Buddhismbegan in India in the late 500 BCE as a result of the teachings of aprince called Siddhartha Gautama, who was later known as GautamaBuddha. In ancient Indian language, Buddha refers to a person who isself-aware and has wisdom and compassion. Buddhists celebrate theBuddha as the freethinking human being. He is an incarnation of God.The foundation of practice and faith for Buddhists is the Buddhateachings, known as Dharma.
Figure1: Siddhartha Gautama, the Historical Buddha
GautamaBuddha was a sage and ascetic on whose teachings Buddhism wasestablished. It is believed Buddha lived and offered lessons in theeastern sides of India between the fourth and sixth centuries.Buddha’s teachings lay in between severe asceticism and sensualindulgence established in the Sramana movement. Paralleling theHinduism developments, Buddha trained a co-opted form of thethree-fire Srauta scheme. Gautama is the principal character inBuddhism. He is renowned by Buddhists as a learned or celestialeducator who achieved complete Buddhahood, and shared hiscomprehensions to aid sentient creatures to end renaissance andsuffering. Explanations of his treatises, monastic rubrics, and lifeare alleged by Buddhists to have been abridged after his demise andmemorized by his admirers. Different collections of lessonsaccredited to him were relayed orally and first put into text nearly400 years later.
Pastpresumptions of Gautama mainly shape Buddhists beliefs. MostBuddhists believe that everyone is affected by the past deeds,rebirth occurs in human form, and nothing in the world iseverlasting. They also follow the ‘Eightfold Path’ and believe inthe ‘Four Noble Truths.` Buddhists worship in the temple, whichincludes a statue of Buddha and a shrine. Lay Buddhists always makeofferings of light candles, incest and flowers in front of the statueand meditate. Worship is in a form of meditation, reciting Buddhateachings and repeated sounds such as ‘Aum’ or ‘Om.` They alsohave various traditions such as Theravada and Mahayana. Thesetraditions do not allow eating meat and fish because they are viewedas bad karma since it is possible to reincarnate animals as humanbeings. A portion of the Theravada and Mahayana traditions followersare vegans. Buddhists from Vietnam and China do not eat onions, leek,and garlic because these foods are believed to enhance anger andone’s sexual desire. The monks deprive themselves all types of foodon the full moon and new moon of each lunar month. Buddhists usuallyabstain from alcohol since it is considered to alter the mind. Thefestivals provide a chance for Buddhists to celebrate and expressappreciation and devotion to Buddha. The way they carry out thecelebrations and the dates of the festivals vary from country tocountry and between the traditions. Most Buddhists use the lunarcalendar. In Mahayana Buddhists countries, Buddha day is viewed asthe most prestigious festival, and it commemorates the birth andenlightenment of Buddha. It is celebrated in May on the first day offull moon. However, in a leap year, it is celebrated in June. InTheravada countries, it is referred to as Wesak day. During theBuddha day, water is poured on Buddha’s shoulders to remind theBuddhists of the need for purification of the heart and the mind. Asa sign of respect, offerings of foodstuffs to the monks and offeringsof flowers and incense for the shrines are done.
Inthis particular paper, the primary concerns of Buddha will beillustrated. He was a revered personality whose teachings impacted onmany societies. In this essay, the way Buddha related to the Indiancaste system, women as well as the war between kings will bediscussed. At the time Gautama, the caste system was firmlyconventional in India. As per the system, an individual’s positionin the community was predetermined from birth, and there was no wayof changing that. Buddha had his say about the system. He alsoprovided teachings about the rivalry of kings and women. Due to hisperceived eloquent teachings, Buddhism gained favor in the royalcourts across India. By utilizing scholarly articles and booksentailing Buddhism, the paper will provide adequate information onthis culture.
Accordingto his teaching “the Four Noble Truths,” some concerns wereillustrated. The issue of suffering and how to end it, or at leastlessen it was a major concern. According to Buddha, misery arisesfrom our attachment to a fabricated sense of reality. The connectionis thrust by three poisons of anger, greed, and ignorance. Peopleignore the truth that self is not considerably real but onlyconcerning everything else. The distinct imaginary person hencebecomes attached to power, self-aggrandizement, and money, anunquenchable greed that has no limitations. Unable to acquire what itwants, anger comes along. Anger, greed, and ignorance make the worldrotate. The above elements are practical in our current cultures.When happiness is described as possessing things, when shopping athigh-end boutiques or malls is the main way of attaining comfort andmeaning in life, then the three poisons are in full control. When thethree poisons are active, the entire globe suffers. People agonize inpain, grief, and sorrow due to the extensiveness of these venoms. Thethree toxins mentioned by Buddha are a clear clarification of howconflict comes into play and feeds on itself. There is nosatisfaction in life. People always crave more happiness with lesspain. The desire to acquire more is a danger that leads to humansuffering. The four noble truths can be summarized as follows
Suffering is common to all
All of us are a cause of suffering
Avoid indulging in events that cause suffering
Everyone can be enlightened
Buddhaalso showed concern on how people perceived life. People think theycan avoid and live happily forever. In the process, they getdisappointed inviting suffering. On his “Three Marks of Existence”,Buddha explains that life is transitory, and nothing can last foreternity. Human beings are without a soul or self. There is noeverlasting, unchanging bit of the universe. People should liveknowing they are here for a season. The notion of ignoring death andbehaving like suffering does not exist, is detrimental to humanexistence. A peaceful coexisting universe would not contravene thefive precepts.
