An Introduction to Buddhism

Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who lived about 25 centuries ago in what is now Nepal and northeastern India. He came to be called "the Buddha," which means "awakened one," after he experienced a profound realization of the nature of life, death and existence. In English, the Buddha was said to be enlightened, although in Sanskrit it is bodhi, "awakened." In the remaining years of his life, the Buddha traveled and taught. However, he didn't teach people what he had realized when he became enlightened. Instead, he taught people how to realize enlightenment for themselves. He taught that awakening comes through one's own direct experience, not through beliefs and dogmas. In the centuries following the Buddha's life, Buddhism spread throughout Asia to become one of the dominant religions of the continent. Estimates of the number of Buddhists in the world today vary widely, in part because many Asians observe more than one religion and in part because it is hard to know how many people are practicing Buddhism in Communist nations like China The most common estimate is 350 million, which makes Buddhism the fourth largest of the world's religions.[1] Two major branches of Buddhism are recognized: Theravada ("The School of the Elders") and Mahayana ("The Great Vehicle"). Theravada has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Mahayana is found throughout East Asia and includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Shingon, Tiantai

(Tendai) and Shinnyo-en. In some classifications Vajrayana— a form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet and Mongolia—is recognized as a third branch, while others classify it as a subcategory of Mahayana.[2] Buddhist schools vary on the exact nature of the path to liberation, the importance and canonicity of various teachings and scriptures, and especially their respective practices. The cardinal doctrine of dependent origination is the only doctrine that is common to all Buddhist teachings from Theravada to Dzogchen to the extinct schools. The foundations of Buddhist tradition and practice are the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community). Taking "refuge in the triple gem" has traditionally been a declaration and commitment to being on the Buddhist path and in general distinguishes a Buddhist from a non-Buddhist. Other practices may include following ethical precepts, support of the monastic community, renouncing conventional living and becoming a monastic, the development of mindfulness and practice of meditation, cultivation of higher wisdom and discernment, study of scriptures, devotional practices, ceremonies, and in the Mahayana tradition, invocation of Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

THE LIFE OF THE BUDDHA Life in the Palace Buddhism is one of the major religions in the world. It began around 2,500 years ago in India when Siddhartha Gautama discovered how to bring happiness into the world. He was born around 566 BC, in the small kingdom of Kapilavastu. His father was King Sudhodana and his mother was Queen Maya. Soon after Prince Siddhartha was born, the wise men predicted that he would become a Buddha. When the king heard this, he was deeply disturbed, for he wanted his son to become a mighty ruler. He told Queen Maya, "I will make life in the palace so pleasant that our son will never want to leave." At the age of sixteen, Prince Siddhartha married a beautiful princess, Yasodhara. The king built them three palaces, one for each season, and lavished them with luxuries. They passed their days in enjoyment and never thought about life outside the palace. The Four Sights Soon Siddhartha became disillusioned with the palace life and wanted to see the outside world. He made four trips outside the palace and saw four things that changed his life. On the first three trips, he saw sickness, old age and death. He asked himself, "How can I enjoy a life of pleasure when there is so much suffering in the world?" On his fourth trip, he saw a wandering monk who had given up everything he owned to seek an end to suffering. "I shall be like him." Siddhartha thought.

In his search for truth. he was called Shakyamuni Buddha. Last he sent his demonic armies with weapons and flaming rocks. For six years he practiced severe asceticism thinking this would lead him to enlightenment. He sat in meditation and ate only roots. 'The Awakened One'. but this did not take him anywhere. Gautama met the armies and defeated them with his virtue. He had gained the most supreme wisdom and understood things as they truly are. . At times he ate nothing. None of them knew how to end suffering. He thought. who tried to tempt him away from his virtuous path. so he continued the search on his own. As the struggle ended. One by one. the evil one. Enlightenment On a full-moon day in May. "Neither my life of luxury in the palace nor my life as an ascetic in the forest is the way to freedom. leaves and fruit. First he sent his beautiful daughters to lure Gautama into pleasure. wind and heavy rain. He cut off his hair to show that he had renounced the worldly lifestyle and called himself Gautama. Siddhartha became a wandering monk." During the night. Next he sent bolts of lightning. he sat under the Bodhi tree in deep meditation and said. he realized the cause of suffering and how to remove it. He could endure more hardships than anyone else. He became the Buddha. " He began to eat nourishing food again and regained his strength.Renunciation Leaving his kingdom and loved ones behind. Overdoing things can not lead to happiness. he was visited by Mara. From then on. "I will not leave this spot until I find an end to suffering. He wore ragged robes and wandered from place to place. he studied with the wisest teachers of his day.

