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Buddhism


Buddhism is fundamental teachings on the nature of reality. Fourth-largest religion in the world with several branches (or schools), including Theravada and Mahayana. Vishak Purnima stands for enlightenment. Nirvana is peace or shanthi.
Objective is to attain nirvana and freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
It was also believed that Buddha did not announce a new religion. During Buddha time, there was no Hinduism or even concept of religion. There were many large number of sects in India, and his movement was reformation of existing practices of some sects, which are grouped now under Hinduism.
He gave up his royal wealth and never owned anything for himself. He was unique teacher with valuable message:

Salutations to buddha

புத்தம் சரணம் கச்சாமி | தர்மம் சரணம் கச்சாமி | சங்கம் சரணம் கச்சாமி
Respects to Buddha (saints and enlightened ones), Dharma (cosmic order or duty.) and Sangha (spiritual community promoting order)
(1) ஓம் அஹிம்சசொரூபாய வித்மஹே தத்துவ புருஷாய தீமஹி தந்நோ பௌத்த ப்ரசோதயாத்
Salutations to buddha (awakened one), form of ahimsa or compassion and great philosopher
(2) ஓம் ராஜமூர்த்தியாய வித்மஹே சித்தர்த்தாயா தீமஹி தந்நோ ஞானகுரு ப்ரசோதயாத்
Salutations to royal (king) Siddhartha, a great teacher of wisdom
(3) ஓம் தர்மமார்காய வித்மஹே சூனியதத்வாய தீமஹி தந்நோ கௌதமபுத்த ப்ரசோதயாத்
Salutations to Gauthama buddha, who preached shunyata or theory of Impermanence" (all objects are ever changing) and eight paths of dharma ( Right view; Intention; Effort; Speech; Action; Livelihood; Mind/ Mindfulness; and thoughts/Concentration)
Buddhism comes from the word budhi which means 'to wake up' and thus Buddhism can be said to be the just philosophy of awakening. The words philo, which means ‘love’, and sophia which means 'wisdom’. So philosophy is the love of wisdom, or love and wisdom. Vishak Purnima stands for enlightenment.

Uniqueness of Buddhism

Brief on buddha

Born into a India royal family in 563 BC, eventually found that worldly comforts and security do not guarantee happiness. Siddhartha was deeply moved by the suffering he saw all around and resolved to find the key to human happiness. Eventually, after six years study, struggle and meditation he could come out with message for fellow men. From that day onwards he was called the Buddha, the Awakened One. He lived for another 45 years teaching others what he had discovered. His compassion and patience were legendary.

Buddha, a transformer

Middle way, a philosophy of compromise and moderation

Buddha tried extreme fasting and got so thin. In the end, he rejected all these crazy extremes because they just didn’t work. Similarly he tried many extreme methods to find out solution to suffering. Finally, he chose middle path or middle way, a philosophy of compromise and moderation. He figured out what worked and what didn’t. If something didnot work, he had courage to acknowledge and reject it and moved on. When Buddha started teaching, he advised his students to do the same. He didn’t ask anyone to take his instructions blindly. Guru can only show the way and give his experience. He wanted us to check for ourselves and find solutions.

Buddha did not give a mystical or supernatural explanation for any odd observation. He realized that the truth is rarely found in the extremes. He practiced instead the “ observe yourself as you eat to see what works for you and what doesn’t.

Buddha realized that instead of roaming in the forest for enlightenment, he should practice of Yoga & Meditation to control the temptation. Ego, Anger, Greed, Lust & Attachment, are the causes of human's pain & Suffering.

Tolerance and compassion

Buddhism was started with boundless tolerance and compassion. The Buddha imbued the robber Angulimala’s mind with metta (universal love) and the robber was converted into a spiritual wayfarer. The priest class, who were once voracious meat eaters, turned vegetarian. He preached compassion and non violence towards all living beings. He promoted spiritual practices like meditation, concentration, and service.

Impermanence - shunyata

Buddha’s silence on the issue of the existence of God made him an atheist. But atheism should refer to non believers in the existence of either God or soul or any ultimate reality.

Many teachers have used concepts such as: "Impermanence" (to be ever changing) or "Maya" - illusory and not real. Some scholars have discounted the Buddha’s teachings, claiming that he is promulgating a belief in "emptiness" or "nothingness." However, teachings about shunyata (emptiness) are not only found in Buddhist literature, but are also prominent in the writings of many of the saints. "It (God) is neither existent nor non-existent (shunya), its nature is beyond the reach of senses and thought." [Gorakh Nath] "Meditation on the Formless (shunya) is enjoyed by all knowers of Truth." [Sant Kabir]

Buddhism by the Numbers

Two major schools of thought

Theravada (doctrine of the elders) or Hinayana ("lesser vehicle") school of thought, avoids Buddha's form as a human, but prefers symbolism-footprints, the wheel of life, the bodhi tree under which he sat to attain enlightenment, an elephant (his mother saw an elephant in a dream before he was born), and stupas.

Mahayana ("greater vehicle") Buddhism, in which statues and pictures of Buddha are shown, became popular around 100 AD.

Hinayana followers say that the path to nirvana is an individual quest. Mahayana followers believe that everyone can attain nirvana, and they aspire to reach the state of Buddhahood not for themselves, but also help other living entities.

Buddhism important places

There are four important places connected with Buddha's life: his birth site in Lumbini, Nepal; the site of his enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, Bihar; the site of his first sermon in Sarnath, near Varanasi; and the place of his death in Kushinagar, UP. When Buddha died, his body was cremated and the ashes given to people to whom he had preached.
At Rajgir, Buddha converted King Bimbisara to Buddhism, and the First Buddhist Council was held there. At Vaishali, Buddha preached his last sermon and announced his approaching nirvana. At Nalanda are the remains of an ancient Buddhist University. These three places are all in Bihar near Patna. Other places in India are famous Buddhist places because of monuments, temples, or cave temples built there. The finest of these are at Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra, Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh.

