Gautama Buddha’s teachings of four noble truths and eight-fold noble paths form a religion called as Buddhism. Buddhists are known historically as Bauddh, Saugāta, Muktakachhas, Murdhabhishikta, Śākya, Śākyaputto, Śākyabhiksu, Ariyasavako, and Jinaputto.
Noble Truths & Paths
These four noble truths are:
- Dukha - It refers to the existence of suffering in the world.
- Dukha-samudhaya - It refers to the cause for suffering.
- Dukhanirodha - It refers that it is possible to stop suffering.
- Dukha-nirodha marga - It refers to the ways out of the suffering.
The eight-fold noble paths are:
- Samyak-drsti - It means right views.
- Samyak-sankalpa - It means right resolve.
- Samyak-karmanta - It means right conduct.
- Samyagjiva - It means right livelihood.
- Samyag-vyayama - It means right effort.
- Samyak-smrti - It means right mindfulness.
- Samyak-samadhi - It means right concentration.
So "the kinship of the religions of the country stems from the fact that Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs look back to Hinduism as their common mother."
Brahman in Buddhism
- See also: Brahman
Brahmā as perfection
It has been hard to determine whether the Buddha's philosophy is atheistic, non-theistic or that it indeed does emphasize on the unity with Brahman like mainstream Hinduism does. Examining Buddhist scriptures and decifering between the words Brāhma (e.g., Brahman) and Brahmā has been hard. Referring to differentiation them, Buddhist scholar B. R. Barua says, "The cases where the Absolute is clearly meant ought to be carefully distinguished from others where Brahma is referred".
While "Brahmā" in Buddhist scripture, like Vedic scriptures, also refers to the non-eternal demigod, "Brāhma" (Brāhman) is believed by scholars to refer to the eternal perfect being, and the highest stage any person can achieve is labelled as Brahmā. For example in addition to Buddha's Dharma being called "Astānga Mārga" and Dharmayāna, it is also addressed "Brahmayāna" because the aim is to lead one to perfection of Nirvana. As the Samyutta Nikaya says, V, 5-6, "This Aryan eight-fold Way may be spoken of as Brahmayāna or as Dhammayāna. Again the Buddha Dharma is equated with Brahma when "...he has become dharma, he has become brāhman." It is said that the cultivation of compassion in its purest form is "called the divine life in this world (Brahman item viharam idhmahu)."
In this context Brahmā is interpreted to mean divine. In the Suttanipata, 656, the Buddha says that he who has won the three-fold lore like self-denial, holy life and control and who will never be reborn is Brahmā. Buddhism is compared to Brahmā in other scriptures like the Majjhima Nikaya where the Dharmachakra of wheel of law is also called the Brahmāchakra. The word Brahmachakra was nothing new and it was first mentioned in the Upaniṣads and it is believed the Buddha having received Vedic knowledge, used the term. The Majjhima-Nikaya also says that the Buddha is 'Brahmapatta' or "one who has attained Brahman"., thus outlining that when Buddha became perfected by achieving Nirvana he also became Brahmā.
For the ultimate happiness of Nirvana, it is written that "one who has attained Nirvāṇa" it is said, "may justifiably employ theological terminology As one attains Nirvaṇa they have the knowledge of enlightenment. So further, in Buddhist scriptures, "Brahmajala" refers to the best knowledge achieved.
Later Buddhist scholars connect the state of Nirvāṇa with Brahman. Buddhaghoṣa in his Digha says that the "Tathāgata or Buddha is dhammakaya brahmakaya dhammabhuta brahmabhuta." This statement translates as, "For the Tathāgata is synonymous with dhamma and brahma and he who sees the dhamma sees the Buddha..." Bhavaviveka uses the term Brahma-Abhyāsa, meaning "practicing Brahmā" which refers to the Buddhist trying to become one with Brahmā.
Brahmacharya itself is a term used often to denote chastity and the way of the monk, both Śramana and Vedic. Buddha himself declared that the perfected religion he was preaching has always existed as a Brahma-faring path:
"Even so have I, monks, seen an ancient way, an ancient road followed by the wholly awakened ones of olden time....Along that have I done and the matters that I have come to know fully as I was going along it, I have told to the monks, nuns, men and women lay-followers, even monks, this Brahma-faring brahmacharya that is prosperous and flourishing, widespread and widely known become popular, well made manifest for gods and men."
Like its sister-religion Jainism, Buddhism emphasizes that while one is in the state of Nirvāṇa, he is said to dwell in Brahman. A perfected human is said to "dwell in Brāhman".
