Gautama Buddha, Buddhist Councils, and Principles of Buddhism

Gautama Buddha, Buddhist Councils, and Principles of Buddhism

Indian ascetic and spiritual leader Gautama Buddha lived in the sixth or fifth century BCE.

Gautama Buddha, Buddhist Councils, and Principles of Buddhism

Indian ascetic and spiritual leader Gautama Buddha lived in the sixth or fifth century BCE. Buddhists revere him as the founder of Buddhism and a fully enlightened being who revealed the way to Nirvana, which is the freedom from ignorance, craving, rebirth, and suffering.

The Buddha is said to have been born in Lumbini, Nepal, to wealthy Shakya clan parents. He later left his family and became a wandering ascetic who lived a life of begging, asceticism, and meditation.

Gautama Buddha’s Belief

Buddhism emphasizes the Karma and Ahimsa of the individual. It also downplays the importance of the Varna social structure and treats everyone equally. Several nations adopted it even though it was initially only taught in the Pali language. The first nation to adopt Buddhism was China in the first century AD.

  • The founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha was born a prince into a prosperous family. Suddhodhana was his father.
  • Seven days after his birth, Mahamaya, his mother, passed away. He was raised by his stepmother Gautami.
  • He married Yashodhara when she was 16; they had a son named Rahula.
  • After seeing an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and an ascetic, he left his luxurious life. Then he decided to become a wanderer.
  • At the age of 29, he set out from his house with his trusted horse, Kanthaka, and charioteer, Channa. He wandered for almost six years after leaving them in search of the truth.
  • He made reference to his pursuit of the truth as "Mahabhinishkramana," or the Great Renunciation.
  • Alara Kalama was his first mentor and the person he learned meditation techniques from.
  • At the age of 35, he attained "Nirvana" or Enlightenment in Gaya, a town in Magadh, Bihar, under a peepal tree.
  • The Tathagata or Sakyamuni are other names for the Buddha.
  • He preached his first sermon to his five disciples at Sarnath. The first sermon is referred to as the "Turning of the Wheel of Law" or "Dharmachakrapravartan."
  • He attained "Mahaparinirvana" at Kushinagar, which is the same as the village of Kasia in the Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh, in the Malla republic, as evidenced by the fact that his life ended at the age of 80.

Spread of Buddhism

  • Monks (bhikshus) and lay worshipers (upasikas), two different types of disciples, were both under the Buddha.
  • For the purpose of disseminating his teachings, the monks were gathered into the Sangha.
  • With the authority to impose rules on its members, the Sangha was governed democratically.
  • Even during the lifetime of the Buddha, Buddhism advanced quickly in North India due to the coordinated efforts of the Sangha.
  • Following the demise of Buddha, his disciples traveled the world and roamed the countryside while following his path of meditation.
  • Prior to the arrival of the Great Mauryan King, Ashoka, Buddhism was for 200 years eclipsed by its Hindu counterparts.
  • Emperor Ashoka made the decision to abandon his policy of worldly conquest and adopt the Dhamma conquest following the carnage of his conquest of the Kalinga.
  • A number of Buddhist missions were sent by Ashoka during the third Buddhist Council to places like Gandhara, Kashmir, Greece, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Egypt, and Thailand.
  • Ashoka promoted Buddhism through his missionary activities in West Asia and Ceylon. Consequently, a local religious sect evolved into a global religion.


Important Buddhist Councils

After the death of Buddha, the Buddhist monks or followers met four times, and these gatherings had a number of effects on Buddhism.

1st Buddhist Council:

  • In the year 483 BC, this took place in Rajgriha's Saptaparni cave.
  • Mahakasyapa presided over the formation of this council.
  • Ajatshatru, a member of the Haryanka dynasty, ruled at that time.
  • As a result of this gathering, the Buddha's teachings are split into the Vinaya Pitaka and the Sutta Pitaka. Upali read from the Vinaya Pitaka, and Ananda read from the Sutta Pitaka.

2nd Buddhist Council:

  • In the year 383 BC, this event took place in Chullavanga, Vaishali.
  • Sabakami served as the council's chairman.
  • The Shishunaga Dynasty's Kalashoka served as the period's ruler during this time.
  • There were two main schools of Buddhism: Mahasanghika and Sthaviravada.

