Basic Information About Buddha
Buddhism is a set of principles or philosophy based on the teachings of Lord Buddha, who was born in 563 BCE at Lumbini, Nepal as Siddhartha Gautam, a Shakya prince. Basically, Buddhism preaches the path of practice and spiritual development, thus, leading an insight into the truth of life. With its realistic base, Buddhism today is one of the major religions of the countries of Central Asia, Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan and southeast Asia.
The main objective of Buddhism is to end the suffering of cyclic existence or 'samsara' by awakening a being to the realisation of the truth and the achievement of liberation. According to the Buddhist doctrine, there is only one way to reach the destination of reality - One should purify and train the mind and heart and act as per the laws of Karma to purify the soul.
Buddhism, which is considered today more of a religion than a thought, focuses on moral discipline or 'sila', meditation or 'samadhi' and wisdom or 'prajna' rather than that of idol-worship. According to the principles of Buddhism, any being can attain enlightenment by following certain codes and conducts such as Five Preceptions, Eightfold Path and Four Noble Truths.
The basic tenets or teachings of Buddhism are straightforward, practical and states
Nothing is fixed or permanent,
Change is possible, and
Actions have consequences.
The Advent of Buddhism
The advent of Buddhism traces back to the 6th century BCE, when Siddharta Gautama, a Shakya prince of Nepal, left all the worldly luxuries and pleasures in quest of the truth and reality of life. Though it took Him a long span of nine years to realise the reality of life, but when He was showered with the divine light of enlightenment, instead of keeping it to Himself, Gautam Buddha preferred to enlighten others as well. The teachings preached by Gautam Buddha were warmly accepted by a large number of people and came to be known as a new school of thought, Buddhism, which later turned into a major religion of the world.
In 528 BCE, when Siddharta Gautama achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at BodhGaya (Bihar, India) and became Gautam Buddha, He moved on further towards Banaras (Now Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh), where at Sarnath He met his five followers who had earlier accompanied Him before His enlightenment. The five monks first tried to ignore the presence of Gautam Buddha, but as He drew nearer to them, they were completely under the influence of His aura. At Deer Park in Sarnath, Lord Buddha preached His first sermon to them, who became His first disciples.
In His first teaching, Lord Buddha laid stress on the Middle Path, in which he presented a balanced, harmonious way of life, steering between two extremes of self-indulgence and total abstinence. Lord Buddha also emphasised upon the Eightfold Path, Four Noble Truths and Five Preceptions, thus dealing with the law of Karma and purification of mind, heart and soul to achieve nirvana. It was after the Buddha completed His preaching, the five monks became His followers and thus, was laid the foundation of the concept of Buddhism or Sangha.
Soon after this first sermon, Lord Buddha, accompanied by His followers, went from place to place in India for almost 45 years, spreading the Dharma- His teachings. He related His teachings on suffering to two other cornerstones of the Buddhist doctrine : His teachings on non-self and His teachings on impermanence. Wherever the Buddha went, He won the hearts of the people, because He dealt with their true feelings and His compassion knew no bounds as He along with the disciples, helped everyone along the way - beggars, kings and slave girls. Lord Buddha advised the masses not to accept His words blindly, but to accept them logically and decide for themselves whether his teachings are right or wrong, then follow them.
Lord Buddha travelled throughout eastern and northern India and helped His disciples to understand the result of the feelings and miseries of samsara, thereby preaching them the law of karma, liberation and nirvana. Whatever the Buddha preached, was being grasped by His followers, who named Buddha's teachings 'Buddhism' - a philosophy of life. It was after the 'parinirvana' or death of Lord Buddha in 483 BCE at Kushinagara (Uttaar Pradesh, India) that His teachings were written down by His first disciple, Ananda who named the text Tripitaka or the Three baskets - a holy text for the Buddhists that consists of the teachings of Lord Buddha or the principles of Buddhism.
Lord Gautam Buddha & His Life
Buddha, meaning 'one who is awake' in the sense of having 'woken up to reality' was the title first given to Lord Buddha. It was about 2500 years ago when Prince Siddhartha Gautam left all the worldly pleasures to attain the reality of life, and became the Buddha - the enlightened one. It was a state in which the Buddha gained an insight into the deepest workings of life and therefore into the cause of human suffering, the problem that had set Him on his spiritual quest in the first place.
The History of Buddhism
The history of Buddhism traces back to the teachings of Lord Buddha after He attained enlightenment in 528 BCE under the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya, India. Ater attaining enlightenment, Lord Buddha spent the rest of His life in making others aware of the truth of life. It was after His Mahaparinirvana in 483 BCE , when the first Buddhist council was convened at Rajagriha in India , when 500 monks assembled under the guidance of Mahakashyapa, and the teachings of The Buddha were compiled by His chief disciple, Ananda in the form of a holy Pali canon, Tripitaka, which meant the three baskets.
The Buddhist Religion
Buddhism is a philosophy of life based on the teachings of Lord Buddha, which subsequently turned into a religion. The core of Buddhism lies in the purification of mind and soul by realising the truth and getting rid of the worldly desires. The Buddhist philosophy teaches one to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness and wisdom through Buddhist practices such as practicing Eightfold Path, Five Precepts, Four Noble Truths, meditation and yoga. Basically, it were the principles of Karma in the doctrine of Buddhism that made the religion one of the major ones in the world.