Vedic interpretation in Buddhism
Buddhism does not deny that the Vedas in their true origin were sacred but it holds that they have been amended repeatedly by certain Brahmins to secure their positions in society. The Buddha declared that the Veda in its true form was declared by Kashyapa to certain ṛṣis, who by severe penances had acquired the power to see by divine eyes. In the Buddhist Vinaya Pitaka of the Mahavagga section the Buddha names these rishis, and declared the Vedic rishis "Atthako, Vâmako, Vâmadevo, Vessâmitto, Yamataggi, Angiraso, Bhâradvâjo, Vâsettho, Kassapo, and Bhagu" but that it was altered by a few Brahmins who introduced animal sacrifices. The Vinaya Pitaka's section Anguttara Nikaya: Panchaka Nipata says that it was on this alteration of the true Veda that the Buddha refused to pay respect to the Vedas of his time. By the practices of these ṛṣis severe austerities had acquired the power of seeing with divine eyes. They were:
- Attako - Ashtaka
- Vamako - Vamaka
- Vamadeo - Vamadeva
- Vessamitto - Viswamitra
- Yamataggi - Jamadagni
- Angiraso - Angirasa
- Bharaddwajo - Bharadwaj
- Vasseto - Vasishta
- Kassapo - Kasyapa
Also in the "Brahmana Dhammika Sutta" of the Suttanipata section of Vinaya Pitaka there is a story of when the Buddha was in Jetavana village and there were a group of elderly Brahmin ascetics who sat down next to the Buddha and a conversation began.
- The elderly Brahmins asked him,
"Do the present Brahmans follow the same rules, practice the same rites as those in the more ancient times?"
- The Buddha replied,
- The elderly Brahmins asked the Buddha that if it were not inconvenient for him, that he would tell them of the Brahmana Dharma of the previous generation.
- The Buddha replied:
"There were formerly ṛṣis, men who had subdued all passion by the keeping of the sila precepts and the leading of a pure life...Their riches and possessions consisted in the study of the Veda and their treasure was a life free from all evil...The Brahmans, for a time, continued to do right and received in alms rice, seats, clothes, and oil, though they did not ask for them. The animals that were given they did not kill; but they procured useful medicaments from the cows, regarding them as friends and relatives, whose products give strength, beauty and health."So in this passage also the Buddha describes when the Brahmins were studying the Veda, the animal sacrifice customs had not yet began.
In the Mahāvagga, the Buddha declares:
The one who annihilates the sins in himself, who is not proud, who is passionless, whose spirit is humble, who has comprehended the Vedas and is chaste, for whom no joy exists in the world, that one is lawfully called a brahman.
The Buddha was declared to have been born a Brahmin trained in the Vedas and its philosophies in a number of his previous lives according to Buddhist scriptures. Other Buddhas too were said to have been born as Brahmins that were trained in the Vedas.
The Mahāsupina Jātaka and Lohakumbhi Jataka, he declares that Brahmin Sariputra in a previous life was also a Brahmin that prevented animal sacrifice by declaring that animal sacrifice was actually against the Vedas.
Further, the Suttanipata 1000 declares that 32 mahāpuruṣa lakṣana that Buddhism uses are declared in the Vedic mantras. Brahmayu was a well-versed Vedic follower of the Buddha who by reading the four Vedas saw that the Buddha was auspicious as per his 32 symbols.
Main Reasons for Buddhism's Decline in India
Buddhism had always been a monastic or ascetic religion with almost very few lay followers and so when Islamic people had invaded the Indian Subcontinent and persecuted all the Hindus, due to the loss of Buddhist institutions such as their temples and universities, the outlawing of Hindu asceticism and the slaughter of Hindu clergy, they had no resources to continue their tradition and Buddhism waned.
The Taliban of Afghanistan destroying the Buddhist Bamiyan structures of ancient Afghanistan in the early 21st century is no different than how Islamists destroyed Buddhist structures.
Buddhism not a Nastika doctrine
There were also Buddhists that were accused of believing in ideas outside of the Buddha's teachings, and they were called nastika in the "Bodhisattvabhumi" (a section of the Yogacarabhumi by Asanga) and the scripture also declared they should be subject to isolation so their views do not infect the rest of the Buddhist community. Like the Manusmriti, the Bodhisattvabhumi also criticizes the nastika for reliance on logic only.
Six major traditions of Buddhism
There are believed to be 6 specific oral traditions of Buddhism; The lineage from Tushita, the one from Nagaloka, from Uddiyana, from Bengal, from Bhetaka, and from Bhisokotacandana. Buddha Dipankara is said to have passed on teachings in all of these in disciplic succession right down to Gautama Buddha.
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