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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
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.