You are on page 1of 10


(Swami Vikrant S.D.B)

1. LIFE Siddhartha was born in the 6th century B.C at the Lumbini Garden, under a sal tree, near the town of Kapilavastu, near the foot hill of Nepal. He belonged to the Gautama clan of the Sakya tribe. He was the son of Suddhodana and Maya Devi He married his cousin at the age of 19 and had one son Rahula. His father was a petty chief, not properly speaking a king. At around 30 he had a spiritual crisis. He studied under the best teacher (probably of the Samkhya School), but had no satisfaction. Then for about six years, he practiced yoga and severe mortification, which merely exhausted him. At about 35 he got enlightenment by practicing meditation, under a sal tree at Bodh Gaya. At the Deer Park of Sarnath, Siddhartha set in motion the wheel of righteousness the Dharma Chakra. His very first sermon was an immense success, because so convincing was his sincerity, so clear his teaching an so attractive his personality. For 45 years he and his monks preached in summer and in winter he would instruct his disciples. His last words were: whatever is born perishes. Strive unceasingly for your deliverance. He had three closest disciples: Sariputta, Ananda and Kasyapa. He died at the age of 80, of dysentery after a meal of pork given by Cunda, the smith, a lay disciple, under a sal tree, serene and calm. 2. CRITIQUE OF HINDU WORSHIP, CASTE SYSTEM AND METAPHYSICS. The Buddha found the Brahminaical sacrificial system repulsive, the caste system irrational and oppressive and the Upanishadic metaphysics meaningless and useless. Buddhism was a movement for deeper moral earnestness and spirituality and for social equality. The status of women also arose in Buddhism. The Buddha was loved, revered, and followed by more men than any other religious leader except Jesus. He was called the Buddha or the Enlightened one; the Tathagata or the "well gone-forth"; Bhagavan or the Blessed one; Sasta or the Master; he is also Arhat. ARHAT It has several meanings: 1. He is at a great distance (ara-ka) from defilement; 2. He has slain the enemy-ego (hata-ari); 3.he has broken the spokes of the wheel of becoming (ara- hata); 4. He is worthy of the highest honor ( ara- hati); 5. He does no evil even in secret (a-raha). BUDDHA Siddhartha is called the Buddha because, " what should be known that I have known; what should be developed that I have developed; what should be forsaken, I forsook; hence, Brahmin, I am Buddha" (Sutta Nipata). TATHAGATA

He is called Tathagata or " well-gone" (from gamana=Journay) because his journey was auspicious pure, and faultless. Also, his destination was exquisite-deathless Nirvana. Again, he has gone to a place all is well. And he has gone once for all, never return to the world of becoming- Samsara. Again, he has gone-forth to work for others, for works of compassion (Karuna) and to be friendly to all (maritri). He has gone forth to perfect himself further , in the practice of thirty virtues. Finally, he has gone avoiding the extremes of sense pleasure practiced by the Charvakas and sense- destruction practiced by the Jains. Aristotle also followed the middle way. " Virtue fallow in the middle" said he (virtus stat in medio). Jesus also followed the middle way (cf. Luke 8:1-3). CREED Though Buddhism has no creed and no cult, they speak of a three- fold refuge: I take refuge Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sungha or Order of the monks. This is the Buddhist faith: (Buddham saranam gachami, Dharmam saranam gachami, Sangam saranam gachami). As a religious founder, the Buddha is unique: he gave no scripture, he established no cult, he established no church, he gave no creed or dogmas. The Buddha is not a god, not a prophet, nor a messenger of God and not a savior. He explicitly said that, no one saves another. He was a man who found out for himself a simple way of salvation from pain and he told the world that anyone who faithfully and perseveringly followed the same path, may attain the same blessedness. His message is universal; he had no esoteric or secret teachings like the Upanishadic sages, who spoke of secret message or guhya, adesa, paramam, guhyam, a rahasya (secret) meant only for the guru and his son/pupil. 3. THE BUDDHAS METHOD OF TEACHING: Like Socrates, the Buddha wrote nothing. His teaching was in the form of dialogue with lots of repetitions for easily memorizing. They were collected and edited some 200 years after his death. There are three separate collections. 1. The Sutta Pitaka contains his sermons to the people. 2. The Vinaya Pitaka are the Rules for the Monks. 3. The Abhidhamma Pitaka contains his philosophical teachings. All these texts are in the Pali language, a corrupted form of Sanskrit. The Buddha himself spoke Prakrit, the vernacular of his time and not Sanskrit, which was spoken by the learned Brahmins only. 4. EMPIRICISM OF THE BUDDHA:

