The history of Buddhism
- During the Maurya empire, the Indian culture and way of life were deeply influenced by Buddhism.
- Buddhism appealed to people of lower castes because it emphasized individuals’ path to enlightenment and salvation, which could be attained in this life.
- Buddhism also received state support from Emperor Ashoka, who converted to Buddhism in 260 BCE.
The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, was born circa 563 BCE into a wealthy family. Gautama rejected his life of riches and embraced a lifestyle of asceticism, or extreme self-discipline. After 49 consecutive days of meditation, Gautama became the Buddha, or “enlightened one”. He made this announcement in public at about 528 BCE and gained a group of disciples who became Buddhist monks and traveled throughout northern India spreading his teachings.
Buddhism has a strong individualistic component: everyone has responsibility for their own happiness in life. Buddha presented the Four Noble Truths as guiding principles: there is suffering in life; the cause of suffering is desire; ending desire means ending suffering; and following a controlled and moderate lifestyle will end desire, and therefore end suffering.
In order to achieve these goals, the Buddha presented the Noble Eightfold Path: right belief, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right occupation, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi—or meditation. According to Buddhist practice, following the Noble Eightfold Path will ultimately result in being liberated from samsara, the cycle of rebirth and suffering.
Many followers of this path to enlightenment participated in an emerging Buddhist monastic tradition. Monasticism is a religious way of life which involves leaving behind worldly pursuits and devoting oneself to spiritual activity.
Painting of the Buddha's first discourse, turning the Dharmacakra; Circa 700-1100 CE; Sanskrit Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra manuscript written in the Ranjana script. Buddha is dressed in red and is flanked by two attendants.
Buddhism’s individual outlook and disregard for the caste system in attaining enlightenment were appealing to people in lower castes. Buddhism suggested that individual people might be able to attain enlightenment in this life and held that caste was not a punishment for deeds committed in a past life. Women also had some opportunities within Buddhism that they wouldn’t have had access to otherwise, such as the ability to become Buddhist monks. Buddhism gave them an option for work outside the traditional sphere of family and home.
As you can imagine, following the Noble Eightfold Path was not an easy task! Buddhism was less popular with people in the vaishya—merchant—or shudra—servant—classes who could not devote all of their time and mental energy to pursuing these challenging goals. Partly in response, Mahayana Buddhism arose. Mahayana Buddhism is a form of Buddhism in which people could still attain enlightenment by performing acts of devotion or performing the duties of their jobs. This alternative approach made Buddhism more acceptable for a greater number of people. Mahayana means the greater vehicle and refers to the opportunity for more people to gain salvation.
Buddhism also received support from the state. In 260 BCE, King Ashoka adopted Buddhism after a violent war against the feudal state of Kalinga. He wanted to renounce violence and publicly turned to Buddhism in order to achieve this. He may have also turned to Buddhism as a way of uniting people of many castes and cultures under a similar religion, which might have made his empire easier to govern.
What do you think?
How did Buddhism spread from Siddhartha Gautama’s teachings to a broader audience?
Why would Buddhism be difficult for people of lower castes to practice?
Why were the teachings of Buddhism an appealing alternative to Hinduism for people in lower castes?
Was Ashoka responsible for the spread of Buddhism? If so, how?
Want to join the conversation?
- At first it was said that buddhism was more appealing to lower castes since it stated that the path to salvation could be attained in this life but soon after it was said that buddhism was less popular among the vaishyas and the shudras, that are the lower castes since it required time to pratice, what makes sense but nevertheless it seems to exist some kind of contradiction here. Were there a significant number of people in the higher castes of India's social hierarchy that were buddhists? Or was buddhism a religion for the lower castes?(8 votes)
- What he meant was out of the five classes- Brahmans, Kshatriya,Visayans, Sudan, and least commonly said, davits- the vaishyas and shudras didn't practice buddism. The other lower class is the davits. The brahmans and kshatriya were the higher classes. Does that make sense?(9 votes)
- How did Buddhism see how the world started or formed(8 votes)
- In the paragraph under the picture it says "Buddhism’s individual outlook and disregard for the caste system in attaining enlightenment were appealing to people in lower castes". If it says that then why does the second question say "Why would Buddhism be difficult for people of lower castes to practice?"(3 votes)
- The fact that something is appealing doesn't mean that it is necessarily easy.(9 votes)
- How was Buddhism almost wiped out of Indian subcontinent when after Ashoka it was the major religion in India.(2 votes)
- After Ashoka hinduism was still widely practiced along side Buddhism and Jainism. The Gupta dynasty preferred Hinduism over Buddhism, but that still didn't made as a big difference in the religious background of India. What mostly done the trick is the 8th century metamorphosis of Hinduism called the bhakti movement. Hinduism during this period developed to a very pluralistic religion that could easily absorb every other tradition to it's own canon. In the end Buddhism was not "wiped out", but absorbed into a very complicated nature of Indian spirituality.(9 votes)
- Whats the difference between hinduism and buddhism just like christianity and judaism ?(4 votes)
- One major interesting and the awesome difference between Hinduism and Buddhism is that normally Buddhists focus on escaping the cycle of rebirth and attaining nirvana in this life or the next. In Hinduism, they focus on karma or the way of conceptual thinking that your good and bad actions in this life can affect what you become in the next life. If you do good you may end up as a king or a knowledgeable person in the next life. If you do bad then you will end up as a poor person or a servant. One more recognizable difference is that in Hinduism there are more gods and demigods and yogis or gurus (teachers are considered to be like god in Hinduism) and lesser gods in Buddhism.
Hope this helped!
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May God bless you with good health, god bodhi (Bodhi is knowledge in Hindi), and a good life!🤗
(By the way, very good question! Keep it up!)👍(3 votes)
- How was Buddhism formed out of Hinduism?(3 votes)
- Buddhism was created by Gautama, who was a Hindu prince prior to reaching nirvana. While Hinduism's goal is to understand existence in a system where everything has the same soul, Buddhism seeks to dispel one's existence, and through that, dispel all attachments, such as pain. As you can see, they are similar, but different, and you can see where buddhism branched off.(5 votes)
- What happened after Ashoka saw a Buddhist monk meditating in the street?(2 votes)
- he felt that the monk was unaffected by all suffering on earth...hence he left his royal life and adopted buddhism(3 votes)
- was the buddah a virgin(1 vote)
- Gotama, the first man to become a Buddha, had a wife and a child. He was not a virgin.(3 votes)
- Why did Emperor Asoka convert to Buddhism that quickly after a bloody war?(1 vote)
- How did Ashoka become Buddhist so suddenly? Why did he try to spread Buddhism? Apart from his influence why did people spread Buddhism and how did it spread?(1 vote)