Gautama Buddha- the father of Buddhism
A faith more than 25,000 years old was first founded by Siddhartha Gautama, who is recognized as the father of Buddhism. It’s a religion based on the series of teachings attributed to the Gautama Buddha. It is one of the major religions in the world with more than 470 million followers from across the globe. Its practice has historically been most prominent in East and Southeast Asia, but its influence is growing in the West. Because religion promotes Moksha attainment, more and more people are turning towards the faith.
Many Buddhist monks wander throughout life in the attainment of Nirvana and break the cycle of life and death. It’s a path of liberation people believe to end all their life’s sufferings and get the taste of ultimate salvation. The two major branches of Buddhism are Theravāda and Mahāyāna. Inspired by the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, Buddhism is a beautiful faith popular among westerners. Let’s take a look at how the faith first came into existence.
The Man Behind Buddhism- Siddhartha Gautama
Siddhartha Gautama was born in the 5th century BC in Lumbini, present-day Nepal. He hailed from a wealthy family as a prince and had a comfortable life. Away from the sorrows of the world, Siddhartha was a pampered child of his parents who didn’t know about the sufferings of the world. One day, when he asked his servant for a walk outside the palace, he was stunned to discover the suffering of the people and how nobody is happy. Thus he decided to give up the lavish lifestyle and set out on a journey in a quest to find liberation from sufferings also known as Moksha.
He started his journey by becoming a student of two famous spiritual leaders Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. However, finding their teachings insufficient to attain nirvana, Siddhartha turned towards the practice of severe asceticism. But this too fell short to achieve his goal and thus ultimately he joined the meditative practice of Dhyana. He sat beneath a Bodhi Tree in the town of Bodh Gaya, now Bihar, in meditation and attained spiritual awakening. Simultaneously, he encouraged a ‘middle way’ of lifestyle which is somewhere between social indulgences and extreme deprivation.
Now a fully enlightened Buddha attracted several followers who formed a schooling sangha. Buddha spent the rest of his life teachings others about how to attain the ultimate salvation. In 483 B.C., when Siddhartha Gautama died, his followers started a religious movement and turned his teaching into the foundation of what would later become Buddhism. Buddhism became widely popular in the 3rd century BC when the great ruler Ashoka turned towards Buddhism and implemented it as an official state religion of India. Several temples and monasteries were set up in the kingdom promoting Buddhist beliefs.
- Because nothing is permanent, a life based on possessing things or persons doesn’t make you happy.
- There is no eternal, unchanging soul and “self” is just a collection of changing characteristics or attributes.
- Human life has a lot of suffering.
- The cause of suffering is greed.
- There is an end to suffering.
- The way to end suffering is to follow the Middle Path.
- Right understanding and viewpoint, Right values and attitude, Right speech Right action, Right work, Right effort, Right mindfulness, and Right meditation.
- Buddhist do not worship the god or any supreme deity, instead, they focus on achieving enlightenment which is a state of inner peace and wisdom.
How many types of Buddhism are practiced in the world?
Theravada Buddhism: It is the oldest form of Buddhism practiced. Theravada tradition upholds the monastic path and adheres to the oldest surviving recorded sayings of the Buddha, collectively called the Pali canon. It is widely practiced in countries like Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.
Mahayana Buddhism: It is a movement that promotes bodhisattvas, who offer assistance to the followers to achieve the ultimate salvation. Mahayana Buddhism is widely practiced in China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Vajrayana Buddhism: Also known as Tantric Buddhism is a form of Mahayana Buddhism formed in 500–600 C.E. It is recognized as a shortcut practice of salvation. Vajrayana Buddhism is widely popular in Southeast Asia and East Asia.
The Decline of Buddhism in India
The major hit to Buddhism in India came in the 8th century when the Arabs conquered and invaded present-day Pakistan. And with simultaneous invasions of north India by various groups such as Indo-Iranian Huns, White Huns, Muslim Turkic-Mongolians, Arabs, and Persians, the popularity of Buddhism widely declined. In 320–650 CE’s Gupta Empire, the faith saw a huge decline when dynasties turned towards services of Hindu Brahmins. One of the most recognized incidents that led to the widespread destruction of Buddhism was an attack on the Nalanda University by Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji, a general of the Delhi Sultanate.
Though, the popularity declined yet the faith of the devotees remained and they took Buddhism to the vast corners of the world. Today more than 470 million people follow Buddhism which is 8% and 10% of the world’s population. The official religion in Thailand is Theravada Buddhism. And with this, more and more people are recognizing the beauty of religion and turning toward it.