Their compassion knew no bounds. "You should do your own work. beggars. He always taught in such a way that everyone could understand. Once the Buddha and Ananda visited a monastery where a monk was suffering from a contagious disease. Afterwards.The Buddha Teaches After his enlightenment. they helped everyone along the way. The poor man lay in a mess with no one looking after him. his teachings." He never became angry or impatient or spoke harshly to anyone. The Buddha told his followers to help each other on the Way. he admonished the other monks. he went to the Deer Park near the holy city of Benares and shared his new understanding with five holy men. This marked the beginning of the Buddhist community. when hungry they would ask for a little food. then follow them. He encouraged everyone to have compassion for each other and develop their own virtue. Following is a story of the Buddha living as an example to his disciples. At night. but to decide for themselves whether his teachings are right or wrong. for I can teach only the way. For the next forty-five years. kings and slave girls. you have neither mother nor father to look after you. If you do not . not even to those who opposed him. Each person thought the Buddha was speaking especially for him. They understood immediately and became his disciples. he won the hearts of the people because he dealt with their true feelings. Whenever the Buddha went. they would sleep where they were. "Monks. The Buddha himself washed the sick monk and placed him on a new bed. the Buddha and his disciples went from place to place in India spreading the Dharma. He advised them not to accept his words on blind faith.

"All living beings have the Buddha nature and can become Buddhas." The Last Years Shakyamuni Buddha passed away around 486 BC at the age of eighty. it is called the Buddha nature." For this reason. Although he has left the world. "There have been many Buddhas before me and will be many Buddhas in the future. the spirit of his kindness and compassion remains. The two main goals of Buddhism are getting to know ourselves and learning the Buddha's teachings. wise. and perfect. One is called our ordinary nature. which is made up of unpleasant feelings such as fear. In Buddhism. and jealousy. we need to understand that we have two natures. The only difference between us and the Buddha is that we have not awakened to our true nature." The Buddha recalled to his disciples. the part of us that is pure. anger.[3] . he taught the way to Buddhahood. To know who we are. who will look after you? Whoever serves the sick and suffering. serves me. The other is our true nature.look after each other. The Buddha realized that that he was not the first to become a Buddha.

A farmer beat his ox in the field. Life is like a river flowing on and on. we are the same as everything. Deeply troubled. Old solar systems disintegrate and turn into cosmic rays. but among all this beauty. we destroy ourselves. our children are born of us. He explained these truths in a simple way so that everyone could understand them. 2. . Flowers were blooming and trees were putting on bright new leaves. We consist of that which is around us. We are the same as plants. as other people. If we cheat another. If we destroy something around us. he saw much unhappiness. A dead leaf turns into soil. He discovered three great truths. Matter turns into energy. the Buddha sat down in the shade of a tree and noticed how beautiful the countryside was. as the rain that falls. the Buddha found the answer to these questions. We are born of our parents. and then an eagle swooped down on the bird. the Buddha and his disciples never killed any animal. Everything Changes The second universal truth of the Buddha is that everything is continuously changing. we cheat ourselves. "Why does the farmer beat his ox? Why must one creature eat another to live?" During his enlightenment. Nothing is lost in the universe The first truth is that nothing is lost in the universe. Understanding this truth. as trees. 1. he asked. A bird pecked at an earthworm. A seed sprouts and becomes a new plant.THE BASIC PREACHINGS OF BUDDHISM THE THREE UNIVERSAL TRUTHS One day. energy turns into matter.

