Religious Renaissance: Buddhism

As we have read that 6th Century BCE was the age of Second Urbanisation. In this age new towns cities came into existence. Slowly the administrative, economic and societal structure changed in 6th Century BCE. This all were took place because of the Brahamanical Religion of Later Vedic Period excluded a section of societal from certain religious works. This was actually an inclusion of certain section i.e. Brahmins (priestly class) and Kshatriyas (Royal Kings) at the cost of the exclusion of Vaishyas (Merchant Class) and Shudras (Slaves).

So, this obviously created some friction among these classes. And these classes were strongly desiring some religious amendments to accommodate them into the main stream. So, this eventually gave birth to the new Religious Renaissance in the 6th Century BCE. In this, the new philosophical doctrine came into the scene. These were Buddhism, Jainism, Ajivikas etc.

Religious Renaissance

The leaders of the Religious Renaissance were contemporary. Siddhartha Gautam, Mahaveer Swami and Makkhali Gosala were contemporary and were preaching in the same geographical extent. So, here we will discuss each one of them separately in order to have brief knowledge about them.

Religious Renaissance: Buddhism

In the early ages, Buddhism as a philosophical doctrine was founded by the Siddhartha Gautama. But after the Parinirvana of the Gautama Buddha, his disciples made Buddhism as a Religion. We actually restricted the real essence of Buddhist Philosophical Doctrine by declaring it as religion. Because Buddhist Doctrine was nothing but the Law of Nature i.e. Dharma.

Note:

One should be aware the main difference between Religion and Dharma. It is very must to understand. And for this, I will take a reference from the book “Indian Culture and India’s Future” by Michel Danino. He writes about current context,

How is Indian Culture responsible for such degeneration?

Its central principle or perhaps the only principle is Dharma. Dharma, at the plainest level, means doing ones’s duty sincerely and energetically. Ancient Scriptures have thousands of pages on a ruler’s duties towards his subjects. And what do our modern rulers do?

Step no. 1: pervesely equate Dharma and Religion.

Step no. 2: declare that secularism demands the separation of religion from politics.

Step no. 3: therefore, let us carefully keep Dharma out of politics. Not only out of politics, but out of education and public life as well. Out of our brains, out of our lives. And indeed, over the years, Dharma has been uprooted from the national body. 

This is the only reason, why there are so many communal riots in our society. Because in the shadow of religion we have actually lost our humanity which is the most basic Dharma and the most basic philosophical doctrine of any Religious Renaissance. Anyways, it will take a time to accept this smallest and plainest fact of the life. Because we have complicated our lives to the fullest level and now we are not in the condition to understand simple facts. Being simple is difficult nowadays.

Okay let’s come to the point, we were discussing Buddhism.

Siddhartha Gautama to Gautama Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama was born in 563 BCE in a Shakya Clan in Lumbini (Nepal). The father of the Siddhartha was the ruler of Shakya Republic and his mother was a Koshalan Princess. When he was born, it is said that there was a prophecy,

Either he will be a Saint or Chakravartin. 

Though born as a royal prince, he did not cherish the royal luxuries. He was actually very sensitive towards the miserable condition of the people of that period. So, he consistently wanted to resolve the problems of the people. For this, at the age of 29, he left his royal palace and became a wanderer.

After few years of meditation, he got enlightenment under a pipal tree in Bodh Gaya (Bihar). From that day the tree is known as Bodhi Tree. Bodhi is a Sanskrit word, which means to have knowledge. He gave his first sermon at Sarnath in Benaras.

His main motive was to elevate the status of all the section of the society. He did not discriminate between the rich and the poor, the high and the low and the man and the woman. Gautama Buddha passed away at the age of 80 years in 483 BCE at the place Kushinagar (Uttar Pradesh).

Religious Renaissance: Doctrine and Teachings of Buddhism

He gave a very simple philosophy of Desire=Death. It means that the cause of all the sorrows is desire. He gave four noble truths.

  • The World is full of Sorrow.
  • The lust and Desire are the main cause of this sorrow.
  • And if there is sorrow, the way to overcome is Dukhanirodh.
  • The way is Ashtangik Marga (Eightfold Path).

The Ashtangik Marga comprises of

Right Observation, Right Determination, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Exercise, Right Memory and Right Meditation.

The code of conduct of Buddhism,

  • Do not covet the property of others.
  • Don’t commit violence.
  • Do not use intoxicants.
  • Don’t speak a lie.
  • Do not indulge in corrupt practices.

Nirvana

The Eightfold Path i.e. Ashtangik Marga of Buddhism is the Path to attain Nirvana. The Nirvana literally means blowing out and philosophical meaning is ultimate knowledge. So, Nirvana means knowledge which Buddha got in Bodh Gaya. So, after it in compassion, he started preaching the philosophy of liberation (Moksha) to the common masses.

The Buddhist Text Suttanipada gave very importance to Cow. The cow is named as Annada, Vannada and Sukhada (cattle, giver of food, beauty and happiness) in this text.

Sects of Buddhism

After Buddha, Buddhism got divided into different sects, which is present till now. There are three paths of worship in general,

  1. Gyaan Marga
  2. Karma Marga
  3. Bhakti Marga

Accordingly, We divide the Buddhist sects.

Hinayana

It emphasises Gyaan Marga of worship i.e. the path of knowledge. It is the purest form of Buddhism. Some times it is also called as Theravada Buddhism. Main features are,

  • Give importance to Guru.
  • The concept of Arhant i.e. Liberator.
  • Its main literature is in the form of Pitaka and written in Pali language.

Vajrayana

It emphasises for the path of action i.e. Karma Marga. It is a Tantric Sect of Buddhism. Goddess Tara is the important deity of this sect. And it has its own Tantra texts.

Mahayana

It gives emphasis on the path of devotion i.e. Bhakti Marga. The concept of Bodhisattva is the main feature of this Buddhist sect. The important feature of this sect is that it believes in the idol worship of Buddha. The main Gods of this sect are Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani and Manjushri. The important text is Avadhan Sukhvativyuha.

This was a brief description of Buddhism. In the next coming post, we will have a look on the Buddhist Literature.

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