• Buddhism emerged some 2,600 years ago in India as a way of life with the power to alter people.
  • It is a significant religion in nations in South and South-East Asia.

  • Siddhartha Gautam developed the religion based on his teachings and life experiences.

  • He was born into the royal dynasty of the Sakya clan, which reigned from Kapilvastu in Lumbini, near the Indo-Nepal border.

  • Gautama left home at the age of 29 to pursue a life of asceticism, or extreme self-discipline, rather than a life of luxury.

  • After 49 days of meditation, Gautama gained Bodhi (“enlightenment” or “awakened one”) under a pipal tree in Bodhgaya, a village in Bihar.

  • After achieving enlightenment, he became Shakyamuni.

  • Buddha gave his first sermon in Sarnath, near Banaras, in Uttar Pradesh.
    • This is known as Dharma-Chakra-Pravartana (the wheel of law revolving).

  • He died in 483 BCE at 80 in Kushinagara, Uttar Pradesh. This occurrence is known as Mahaparinibbana.

  • The belief system was developed by the Buddha during an era of significant religious and intellectual change in India.

  • Buddhism was formerly simply one of several schools of thought that formed in reaction to what was perceived to be conventional Hinduism's failure to meet people's needs.

  • It remained a small school of thought until the time of Ashoka the Great (268-232 BCE) of the Mauryan Empire (322-185 BCE), who accepted and spread it in India and across Central and Southeast Asia.

Founder of Buddhism- Gautama Buddha

  • Gautama Buddha, or Siddhartha, was a contemporary of Mahavira.
  • He was born in 563 BCE in the Sakya Kshatriya family in Kapilavastu (the foothills of Nepal).
  • He was from the Nobel family.
    • His father was the elected ruler of Kapilapvastu.
    • His mother was the princess of the Kosalan dynasty.
  • He was married to Yashodhara.
  • When Gautama died in 483 B.C., his followers began to form a religious movement. Buddha's teachings laid the groundwork for what would become Buddhism.
  • The Mauryan Indian ruler Ashoka the Great established Buddhism the national religion of India in the third century B.C. Buddhist monasteries were constructed, and missionary work was promoted.
  • Buddhism began to spread outside of India throughout the following few centuries. Buddhist beliefs and philosophies grew varied, with some followers understanding ideas differently than others.

Five main events of Buddha’s life

Causes of the Origin of Buddhism

Vedic system

  • The hierarchy in the Varna system was as follows: Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras.
  • The Kshatriyas, who were ranked second, were vehemently opposed to the Brahmanas' ceremonial dominance and other benefits.
    • Buddha belonged to the Kshatriya Varna.
    • Buddhist Pali texts frequently reject the Brahmanical claim to superiority and place themselves (Kshatriyas) above the Brahmanas.


  • In the sixth century BCE, when the land was more fertile due to copious rainfall, the hub of economic and political activity relocated from Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh to eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  • The utilization of Bihar's iron reservoir and adjacent areas became more convenient.
  • People began to employ more iron instruments, such as plowshares, for agricultural purposes.
  • Because the use of iron plowshares required the employment of bullocks, the age-old Vedic ritual of sacrificing animals as sacrifices would have to be abandoned in order for this agricultural economy to stabilize.
  • Furthermore, animal husbandry development became critical in order to produce a projected animal population capable of carrying out the tasks necessary to support the agricultural sector's growth.
  • Buddhism forbade any kind of sacrifice, so the peasantry accepted it.

Social Structure

  • The agricultural boom increased food production, which encouraged the growth of trade, artisan production, and urban centers.
  • This is referred to as the second urbanization Era.
  • Sixty towns and cities emerged between 600 and 300 BCE, including Rajagriha, Shravasti, Varanasi, Vaishali, and Champa.
  • As the Vaishyas and other merchant groups rose in wealth, they preferred to make huge donations to non-Vedic religions like Buddhism and Jainism.
  • Buddhism advocated nonviolence and peace, which may have put an end to battles between different kingdoms and, as a result, encouraged increased trade and commerce, which benefited this economic elite.
  • The ordinary people supported the new faiths because they taught peace and social equality, as well as a simple and austere lifestyle.
  • People sought a peaceful and uncorrupt existence apart from rising societal concerns.

What were the Buddhist beliefs?