According to Zaehner, " the Buddha is the complete empiricist" (At Sundry Times, p. 94). He rejected the dogmatism of the Brahmins for whom the authority of the Veda (Sruti) was supreme. Says Buddha: "Believe nothing merely because you have been told it, or because it is traditional or because you yourself have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for him. But what ever after due examination analysis you find to be conducive to the good, the welfare and benefit of all beings, that doctrine believe and cling to and take as your guide." (Words of the Buddha written at the entrance to the Regional Research laboratory, Hydrabad). 5. PRAGMATISM OF THE BUDDHA: Pragmatism came to Europe only at the out set of the century with William James, but the Buddha preceded him by 26 centuries! The Buddha was against al kinds of theorization. He wanted to give a practical solution to the problem of pain. His method is a praxis rather than a theoria. Plato gave importance to speculation (theoria) while Karl Marx stressed praxis. The Buddha gave the analogy of the poisoned arrow that struck on the chest of a man. His main preoccupation would be how to extract it in the safest and quickest way rather than speculate on the source of the arrow, or the material out of which it was made, or the depth of the wound. Now, pain is the deadly arrow that strikes every man. It is a moral problem and not a metaphysical one. The Brahmins could not solve it with rituals or metaphysics. But the Buddha found an ethical solution. Until the time of the Buddha, Hinduism had not found a satisfactory solution to the problem of pain with their metaphysical systems. Hence the Buddha had drawn up a list of ten questions that are logically uncertain and ethically unprofitable. They are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Is the world eternal? Is it no-eternal? Is the world finite? Is it infinite? Is the soul same as the body? Is it different from the body? 7. Does the one who knows the truth (Taatgatha) live after his death? 8. Does he not live after death? 9. Does he both live and not live after his death? 10. Does he neither live, nor not live after his death? 6. HUMANISM OF THE BUDDHA Protogorous had sad that, man is the measure of all thing. So too Buddhism is anthropo-centric and not theo-centric. He Sakya Muni was mainly interested in man and his problems especially the central problem of pain.


While the Upaninishads and Plato were interested in the transcendental world, the Buddhas concern was with the phenomenal world, the world of becoming, and not the world of being. The reason is simple: scientific verification is possible only about phenomenal reality. 8. POSITIVISM OF THE BUDDHA: Like Comte, the Buddha showed no interest in dogmas, philosophical presuppositions, the supernatural world, or superstitions. He told his disciples not to accept any truth on authority, divine or human. They must experiment everything with a scientific mind, observe things scientifically, and analyse everything. 9. RATIONALISM OF THE BUDDHA: Like Voltaire, the Buddha did not give any value to religious faith or sraddha. Being the first to question the authority of the Vedas, the Buddha is India's first rationalist. He also rejected the Brahminic ritualism as irrational and challenged the caste system. 10. THE BUDDHIST PSYCHOLOGY: The Buddha is the earliest psychologist of the world. In his analysis of pain, the Buddha had shown elements of depth- psychology by a process of psychological regress involving 12 links. In fact, C.G. Jung had shown considerable interest in ancient Buddhist Psychology. 11. BUDDHIST PARADOX: Zen Buddhism, whose origin is traced back to the Buddha himself, makes use of paradox as a method of spiritual instruction and meditation. Thus we come across the expression, " if you meet the Buddha in the way, kill him", wants to reach that each one must save himself. " No one saves another" (Dhammapda). Another Paradox says: "If you utter the Name the Buddha, wash your mouth twice"! It means that real prayer is beyond words and deeds, in deepest silence. In fact, Zen had its real origin in the Buddha's silent looking at the flower offered by Dharmaraja, a disciple. 12. THE BUDDHA'S TEACHINGS. A) THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS (ARYA SATYA) The Buddha lived in a rich (royal?) family with no experience of suffering until the age of thirty. One day he noticed an old man walking along the street below his palace. Then a sick man also passed by; then he saw a dead body being carried for cremation.