No sexual misconduct
Accordingto the teachings, Buddha was worried by the extent at which ills werespreading. The precepts were devised as guidelines towards peacefulcoexistence. Life is dear to all beings, and it should not be takenaway. Killing even mosquitos is regarded disrespect for life. Suchteachings were directed to kings who fought each other to gainterritorial boundaries.
Buddha’sperception of the Indian caste system
DuringBuddha’s time, the caste system was established in India. Thesystem had a notion that everyone’s position within the communitywas already decided at birth. It categorized people into fourclasses:
The priests, who were the top most individuals in the cast and were completely pure
The traders and merchants
The untouchables constituting of workers and servants who were treated as slaves
Insuch a setup, if one is born in a merchant’s home, then he/she willbe a slave. The priests were considered virtuous, and society had toshow respect.
Buddhacriticized the system considering it unfair. He stated that therewere cruel and wicked individuals as well as kind and upright personsin every class. Anyone who had contravened the precepts would bechastised consequently by his karma. It did not matter what levelhe/she fitted in. He further stated that an individual may beregarded to have emanated from a low or high caste depending onhis/her good and evil doings. Therefore, as per the Buddha, it is theupright and evil activities of people and not birth that defines thecaste. In other words, the moral aspects were the core toestablishing whether someone belongs to a higher or lower class. Inthat regard, if a priest commits evil, then he would be punishedaccordingly. If a slave lives virtuously, then he/she will berewarded accordingly.
TheBuddha presented the ideology of assigning a greater value on moralsand the parity of persons as a substitute for family or class anindividual is born. It was considered the first effort to eliminatediscernment and slavery in the antiquity of human beings.
Buddha’sperception of women
Women’sposition in the society in ancient India was quite demeaning. Theywere considered inferior to men. As a matter of fact, they were putat the lowest level of the caste along with the slaves. The generalinterpretation was that women had to be under their parents care inchildhood, under the guard of their husbands and under their sons`control at old age. It was perceived they did not require any form offreedom. Their roles were constrained to the household matters. Therights of women in the society were not overly regarded as important.They lived under the mercies of their husbands. If a woman failed togive birth to a son, then the husband was at liberty to add otherwomen. A male child was a sign of continuance of the family line.
AsBuddha traversed through India, the perceptions changedsignificantly. His lessons on the real aspect of life and death,karma, and samsaric wanderings led to substantial alterations in thesocial depiction of women. According to Buddha, everyone isresponsible for his/her actions as well as its repercussions. Thewelfare of a grandfather or father does not depend on the grandson orson’s activities. Such teachings enlightened people who correctedtheir perceptions of women in the community. Though he elevated thestatus of women in the society, he never advised them to neglecttheir duties. It was a woman’s responsibility to watch over thehome and care for her husband.
Buddha’sperception of wars
Buddhaappeared when there was spiritual, social, and political turbulencein India. The canonical writings of Theravada Buddhism have evidencedprevalence of wars between kings as well as Republican states. Thesocial conflicts were also rising due to poverty and crimes.According to Buddha’s teachings, conflict emanated from affectionto material possessions such as territory, political superiority,wealth, and pleasures. Sense pleasures then lead to desire thatresults in conflicts. He perceived war between kings as a greedyordeal involving territorial boundaries. In his perception,self-satisfaction was the only way of achieving peace. If people werecontented with what they have, there would not be conflicts.
Atone instance, the Buddha is said to have prevented a war betweenKoliyas and Sakiyas. Both sets used waters from the same rivers.Conflicts arose when the water levels fell, and each kingdom wantedto use the waters by themselves. His presence in the area restrainedthe residents from fighting. Since then, Buddhist monks have beenutilized by kings to stop wars.
Buddhismin the royal courts across northern India
Thewise teachings of Buddha were adopted even in royal courts. Buddhismpresented solutions in a simple yet applicable manner. The fiveprecepts were a guiding tool towards achieving justice. Asillustrated earlier, the rules include no killing, stealing, sexualmisconduct, lying or intoxicants. Abiding by the first law, peoplewould respect one another’s life. Any contravening act would facethe repercussions. Stealing from one another is like taking it fromyourself. People should give to the society through schools, familiesamong others. Individuals had to learn how to respect one another’sproperty. Honesty is also a virtue that should be practiced.Individuals should not lie to one another. Sexual misconduct was alsonot tolerated. People must also learn to have clear minds and desistfrom intoxication.
Theabove precepts are quite simple to understand and implement. Theroyal courts across northern India saw the need to incorporate suchlaws into the justice system. Buddhism in this area was highlypracticed hence people could acclimatize to the rules and abide bythem. Any contravening acts could also be easily handled since theyhad the knowledge. The precepts are a fundamental building block tothe royal courts in northern India.
Buddhismbeliefs are quite in line with Christian teachings. According to thefindings, Gautama was a core founder of a transformed Buddhismperception. Before his coming, people had a poor view of women in thesociety, war as well as leadership. The caste system was demeaningothers while superlatively viewing others. His teachings broughtabout change in the community.
Onething Buddha tried to fight is the opinion about life. As seen in thecurrent world, sufferings are caused by our greediness. Theconnection inserted by the three poisons of anger, greed, andignorance have led to sufferings. People are continuously seeking formore wealth, power among other things that result in conflicts.Buddhism is quite extensive and is practiced uniquely across variousregions. More insights are required to clarify pending presumptions.It is believed that once Gautama died, the culture diminished by asubstantial margin. The picture below elaborates how the spread ofBuddhism occurred across various regions.
Figure2: The Spread of Buddhism
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