Buddhism in India

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Ancient Buddhism in India

Buddhism stands for 3 pillars :

  • Buddha : Its Founder.
  • Dhamma : His Teachings.
  • Sangha : Order of Buddhist monks and nuns.

The Buddha History :

  • Also known as Sakyamuni or Tathagata.
  • Born in 563 BC on the Vaishakha Poornima Day at Lumbini (near Kapilavastu) in Nepal.
  • His father Suddhodana was the Saka ruler.
  • His mother (Mahamaya, of Kosala dynasty) died after 7 days of his birth. Brought up by stepmother Gautami.
  • Married at 16 to Yoshodhara. Enjoyed the married life for 13 years and had a son named Rahula.
  • After seeing an old man, a sick man, a corpse and an ascetic, he decided to become a wanderer.
  • Left his palace at 29 (with Channa, the charioteer and his favourite horse, Kanthaka) in search of truth (also called ‘Mahabhinishkramana’ or The Great Renunciation) and wandered for 6 years.
  • He first meditated with Alara Kalama. But he was not convinced that man could obtain liberation from sorrow by mental discipline and knowledge. His next teacher was Udraka Ramputra. He then joined forces with five ascetics- Kondana, Vappa, Bhadiya, Mahanama and Assagi, who were practicing the most rigorous self-mortification in the hope of wearing away their karma and obtaining final bliss.

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  • For six years he tortured himself until he was nothing but a walking skeleton. But after six years, he felt that his fasts and penance had been useless. So he abandoned these things. The five disciples also left him.
  • Attained ‘Nirvana’ or ‘Enlightenment’ at 35 at Gaya in Magadha (Bihar) under the Pipal tree.
  • Delivered the first sermon at Sarnath where his five disciples had settled. His first sermon is called ‘Dharmachakrapravartan’ or ‘Turning of the Wheel of Law’.
  • Attained Mahaparinirvana at Kushinagar (identical with village Kasia in Deoria district of UP) in 483 BC at the age of 80 in the Malla republic.

The Dhamma Indian History :

1. The Four Great Truths :

  • The world is full of sorrow and misery.
  • The cause of all pain and misery is desire.
  • Pain and misery can be ended by killing or controlling desire.
  • Desire can be controlled by following the Eight Fold Path.

2. The Eight Fold Path : It consists of Right Faith, Right Thought, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Efforts, Right Speech, Right Remembrance and Right Concentration.

3. Belief in Nirvana :

  • When desire ceases, rebirth ceases and nirvana is attained i.e. freedom from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth is gained by following the 8-fold path.
  • According to Buddha, soul is a myth.

4. Belief in Ahimsa : One should not cause injury to any living being, animal or man.

5. Law of Karma : Man reaps the fruits of his past deeds.

The Sangha History :

  • Consists of monks (Bhikshus or Shramanas) and nuns.
  • Bhikshus acted as a torch bearer of the dhamma.
  • Apart from Sangha, the worshippers were called Upasakas.

Buddhist Councils : The monks gathered 4 times after the death of Buddha and the effect of these events had their effect on Buddhism.

First Council :
At Rajgriha, in 483 BC under the chairman ship of Mehakassaapa (King was Ajatshatru). Divided the teachings of Buddha into two Pitakas – Vihaya Pitaka and Sutta Pitaka. Upali recited the Vinaya Pitaka and Ananda recited the Sutta Pitaka.

Second Council : At Vaishali, in 383 BC under Sabakami (King was Kalasoka). Followers divided into Sthavirmadins and Mahasanghikas.

Third Council : At Pataliputra, in 250 BC under Mogaliputta Tissa (King was Ashoka). In this, the third part of the Tripitaka was coded in the Pali language.

Fourth Council :
At Kashmir (Kundalvan), in 72 AD under Vasumitra (King was Kanishka). Vice-Chairman was Ashwaghosha). Divided Buddhism into Mahayana and Hinayana sects.

Note:
In Mahayana, idol worship is there. It became popular in China, Japan, Korea, Afghanistan, Turkey and other SE countries.

Hinayana became popular in Magadha and SriLanka. It believed in individual salvation and not in idol-worship.

Apart from these 2, there is a third vehicle, called ‘Vajrayana’, which appeared in 8th century and grew rapidly in Bihar and Bengal. They did not treat meat, fish, wine, etc, as a taboo in dietary habit and freely consumed them.

Buddist Literature :

  • In Pali language.
  • Buddhist scriptures in Pali are commonly referred to as Tripitakas, ie ‘Threefold Basket’.

Vinaya Pitaka : Rules of discipline in Buddhist monasteries.

Sutta Pitaka :
Largest, contains collection of Buddha’s sermons.

Abhidhamma Pitaka : Explanation of the philosophical principles of the Buddhist religion.

Note:

  1. Mahavansh and Deepvansh are the other Buddhist texts. They provide information about the then SriLanka.
  2. Jataks are the fables about the different births of Buddha.

Growth of Buddhism :

Causes of New Movement :

  1. The Vedic rituals were expensive & the sacrifices prescribed were very complicated & had lost their meaning.
  2. The caste system had become rigid.
  3. Supremacy of Brahmins created unrest.
  4. All the religious text was in Sanskrit, which was not understandable to the masses.

Causes of decline of buddhism :

  1. It succumbed to the Brahmanic rituals and ceremonies, such as idol worship, etc, which Buddhism had earlier denounced.
  2. Revival of reformed Hinduism with the preaching of Shankaracharya from ninth century onwards.
  3. Use of Sanskrit, the language of intellectuals, in place of Pali, the language of the common people.
  4. Deterioration in the moral standards among the monks living in Buddhist monasteries.
  5. Entry of women into Buddhist monasteries.
  6. Attacks of Huna king Mihirkula in the sixth century and the Turkish invaders in the twelfth century AD.

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