  • Buddha advised his disciples to avoid the two extremes of indulging in worldly pleasures and practicing rigorous abstinence and asceticism.
  • He instead assigned the 'Madhyam Marg,' or middle route, to be pursued.
  • He emphasized the individualistic component of Buddhism by saying that everyone was responsible for their own pleasure in life.
  • Buddhists do not believe in a supreme entity or divinity. Instead, they concentrate on obtaining enlightenment—a condition of inner calm and insight. When devotees reach this spiritual level, they are believed to have attained nirvana.
  • The religion's founder, Buddha, is regarded as a remarkable being but not a god. The term Buddha literally means "enlightened."
  • Morality, meditation, and knowledge are used to achieve enlightenment. Buddhists frequently meditate because they think it aids in the awakening of truth.
  • Buddhism has numerous theories and interpretations, making it a tolerant and progressive religion.
  • Some researchers do not see Buddhism as a religion, but rather as a "way of life" or a "spiritual tradition."
  • Buddhism teaches its followers to shun both self-indulgence and self-denial.
  • Buddhists believe in karma (the rule of cause and consequence) and reincarnation (the never-ending cycle of rebirth).
  • Buddhists can pray at temples or in their own houses.
  • Buddhist monks, known as bhikkhus, adhere to a rigid code of behavior that includes celibacy.
  • There is no one Buddhist symbol, but several symbols representing Buddhist teachings have arisen, including the lotus flower, the eight-spoked dharma wheel, the Bodhi tree, and the swastika (an ancient sign whose name means "well-being" or "good fortune" in Sanskrit). 

Tenets of Buddhism

The major teachings of Buddhism are summarized in the basic notion of the four noble truths, or ariya-sachchani, and the eightfold road, or astangika marg.

Four Noble Truths 

The Four Noble Truths serve as a backup plan for addressing the physical and mental suffering that humanity experiences. The essence of Buddha's teachings is contained in the truths. 

Suffering is not meant to express a negative worldview, but rather a realistic viewpoint that deals with the world as it is and seeks to improve it. The idea of pleasure is accepted as temporary rather than rejected. The pursuit of pleasure may only prolong what is ultimately an insatiable need.

Noble Eightfold Path

The Fourth Noble Truth describes the Noble Eightfold Path, which Buddhists follow to achieve the end of suffering. 

The Path is split into three themes: 

  • Moral behavior (understanding, thought, and speech); 
  • Meditation and mental growth (action, livelihood, and effort); and 
  • Wisdom or insight (mindfulness and concentration).


Buddha also developed a rule of behavior for both the monastic order and laypeople to follow, known as the Five Precepts, or Pancasil, and desist from.

They are

  • Violence 
  • Theft
  • Sexual misbehavior
  • Lying or gossiping
  • The use of intoxicating substances, such as drugs or alcohol,


There are three pitakas, which are known as tripitakas. These are the traditional words in Buddhist scripts. 

  • Vinaya Pitaka (a collection of disciplines)
    • Contains standards of behavior and discipline for monks and nuns in their monastic lives.
  • Sutta Pitaka (a collection of discourses)
    • Contains Buddha's core teaching, or Dhamma. It is split into five collections or Nikayas:
      • Digha Nikaya 
      • Majjhima  Nikaya 
      • Samyutta Nikaya 
      • Anguttara Nikaya 
      • Khuddaka Nikaya
  • Abhidamma Pitaka (a collection of Abhidharma or metaphysics)
    • A philosophical examination and systematization of monastic teaching and intellectual work.

Other significant Buddhist works include the Divyavadana, Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa, Milind Panha, and others.

Holy books in Buddhism

Buddhists hold several sacred writings and scriptures in high regard. Some of the most significant are:

  • Tipitaka: Known as the "three baskets," these texts are regarded to be the earliest collection of Buddhist literature.
  • Sutras: There are over 2,000 sutras, which are sacred teachings mostly practiced by Mahayana Buddhists.
  • The Book of the Dead: This Tibetan literature elaborates on the stages of death.

Buddhist Councils

The Buddhist Councils were pivotal moments in the history of early Buddhism.

These councils led to sectarian battles and, eventually, the Great Schism, which split Buddhism into two major schools, Theravada and Mahayana. 

Four Buddhist Councils existed. These Buddhist Councils are regarded as four watershed moments in Buddhism's history. In order to solve the challenges that arose during that time period in Buddhism. 