This made him sad and he began to reflection the human suffering. Then he saw a monk passing be with a serene and calm face. Immediately he resolved to follow the life of a mendicant or samana, leaving his wife and child and parents. Siddhartha became a renounced. It is known as Mahabhiniskramana (great going forth). For six years, he practiced severe bodily penances. He was also tempted by the demon Mara to posses empires. Then he began to practice meditation, which led him to enlighten, and he became the Buddha or the Enlightened one. What was his discovery? He analyzed pain and found out that pain had an origin, a cessation and also a means of cessation. He stated it thus: 1.Dukha 2. Dukha Samudaya 3. Dukha Nirodha 4. Dukha NIrodha marga. B) 12 LINKS OF PAIN: The Buddha made a depth- analysis of pain and found out that pain was the last of a chain of 12 links. The root cause of pain was ignorance of the momentarianess of all phenomenal existence and man's craving for them. He states it thus: 1. (avidya) 2. (samskara) 3. ness(vijnana) 4. (nama-rupa) 5. organs 6. contact C) ANALYSIS OF PAIN: Here pain (Dukha) is not bodily pain, or mental pain; it stands also for pleasure or sukha. There are three kinds of pain for the Buddha: 1. Dukha- dukha (Natural pain like sickness, old age, death). 2. Viparinama- dukha: it is pain caused by the momentariness of things. 3. Samkhara -dukha: it is the aggregate or sum total of man's existence. The Buddha briefly summed up his idea on pain thus:" Sarvam dukham dukham, sarvam kshanikam kshanikam (everything is pain and pain, because everything is momentary and momentary). Ignorance Volitions Conscious Body-mind Sense Sense 7. experience 8. 9. life 10. to rebirth 11. 12. old age, death Sense Desire Clinging to Tendency Rebirth Sickness,

D) BUDDHIST THEORY OF CAUSALITY: THE THEORY OF DEPENDENT ORGANIZATION: (Prartiya samutpada) The Nyaya school believed that an immutable God (Isvara) created the phenomenal world. It is called the origination theory of causality (arambha vada). The Samkhya believed in non-origination theory (Satkarya vada). Advaita Vedanta believed in transfiguration theory (Vivarta vada). The Buddha believed in dependent origination (Pratiya samutpada) which is mid-way between Realism and Nihilism. Skeptics like Protagoras and Gorgias and Nagarjuna rejected the reality of the world. Like Heraclitus, the Buddha believed in a continued flux (samtana) or perpetual becoming. It is similar to the process philosophy of Bergson and Whitehead. Origination is conditioned by some realities. Life's sufferings, briefly known as jara-marana, is conditioned is by birth (Jati), which in turn is conditioned by the will to become. This thirst, in turn, is caused by previous sense-experience, tinged with some pleasant feelings (Vedana). This arises from sense-contact (sparsa), which in turn is caused by the sense organs and mind. These depend on the body-mind complex (nama-rupa) which is caused by conscious (vijnana). This consciousness is caused by the impressions (samskaras) of our previous existence. These impressions that cause rebirth are caused by ignorance (avidya) of the nature of reality. If only man realizes the momentariness ( kshanika) of the phenomenal existence, he will not be deluded by this cosmic ignorance, and there will not be any karma in him to cause his rebirth. This state of bliss is called Nirvana (Sanskrit) or Nibbana (Pali). E) THE MEANS TO END PAIN: THE ASHTANGIKA MARGA After having analysed the problem of pain, the Buddha also gave the means of ending pain. This he taught from his own personal experience. They are all ethical ways. They form a chain of eight remedies. 1. Right knowledge (the 4 noble truths) 2. Right resolve to change one's life. 3. Right speech (truthfulness) 4. Right conduct: (pancha sila) a. No killing b. No stealing c. Not to be unchaste d. Not speaking untruth or lie e. Not getting drunk 5. Right livelihood (honesty) 6. Right effort to change evil habits 7. Right remembrance (the thought that everything is perishable) 8. Right concentration (meditation) 13. MEDITATION