do. Once dinosaurs. and saber-toothed tigers roamed this earth. in the future good things will happen to us. too. whether it is good or bad. It is smooth and gentle in some places. Law of Cause and Effect The third universal truth explained by the Buddha is that there is continuous changes due to the law of cause and effect. It becomes our friend. The Buddha said. and eventually humans. 3. If we do bad things. "The kind of seed sown will produce that kind of fruit. science and Buddhism are alike. Our thoughts and actions determine the kind of life we can have. in the future bad things will happen to us. yet this was not the end of life. People once believed that the world was flat. We receive exactly what we earn. Every moment we create new karma by what we say. Nothing ever happens to us unless we deserves it. we do not need to fear karma. If we do good things.ever-changing. In this way. but later on snags and rocks crop up out of nowhere. Our ideas about life also change. They all died out. Other life forms like smaller mammals appeared. It teaches us to create a bright future. Now we can even see the Earth from space and understand the changes that have taken place on this planet. but now we know that it is round. We are the way we are now due to the things we have done in the past. and think. Those who do good will reap good results. Sometimes it flows slowly and sometimes swiftly. . Those who do evil will reap evil results. This is the same law of cause and effect found in every modern science textbook. The law of cause and effect is known as karma. mammoths. something unexpected happens. As soon as we think we are safe. If we understand this.

Now I understand your teaching." Things are not always the way we want them to be. but we can learn to understand them. "I lost my father"." Dhammapada [4] THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS Once there was a woman named Kisagotami. whose first-born son died. You will joyfully gather good fruit. we go to a doctor and ask:     What's wrong with me? Why am I sick? What will cure me? What do I have to do get well? . Finally Kisagotami returned to the Buddha and said. Everyone dies. She could not find a single household that had not been visited by death." Kisagotami went from door to door in the whole village asking for the mustard seeds. The Buddha told her. they will be disappointed. there have been many deaths here". but everyone said.If you carefully plant a good seed. "No one can escape death and unhappiness. "But the seeds must come from a family that has not known death. A kind and wise man took her to the Buddha. Then the Buddha added. When we get sick. "There is death in every family. "Fetch me a handful of mustard seeds and I will bring your child back to life." Joyfully Kisagotami started off to get them. "Oh." The Buddha said. She was so stricken with grief that she roamed the streets carrying the dead body and asking for help to bring her son back to life. I lost my sister". If people expect only happiness in life.

The Buddha did not deny that there is happiness in life. He said: "There is happiness in life. we are miserable. 3. Sickness. Being apart from those we love. we cry. Not getting what we want. happiness of a family. 2. Eventually everyone meets with some kind of suffering. Path to end Suffering Everyone can be enlightened. happiness in friendship. Finally he prescribes the medicine or gives the treatment that will make the patient well again. 1. but he pointed out it does not last forever. First a good doctor diagnoses the illness. 4. we will have ache and pains and find it hard to get around. Then he decides what the cure is. We feel deep sorrow when someone dies.None of us wants to die.When we are born. There is Suffering Suffering is common to all. The Four Noble Truths 1. All kinds of problems and disappointments that are unavoidable. Other things we suffer from are: Being with those we dislike. Old age. End of Suffering Stop doing what causes suffering. Next he finds out what has caused it.When old.The Buddha is like a good doctor. Cause of Suffering We are the cause of our suffering. . Suffering: Everyone suffers from these thing Birth.When we are sick. Death.

Although. there is suffering. When they can't have it. It can be experienced in this very life. Everyone can realize it with the help of the Buddha's teachings. It is also known as the Middle Way. They are ignorant of the law of karma and are greedy for the wrong kind of pleasures. once children have had a taste of candy. 3. . so they can not be satisfied or enjoy life. they get upset. shelter. They should enjoy life and cherish their possessions without becoming greedy. and clothing. They do things that are harmful to their bodies and peace of mind. The Buddha said. The end of suffering To end suffering.but when one loses them." Dhammapada 2. Nirvana is an everlasting state of great joy and peace." This is the ultimate goal in Buddhism. Of course. they get a stomach-ache from eating too much candy. loving parents. 4. like adequate food. . The things people want most cause them the most suffering. they soon get tired of it and want something else. "The extinction of desire is Nirvana. Even if children get all the candy they want. For example. they still want more. Everyone deserve a good home. The cause of suffering The Buddha explained that people live in a sea of suffering because of ignorance and greed. they want more. It is like blowing out a candle. This means changing one's views and living in a more natural and peaceful way.. The path to the end of suffering: The path to end suffering is known as the Noble Eightfold Path. there are basic things that all people should have.happiness in a healthy body and mind. Buddhists call the state in which all suffering is ended Nirvana. and good friends. The flame of suffering is put out for good. one must cut off greed and ignorance..

