Buddhism in India
Buddhism is a religion evolved in the eastern part of India in 563 BCE. The word comes from ‘buddhi,’ ‘to awaken.’ It has its sources about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, was himself awoken (enlightened) at the age of 35.
Siddhartha Gautama was born into a noble family in Lumbini, now located in Nepal, in BC 563. At the age of 29, Buddha realized that luxury and wealth did not guarantee happiness, so then he traveled the different teachings religions and philosophies to find the key to human happiness. After six years of meditation and study, he finally attained ‘the middle path’ and was enlightened. The Buddha, after enlightenment spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism — called the Dhamma (Truth) until his demise at the age of 80.
The fundamental Buddhist doctrine does not involve any godly figures, though the later Buddhist sects introduced some Godly characters. The Buddhists believe in the God-like figures or the Bodhisattvas, who take an interest in the prosperity of the world and work for its liberation. Scholars recognize two major existing branches of Buddhism: Mahayana (Sanskrit: “The Great Vehicle”) and Theravada (Pali: “The School of the Elders”). Buddhism is the world’s fourth-largest religion with an average of 7% of the global population or 500 million followers, known as Buddhists.
To many, Buddhism advances beyond religion and is more of philosophy or ‘way of life’. It is a philosophy of love of wisdom, and Buddhist path can be summed up as:
(1) to lead a moral life,
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding.
Four Noble Truths
The first truth Dukkha: life is suffering, that is life includes pain, disease, getting old, and finally death. We also experience psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, embarrassment, fear, anger and disappointment. This is a clear fact that cannot be refused. It is realistic fairly rather than pessimistic because pessimism is foreseeing things to be bad. Instead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be withdrawn and how we can be truly happy.
The second truth Samudaya: aversion and craving produce suffering. We will suffer if we assume other people to adhere to our expectation, if we want others to like us and do not get something we want, etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than always striving to get what you want, try to decrease your wanting. Wanting bereaves us of pleasure and happiness. A lifetime of craving and wanting and the in particular need to remain to exist creates a powerful force which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.
The third truth Niroda: suffering can overcome, and happiness can be attained; that contentment and true happiness are possible. If we give up worthless craving and learn to live each day at a time by not dwelling on the past or the imagined future, then we can become happy and free. We later have more time and energy to serve others. This is “Nirvana”. After Nirvana, there is no soul, but the individuality of an individual that passes into nothingness, which is beyond any description and speculation.
The fourth truth Magga: the Noble 8-fold Path is a moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), concentrating the mind on being fully aware of our actions, thoughts, and developing enlightenment by following the Four Noble Truths and by cultivating compassion for others. The Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.
The formulation of these four truths and their importance evolved over time when Prajna (liberating insight) came to be considered as liberating in itself, instead of the practice of dhyana.
Buddhist teachings can be experienced and tested by anyone. Buddhism explains that the answers to our problems are within us not outside. The Buddha suggested all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves. In this way, each person determines themselves and takes responsibility for their actions and understanding. This addresses Buddhism as less of a fixed package of beliefs which is to be accepted in its completeness, and more of a teaching which each person learns and uses in their way.
The Maha-Parinibbana Sutta (Digha Nikaya 16, Last Days of the Buddha) was presented near the end of the Buddha’s life. In this sutta, the Buddha highlighted the importance of the four noble truths with the following statement and the Blessed One approached the Bhikkhus. He was saying: “Bhikkhus, it is through not realizing, through not perceiving the Four Noble Truths this long way of birth and death has been carried through and experienced by me and as well as by you. What are these four Truths? 1) They are the noble truth of suffering, 2) the noble truth of the root of suffering; 3) the noble truth of the end of suffering; and 4) the noble truth of the way to the end of suffering. Bhikkhus, but now, that these have been realized and understood, cut off is the craving for existence, ended is that which leads to repeated becoming, and there is no new becoming.”
Thus it was said by the Happy and Blessed One. Finally, the Master, further said: