the end of desire and realisation of a tranquil state. According to other religions Nirvana can be attained only after death but according to Lord Buddha it can be attained in this world also, To attain Nirvana is the aim of Buddhism. Thus we find that the principles of Buddhism were very simple and free of all pomp and show and superstitions. It is due to these reasons that Buddhism became very popular religion. Max Muller remarks, “Amongst all religions Buddhism alone has been praised by all and every body for its elevated, pure and humanising character.” BUDDHIST COUNCILS After the death of Buddha four Buddhist Councils were called to compile the teachings of Buddha. 1.The First Buddhist Council was called in 487 B. C. at Saptaparni Guha near Rajgriha. This was attended by 500 monks and presided by Maha Kassap. The first Buddhist council divided the teaching of Lord Buddha into two Pitak namely “Vinay Pitak’ and ‘Dharma Pitak’. 2.The second Buddhist council was called in 387 B.C. at Vaishali. This Council was called ‘because of certain practices by the monks which were against ‘Vinay Pitak’ and this led to division amongst the monks. Those who stuck firmly to the teaching of ‘Vinaya Pitak’ were caused ‘Sthavir’ and those who adopted it with certain changes called ‘Mahasanghic’. During the reign of Asoka there had come many difference amongst the Buddhist monks. 3.Hence Asoka called the ‘Third Buddhist’ Council in 251 B.C. at Patiliputtra to settle these differences. ‘Magoliputta’ Tissa presided this council, which performed two great tasks. Firstly a new Pitak; Abhidhamma Pitak which contained the philosophies of the two Pitakas was added to the Buddhist religious tenets. Secondly the form of Buddhist religious literature was definitely and authoritatively settled. 4.The fourth Buddhist Council was called in the reign of King Kanishaka in Kashmir and was presided by Vasumitra and Asva Ghosh. Decisions were taken in this council on the disputed matters which had arisen between the monks of Kashmir and Gandhar. After the Fourth Buddhist Council. Buddhism was divided into two parts—Mahayana and Hinayana. BUDDHIST LITERATURE Buddhist Literature consists of three pitak or ‘Tripitak’ they are: (1) Vinay Pitak, (2) Sutta Pitak, and (3) Abhidhamma Pitaka Vinay Pitaka deals with the rules regarding the conduct of the monks, and divided into three parts (i) Sutta Vibhag, (ii) Khandak, and (iii) Parivar. THE MAIN BUDDHIST SECTS The Hinayana, the Mahayana and the Vajrayana remained the most popular sect of Buddhism though it was divided not lesser important sects also. HINAYANA Those followers of Buddhism who believed in the original teachings of Lord Buddha and did not want an relaxation in them were first called Sthaviravadins. Later on, the sect was called Hinayana or the Lesser Vehicle. THE MAHAYANA The great split in Buddhism took place at the time of the fourth general council of Buddhism, during the period of emperor Kanishka and the Mahayanism took its formal birth. The one basic belief of Mahayanism is acceptance of many Boddhisattvas that is, beings who were in the process of obtaining, but had yet not attained, Buddhahood. The idea was provided probably by the Buddda himself. This belief had taken roots by the time of the Mauryan empire and emperor Asoka himself believed in it. The Sthaviravadins themselves had imagined nearly twenty-five such Bodhisattvas, or incarnations of Lord Buddha in different lives who had helped other people in the attainment of Nirvana. The credit for the establishment of Mahayanisrn as a distinct sect of Buddhism has primarily gone to Nagarjuna who was born in Vidharbha (Berar) in a Brahmin family. It became a recognised form of Buddhism at the time of Kanishka; and then it spread all over northern India in the first or second century A.D. to blossom into its full glory under the care of Nagarjuna,Aryadeva, Asanga and Vasubandhu. Thus, Mahayanism took its birth in India and was not influenced by any foreign philosophy. VAJRAYANA SECT The Tantrik philosophy which led to the emergence of Vajrayana sect of Buddhism was not unique to it. It influenced Hinduism and Jainism equally. The Tantrik knowledge was one which helped an individual to attain Nitvana with the help of the mantras and tantras The tantra was diagram drawn with the help of lines or rice on earth or a paper representing a particular deity. Afterwards the figure of a deity was carved on a piece of metal and used as yantra. The yantra served the purpose of a yajna place while the mantras or prayers were recited in order to get control of a particular deity. Tantrik religion was open to all irrespective of caste and sex. The followers of the new cult taught that Nirvana could best be attained by acquiring magical power The sect believed that by pronouncing the right mantra in the correct manner and by drawing the correct magical symbol i.e. Yantra, one might force the gods to bestow magical power on the worshipper and lead him to the highest bliss viz, Nirvana.