  • First Council
    • It was conducted soon after the Buddha's Mahaparinirvan, about 483 BC, under the patronage of King Ajatshatru and presided over by Mahakasyapa, a monk.
    • The first council met in Rajgriha's Sattapani cave (the current city of Rajgir).
    • The council was organized to preserve Buddha's teachings (Sutta) and guidelines for disciples. 
    • During this time, the Buddha's teachings were split into three Pitakas.
    • It occurred three months after the Buddha's death.
    • The Pali Tipitaka, or Buddhist Scriptures, were gathered and compiled by the First Buddhist Council.
  • Second Council
    • The council was held in 383 BC, at Vaishali, a hamlet in Bihar
      • Under the patronage of King Kalasoka. Sabakami presided over it.
    • It happened 100 years after the Buddha's death.
    • In order to resolve a significant disagreement about Vinaya.
    • The disagreement occurred because of the 'Ten Points.'
      •  Storing salt in a horn was one of the ten specified criteria.
      • eating in the afternoon.
      • Eating once and then returning to the village for alms.
      • Performing the Uposatha Ceremony with monks from the same area.
      • Executing official activities when the assembly was insufficient.
      • Following a certain practice since it was performed by one's tutor or instructor.
      • After a noon lunch, one consumes sour milk.
      • Taking a powerful drink before it has fermented.
      • Using a rug that was the wrong size.
      • Making use of gold and silver.
    • The fundamental issue was the usage of 'gold and silver,' an Indic phrase that refers to any type of money.
    • In this council, the Buddhist order was split into Mahasanghikas and Sthaviravadinis (Theravada).  
    • The Second Buddhist Council unanimously decided not to loosen any of the restrictions and condemned the attitude of the monks accused of breaking the ten criteria.
  • Third council
    • The council took place at Pataliputra (today's Patna) in 250 BC.
    • Ashoka (Maurya Dynasty) was King.
    • Mogaliputta Tissa (Upagupta) is the presiding priest.
    • Goal: to unify the many schools of Buddhism and cleanse the Buddhist movement, notably from opportunistic groups drawn by royal support.
    • Moggaliputta Tissa recounted the solutions to doctrinal issues and disagreements formed during the Third Council in the Kathavatthu, one of the Abhidhamma Pitaka's volumes.
    • This resulted in:
      • Sthaviravada institution was established as an orthodox institution, believing that the past, present, and future are all simultaneous. They may have had a formative impact on Mahayana.
      • Codification of the Abhidhamma Pitaka, which deals with Buddhist philosophy and is written in Pali
  • Fourth Council
    • The council took place at Kundalavana, Kashmir, in 72 AD.
    • Kanishka (Kushan Dynasty) was a Buddhist patron and was crucial in expanding the religion across India's northwestern frontiers.
    • Vasumitra, delegated by Asvaghosha, is the presiding priest.
    • The fourth Buddhist Council had to cope with a significant controversy between Kashmir and Gandhara's Sarvasthivada instructors.
    • This resulted in:
      • The ideas of Sarvasthivada were organized into three big comments on the Pitakas.
      • Buddhism is finally divided into two sects: Mahayana and Hinayana.

The Theravada Buddhist councils of 1871 and 1954 are known as the Fifth and Sixth Buddhist Councils, respectively.

Types/School of Buddhism

Three main schools of thought- 

  • Theravada Buddhism (the school of elders)
    1. It is claimed that it is the oldest school of Buddhism. It maintains the original teachings and visions of Buddha.
    2. It is sometimes called the Hinayana (lesser vehicle).
    3. It is a more orthodox form of Buddhism- follows four noble truths and the eightfold path.
    4. They live a strict monastic life of meditation in order to achieve nirvana.
    5. They do not worship Buddha as a divinity, but rather follow his karma and meditation teachings.
    6. It took shape around 250 BC.
    7. Theravada is the sect of the Hinayana.
    8. It was developed in Sri Lanka.
    9. The majority of followers can be found in Southeast Asia, mainly in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. 


