Click here for Word document

or PDF

This is compiled Gautama Buddha knowledge and data

ALL From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



1.        Gautama Buddha

2.        Traditional biographies / Primary biographical sources

3.        Nature of traditional depictions

4.        Biography Conception and birth

5.        Early life and marriage

6.        Departure and ascetic life

7.        Enlightenment

8.        Formation of the sangha

9.        Travels and teaching

10.   Assassination attempts

11.   Mahaparinirvana

12.   Physical characteristics

13.   Teachings

14.   Other religions

15.   Buddhism

16.   Life of the Buddha

17.   Buddhist concepts

18.   Life and the World

19.   Suffering's causes and solution - The Four Noble Truths / Noble Eightfold Path

20.   The Four Immeasurables

21. Middle Way

22. Nature of existence

23. Dependent arising

24.  Emptiness

25. Nirvana

26.   Buddha eras

27.  Devotion

28. Buddhist ethics

29.  Ten Precepts

30.  Monastic life

31.   Samādhi (meditative cultivation): samatha meditation

32.   In Theravada

33.   Prajā (Wisdom): vipassana meditation

34.  Zen

35.   History

36.   Indian Buddhism, Pre-sectarian Buddhism, Early Buddhist schools, Early Mahayana Buddhism, Late Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana (Esoteric Buddhism)

37.   Development of Buddhism

38.  Buddhism today

39.   Demographics

40.  Schools and traditions

41.   Timeline

42.   Theravada school

43.   Mahayana traditions

44.  Bodhisattavas - Vajrayana tradions

45.   Buddhist texts -Pāli Tipitaka

46.   Mahayana sutras

47.   Comparative studies

48.   History

49.  Lineage of nuns

50.   Modern developments

51.   Overview of Philosophy

52.   Fundamentals of Theravada, Cause and Effect, The Four Noble Truths, The Three Characteristics, The Three Noble Disciplines

53.   Meditation

54.   Scriptures

55.   Lay and monastic life, Ordination, Lay devote

56.   Monastic practices

57.   Influences

58.   Monastic orders within Theravada

59.   Noble Eightfold Path

60.   Dependent Origination

61.   The Twelve Nidanas

62.   Three lives

63.   Destiny after rebirth

64.   Understanding in Buddhist tradition

65.   Understanding in Therevada Abhidhamma

66.   Understanding in the Mahayana tradition

67.   God in Buddhism

68.   Primordial Buddhas

69.   The Eternal Buddha of Shin Buddhism

70.   unused

71.   Devas and the supernatural in Buddhism

72.   Attitudes towards theories of creation

73.   Veneration of the Buddha

74.   Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

75.   Radioation of loving kindness

76.   Worship to the tripple gem

77.   Salutation to the triple gem

78.     unused

79.    Salutation to the Buddha (Pali)

80.   Praise to  morning chanting

81.   Praise to Dhamma

82.   Evening chanting (Pali) Praise to the Buddha

83.   unused

84.   Praise to Sangha

85.   Radiation of love kindness

86.   Praise to the Sangha (Pali)

87.   Radiatiom of loving kindness

top    home


1. Gautama Buddha

"Buddha" and "Gautama" redirect here. For other uses, see Buddha (disambiguation) and Gautama (disambiguation).



c. 563 BCE [1] Lumbini (today in Nepal)


c. 483 BCE (aged 80) or 411 and 400 BCE
Kushinagar (today in Uttar Pradesh, India)



Known for

Founder of Buddhism


Kassapa Buddha


Maitreya Buddha

Gautama Buddha or Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम बुद्ध; Pali: Siddhattha

Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded.[2]

The word Buddha is a title for the first awakened being in an era.

In most Buddhist traditions, Siddhartha Gautama is regarded as the Supreme Buddha (P. sammāsambuddha, S. samyaksaṃbuddha) of our age, "Buddha" meaning "awakened one" or "the enlightened one." [note 1]

Gautama Buddha may also be referred to as Śākyamuni (Sanskrit: शाक्यमुनि "Sage of the Śākyas"). The Buddha found a Middle Way that ameliorated the extreme asceticism found in the Sramana religions.[3]

The time of Gautama's birth and death are uncertain: most early-20th-century historians dated his lifetime as c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE,[4] but more recent opinion dates his death to between 486 and 483 BCE or, according to some, between 411 and 400 BCE.[5][6]

UNESCO lists Lumbini, Nepal, as a world heritage site and birthplace of Gautama Buddha.[1][7]

There are also claims about birthplace of Gautama Buddha to be Kapileswara, Orissa[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] or Kapilavastu at Piprahwa, Uttar Pradesh.

He later taught throughout regions of eastern India such as Magadha and Kośala.[16][17]

Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarized after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition, and first committed to writing about 400 years later.

top    home

2. Traditional biographies / Primary biographical sources  

The primary sources for the life of Siddhārtha Gautama are in a variety of different and sometimes conflicting traditional biographies.

