Life of buda Essay

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Life of buda

General Essay on Buddhism

Life of the Buddha

Buddhism arose in northern India in the 6th century BCE. The historical founder of
Buddhism, Siddharta Gautama (c.560-480 BCE) was born in a village called Lumbini into a
warrior tribe called the Sakyas (from where he derived the title Sakyamuni, meaning 'Sage
of the Sakyas'). According to tradition Gautama's father, Suddhodana was the king of a
small principality based on the town of Kapilavastu. His mother, Queen Maya, died seven
days after Gautama's birth. Following the death of Maya, Suddhodana married Maya's sister,
Prajapati, by whom Gautama was brought up in great luxury and sheltered from the harshness
of the outside world.

At sixteen the prince married Yasodhara. Yasodhara bore him a son whom he called Rahula
(meaning "chain" or "fetter"), a name that indicated Gautama's sense of dissatisfaction
with his life of luxury. His apparent sense of dissatisfaction turned to disillusion when
he saw three things from the window of his palace, each of which represented different
forms human suffering: a decrepit old man, a diseased man, and a corpse.

So traumatised was Siddharta by his new found awareness of the transience of pleasure and
the universality of suffering, that he decided to embark on a life dedicated to true
knowledge. Inspired by the example of a mendicant monk, Siddharta abandoned his family and
life as a prince, cut off his hair and adopted the lifestyle of a wanderer.

Siddharta began his spiritual quest under the guidance of two teachers who showed him how
to reach very deep states of meditation (samadhi). This did not, however, lead to a sense
of true knowledge or peace, and the practice of deep meditation was abandoned in favour of
a life of extreme asceticism which he shared with five companions. But again, after five
or six years, of self-mortification, Siddharta felt he had failed to achieve true insight
and rejected such practices as dangerous and useless.

Resolved to continue his quest, Siddharta made his way to a deer park at Isipatana, near
present day Benares. Here he sat beneath a tree meditating on death and rebirth. It was
here that Siddharta attained a knowledge of the way things really are; it was through this
knowledge that he acquired the title 'Buddha' (meaning 'awakened one'). This awakening was
achieved during a night of meditation, which passed through various stages. In the first
stage he saw each of his previous existences. In the second he surveyed the death and
rebirth of all living beings and understood the law that governs the cycle of birth and
death. In the third he identified the four noble truths: the universality of suffering,
the cause of suffering through selfish desire, the solution to suffering and the way to
overcome suffering. This final point is called the Noble Eightfold Path, this being eight
steps consisting of wisdom (right views, right intention) ethics (right speech, right
action, right livelihood), mental discipline (right effort, right mindfulness, right
concentration), which ultimately lead to liberation from the source of suffering.

Although initially hesitant to share his insight on the grounds that humanity might not be
ready for such a teaching, the Buddha decided to communicate his discovery to those
willing to listen. His first converts were the five ascetics with whom he had lived when
he himself followed the lifestyle of the ascetic. To these he preached his first sermon in
the Deer Park at Benares, outlining to them the Four Noble Truths. Out of this small group
the community of monks (or sangha) grew to about sixty in size and included Buddha's
cousin, Ananda, and his son, Rahula. Later the Buddha was persuaded by his step-mother and
cousin to accept women into the sangha.

The remaining forty-five years of the Buddha's life were spent journeying around the plain
of the Ganges, teaching and receiving visitors. At the age of 79 the Buddha fell seriously
ill and died. During his life the Buddha had taught that no one was to succeed him as
leader of the Sangha. Instead, his followers were to take his teaching and rule as their
sole guides.

Councils and Early Schisms in the Community

Following the Buddha's death, his teachings were gathered together at the first Buddhist
council, which is said to have taken place at Rajagrha shortly after the Buddha's Final

A second council, which is said to have taken place a century after the Buddha's death,
took place at Vaisali. The purpose of this council was to consider allegations that
certain monks at Vaisali permitted ten practices that contravened the rules of conduct of
the Vinaya. The Vaisali Council condemned these practices, after which the Council was

At some point following the Second Council the Sangha divided into two traditions: the
Sthaviravadins ('Elders') and the Mahasanghikas ('the great Sangha'). The difference
between the two traditions seems to relate to their perception of the status of the
layperson and the status of the arhant. Whereas the Mahasanghikas were more open to the
laity practising Buddhism and tended to believe that the lay person was capable of
becoming an arhant, the Sthaviravadins believed that monastic life alone could lead to
arahantship and, therefore, nirvana.

Sometime in the 3rd century B.C.E. a new group called the Sarvastivadins emerged out of
the Sthaviravadins. The name "Sarvastivadin" is believed to derive from the phrase sarva
asti (everything exists). The Sarvastivadins taught that the dharmas, the most basic
elements of existence, exist in the past, present and future which are simply modes of
being. The growth of this movement led King Asoka, of the Maurya dynasty, to call the
third Buddhist Council at Pataliputra (c. 250 BCE) which decided against the teachings of
the Sarvastivadins. This decision prompted some of them to emigrate to north India and
establish a center in Kashmir where they survived for about a thousand years.

Another group that emerged in the 3rd century B.C.E. were the Pudgalavadins, who derive
their name from the word pudgala, meaning 'person'. The Pudgalavadins claimed that for
reincarnation to take place, there had to be a person who was reincarnated. This view was
criticised by other Buddhist sects who said that Pudgalavadin teaching implied the reality
of a self and, therefore, contradicted the basic Buddhist teaching of anatman (no self).

Those Sthaviravadins who did not accept the doctrines of either the Sarvastivadins or the
Pudgalavadins came to be called Vibhajyadins ('Distinctionists'). This group formed a

number of branches, of which the largest and most important were the Theravadins of Ceylon.
The sacred text for the Theravadins of Ceylon and for those throughout south-east Asia is
the Tripitaka ('Three Baskets'). These three baskets consist of the Vinaya Pitaka (rules
for monks and nuns), the Sutta Pitaka (the discourses given by the Buddha) and the
Abhidhamma Pitaka (the systematic ordering and analysis of Buddhist doctrine).
Accompanying the Tripitaka was a large body of commentarial literature explaining in
detail the meaning of particular sutras.

Early Mahayana Buddhism
At about the beginning of the common era there appeared texts which did not belong to the
Tripitaka of the early schools (in so far as the Tripitaka existed at this time). The
movement associated with these texts came over time to call itself the Mahayana ('Great
Vehicle') in contrast to non-Mahayana schools, which were pejoratively named Hinayana
('Lesser Vehicle'). In India Mahayana Buddhism developed through a number of stages.
Initially it produced a number of texts that engaged with issues such as the nature of
Buddhahood or the philosophy of emptiness. Later identifiable schools such as Madhyamaka
and Yogacara emerged. Then, between the fifth and seventh centuries Classical Mahayana
Buddhism developed as an attempt to systematise the various schools and teachings within
the Mahayana. Finally, a trend, which came to be known as the Vajrayana, emerged based on
new texts known as Tantras, which were more magical and ritualistic than other strands of

Southern Buddhism
Buddhism was not to survive in North India much beyond the 13th and 14th centuries. In the
south it remained for a few more centuries but had largely disappeared by the end of the
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