Buddhism, a major world religion, founded in northeastern India and based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who is known as the Buddha, or Enlightened One. Buddhism is not as old as Hinduism but it is the most important next to Hinduism. Originating as a monastic movement within the dominant Brahman tradition of the day, Buddhism quickly developed in a distinctive direction. The Buddha not only rejected significant aspects of Hindu philosophy, but also challenged the authority of the priesthood, denied the validity of the Vedic scriptures, and rejected the sacrificial cult based on them. Moreover, it is a religious philosophy which combines three things. 01. Buddha, the man 02. His thought and 03. His community.
Life of Buddha: No complete biography of the Buddha was compiled until centuries after his death; only fragmentary accounts of his life are found in the earliest sources. Western scholars, however, generally agree on 563 BC as the year of his birth.
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was born in Lumbinī, Nepal, near the present Nepal-India border, the son of the ruler of a petty kingdom. According to legend, at his birth sages recognized in him the marks of a great man with the potential to become either a sage or the ruler of an empire. The young prince was raised in sheltered luxury, until at the age of 29 he realized how empty his life to this point had been. Renouncing earthly attachments, he embarked on a quest for peace and enlightenment, seeking release from the cycle of rebirths. For the next few years he practiced Yoga and adopted a life of radical asceticism.
Eventually he gave up this approach as fruitless and instead adopted a middle path between the life of indulgence and that of self-denial. Sitting under a bo tree, he meditated, rising through a series of higher states of consciousness until he attained the enlightenment for which he had been searching. Once having known this ultimate religious truth, the Buddha underwent a period of intense inner struggle. He began to preach, wandering from place to place, gathering a body of disciples, and organizing them into a monastic community known as the sangha. In this way he spent the rest of his life.
His thoughts and teachings: The Buddha was an oral teacher; he left no written body of thought. His beliefs were codified by later followers. His thought and teachings are the philosophy of Buddhism.
The Four Noble Truths: At the core of the Buddha’s enlightenment was the realization of the Four Noble Truths: (1) Life is suffering. Human existence is essentially painful from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Even death brings no relief. (2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving, attachment. (3) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance and attachment. (4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and right contemplation. These eight are usually divided into three categories that form the cornerstone of Buddhist faith: morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentration.
01. Right views: The right knowledge about the four noble truth is the right views.
02. Right thought: It means freeing mind from all sensuous desires, ill-wills and cruelties.
03. Right speech: To abstain from falsehood, to abstain broo back-biting, to abstain from harsh language and abstain from frivolous talk is called Right speech.
04. Right conduct: unenvy, avoid drug are included with Right conduct.
05. Right livelihood: To lead life in honest way is Right livelihood.
06. Right effort: To reserve the good intention or thinking in mind and to avoid the bad is Right effort.
07. Right mindfulness: To think about the universe, body, mind, sensuousness about the transition of life,
metaphysical words is the Right mindfulness.
08. Right meditation: Attentiveness is the Right meditation. (According to Buddhist view Right meditation will bring mind and mental processes into harmony with all that is eliminating egotism.) It is the last stage of Eightfold paths. Buddha says, "Who is able to achieve the above seven can gain the last one and this is the way to gain Nirvana."
Nirvana: The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is to release from the round of phenomenal existence with its inherent suffering. To achieve this goal is to attain nirvana, an enlightened state in which the fires of greed, hatred, and ignorance have been quenched. Not to be confused with total annihilation, nirvana is a state of consciousness beyond definition. After attaining nirvana, the enlightened individual may continue to live, until a state of final nirvana (parinirvana) is attained at the moment of death.
In theory, the goal of nirvana is attainable by anyone, although it is a realistic goal only for members of the monastic community.
The ethic that leads to nirvana is detached and inner-oriented. It involves cultivating four virtuous attitudes, known as the Palaces of Brahma: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. The ethic that leads to better rebirth, however, is centered on fulfilling one’s duties to society. It involves acts of charity, especially support of the sangha, as well as observance of the five precepts that constitute the basic moral code of Buddhism. The precepts prohibit killing, stealing, harmful language, sexual misbehavior, and the use of intoxicants. By observing these precepts, the three roots of evil—lust, hatred, and delusion—may be overcome.
Formation of Buddhist literature: As Buddha was an oral teacher and he left no written document for his disciples, soon after the death of Buddha, it soon became apparent that a new basis for maintaining the community's unity and purity was needed. The first attempt to write the oral teachings was taken after several centuries of the death of Buddha. There were finally committee to writing about the 1st century BC. The Buddhist canon it known in Pali as the Tripitaka ( Tripitaka in Sanskrit) meaning "Three Baskets," because it consists of three collections of writings: the Sutta Pitaka, a collection of discourses; the Vinaya Pitaka, the code of monastic discipline and the Abhidharma Pitaka, which contains philosophical, psychological and emitsinal discussions and classifications.
Community: After the death of Buddha, Buddhism has been divided into two groups. 01. Mahayana 02. Hinayana.
Mahayana abolishes all distinction between being and non-being, and they believe that if there is no reformation, the doctrine will die. The community of Mahayana is dominant in Tibet, China, Korea and Japan.
In Hinayana, the emphasis lies in the adoration of the Buddha as deity than on those aspects of Buddhahood in which the master is seen as a guide and preceptor. The community of Hinayana is dominant in Sri-Lanka, Thailand, Burma and the Indian sub-continent.