Right Livelihood. The right way to think about life is to see the world through the eyes of the Buddha--with wisdom and compassion. This means choosing a job that does not hurt others. By speaking kind and helpful words. Before we criticize others. 2. "Do not earn your living by harming others. Right View. Nirvana. leading to the central point of the wheel. No matter what we say. Right Speech. The eight spokes on the wheel represent the eight parts of the Noble Eightfold Path. we are respected and trusted by everyone. Right Effort. A worthwhile life means doing our best at all times and having good will toward others. the only point which is fixed. 5. 1. he began the 'Turning of the Dharma Wheel'. 3. The Buddha's teaching goes round and round like a great wheel that never stops. Right Thought. The Buddha said. strong characters. Just as every spoke is needed for the wheel to keep turning." 6. Clear and kind thoughts build good. .THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH When the Buddha gave his first sermon in the Deer Park. we need to follow each step of the path. We are what we think. This also means not wasting effort on things that harm ourselves and others. Right Conduct. Do not seek happiness by making others unhappy. we should first see what we do ourselves. others know us from the way we behave. He chose the beautiful symbol of the wheel with its eight spokes to represent the Noble Eightfold Path. 4.

Focus on one thought or object at a time. Pulling them out is like weeding a garden. words.7. but in Buddhism one cultivates one's wisdom. Following the Noble Eightfold Path can be compared to cultivating a garden. Right Mindfulness. Right Concentration. The harvest is real and lasting happiness. Our faults are weeds. Deeds are ways one cares for the garden. 8. and deeds. By doing this. This means being aware of our thoughts. . The mind is the ground and thoughts are seeds. we can be quiet and attain true peace of mind.

Chakma. Thailand). It is relatively conservative. It is also practiced by minorities in parts of southwest China (by the Shan and Tai ethnic groups). Vietnam (by the Khmer Krom). and in recent decades Theravada has begun to take root in the West and in the Buddhist revival in India. . and for many centuries has been the predominant religion of Sri Lanka (about 70% of the population) and most of continental Southeast Asia (Cambodia. or "the Ancient Teaching") is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. Today Theravada Buddhists number about 200 million worldwide. Malaysia. literally. Philippines and Indonesia. Burma. whilst recently gaining popularity in Singapore and Australia. and generally closest to early Buddhism.Thervada Buddhism Theravada (of Sanskrit: sthaviravāda). Bangladesh (by the ethnic groups of Baruas. and Magh). "the Teaching of the Elders". Laos.

A person who is fully enlightened. Some sources claim that only the Theravada actually evolved directly from the Vibhajjavādins.History The Theravada school is ultimately derived from the Vibhajjavada (or 'doctrine of analysis') grouping which was a continuation of the older Sthavira (or 'teaching of the Elders') group at the time of the Third Buddhist Council around 250 BCE. The belief in a permanent personality. during the reign of Emperor Asoka in India. Vibhajjavadins saw themselves as the continuation of orthodox Sthaviras and after the Third Council continued to refer to their school as the Sthaviras/Theras ('The Elders'). Levels of Attainment A Buddha is someone who is fully enlightened. and the Hindrances to Enlightenment. Main Doctrines The main doctrines of Theravada are from the teachings found in the Pali Canon of early Buddhism. which means 'the Sri Lankan lineage'. There is little to no use of worship in Theravada and emphasis is on mental development through meditation. The Noble Eightfold Middle Path. These include the Four Noble Truths. their doctrines were probably similar to the older Sthaviras but were not completely identical. but not the Buddha of our time. Dharmaguptaka and the Tāmraparnīya. Such a person has eradicated all ten hindrances to enlightenment: 1. Kāśyapīya. After the Third Council geographical distance led to the Vibhajjavādins gradually evolving into four groups: the Mahīśāsaka. is called an Arahant in Pali. ego . The Theravada is descended from the Tāmraparnīya.

