Buddhism in India
Gautama Buddha was the founder of Buddhism in India. Born to the republican state of Kapilavastu in the Terai region of Nepal in 563 B.C, Gautama Buddha was a Kshatriya prince and the founder of Buddhism.
At 29, he renounced the material world and took lessons of spirituality from various teachers – only to salvage all from earthly worries.
He attained Bodhi or Enlightenment at 35 and came to be known as Buddha or the Enlightened. He preached the faith for many many years and breathed his last at the age of 80 in 486 B.C.
Essentials of Buddhism:
As a religious reformer Buddha was a realist. Instead of taking part in any controversy regarding the existence of God, he formulated his doctrine in the context of worldly sorrows. He based his doctrine on four Noble Truths, namely:
Life is full of sorrow and suffering.
There are causes of suffering.
The suffering can be ended.
Extinction of desire is the only means to end sorrow and suffering. This fourfold truth is called ‘Arya Satya’.
Eight Fold Path
For the extinction of desire Buddha outlined the eight-fold path (`Ashtangika Marga’). It consists of:
Right means of livelihood,
Right memory and
The eightfold path is also known as ‘Middle Path’ or `Majjhima Patha’ as it avoids extremes of luxury and hardship. By following this ‘middle path’ one can attain ‘nirvana’ which means a state of absolute peace and bliss. When one attains this state of mind he is freed from the cycle of life and death.
Buddha reached out to thousands by preaching in Pali. His teachings were not recorded in his lifetime. The Tripitaka’ (`Sutta-Pitaka’, Vinaya-Pitaka’ and `Abhidhamma-Pitaka) are Holy Scriptures of the Buddhists. Other important sacred texts are the `Jatakas’, Dipavamsa’ and `Mahavamsha’.
The importance of Buddhism:
Buddhism has left a profound impact on the Indian society and culture.
In place of casteism, rituals and a cumbrous ceremony, Buddhism brought about a simple, generous and humane faith which blends man with life and frees society of discriminations.
It spread the message of love, peace and kindness which ushered in, a new age in individual and social life. Buddhism acknowledged the greatness of man and opened its door for all — the rich and the poor, the lofty and the lowly, man and woman.
In literature, education and art, Buddhism contributed in a big way. It enriched the Pali language. It gave birth to several east India dialects. Buddhist monasteries like Nalanda, Vikramshila and Valhavi were seats of great learning. Buddhist statues, stupas, monasteries and beautiful caves bear testimony to superior Buddhist art.