Four Noble Truths
According to the Buddhist principles or religion, the four noble truths are the practical aspects of everyone's life. The four noble truths basically deals with how we are leading the present moment and how this moment would determine our future! The first noble truth is suffering, a condition that all living beings experience in various forms. The second noble truth states that the cause of suffering is craving or selfish desire. However, the third noble truth or Nirvana is a state which transcends all the sufferings and the fourth noble truth is the Noble Eightfold Path, the Buddha's teaching on the way to attain Nirvana.
The Eightfold path, as per the Buddhist doctrine, provides a being a practical guideline to ethical and mental development by freeing the person from attachments and delusions, and thus, paves way to the quest for truth. All the eight noble ways of the Eightfold Path - Right View, Right Intention, Right Livelihood, Right Speech, Right Action, right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, combine together to stand on the threshold of the noble or transcendent attainments for freedom of a being from the worldly desires and leads him to nirvana.
The Buddhist religion mentions the Dhamma for the human beings in the form of moral conducts to make the human world bearable or a place to live in with dignity. The five precepts forbids a Buddhist from making bad deeds in speech and body and to serve as the basis for further growth in the Dhamma. These precepts mentions to refrain from incorrect speech, to refrain from sexual misconduct, to refrain from taking something which is not given, to refrain from destroying living creatures and last but not the least, to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.
The Buddhist religion emphasises on the practice of meditation, which enables a being to win over the 'negative' delusions by strengthening the inner 'self' through virtuous and peaceful mind. The meditative practices make a being more constructive in nature, so much so that he is content with whatever he gets and work for the welfare of the other beings. The basic meditation techniques can be practiced by anybody, but if one wants to soak all the drops of spirituality and go beyond basic meditation, it becomes important for him to believe in the three jewels - Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Today, all over the world, there are approximately over 360 million followers of Buddhism, who follow different forms of Buddhism - Theravada, Mahayana, Tantrayana and Zen. But, all the traditions of The Buddhist religion preaches the same values..same teachings - non-violence, truth, love and compassion, tolerance of differences, the path of nirvana and the practice of meditation.
The Buddhist Architecture
The Buddhist architecture has its root deeply implanted in the Indian soil- the birthplace of the Buddha's teachings. The Buddhist architecture began with the development of various symbols, representing aspects of the Buddha's life (563 BCE - 483 BCE). For the first time, it was the Indian emperor Ashoka, who not only established Buddhism as the state religion of his large Magadh empire, but also opted for the architectural monuments to spread Buddhism in different places. Distinctive Buddhist architectural structures and sculptures such as Stupas, Pagodas, monasteries and Caves, which have been mere spectators of different eras quietly speaks about the phases of the Buddhist stages.
The Buddhism in India
The Indian sub-continent witnessed the rise of Buddha and then His thoughts in the later half of the 6th century BCE and the first half of the 5th century BCE. It was after 528 BCE, the year of His enlightenment, that He started preaching the doctrine of Dharma to His disciples. During His lifetime only, a large number of people had turned into His disciples, and after His death, when His chief disciple, Ananda wrote down the teachings of the Buddha into a Pali canon, Tripitaka (three baskets), it was warmly accepted by more and more people from parts of India, Pakistan and Kandhar (modern Afghanistan).
The Spread of Buddhism Outside India
During the third century BCE, Buddhism was spread by Ashoka(BCE 270 - BCE 232), the third and the most powerful Mauryan emperor, who created the first pan-Indian empire. After the battle of Kalinga, Ashoka felt immense grief due to the huge loss of lives during the war and thus decided to follow the path of Buddhism. After this, he began to implement Buddhist principles in the administration of his kingdom and named the new code of conduct 'Dhamma'. Here, in order to inform everyone about his new political and ruling philosophy, he got edicts (proclamation) inscribed on stone pillars and placed them throughout his kingdom, which are present even today.
Ashoka not only helped in spreading the religion within India but outside India as well. The main reason for the spread of Buddhism into Southeast Asia was the support of the emperor Ashoka himself. Teams of missionaries were sent by him all over the Indian sub-continent, i.e. to Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Previous Burma), and other neighbouring areas so as to send the message of Buddhism. The missionaries sent by Ashoka to the other countries were well received by them and the conversions took place easily because of the influence and the personal power Ashoka exercised.
Buddhism After Buddha
Buddhism is a philosophy based on the teachings of Lord Buddha(563 BCE-483 BCE), who was born as Siddhartha Gautama, a Shakya prince in Lumbini, Nepal. The teachings preached by Lord Buddha subsequently turned into a religion, known as Buddhism. The core of Buddhism lies in the purification of mind and soul by realising the truth and getting rid of the worldly desires. Basically, it were the principles of Karma in the doctrine of Buddhism that made the religion one of the major ones in the world.
Buddhism in the Modern World
The entire concept of Buddhism lies in the teachings of Lord Buddha, that He preached to His disciples after attaining enlightenment in 528 BCE in BbodhGaya. After the mahaparinirvana of Gautam Buddha(483 BCE), the whole phase of the timeline of Buddhist history went through various ups and downs. The division of Buddhism into various sects, arrival of Islam in India and other parts of the world, the revival of Hinduism and the Bhakti movement - whatever it had to be, though slowed down the pace of Buddhism for a time being, but could not put an end over it permanently. The existence of Buddhism in today's stage of life proves that the Buddha's teachings still have relevance in our lives.