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 Indian Religions

Hinduism  Buddhism  Jainism  Sikhism


Prince Siddhartha (later known as Gautam Buddha) was born in the year 623 B.C., in Lumbini at Kapilavatthu, (in present Nepal near Indian border). His father was King Suddhodana of the Sakya clan (hence Buddha is often known as "Sakyamuni" ) and his mother was Queen Maha Maya. The queen died seven days after his birth. In his youth Siddhartha was married to Yashodhara and had a son called Rahul. At the age of 29 years he left the life of luxury in search of true meaning of human life. After practicing asceticism and long intense meditation near present Bodh Gaya, at the age of 35 years Siddhatha attained, enlightenment and was thereafter known as Gautam Buddha (The Enlightened One).

He gave his first public sermon in the Deer Park at Sarnath, near Benares, setting in motion the wheel of the Dharma (or spiritual law) as he expounded the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

THE Four Noble Truths:  

All Buddhist teaching is ultimately contained within the Four Truths.

1. The first Truth - Duhkhasatya The true nature of life to be "dukkha," meaning that which is characterized by suffering and general dissatisfaction (in short - Life means suffering).

2. The second Truth - Samud Ayasatya - The cause of such dukkha to be "tanha," or attachment.

3. The third Truth - Nirodhasatya The end of dukkha is possible, by eliminating tanha - i.e., with the removal of the cause, the effect ceases.

 4. The fourth Truth - Margasatya - The path that leads to the elimination of tanha, which in turn causes the cessation of dukkha. A gradual path of self-improvement, which is described more detailed in the Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path:

It describes the way to the end of suffering. It is a practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing the individual from attachments and delusions; and it finally leads to understanding the truth about all things.

1. Right View

Perceptive realization of dukkha, karma and the dharma. It simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realize the Four Noble Truth. Right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. Right view leads to grasping of the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and understanding the rule of Karma. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.

2. Right Purpose (intention): 

 Purpose should be beneficial and selfless. Right purpose can be described as commitment to moral and intellectual self-improvement. Buddha described three types of right purpose: 1. Intention of renunciation - that means to oppose the desire and cravings. 2. Intention of good will - meaning to resist the feelings of anger and hatred. 3. Intention of harmlessness - that means not to think or act cruelly, or violently, and development of kindness.

3. Right Speech :

Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. It is essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. According to Buddha right speech includes: 1. Not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. Not to use slanderous and malicious and offending words against others. 3. To desist from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. In short - speech should truthful and helpful, not disruptive, harsh or deceptive and to talk only when necessary.

 4. Right conduct :

The second ethical principle is right conduct and actions. Right conducts means 1. Abstain from harming living beings and taking life (including suicide) 2. Desist from taking what is not given, which includes stealing and deceitfulness. 3. Desist from sexual misconduct.

5. Right Livelihood :

It means earning one's living in a virtuous way. The Buddha mentions four jobs or activities that one should refrain from: 1. Dealing in weapons, 2. Dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution). 3. Working in meat production and butchery, and 4. Selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs.

 6. Right Effort :

Without proper effort, nothing can be achieved, while misguided effort distracts the mind from its task and results in confusion. It also includes striving with dedication but without personal ambition to stay on the Eightfold Path.

7. Right Mindfulness :

Awareness is kept entirely on feelings, thoughts, conduct and events that are in the present moment. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. Right mindfulness is anchored in clear perception. Right mindfulness enables us to be aware of the process of conceptualization in a way that we actively observe and control the way our thoughts go.

8. Right Concentration :

 Developing concentration and mental focus. Concentration here means a state where all mental focused onto one particular object. The best way to develop concentration is through the practice of meditation.

 The Law of Karma - In Buddhism Law of Karma states that for every intentional action there is a corresponding consequence. Beneficial actions produce beneficial results, and detrimental actions produce damaging results. Deed itself is not as important as the intention, with regard to your own karma.

After teaching for 45 years at the age of 80, the Buddha entered into a deep trance and died peacefully in Kushinagara.

 After his death Buddhism split into number of schools the two main schools being termed "Hinayana," or "Lesser Vehicle" and "Mahayana," or "Greater Vehicle." Mahayana school propounded a goal of universal salvation, while the Hinayana emphasized the importance of working primarily for one's own emancipation. The Mahayana ideal is the 'bodhisattva' a person who seeks to attain the state of Buddha hood in order to help others to find the path to final happiness. The Hinayana ideal being is one who overcomes all ties to the phenomenal world and so attains nirvana, which is said to be a state beyond birth and death. It is also described as perfect bliss.

Nagarjuna (around 150 A.D.) a famous Buddhist scholar is credited with founding the Madhyamaka (Middle Way) school of Buddhist philosophy, which emphasized the centrality of the doctrine of emptiness (shunya). He said that since all phenomena come into being as a result of causes and conditions, abide due to causes and conditions, and pass away due to causes and conditions, everything in the universe is empty of a substantial entity. Mahayana school adopted the Madhyamaka philosophy later. Nearly two centuries after Nagarjuna, a new Mahayana school arose in India, which is commonly known as the Yogachara (Yogic Practice School). Sutra Explaining the Thought (Samdhinirmochana-sutra) was the main scripture for this school. Vasubandhu (320-400 A.D.) and Asanga (310 - 390 A.D.) are credited with founding this school and developing its central doctrines. Yogachara emphasizes the importance of meditative practice. Spread of Buddhism to neighboring Asian countries took place during the reign of Ashoka and other rulers of Maurya and Gupta period. Mahayana school of Buddhism became predominated in Central and East Asia-countries such as Tibet, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and China, while Hinayana schools took is dominant in Southeast Asia, in such countries as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, and Cambodia. Revival of Hinduism in India with advent of Sankaracharya and Ramanuja saw a decline of Buddhism in India. The all-encompassing Hindu religion accepted Buddha as an incarnation of God (Lord Vishnu). Muslims invasion of India in the beginning of second millennium led to the large-scale destruction of Buddhist Monasteries, Viharas, Stupas. The ancient Universities Nalanda University Vikramshila, Odantapura, Jagddala were totally destroyed by Mohammed Bakhtiar Khilji around 1200 A.D. resulting in destruction of an invaluable collection of books and scriptures. With the Muslim onslaught, Buddhism, which was already on decline, nearly came to an end in India.

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