Buddhism notes for UPSC
Gautama Buddha was the founder of Buddhism.
He was born in Lumbini, Nepal in the year 566 BC.
He left his palace in search of truth and finally attained the true knowledge at Bodhgaya.
He at that point started to be called Buddha or the enlightened one.
He gave his first sermon near Varanasi, in Sarnath.
This occurrence is known as dhamma-chakra-pravartana (wheel turning).
He established his sangha here.
He died in 486 B.C., at the age of 80 at Kusinara or Kushinagar, in eastern UP, near Gorakhpur.
The world is full of sorrow, Gautama Buddha said, and people suffer because of desires.
When expectations are overcome it will achieve nirvana, that is, man will be free from the cycle of life and death.
He taught a person should avoid both luxury and austerity being excessive.
He recommended the middle path.
Buddhism’s core teachings are encapsulated in the basic principle of four sacred truths, or Arya Satya, and the eightfold path or ashtanga marga.
Buddha said the first noble truth that suffering (dukkha) is the root of the universe, and is like an ocean of misery.
The second noble truth is dukkha samudya, i.e. there is a reason for every suffering.
The third noble truth is dukkha nirodha i.e. it may extinguish misery.
The fourth noble truth is dukkha nirodha gamini pratipada i.e. there is a path leading to dukkha’s extinction.
According to him, everything in this world like birth, old age and death lead to suffering.
He said, if you want to get rid of suffering you have to conquer the desire.
Desires can be removed by his eightfold path, these are:
 right faith
 right resolve
 right speech
 right action
 right living
 right effort
 right thought
 right self-concentration
Cause of its spread
Buddhism does not recognize the existence of God and of the soul.
In particular, it won the support of the lower classes as it attacked the varna system.
People have been admitted to Buddhist order without any consideration of caste.
Women were also admitted to the Sangha and thus brought on a par with men.
Buddhism was liberal and democratic in comparison with Brahminism.
Buddha fought evil with goodness.
The use of Pali, the language of common people.
It made possible the spread of Buddhist doctrines among the common people.
Buddha organized a sangha or religious order.
Sangha was open to everyone, regardless of caste or sex.
Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha are the three things in Buddhism.
Buddhism was adopted by the monarchies of Magadha, Kosala, and Kausambi, as well as several Republican states and their people.
the famous Maurya King Ashoka embraced Buddhism, two hundred years after the Buddha’s death.
Ashoka spread Buddhism to Central Asia, West Asia, and Sri Lanka.
Ashoka transformed Buddhism into a world religion.
Tripitaka, Milindapanho, Buddhacharita, etc. are Buddhist literary texts.
Buddhism inspired the Gandhara and Mathura schools of art.
Influence of Buddhism:
Buddhism asked people not to accumulate wealth.
It imposes a restriction on the food, dress and sexual behavior of the monks.
Monks can not accept gold and silver, so they cannot purchase or sell.
After the death of the Buddha, these laws were relaxed.
Debtors were not permitted to be members of the sangha. The rule that slaves could not join the sangha helped the slave owners.
Buddhism kept its doors open to women and Shudras.
Buddhism kept the focus on non-violence and the sanctity of animal life. This raised the prosperity of the country’s cattle.
The earliest Buddhist text Suttanipata declares the cattle to be food givers, beauty and happiness, and thus pleads for their protection.
Buddhism taught the people not to take things for granted but to argue and judge them on merits.
To a certain degree, logic has taken the place of superstition.
This promoted rationalism among people.
Buddhist enormously enriched Pali by their writings.
Pali literature of the time can be divided into three groups.
 Sayings and teachings of the Buddha
 Rules to be observed by members of the sangha.
 Philosophical exposition of the dhamma.
The Buddhist monasteries developed as great learning centers and can be called residential universities i.e. in Bihar, Nalanda and Vikramshila, and in Gujarat Valabhi.
The Buddha’s statues were possibly the first human idols worshiped in India.
Various events in the life of the Buddha portrayed in stones.
These found at Gaya in Bihar and at Sanchi and Barbhut in Madhya Pradesh.
From the 1st century A.D the panel images of Gautam Buddha began to be made.
The Greek and the Indian sculptors worked together to create a new kind of art on the north-west frontier of India, which is known as the Gandhara art.
For the residence of the monks, rooms were hewn out of the rocks and thus began the cave architecture in Barbara hills in Gaya and in western India around Nasik.
Under the impetus of Roman trade Buddhist art flourished in the Krishna delta.
The decline of Buddhism:
During Kanishka’s reign, Buddhism split into two major sects called Hinayana and Mahayana.
Mahayana adopted Sanskrit as her language and started to worship Buddha as an idol.
Hinayana continued to follow Pali and accepted Buddha as a guide.
By the seventh century A.D., Buddhism was weak.
By the twelfth century A.D, Buddhism became practically extinct in India.
Gradually the Buddhist monks were separated from the people’s lives.
Monks gave up Pali, people’s language, and they took Sanskrit.
From the First Century A.D, they practiced idol worship on a large scale and received numerous offerings from devotees.
The rich offerings supplemented by generous royal grants to the Buddhist monasteries made the life of monk easy.
By the Seventh Century A.D, the Buddhist monasteries had come to be dominated by ease-loving people and became the center of corrupt practices that Gautam Buddha had strictly prohibited.
The enormous wealth of the monasteries with women living in them led to further degeneration.
For their riches, the monasteries came to be coveted by the Turkish invaders.
The Turks killed a large number of Buddhist monks in Nalanda, although some of the monks managed to escape to Nepal and Tibet.