Attachment to sense desires 5. The Secular Buddhist Society Model. Craving for existence in the Form world (heavenly realms) 7. in modern times: A. A sottapanna (stream entrant) has eradicated the first three hindrances and will be re-born no more than seven more times and re-birth will either be as a human or a deva in a heavenly realm. attachment to sense desires and ill-will. This is concerned with the intense study of the Dhamma in its original formulation as given in the Pali Canon. Restlessness 10. and ceremonies 4. Such a person will be re-born to either the human or heavenly realm and will attain enlightenment there. Doubt. rituals. Craving for existence in the Formless world (heavenly realms) 8. Attachment to rites. Ill-will.2. Such a person is re-born to a heavenly realm and attains enlightenment from there. extreme skepticism 3. Conceit 9. Ignorance An anagami (non-returner) has completely eradicated the first five hindrances and never returns to earth or any other world system (planet. Different forms Theravada takes Theravada Buddhism has taken four distinctive forms in the West and around the world. anger 6. solar system). the development of norms of living in substantial conformity of the requirements . A sakadagami (once returner) has eradicated the first three hindrances and greatly weakened the fourth and fifth.

The Original London Vihara Model. Variation B and sometimes C are a Classical Theravada which tends to use the literal word of the writings in the Pali Canon and the Commentaries. B. but places greater emphasis on the necessity to accommodate ordained monks to expound the Dhamma. Its main objective appears to be to cater to the spiritual needs of expatriate groups using the particular national models of Buddhism as practiced in their home countries without any consideration of its relevance to the universality of the Buddha's teaching or the external conditions in the host country. The meditation practiced is a simplified form of the first foundation of satipatthana ignoring all the preconditions which the Buddha was careful to lay down for the correct practice of this technique of mindfulness. Gunasekara argues that models A and B are appropriate modes in following the teachings of Buddha whereas models C and D are departures from the teachings. The Lankarama Model.[7] . Dr. Variations A and sometimes B and D tends to be a Modern Theravada which focuses on the Pali Canon and acknowledges that some of the suttas are not meant to be taken too literally. Here the Buddhist Institution is transformed into a centre for "meditation" under the guidance of a self-proclaimed "teacher". The Meditation Centre Model. and the encouragement of the observance of the Dhamma generally. D. This is the ethnic Buddhist Model par excellence. This model encompasses the objectives of the secular societies. C.of the Dhamma. In its interpretation of the Canon it tends to place greater emphasis on Buddhaghosa's exegesis whereas the secular societies tend to go the original Canon itself.

E. Korea. the Great Vehicle considers itself a more authentic version of the Buddha's teachings. also known as the Great Vehicle. Mongolia. including China. but also have a vast corpus of philosophical and devotional texts. Arising out of schisms about both doctrine and monastic rules ..Mahayana Buddhism Mahayana Buddhism. is the form of Buddhism prominent in North Asia. The Mahayana accepts the canonical texts of the Theravada tradition (what they derisively call the Hinayana. and Japan. The most distinctive teaching of the Mahayana is that the great compassion that is an inherent component of enlightenment is manifest in . Tibet. or "lesser vehicle).within Indian Buddhism in the first century C.

. and other powerful beings. and a complex array of devotional and meditational practices directed toward them. thus the Mahayana pantheon in China is significantly different than that found in India. Mahayana Buddhism Beggings : The Mahayana emerged between 100 B. these beings postpone nirvana (final enlightenment) in order to assist and guide those beings still suffering in the cycle of rebirths. Buddhas. or that in Japan. and particularly about the ongoing presence of the Buddha after his death as well as the nature of enlightenment itself.E. Mahayana Buddhism Influences Mahayana Buddhism Influences : Initially. the Mahayana was influenced by other Buddhist schools of thought in India." which is the ability to know the particular mental and emotional capacity of each individual. and 100 C. Confucianism. in India in the context of debate about proper Buddhist doctrine and practice. They employ what the Mahayana calls "skillful means. as it spread in and beyond India. As the Mahayana moved beyond India. it took typically adopted distinct local cultural characteristics.C. such as Taoism. and to deliver guidance appropriate to those capacities. and various forms of Hinduism. Bon. The Mahayana developed a vast pantheon of bodhisattvas.E. about monastic discipline.bodhisattvas (enlightenment beings). it absorbed and adopted aspects of indigenous religious traditions.

