Buddhism: Part-I

February 24, 2018

 For Buddhism: Part-II (click here)

 

Causes of emergence of Buddhism as a religion:

The origin of Buddhism in India (600 BCE-...) is a result of various contemporary factors combined together such as:

  1. Rising economic might of vaishya.

  2. Policies under Brahmanism like animal sacrifice. Animals were important for the business of vaishyas.

  3. Subjugation of Kshatriyas under Brahmanas due to the varna system.

  4. Orthodox character of Brahmanism.

 

 

Buddha's Life:

  1. He was born as Siddhartha, son of Suddhodana, chief of the Sakya clan who ruled Kapilavastu in approx. 560 BCE. His mother Maya gave birth to him in a grove at Lumbini and died within a few days after giving birth.

  2. He had on his body 32 marks of a great man. As per Buddhist tradition, a mahapurusha can be of two types- Conqueror or world renouncer.

  3. Siddhartha married Yashodhara and had a son named Rahula.

  4. Saw 4 things, which changed his perception about life-

    1. An Old Man

    2. A Sick man

    3. A Corpse

    4. A Renunciant

  5. Accompanied with 5 Ascetics he attempted severe austerity but finally failed. Young women named Sujata offered him a bowl of milk-rice. He then again started meditation under a Pipal tree at Bodh gaya. Mara tried to tempt and taunt him out of his meditative state but all in vain. Siddhartha finally attained enlightenment and became Buddha.

  6. He gave his first sermon to his former 5 companions at Sarnath, near Banaras. This is known as Dhammachakka- payattana. The five disciples soon realized the truth and became Arhats.

  7. Buddha preached his doctrine for 4 decades. He established an order of Monks and Nuns known as the Sangha.

  8. Buddha is described as having been refused food in his begging rounds is  in the Brahmana gama of Panchasala.

  9. He died at the age of 80 at Kusinara. This is known as Paninirbana.  He had his last meal at the home of a blacksmith named Chunda.

Meaning of Buddha: 32 qualities of mahapurusha. He is the tathagata: one who has come (thatha) and gone (gata), which means being free from the cycle of birth and death.

 

Some elements of his hagiography are contained in the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas, but more detailed and connected accounts are given in later texts such as the Lalitavistara, Mahavastu, Buddhacharita, Nadanakatha.

 

Some facts:

  • The origins of Mahayana have been traced to the older Mahasanghika school.

  • Lalitvistara contains many passages from the Pali canon.

  • There was an increase use of Sanskrit in the Mahayana texts.

  • The most important Mahayana sutras include the Prajnaparamita Sutra, of which the Ashtadhyayi is the oldest.

  • The idea of boddhisattva (wisdom being) is known to earlier Buddhism. Gotama himself is said to have been born as an ascetic named Megha or Sumedha in an earlier birth.

  • Difference between arhat and boddhisattva:

    • An arhat is one who strives to attain nirvana and having achieved this goal for himself, disappears from the cycle of samskara.

    • The boddhisattva is one who has attained great wisdom, but decides to refrain from taking the final step into nibbana, choosing to actively engage with the world for aeons on end in order to help others achieve this goal.

  • Two major Buddhist schools:

    • Madhyamika: founder: Nagarjuna (2nd century CE). Mula-Madhyamaka-Karika was the most important work. The idea of shunyata is important which means appearances are misleading and that permanent selves and substances do not exist. Dharmas are empty. Important thinkers: Aryadeva, Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka, Chandrakirti and Shantideva.

    • Yogachara: contained in Sutra texts such as the Samdhinirmochana and Lankavatara. This school is known as Yogachara due to the importance it attaches to meditation. It focuses on 6 types of consciousness. It identifies two other levels: the first is the level of the defiled mind (klisha-manas) which is defiled with things such as the idea of I-ness and delusion. The other level of consciousness is the store consciousness (alaya-vijnana), which contains the store of all the seeds sown by the defilements of the active consciousness.

  • Thotlakonda: large numbers of memorial cairns (made of piled-up stones) outside the monastic complex, most of them commanding a view of the monastery.