One who meditates on the Buddha's virtues is not obsessed by greed, hatred, delusion, lust, and his mind becomes quite straight. Also, the cares of the body and mind subside. He overcomes fear, and he can endure any amount of pain. Since there is no cult in Buddhism, meditation is given the highest place in Buddhist spirituality. In Buddhism, especially in Theravada or Hinayana, prayer is practically reduced to meditation. a) BODDHISATTVAS: Boddhisattvas like Avalokitesvara (compassion) and Manjusri (wisdom) are not gods or historical saints, but mere points for meditation. Even the Buddha is not an essential meditation point. Hence, we have the famous Zen paradox, "If you meet the Buddha in meditation, kill him"! But when one meditated on the virtues of the Buddha, the mind expands, the cosmos is absorbed into the mind, and one experiences cosmic consciousness, what Freud, calls the 'oceanic feeling'. There is no prayer of thanks, petition or adoration in Buddhism since there is no place for God. There is contrition for one's sins, but no absolution for any one can absolve or sanctify another. The Theravadin's goal of prayer is the emulation of the Buddha, while the Mahayanin strives to attain the state of the Boddhisattva (future Buddha). b) VOWS IN MEDITATION The Buddhist takes four vows; to save others, to uproot one's faults, to comprehend truths, and to follow the Buddha. It is expressly stated that without the first, the other three cannot be achieved. Prayer enabled the monks in propagating Buddhism all over Asia, and it gave them courage to endure hate, ridicule and persecution. In the Vietnam and Korean wars, it was the meditation of the monks that won the wars. Today, the Tibetan monks get strength to resist the might of China through meditation (Zen and Vipassana). c) THE MANDALAS The Mandalas are of great help in Buddhist meditation. They depict the one and the many since it has just one center, and many parts. 14. NIRVANA a) The essence of Mahayana Buddhism is the distinction between the two levels of existence: the relative and the absolute. At the former, such pairs of opposites as the 'self' and the 'others' are surely real, while at the latter level no such distinctions are valid. When the limitations of logical thought are transcended, reality is discovered to be simultaneously one and many. b) There is no transition from Samsara to Nirvana; they are not two distinct realities, but the self-same experience viewed from two viewpoints. Samsara is Nirvana (phenomenal, transcendental). c) Nirvana is beyond concepts; so, it can only be expressed through symbols, or paradoxes, like Avalokitesvara, Manjusre, etc.

d) The Buddhist term for the Absolute is asamcrita (Pali, Asamkhata). It denotes a dharma (factor or being) that does not depend on anything else for its arising. As such, it differs from the conditioned dharma, the samskaras. e) The Pali canon defines Nirvana as the complete and utter dissolution of the unwholesome roots of greed, hate, and delusion. For the Pali canon, Nirvana is bliss though there is neither a subject to enjoy it nor the skandha vedana (feeling). f) The great Buddhist philosopher Chandrakirti defines Nirvana thus: Paramartho hy aryanam tushnimbhavah (for the son of a good family, Nirvana is silence only). g) Nagarjuna says that Nirvana as unfathomable emptiness, has itself only a relative meaning and is thus not to be made the subject of speculation, regarding the ground of being, etc. h) To discourage any misuse of he tern emptiness (sunyata), it is suggested that wrong conceptions of emptiness as quasi-substance, should be uprooted by meditating on the 'emptiness of emptiness (sunyata-sunyata). For Nagarjuna, sunyata (emptiness) was not an abstract philosophical concept, but a factual mystic experience, which is far beyond the grasp of discursive thought. i) Earlier Buddhism had thought of Nirvana as totally different from and separate from the phenomenal world or samsara. But in the Sunyavada school of Madhyamika, the transition is made from the above conception to that of an Absolute behind all impermanent objects, as empty space is behind all changeable heavenly bodies. But Nirvana is not the God of the Bible: It lacks personality; it does not think, act or will. It is not the Creator or Saviour, or Providence. 15. THE BUDDHIST IDEA OF MAN a) The Buddha did not believe in a permanent soul as a spiritual substance as Nyaya believed. b) He believed only in states of consciousness. It is known as the theory of Anatta (anatma in Sanskrit) c) Only an aggregate of sensations exists, called sanghata. d) It may be objected that we are all aware of a permanent mind. I who exist now, am the same I was yesterday, and I have the memory of my past. This was Sankara's main objection to Buddhist psychology. Sankara's sutra says, smrteh, meaning I have the remembrance of continued existence. e) REPLY TO SANKARA The Buddhists reply: our sensations succeed each other so rapidly that we get an illusion of a permanent mind or soul, just like a 'motion' picture which is in reality not a motion picture but a rapidly moving series of stills. The Buddhists also say that sensations are not only collective but also religion -collective. Before a sensation dies, it passes on to the next sensation all its essential features. This produces the illusion of permanence and identity. f) NAGASENA'S NOMINALISM: NO CHARIOT!

