Buddhism

Buddhism Buddhism is one of the biggest religion founded in India in the 6th and 5th cent. B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha. One of the great Asian religions, it teaches the practice of and the observance of moral precepts. The basic doctrines include the four noble truths taught by the Buddha.

Since it was first introduced into China from India, Buddhism has had a history which has been characterized by periods of sometimes awkward and irregular development. This has mainly been the result of the clash of two cultures, each with a long history of tradition. Most of the difficulties have arisen due to the transplanting of an Indian religious/philosophical system onto a culture strongly dominated by indigenous secular, philosophical and religious systems. In spite of these difficulties, Chinese Buddhism has come to have an important influence on the growth and development of Buddhism in general and this has occurred largely because of its own innovatory contributions.(Eliade, M. p.16-29) The spread of Buddhism into China began in Central Asia and was facilitated by the efforts of the Indo-Scythian king Kanishka (Encyclopedia Britt.

273-274) of the Kushan dynasty which ruled in northern India, Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia in the 1st and 2nd centuries (Encyclopedia Britt. 274). He is said to have undergone an Ashoka-like conversion upon seeing the slaughter caused by his campaigns. Around the beginning of the common era, Buddhism started to filter into China from Central Asia via the Silk Road, brought by monks, merchants and other travelers. It also entered later via trade routes around and through Southeast Asia. It was nurtured in the expatriate community of Loyang and other northern cities.

(The Encyclopedia of Religion p58-62) Siddhartha (Buddha) was born around 563 B.C.E. in the town of Kapilavastu (located in today’s Nepal). Siddhartha’s parents were King Shuddhodana and Queen Maya, who ruled the Sakyas. His history is a miraculous one.. One night, Queen Maya dreamed that an elephant with six tusks, carrying a lotus flower in its trunk, touched her right side.

At that moment her son was conceived. Brahmins (learned men) came and interpreted the dream. The child would be either the greatest king in the world or the greatest ascetic (a holy man who practices self-denial). The future child would be named Siddhartha, which means “he whose aim is accomplished.” (Snelling, J. p 12-19) Later when Queen Maya was going to her father’s home to prepare for the birth, she stepped off her chariot in the Lumbini Gardens and held the branch of a sal tree to rest. In that instant, Siddhartha emerged from her right side without any help.

The infant walked seven steps each in four directions of the compass, and lotus flowers sprouted from where his foot touched the earth. Then the infant said, “No further births have I to endure, for this is my last body. Now shall I destroy and pluck out by the roots the sorrow that is caused by birth and death.” Seven days later Queen Maya died. Mahaprajapati, Maya’s sister, looked after Siddhartha. King Shuddhodana shielded Siddhartha from all kinds of suffering and hardship.

When Siddhartha was about 20, he married Yasodhara, daughter of one of the King’s ministers, and one year later they had a child named Rahula (meaning “fetter” or “impediment”). At age 29, Siddhartha asked his charioteer, Channa, to take him out of the city two times without the consent of the king. During these two trips, Siddhartha saw “Four Sights” that changed his life. On the first trip, he saw old age, sickness, and death. The second trip, he saw a wandering holy man, an ascetic, with no possessions. Siddhartha started questioning the holy man, who had a shaved head, wore only a ragged yellow robe, and carried a walking-staff. The man said, “I am..

terrified by birth and death and therefore have adopted a homeless life to win salvation.. I search for the most blessed state in which suffering, old age, and death are unknown.”(Snelling, J. p33) That night, Siddhartha silently kissed his sleeping wife and son, and ordered Channa to drive him out to the forest. At the edge of the forest, Siddhartha took off his jeweled sword, and cut off his hair and beard. He then took off all his princely garments and put on a yellow robe of a holy man.

He then ordered Channa to take his possessions back to his father. Siddhartha then wandered through northeastern India, sought out holy men, and learned about Samsara (reincarnation), Karma, and Moksha. Attracted to the ideas of Moksha, Siddhartha settled on the bank of Nairanjana River, and adopted a life of extreme self-denial and penances, meditating constantly. After six years of eating and drinking only enough to stay alive, his body was emaciated, and he was very weak. Five other holy men joined him, hoping to learn from his example. One day, Siddhartha realized that his years of penance only weakened his body, and he could not continue to meditate properly. When he stepped into the river to bathe, he was too weak to get out, and the trees lowered their branches to help him.

In that instant, a milk-maid named Nandabala came and offered a bowl of milk and rice, which Siddhartha accepted. The five holy men left Siddhartha after witnessing this. Refreshed by the meal, Siddhartha sat down under a fig tree (often referred to as the Bo tree, or Tree of Enlightenment) and resolved to find out an answer to life and suffering. While meditating, Mara (an evil god) sent his three sons and daughters to tempt Siddhartha with thirst, lust, discontent, and distractions of pleasure. Siddhartha, entered a deep meditation, and recalled all his previous rebirths, gained knowledge of the cycle of births and deaths, and with certainty, cast off the ignorance and passion of his ego which bound him to the world.

Thereupon, Siddhartha had attained enlightenment and became the Buddha (enlightened one). His own desire and suffering were over and, as the Buddha, he experienced Nirvana.. “There is a sphere which is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air..which is neither this world nor the other world, neither sun nor moon. I deny that it is coming or going, enduring, death or birth. It is only the end of suffering.”(www.buddhanet.net) Instead of casting off his body and his existence, however, Buddha made a great act of self-sacrifice. He turned back, determined to share his enlightenment with others so that all living souls could end the cycles of their own rebirth and suffering.

Buddha went to the city of Sarnath and found the previous five holy men that deserted him earlier at a deer park. When they saw Buddha this time, they realized that he had risen to a higher state of holiness. The Buddha began teaching them what he had learned. He drew a circle in the ground with rice grains, representing the wheel of life that went on for existence after existence. This preaching was called his Deer Park Sermon, or “Setting in Motion the Wheel of Doctrine.” Siddha …