  • A lesser vehicle is also known as an abandoned vehicle or a defective car. It adheres to Buddha's original teachings or the Doctrine of the Elders.
  • It rejects idol worship and seeks individual redemption through self-discipline and meditation.
  • Mahayana Buddhism
    1. It is one of Buddhism's two major schools.
    2. Mahayana is a Sanskrit phrase that literally means "Great Vehicle."
    3. It believes in Buddha's heavenliness and idol worship of Buddha.
    4. This practice emphasizes the Bodhisattva path, which represents Buddha's Nature.
    5. It was founded 400 years after Buddha’s death.
    6. Around the first century CE, this expanded throughout Central Asia via the silk route.
      1.  It began in northern India and Kashmir before spreading east into Central Asia, East Asia, and parts of Southeast Asia.
      2. It is widely followed in Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan.
    7. It is supposed to have separated from Theravada because it was too self-centered and had lost its real vision.
      1. His school also professes to adhere to the Buddha's original teaching.
  • Vajrayana Buddhism
    1. Vajrayana, commonly known as tantric or Tantrayan Buddhism, means "The Vehicle of the Thunderbolt."
      1. Tantra is a system of enlightenment that combines mantras (protective phrases), acts, and visualizations.
    2. This school emerged in India around 900 CE.
    3. In comparison to the other Buddhist schools, it is based on esoteric components and an extremely complicated system of rites.
    4. It focuses on the efforts involved in becoming a Buddha and developing a unique route to enlightenment through tantric rituals. To completely awaken in Vajrayana, one merely has to realize this.
    5. It developed largely in Tibet.
      1. Tara is a meditation goddess worshipped by Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhists in order to cultivate particular inner traits and comprehend exterior, inner, and secret teachings such as karua (compassion), metta (loving-kindness), and shunyata (emptiness).
      2. Because it was systematized in Tibet by the sage Atisha (982-1054 CE), it is sometimes referred to as Tibetan Buddhism.
      3. The Dalai Lama, who is sometimes referred to as the spiritual leader of all Buddhists, is officially just the spiritual head of the Vajrayana School of Thinking, and his ideas are most closely aligned with this school of thought.

Other schools of Buddhism 

These schools were developed from the main Buddhist school.

  • Zen
      1. It is a Mahayana Buddhist school that emerged in China during the Tang dynasty as the Chan school of Chinese Buddhism and eventually evolved into other sects.
        1. This traveled from China to Japan and was most completely developed there before reaching the West. It is the most popular in the West.
      2. It arrived in Japan around the seventh century C.E.
      3. The main distinguishing element of this Buddhist practice is meditation.
  • Pure Land Buddhism
      1. The objective of Mahayana Buddhism is rebirth in a "pure land" of a Buddha Realm that resides on a higher dimension.
  • Secular Buddhism
      1. This, which denies the metaphysical parts of the belief system in order to focus on self-improvement for its own sake, is becoming increasingly popular in the West.
  • Furthermore, Modern Buddhism may be found in two doctrinal schools known as Prasangika and Svatantrika.
  • Another sub-sect of Buddhism is known as Newar Buddhism, which is centered on the caste system.


Other faiths and ideologies, such as Taoism and Bon, are incorporated into some types of Buddhism.

Development of Buddhism in India

Buddhism's development over time may be divided into four stages:

  1. The Early Buddhist Period: The historic Buddha presented the teachings, and his followers recorded them. This occurred during the middle of the sixth and middle of the fifth centuries BCE.
  2. The Phase of Teaching Interpretations: The second phase's criteria were the commencement of divisions into diverse (Hinayana) schools based on differing interpretations of Buddha's teachings (Councils). This occurred roughly between the fourth and first centuries C.E. Between the Buddha's mahaparinirvana (death) and the end of the first century B.C.E., the Hinayana Schools arose. Following the third council, the first split into schools occurred, with Hinayana Buddhism being separated into eighteen sub-schools. Its principles are believed to be founded primarily on the sutras taught by the Buddha, its discipline on Vinaya, and an examination of the Abhidharma teachings. Hinayana principally provides the Pratimoksha route of individual redemption or release.
  3. The Phase of Mahayana Buddhism's Rise: The third historical period of Buddhism saw the birth of Mahayana Buddhism, with its two sub-schools - Chitamattra (or the Yogacharya) and Madhyamaka. This occurred between the first and seventh centuries C.E. Mahayana schools arose during the period of Asanga, Vasubhandu, Nagarjuna, and other great gurus.
  4. The Buddhist Tantra Phase: After the 7th century, the revelation of Buddhist Tantras (in Tibet) began. Tantric Buddhism existed in India at the time in a very hidden or secret form that was not made public or available to regular Buddhist practitioners. It grew much further during the times of Saraha, Nagarjuna, and other great mahasiddhas, until it ultimately reached Tibet in its entirety thanks to the blessings of Guru Padmasambhava, Marpa the Great Translator, and many other great Indian and Tibetan masters.

