Buddhism in Ancient History of India

Life of Gautama Buddha:

  • The founder of Buddhism was Gautam Buddha, was born as Siddhartha.
  • Siddhartha was born in 566 BC at Lumbini (now falls in territory of Nepal) in the Sakya clan of Kshatriya. That is why Buddha is also known as Sakyamuni.
  • He died at 80 years of age in 486 BC at Kushinagar (near Gorakhpur in uttar Pradesh).
  • The mother of Siddhartha was ‘Mahamaya’ who died after giving birth to him. Thereafter, he was brought up by ‘Prajapati Gautami’ his maternal aunt. Therefore, he was also called Gautam.
  • The name of  his father was Sidhdhodhana. He was the only son of his father.
  • Siddhartha was married to Yashodhara. He also had a son named Rahul. But neither his wife nor his son were able to tie him to the worldly life.
  • He then left his home and became an ascetic at the age of 29 in search of truth and end of sorrows . This event in Buddha’s life is known as “Mahabhishkramana”.
  • Buddha’s teachers were – Alara and Udarak.
  • After seven years of roaming around, at the as of 35, Siddhartha got enlightenment at Uruvela while meditating on the bank of river Niranjana under a Peepal(Banyan) tree. This tree is called the Bodhi Tree. The place is known as Bodh gaya.
  • Buddha attained the knowledge on the Poornima of Vaishakha month.
  • He then gave his first sermon at Sarnath(Varanasi). This historic event in buddha’s life is known as “Dhammachakra Parivartan”.
  • As mentioned above, Buddha passed away in 486 BC under a Sal tree in Kushinagar (Kushinagar was under Licchhavi Kingdom).
  • Various notable rulers of his time were Buddha’s disciples such as Prasenjit, Bimbisara, and Ajatsatru.
  • Some famous Bikshuks of Budhdhism were Sariputra, Ananda, Mahakassapa, Annuradha, Upali, and Rahul.
  • Vardhman Mahavir(Jainism) was a contemporary of Gautam Buddha(Buddhism).
  • The events in Buddha’s life are depicted by various symbols in Buddhism:
    Event in Life of Buddha Symbolised by:
    Buddha’s Birth Lotus & Bull
    The Great Departure (Mahabhinishkramana) Horse
    Enlightment (Nirvana ) Bodhi Tree
    First Sermon (Dhammachakraparivartan) Wheel
    Death (Parinirvana) Stupa

    Buddhist Symbols

Buddhist Philosophy:

  • The Buddhist philosophy is based on Madhyama marga or the middle path.
  • According to madhyam marga philosophy, both the extremes of the world- indulgence and strict abstinence both are avoided and a middle path between them is followed.
  • The main teachings of Buddha are summerised in four noble truths(Arya satya) of Buddhism:
    • The world is full of sorrow(Dukkha)
    • Desire is the cause of sorrow(Dukha samudya)
    • If desire is conquered all sorrow is won over(Dukha nirodha)
    • Desire can be conquered by following eight fold paths (Ashtangirka Marg)
  • To conquer the desire, Eight Fold Path has to be followed:
    • Samyak Drist: Right Understandingbuddhism history study material & notes
    • Samyak Sankalpa: Right Resolve
    • Samyak Vani: Right Speech
    • Samyak Karma: Right Action
    • Samyak Ajiv: Right Living
    • Samyak Vyayam: Right Efforts
    • Samyak Smriti: Right Mindfulness/thought
    • Samyak Samadhi: Right Self-Concentration
  • There are three base Pillars known as Tri-ratnas in Buddhism: Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha.
  • Buddha means the highest spiritual potential in every human being.
  • Dhamma refers to the teachings of Buddha.
  • Sangha is the organization of the monks practicing Buddhism.
    [box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]China adopted Buddhism in 1st century AD[/box]

Buddhist Works:

  • One of the reasons of spread of Buddhism across the subcontinent was its use of Pali. Pali was the language of common people, unlike sanskrit which had become restricted to the elite Brahamans.
  • The literary sources of Buddhism are the three “Tripitaka” written in Pali –  Sutta Pitak , VinayaPitak, and AbhidhammaPitak.
  • Dhammapad is known as the Gita of Buddhism. It is basically canonical text of Buddhism.
  • Aswaghosa, the buddhist monk was the writer of Buddhacharita.
  • MilindaPanho is a Buddhist Treatise about a dialogue between the Indo-greek king Menander and Buddhist monk Nagasena.
  • Sunyavada or the theory of void is propagted by a south Indian Buddhism Philosopher, Nagarjuna. he wrote  Mulamadhyamakarika, where he wrote that sunyata is the nature of all things.

Buddhist Councils:

There were four councils/Sangeethis of Buddhism organised under different regimes:

I. First Council-

  • It was held under the patronage of Ajatshatru(Haryanka Dynasty) in 486BC.
  • Monk Mahakassapa Upali presided over the first council.
  • It was held at Sattapani caves in RajGriha just after the death of Buddha.
  • Compilation of VinayPitaka and SuttaPitaka was accomplished here.

II. Second Council-

  • In 383 BC. under the patronage of Kalashoka (Shishunaga Dynasty).
  • It was held at Vaishali after one century of Buddha’s death(parinirvana).
  •  The second council was presided over by Sarvakamini.
  • First division in Sangha took place. Theravedin and Mahasanghika split up here.

III. Third Council-

  • In 250 BC under the patronage of King Ashoka.
  • It was held at Pataliputra
  • It was presided by Mogaliputta Tissa.
  • Compilation of AbhidhamPitaka was done.

IV. Fourth Council-

  • In the 1st century AD, under patronage of King Kanishka(Kushan dynasty).
  • It was held in Kundalvana of Kashmir.
  • Under the presidency of Vasumitra along with Asvaghosha.
  • Buddhism was divided into two sects namely, Hinayana and Mahayana.