Mahayana Buddhism Founders Mahayana Buddhism Founders : The philosopher/monk Nagarjuna is sometimes said to be the founder of the Mahayana. although each of these figures actually founded sub-schools within the early Mahayana. Mahayana Buddhism Scriptures Mahayana Buddhism Scriptures : The earliest Mahayana texts compose the vast corpus known as the "Prajnaparamita" ("Perfection of Wisdom"). . which forms the foundation of many later Mahayana schools. Early scholarship on the Mahayana focused primarily on Mahayana thought. in recent decades. along with such early figures as Asanga and Vasubandhu. but more attention recently has been paid to ritual and devotional practices. Other important early texts include the "Sadharmapundarika" ("Lotus Sutra") and the "Vimalakirti Nirdesha Sutra." Mahayana Buddhism Historical Perspectives Mahayana Buddhism Historical Perspectives : Mahayana thought has been extremely influential in western philosophy and. western religious and ethical practice. in reality there is no single founder of the tradition.

the Han and Tang in China. Sects Mahayana Buddhism Schisms and Sects : The Mahayana itself is often understood as a schismatic movement. This may have been intended to counter the dominance of stupa veneration in other Buddhist schools. among other things. disseminated. Conquest. among them: the Kushanas. and Palas in India. copied. Mahayana Buddhism Schisms.Mahayana Buddhism Early Developments Mahayana Buddhism Early Developments : The early Mahayana is marked by. . violence. and Ch'an. a number of important sub schools emerged in India and then in China . Empire : A variety of kings in both India and east and Southeast Asia supported the Mahayana. Guptas.among them Madhyamaka. Yogacara. a profound emphasis on the importance of the book. Empire (incl. persecution) Mahayana Buddhism Exploration. Mahayana Buddhism Exploration. Conquest. the Pure Land Schools. and often worshipped. the Srivijaya and Sailendra in Indonesia. hundreds of new texts were written. After the initial emergence of the Mahayana.

often by integrating seeming secular aspects of political and social-welfare activities into its practices. Spread. Regional Adaptions : The Mahayana spread throughout the Indian subcontinent through the missionary activities of monks and the patronage of kings.E. Mahayana Buddhism Modern Age Mahayana Buddhism Modern Age : Mahayana Buddhism has adapted to tremendous change in its 2000-year history. . By the 2nd century C. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who remain in the world to assist those beings still suffering in samsara. Changes. and the tradition has continued to evolve in the modern world. Europe. The bodhisattva is perhaps the defining characteristic of the Mahayana.Mahayana Buddhism Missions. Regional Adaptations Mahayana Buddhism Missions. it had made its way to China. Accounts of the lives and activities of the Buddhas. Mahayana Buddhism Sacred narratives Mahayana Buddhism Beliefs : There is no single sacred narrative in Mahayana Buddhism. It also spread to both east and Southeast Asia. and significant monks serve as a means of spreading and explaining Mahayana doctrine and practice. bodhisattvas. female deities. Changes. and North America the Mahayana has thrived. Spread. In Asia.

As with other schools of Buddhism. sometimes with the help of bodhisattvas -. limitless paradises where they reside with Buddhas and bodhisattvas. and thus in a sense all time could be understood to be sacred. Mahayana Buddhists engage in a tremendous range and variety of rituals and ceremonies: complex meditation . Mandalas. often elaborate diagrams used in meditation. The Mahayana holds that the cultivation of wisdom. are another kind of sacred space. Final salvation in the Mahayana is nirvana. although the meaning of that term changed significantly as the Mahayana developed. Mahayana Sacred Time Mahayana Buddhism Ritual. Devotion. Symbolism : The Mahayana does not hold a consistent idea of sacred time. The bodhisattvas are always present and active in the world. the Mahayana holds that suffering is caused by grasping on to things and experiences that are.The Mahayana pantheon is populated by thousands of bodhisattvas. Some schools hold that enlightened beings are reborn in pure lands. Mahayana temples represent a kind of sacred space.allows individuals to cut through the ignorance and grasping that keep them stuck in samsara. impermanent. as well as Buddhas and goddess-like figures. prajna -through various meditation techniques. practitioners can inhabit the spaces that they represent through various meditation practices. by their very nature. Worship.