Spread of Buddhism in India

  • There were two types of disciples for Buddha: monks (bhikshus) and lay devotees (upasikas).
  • The monks were organized into the Sangha in order to promote his teachings.
    • The Sangha was controlled democratically and had the authority to impose discipline on its members.
    • Even during Buddha's lifetime, Buddhism advanced rapidly in North India due to the Sangha's structured efforts.
  • After Buddha's death, his disciples continued on his meditation path and traveled the countryside.
  • For 200 years, Buddhism was eclipsed by its Hindu equivalents until the arrival of the Great Mauryan King, Ashoka.
  • Following the slaughter of his Kalinga invasion, Emperor Ashoka chose to abandon worldly conquest in favor of Dhamma conquest.
  • During the third Buddhist council, Ashoka dispatched Buddhist missions to Gandhara, Kashmir, Greece, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Egypt, and Thailand.
  • Ashoka's missionary efforts brought Buddhism to West Asia and Ceylon.
  • As a result, a local religious group became a universal religion.

Cause of the decline of Buddhism in India

Some of the major causes for the decline of Buddhism in India are as follows:

  • Loss of royal sponsorship: The loss of royal patronage after Harshavardhana exacerbated the downfall of Buddhism. The Buddhist rulers were succeeded by Hindu princes who promoted Hinduism and the Brahmanical heritage.
    • The Vedic religion, for example, received royal backing first from Pushyamitra Sunga and afterward from the imperial Guptas. 
    • The contributions of the Bhakti movement exponents such as Ramanuja and Ramananda also contributed to the restoration of the Vedic religion's luster.
  • Foreign ruler invasion: The invasion of foreign rulers like the Shakas, Kushans, and Huns also contributed to the collapse of Buddhism. These emperors were not Buddhists, and they supported the Brahmanical tradition, causing Buddhism to fade. The Rajput kings, unable to reconcile with the Buddhist notion of nonviolence and passionate supporters of the Vedic faith, began persecuting Buddhists. The Arab and Turkish invasions caused Buddhist monks to evacuate India and seek refuge in Nepal, Tibet, and Ceylon. As a result, Buddhism died out in India.
  • Other faiths' growth: The emergence of other religions such as Jainism and Hinduism also led to the demise of Buddhism. These faiths vied with Buddhism for adherents and resources, with the Brahmanical tradition drawing a huge number of devotees.
  • Monastic degeneration: The collapse of monasteries, as well as the corruption of Buddhist monks, contributed to the decline of Buddhism. The monasteries became centers of wealth and power, and Buddhist monks became interested in worldly issues, which contradicted core Buddhist ideals.
  • Lack of vernacular literature: Another factor contributing to Buddhism's downfall was a dearth of vernacular literature. The Buddhist writings were written in Pali and Sanskrit, which the general public did not understand. As a result, Buddhism's teachings were not extensively disseminated.

In brief, Buddhism went practically extinct in India, its birthplace, after the 13th century C.E., owing chiefly to the continual destructive action of several fundamentalist Muslim monarchs. It has, nevertheless, continued to thrive and expand in other nations until this day. Buddhism has recently been revived in India by several Theravadin Hinayana and Tibetan Mahayana-Vajrayana Buddhist schools.


Buddhism has appreciated and cultivated the definitions of loving-kindness, humanism, patience, and generosity in this way. Furthermore, the notion of ahimsa, or harmlessness, is linked with compassion and the desire not to harm others, as well as faith in oneself. Buddhism is highly practical and tries to help people live tranquil lives.

Buddhism developed under the reigns of Emperor Ashoka and King Kanishka, as Emperor Ashoka propagated Buddha's teachings and beliefs throughout India and other regions of Asia. Kanishka utilized the Silk Road to propagate Buddhist teachings and beliefs throughout central Asia, which considerably accelerated the growth of Buddhism's influence in large portions of Asia. 

Despite being the home of Buddhism, the number of Buddhists in India is now nearly non-existent owing to several foreign invasions. The majority of the surviving Buddhists in India are concentrated mostly in the Himalayan area.

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