3rd Buddhist Council:

  • In the year 250 BC, this took place at Ashokarama Vihar in Patliputra.
  • Mogaliputta Tissa presided over this council as its leader.
  • During this time, Ashoka, a member of the Maurya dynasty, ruled as a monarch.
  • Abhidhamma, the third section of the Tripitaka, was put together.
  • It was decided to send missionaries to other continents in order to introduce Buddhism to those nations.

4th Buddhist Council:

  • The fourth council took place in 72 AD in Kundala Van, Kashmir.
  • Vasumitra served as the council's chairman, and Ashwaghosha served as vice-chairman.
  • Kanishka, a member of the Kushana dynasty, presided over the meeting.
  • Buddhists are divided into Hinayana and Mahayana schools.

Schools of Buddhism

  • Mahayana:
    • It belongs to the second of Buddhism's two main schools.
    • The Sanskrit word "Mahayana" literally translates to "Great Vehicle."
    • It holds that idol worship of Buddha and Bodhisattvas, who represents Buddha's nature and the heavenliness of Buddha, is true.
    • After starting in northern India and Kashmir, it moved eastward into Central Asia, East Asia, and some regions of Southeast Asia.
    • The Mahayana school of Buddhism is present in Buddhist institutions in China, Korea, Tibet, and Japan.
  • Hinayana
    • Literally, a "lesser vehicle," is also referred to as a "defective vehicle" or an abandoned vehicle. 
    • It adheres to the doctrine of the elders or the original teachings of the Buddha.
    • It rejects the worship of idols and seeks to save each person through self-control and meditation.
    • Theravada is a branch of Hinayana Buddhism.
  • Theravada
    • It is the oldest variation of Buddhism still practiced today.
    • It continues to be the truest of the Buddha's original teachings.
    • Sri Lanka served as the birthplace of Theravada Buddhism, which later spread throughout the rest of Southeast Asia. 
    • In Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, it is the predominant form of religion.
  • Vajrayana
    • Tantric Buddhism is also known as Vajrayana, which means "The Vehicle of the Thunderbolt."
    • Around 900 CE, the Buddhist school began to emerge in India.
    • Compared to the other Buddhist schools, it has a very complex set of rituals and is founded on esoteric principles.
  • Zen
    • It is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism that began as the Chan branch of Chinese Buddhism during the Tang dynasty before evolving into other branches.
    • During the seventh century C.E., it reached Japan.
    • The primary characteristic of this Buddhist tradition is meditation.

The Main Principles of Buddhism

The Three Jewels, "The Noble Eightfold Path," "The Four Noble Truths," "The Five Precepts," "The Three Marks of Conditioned Existence," and "Vegetarianism" are the main tenets of Buddhism. 

The most important ones are described below.

Triple Jewels : Taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha—also known as the Triple Gems—does not entail complete self-renunciation or reliance on a third party or outside force for assistance or salvation.

The Four Noble Truths: Dukkha, Samudaya, Nirhodha, and Magga are the terms used in Buddhism to refer to suffering, its causes, its effects, and the way out of it. These are the core teachings of Buddhism that Buddha outlined in his first sermon following his enlightenment.

The Noble Eightfold Path: The Noble Eightfold Path is a method for achieving enlightenment. Ethical Conduct, Wisdom, and Mental Discipline are cited as the "Three Main Sections" of "The Eightfold Path" by followers.

The "eightfold path" of right resolve, right views, right speech, right livelihood, right action, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration is the route to the end of suffering.

The Five Precepts: All Buddhists adhere strictly to these fundamental training guidelines.

  • To abstain from killing living things.
  • Refrain from taking what is not being offered.
  • To refrain from sexual misconduct.
  • Avoid using improper language (don't lie, use improper grammar, be abusive, or gossip).
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol that make you drunk and careless.

The Contribution of Buddhism to Indian Culture

Buddhism has significantly influenced the growth of Indian culture:

  • Its main contribution was the idea of ahimsa. Later, it developed into one of our country's most cherished values.
  • It made a significant contribution to India's art and architecture. Sanchi, Bharhut, and Gaya's stupas are magnificent works of architecture.
  • Through residential universities like those at Taxila, Nalanda, and Vikramasila, education was promoted.
  • Buddhism's teachings contributed to the development of the Pali language and other regional languages.
  • Additionally, it had aided in the diffusion of Asian cultures outside of India.

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