ritual devotion to Buddhas and bodhisattvas. the book (dharma and wisdom) and the sword (insight and wisdom). while the monks provide teaching and guidance to the laity. Manjushri. there is a symbiotic relationship between lay people and monks in the Mahayana. Morality and Community : Although each individual Buddhist is fully responsible for his or her own progress. although in some countries monks are married. monks provide a moral and ethical model for the laity. the bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara. seated and standing postures. other common symbols are various hand gestures (mudras). and mantra recitation. Monasteries are hierarchically structured based on seniority. It is the bodhisattvas' selfless compassion. coupled . pilgrimage. visualizations. and the monastic path is open to women. Mahayana Buddhists worship a wide range of bodhisattvas and semi-divine beings. The Buddha. as well as guidance and teaching. As with other schools of Buddhism. lay people materially support the monks. along with the idea of selfless compassion (karuna). The lotus (purity) and the eight-spoke wheel (the Buddha's teachings.practices. and the goddess Tara are among the most popular objects of devotion. and Amitabha. Karma is at the center of all discussions of morality and ethics in the Mahayana. providing protection and guidance to their devotees. Mahayana Buddhism Ethics. Mahayana monks have typically been celibate men. dharma) are ubiquitous symbols in the Mahayana.

. which have not been forgotten. who embodies wisdom. Prajnaparamita. literally the "great vehicle. After 2500 years. After the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha at Kushinagar. and thereby ideally to affect a perfectly harmonious society. The Buddha's teachings are inscribed on prayer wheels in Mongolia. Images of spiritually powerful and advanced female figures are common in the Mahayana -. Some Mahayana schools employ sexual imagery to symbolize the union of wisdom and skillful means. tangkha paintings in Tibet and palm leaf manuscripts in Sri Lanka. The Mahayana. the legends and myths. who guides and protects her devotees. Gautama Buddha still lives in his teachings. and the overcoming of oppositions." holds that all beings can and will eventually become perfectly enlightened beings.[8] Buddhist Literature In monasteries perched on hillsides in the arid moonscape of Laddakh and among emerald rice fields in Thailand.with wisdom (prajna) and skillful means (upaya) that compels them to remain in the world to aid other beings.Tara. young saffron clad monks sway and recite the same prayers. the commentaries and analyses began. The goal of all people is to act ethically and compassionately.

anger and craving to Enlightenment. It is an immense divided into a number of commentaries the Tripitaka. Abhidharma Pitaka. the book of Discipline deals with the rules of monastic order. Buddhist tradition has it that at the First great Council of monks at Rajgir after the death of the Master. a collection on abstract philosophy. Dhammapada. elaborates on the metaphysical principles underlying the doctrine. consists of three Vinaya. The earliest Buddhist literature to have survived is in Pali. Pitakas The oldest Buddhist canonical writings like the Vinaya and Sutra Pitakas began as oral literature. Sutra and Abhidharma body of writing. on a variety of subjects ranging from happiness. with each Pitaka books and further subdivided into and abstracts. These . or in the steps of the Dharma.Buddhist literature began with what the Buddha said and around it a body of canonical and non-canonical writing emerged. Pitakas. while Sutra Pitaka. Vinaya Pitaka. deals with the ethical principles of the Buddha's teachings. Upali recalled the Vinaya Pitaka and Ananda the Sutra Pitaka. his two disciples recited his teaching from memory. the Book of Discourses. is a book people instantly connect with the sermons of Gautama Buddha. The earliest pali canon anthologies of writings. Its terse sayings are in Pali verse.