Timeline of Buddhist History

Buddhism is fundamental teachings on the nature of reality. Fourth-largest religion in the world with several branches (or schools), including Theravada and Mahayana.

Buddha/Buddhism misunderstood:

[From http://www.kamakoti.org/hindudharma/part12/chap3.htm] Many believe that Buddhism ceased to have a large following in India because it came under the attack of Sankara. This is not true. There are very few passages in the Acarya's commentaries critical of that religion, a religion that was opposed to the Vedas. Far more forcefully has he criticised the doctrines of Sankhya and Mimamsa that respect the Vedic tradition. ......Then how did Buddhism cease to have a considerable following in out country? Udayanacarya, the tarkika, and Kumarilabhatta, the mimamsaka, opposed Buddhism for different reasons.... They attacked Buddhism for its refusal to accept Vedic rituals.

Buddhist Ideas and practices absorbed by Hinduism

Prior to Gupta Era, royal people were influenced by buddhist and Jain monks. From Gupta Era, Shaivam and Vaishnavam were revived. 12th century, the biggest library at Nalanda was destroyed by invasions. Some idols were converted as gods of their faiths. Gaya Asura, may be an earlier Buddha statue, below Vishnupada. Kushinara Rambhar Bhavani, Sal Kusa Madhava, Puri Jagannatha, Gaya Vishnupada temple, Annapoorni (earlier Manimegala) have Buddhist history.

Nagarjuna

Nagarjuna, from Nagarjunakonda (around 200 C.E.) was one of the earliest significant Buddhist thinkers to write in the Sanskrit language rather than in the Pali script.
Supported the Madhyamaka (Middle Way) school of Buddhism and credited with writing the the doctrine of emptiness and to propose the two-truths doctrine. Shunyata, has multiple meanings emptiness, voidness, openness, changing, depending context.
Nagarjuna is often misunderstood as a nihilist due to his radical rejection of "self." For Buddha and Nagarjuna, Samsara is not an illusion/maya but like an illusion (mayavat). People are already connected at all levels (i.e., matter, mind, and spirit) through interdependence.
Wisdom Sutras, have good material on the nature of our reality. The body/mind is simply a vehicle by which we experience this world. We return to oneness after death.
Nothing is fixed.
What have not taught are far more numerous than what have been taught.
Human consciousness had begun as a ripple that decided to leave the ocean of consciousness (which is timeless, spaceless and eternal). Humans forgot that they were part of the infinite ocean.
There appears to be an abundance of injustice/suffering and also compassion/beauty in our world.

Siddhartha vs Yashodhara

In a scene from Tibetan motion picture “Samsara”, a high Lama Tashi left the monastery to marry and father a son. Tashi has unwittingly recreated the moment when Gautama Buddha left his wife Yashodhara and his son Rahul. His wife Pema has ridden ahead of him and met him at the outskirts of the monastery. She asks questions which every one should ask. Only a man could have made the choice, when he left his family in the night without a word. No woman can walk away from their child. All scriptures are silent on this.
Pema asks: Was Yashodhara broken hearted when Siddhartha left her so cruelly? Did she feel anger or dispair? And what did she tell their son Rahul when he got older? How did she explain to a young man a father’s choices such as Prince Siddhartha made? Mother can not desert, but father can!
Scriptures discuss about how Gautama suffered from having to make such a cold decision, his Family in exchange for enlightenment. But silent on the subject of Yashodhara’s much greater suffering. Yashodhara was a deeply compassionate and even saintly person, always engaged in acts of charity with the most disenfranchised while Gautama was unaware of suffering.

Does one need to abandon their duty to achieve enlightenment?

Later Indian scriptures highlighted the importance of duty and greatness of grahastha (married life supporting the society). In Indian marriages, there will be a ceremony called Kasiyatra, to discourage people from becoming monks, but serve society as responsible family men.

Points to think

Some thoughts on Buddhism

Who is a Buddhist? There is no certifying body who checks people's Buddhist membership cards. Further, since one of the central teachings of Buddhism is that there is no identifiable "self", taking on an identity of being a Buddhist (having a Buddhist self) is antithetical.

Buddhism is a technology for mindfulness. First is an appreciation of the present moment. One can be distracted from our immediate life by worry, anger, regrets, doubts, living in past memories, etc.
anṛśam kṣamā śāntir ahimsa satyam ārjavam | adroho nābhimānaśca hrīs-titikṣa śamas tathā | panthāno brahmaṇastvete |
The path to merge with Brahman is sincerity, patience, peace, non-injury, truth, honesty, non-malice, non-arrogance, modesty, tolerance and tranquillity (Kapila-go-samvāda — Shanti Parva).

The primary purpose of food was to keep the body alive, healthy, and strong. We keep ourselves healthy to reduce life’s suffering and to not to be dependent.

The first precept in Buddhism is to refrain from killing. The Buddha saw defensive war as a sad necessity. They begged for food and provided teaching on the Way in return for donations of food. This included walking through villages with begging bowls and taking the food back to share, while offering guidance, advice, teachings, and blessings. Some Buddhists are strict vegetarians when it comes to not eating meat, and this is likely to include not eating eggs, as well. Eating dairy is rare because it is not part of an Oriental diet.

The notion of being vegan is much closer to Jainism and certain yogic traditions than it is to Buddhism. It is good not to get involved in the lives and choices of others. Let’s focus on making wise choices each ourselves!


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