  • The Saddharmapundarika Sutra tells the story of an 8-year old bodhisattva girl, daughter of a naga king Sagara, whose sex changed as soon as the prophecy of her impending Buddhahood was made.

 

 

Buddha's Teachings:

 

Core of this doctrine is expressed in the Ariya-sachchani (Four Noble Truths):

  1. There is suffering (Dukha).

  2. It has a cause (Samudaya).

  3. It can be removed (Nirodha),

  4. The way to achieve this is following the Atthanga-magga (Eight-Fold Path).

    1. Eight fold path consists of a no. of interconnected activities related to Knowledge, Conduct and Meditative practices. They are as follows:

      1. Right View.

      2. Right Intention.

      3. Right Speech.

      4. Right Action.

      5. Right Livelihood.

      6. Right Effort.

      7. Right Mindfulness.

      8. Right Concentration.

    2. The path taught by Buddha is often referred to as Middle Path - one between extreme indulgence and extreme asceticism.

  5. Buddha taught that everything is suffering - Sabbam Dukkham. Reason for suffering include human propensities such as desire, attachment, greed, Pride, Aversion, and Ignorance. Desire (Trishna) is central to the cause and removal of suffering.

  6. Impermanence: As per Buddha, everything is changing and nothing is permanent. This is to emphasize on the fact that there is no being or power in the universe that can prevent old age, Sickness and Death. He gives the simile of the river to explain it.

    1. Simile of River: River seems the same, but the drops of water that constitute it are changing every instant.

    2. Millindapanha describes the name of a person as a convenient label for a complex, connected cluster of ever-changing elements, similar to a chariot, which consists of many different parts such as pole, axle, frame and wheels. The idea of a permanent, unchanging 'I' or 'Me' is thus the result of misperception and ignorance. Just like milk turns into curds, butter, and ghee, a being transmigrates, neither the same, nor as another.

Emphasis on Impermanence involved the rejection of any unchanging, permanent, eternal substance or essences such as atman. Elements of conscious existence were divided into the two broad categories:

  • Nama (Mind, the mental factor).

    • It is further divided into 4 parts:

      • Vedana(Feelings): Arising out of contact with objects of the senses.

      • Sanna(Perception)

      • Sankharas(A complex group including knowledge arising out of feelings and perceptions) and Chetna (will)

      • Vinnana : Cognition or conscious awareness.

  • Rupa (Form, body, the physical factor)

These four elements of Nama along with Rupa constitute pancha-khanda(five aggregates).

 

Paticha-samupadda- The law of dependent origination:

The elements of this law were presented a wheel consisting of 12 nidanas, one leading to the next.

  1. Ignorance: avijja

  2. Formations: sankhara

  3. Consciousness: vinnana

  4. Mind and body: nama-rupa

  5. The six senses: salayatana

  6. Sense contact: phassa

  7. Feeling: vedana

  8. Craving: tanha

  9. Attachment: upadana

  10. Becoming: bhava

  11. Birth: jati

  12. Old age and death: jara-marana

    1. Ultimate Goal: Nibbana.

      1. It was an experience that can be attained in this life.

      2. It means dying out or extinction of desire, attachment, greed, hatred, ignorance and the sense of I-ness.

      3. Term Parinibbana is used for the death of an enlightened being such as the Buddha.

    2. Buddha on Atman and Transmigration:

      1. Buddha's teaching accept the idea of transmigration but rejects the idea of the atman.

      1. Transmigration is of consciousness but not of soul.

      1. Milindpanha gives an analogy to explain this whole thing as: Just as milk turns into curds, butter and ghee, a being transmigrates, neither as same nor as another.

      2. Connections between different life is established by Karma. Rebirth is governed by the cumulative results of the Karma of a particular life.

    3. Buddha on Ahimsa: Buddha emphasizes on Ahimsa and criticizes Brahmanical animal sacrifices. However, Buddha's ahimsa did not necessarily entail vegetarianism and monks were not forbidden from eating meat. Although, certain kinds of flesh were not to be accepted by the monks- that of humans, elephants, snakes, dogs and horses.

    4. In Buddhism gods like Indra and Brahma appear but the gods cannot help humans in attaining nibbana, Only following the path laid down by the Buddha can lead to this goal.

     

     

     

     

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