verses. The Therigatha is the earliest anthology of women's writing in India. The verses by the bhikshus in the Theragatha are often spiritual and meditative. many of them with animals as the main characters and have the humor and liveliness of folk tales and fables. Episodes from the tales are carved . some are simple adventure tales. Jataka-tales Children across the Buddhist world grow up listening to the Jataka tales. and includes verses by Amrapali. Though many of the Jataka stories have a moral. Poetic-Writings In the verses of the Theragatha and Therigatha one can still heat the poetic voices of bhikshus and bhikshunis describing how their lives were transformed by the teachings of the Buddha. sorrows and complexities of life. Jataka means 'birth stories' and they chronicle the former incarnations of the Buddha as a man and as an animal. The stories have been told and retold for centuries to popularize the teachings of the Master. the courtesan of Vaishali who became a bhikshunis. embody the very spirit of the Buddha's teachings. Many of the poets were contemporaries of Sakyamuni. At the end of each story the hero is identified as a Bodhisattva. memorized by young monks and lay believers of all ages across the world. with may beautiful passages on nature while the nuns strike a more personal note and sing to the joys. More than 500 stories still exist.

and also painted in the AjantaCaves. which was written in Sanskrit in India in the beginning of the Christian era. the Mahavamsa. the Island Chronicle. The book is a dialogue between Milinda (Menander). Nagasena. Life Stories of the Buddha The most famous life stories of the Buddha are Lalitavistara of the Sarvastivadin sect and Buddhancharita composed by the poet Aswaghosha in the 1st century AD. There are works in progress with monks constantly adding to them. and Culavamsam the Lesser Chronicle. Milinda begins as a doubting man but by the end he is converted by Nagasena's brilliant replies and becomes an ardent believer.on the gateway of the stupas of Sanchi and Bharhut among other sites. a GrecoBactrian king of Sakala (modern Sialkot in Pakistan) and a Buddhist monk. Milindapanha One of the most interesting non-canonical works is Milindapanha or Questions of Milinda. Then there are the three great Sri Lankan verse chronicles .Dipavamsa. Buddhist literature is a gift to the world from thousands of forgotten monks and nuns who preserved the manuscripts in . They narrate the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. the Great Chronicle.

[9] . In their fragile pages we can still hear the wise. compassionate voice of one of the greatest thinkers of world civilization.their monasteries with care and devotion.

A female monastic is called Bhikkhuni (Skt: Bhikṣuṇī). Their lifestyle is shaped so as to support their spiritual practice. and attain Nirvana. It is philologically analysed in the Pāli commentary of Buddhaghosa as "the person who sees danger (in samsara or cycle of rebirth)" (Pāli .BUDDHIST MONKS or BHIKKUS A Bhikku is a ordained male Buddhist monastic. Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis keep many precepts: they live by the vinaya's framework of monastic discipline. the basic rules of which are called the patimokkha. Bhikku may be literally translated as "beggar" or more broadly as "one who lives by alms". to live a simple and meditative life.

by following the whole code (of morality) one certainly becomes a Bhikku and not (merely) by seeking alms. and all of the ordination lineages of the various Japanese traditions. The minimum age to take bhikkhu vows according to ruling is 20 years counted from the conception (i. is called a Bhikku. and others. A novice monk or nun in the Tibetan tradition takes 36 vows of conduct.e. whose conduct is sublime. These included ordination into the "White Sangha" lineage of Tibetan yogis (Tib. app. which are also open to laypersons in most instances. A bhikkhu has taken a vow to enter the Sangha (Buddhist monastic community) and is expected to obey the Patimokkha. He therefore seeks ordination in order to release from it. indeed. In addition. a Bhiksu may take additional vows not related to ordination. and 311 for a female) as set out in the Vinaya. The Dhammapada states: He is not thereby a Bhikku merely because he seeks alms from others. Herein he who has transcended both good and evil. although there are considerable local variations in the interpretations of these rules. 19 years and 3 months from birth). the holders of which are not considered Bhikkhus. he. rules of monastic conduct (typically around 227 for a male. In Mahayana traditions. samaya vows. <rnal hbyor pa/ma>). who lives with understanding in this world. including the Bodhisattva vows. naljorpa/naljorma .= Bhayaṃ ikkhatīti: bhikkhu). . in some traditions there are forms of non-Vinaya ordinations.

[10] . possibilities and capabilities of individuals. a fully ordained follower of the Buddha's teachings. the Buddha gave different levels of vows.Ordination" in Buddhism is a cluster of methods of selfdiscipline according to the needs. According to the spiritual development of his followers. The most advanced method is the state of a bikshu(ni). The goal of the bhikku (ni) in all traditions is to achieve liberation from suffering.

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