This was illustrated very clearly in the famous dialogue of the Buddhist philosopher Nagasena and Kind Milinda or Menander of N.W. India, described in the Buddhist text called Milinda Panha (cf. Max Muller, Sacred Books of the East). Says Nagasena: there is no question of a permanent individual implied ij the use of the term, Nagasena. By his subtle dialectic, Nagasena convinced King Milinda that, apart from its various parts, there was no chariot as such. So too, the so-called self is nothing but the amalgam or combination of the five aggregates of existence: matter, sensations, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. g) THE SECRET OF THE RIVER The human soul is compared to an ever-flowering, deep river by Buddhist spiritual masters. Thus, Hermann Hesse in his novel, Siddhartha, narrates the story of the Samana Siddhatha who got rid of his sorrows by the contemplation of a river. Stricken by uncontrolled grief by the departure of his son, Siddhartha was advised be the mentor Vasudava, the boatman, to listen to the massage of the river. Siddhartha heard the laughter of the river and a song of thousand voices. He saw many pictures in the flowing river: his father, lonely, weeping for his son he saw himself lonely, also with bonds of longing for his far- away son. He saw his son, also lonely. The picture of Kamala, the courtesan, whom he had loved passionately, also flowed down the river. The rivers voice was very sorrowful. The pictures flowed into one another; they all become part of the river. The water of the river was changed into vapor to become rain and then again became the river. This eternal cosmic becoming was the secret that Siddhartha had learned from the river. It was a relent less process and only a fool would try to stop it. But beneath the thousands of voices of pleasure and pain, evil and good, laughter and lamenting, Siddhartha could hear the mystic Syllable Om, the voice of unity, of perfection, of the real self, of Nirvana. h) BUDDISM NOT PESSIMISTIC The Buddhist idea of man is certainly not pessimistic, as some Western Orientalists had wrongly interpreted. Each one is the maker of his future happiness is misery. The Buddha believed in the fundamental justice and righteousness of the world order more than job. People of Buddhist countries are as happy and cheerful as any other country and the Buddhist monks are serene and cheerful. The Burmese are, World-famed for their gaity and light-heartedness, says Wright. Buddhists believe that mans future is not governed by fate or whimsical or revengeful devils or gods. There are no superstitions to instill fear into them. Buddhism is not a fear-inspiring religion like Hinduism, Christianity, or Islam.

i) THE TRUE BRAHMIN Buddhism rejected the Hindu social philosophy of caste. The Buddha said that a true Brahmin was not born, but made by one s own conduct. Says the Tathagatha: I do not call a man Brahmin because of his origin Him I call a Brahmin, who though committed no offence, endures reproach, stripes and bonds Him I call indeed a Brahmin who is tolerant with the intolerant, mild with the violent, and free from greed among the greedy. Him I call a Brahmin, from whom anger and hatred, pride and hypocrisy have dropped like a mustard seed from the point of a needle (Dharmmapada).