These include the Buddhacarita, Lalitavistara Sūtra, Mahāvastu, and the Nidānakathā.[18]

Of these, the Buddhacarita is the earliest full biography, an epic poem written by the poet Aśvaghoṣa, and dating around the beginning of the 2nd century CE.[18]

The Lalitavistara Sūtra is the next oldest biography, a Mahāyāna/Sarvāstivāda biography dating to the 3rd century CE.[19]

The Mahāvastu from the Mahāsāṃghika Lokottaravāda sect is another major biography, composed incrementally until perhaps the 4th century CE.[19]

The Dharmaguptaka biography of the Buddha is the most exhaustive, and is entitled the Abhiniṣkramaṇa Sūtra, and various Chinese translations of this date between the 3rd and 6th century CE. Lastly, the Nidānakathā is from the Theravāda sect in Sri Lanka, composed in the 5th century CE by Buddhaghoṣa.[20]

From canonical sources, the Jātaka tales, Mahapadana Sutta (DN 14), and the Achariyabhuta Sutta (MN 123) include selective accounts that may be older, but are not full biographies.

The Jātaka tales retell previous lives of Gautama as a bodhisattva, and the first collection of these can be dated among the earliest Buddhist texts.[21]

The Mahāpadāna Sutta and Acchariyaabbhuta Sutta both recount miraculous events surrounding Gautama's birth, such as the bodhisattva's descent from Tuṣita Heaven into his mother's womb.

top    home


3. Nature of traditional depictions  

Queen Māyā miraculously giving birth to Prince Siddhārtha. Sanskrit manuscript. Nālandā, Bihar, India. Pāla period.

Traditional biographies of Gautama generally include numerous miracles, omens, and supernatural events.

The character of the Buddha in these traditional biographies is often that of a fully transcendent (Skt. lokottara) and perfected being who is unencumbered by the mundane world.

In the Mahāvastu, over the course of many lives, Gautama is said to have developed supramundane abilities including: a painless birth conceived without intercourse; no need for sleep, food, medicine, or bathing, although engaging in such "in conformity with the world"; omniscience, and the ability to "suppress karma".[22]

Nevertheless, some of the more ordinary details of his life have been gathered from these traditional sources.

In modern times there has been an attempt to form a secular understanding of Siddhārtha Gautama's life by omitting the traditional supernatural elements of his early biographies.

Andrew Skilton writes that the Buddha was never historically regarded by Buddhist traditions as being merely human:[23]

It is important to stress that, despite modern Theravada teachings to the contrary (often a sop to skeptical Western pupils), he was never seen as being merely human.

For instance, he is often described as having the thirty-two major and eighty minor marks or signs of a mahāpuruṣa, "superman"; the Buddha himself denied that he was either a man or a god; and in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta he states that he could live for an aeon were he asked to do so.

The ancient Indians were generally unconcerned with chronologies, being more focused on philosophy.

Buddhist texts reflect this tendency, providing a clearer picture of what Gautama may have taught than of the dates of the events in his life.

These texts contain descriptions of the culture and daily life of ancient India which can be corroborated from the Jain scriptures, and make the Buddha's time the earliest period in Indian history for which significant accounts exist.[24][full citation needed]

British author Karen Armstrong writes that although there is very little information that can be considered historically sound, we can be reasonably confident that Siddhārtha Gautama did exist as a historical figure.[25]

Michael Carrithers goes a bit further by stating that the most general outline of "birth, maturity, renunciation, search, awakening and liberation, teaching, death" must be true.[26]

top    home


4. Biography Conception and birth     

Exact birthplace of Gautama Buddha in Lumbini.[1]

This is a holy shrine also for Hindus, who believe Buddha is the 9th of 10 Dashavataras of Vishnu[27]

Various sites have been identified as possible places of Gautama Buddha's birth.

UNESCO lists Lumbini, Nepal as a world heritage site and birthplace of Gautama Buddha.

There are other claims of Buddha's birth in Piprahwa in Uttar Pradesh, India; or Kapileswara in Orissa, India.[8][9][10][12][28][13][14][15]and raised in the small kingdom or principality of Kapilavastu.[29]

According to the most traditional biography,[which?] the Buddha's father was King Śuddhodana, the leader of Shakya clan, whose capital was Kapilavastu, and who were later annexed by the growing Kingdom of Kosala during the Buddha's lifetime; Gautama was the family name.

His mother, Queen Maha Maya (Māyādevī) and Suddhodana's wife, was a Koliyan princess.

Legend has it that, on the night Siddhartha was conceived, Queen Maya dreamt that a white elephant with six white tusks entered her right side,[30] and ten months later Siddhartha was born.

As was the Shakya tradition, when his mother Queen Maya became pregnant, she left Kapilvastu for her father's kingdom to give birth.

However, her son is said to have been born on the way, at Lumbini, in a garden beneath a sal tree.

The day of the Buddha's birth is widely celebrated in Theravada countries as Vesak.[31]

Various sources hold that the Buddha's mother died at his birth, a few days or seven days later.

The infant was given the name Siddhartha (Pāli: Siddhattha), meaning "he who achieves his aim". During the birth celebrations, the hermit seer Asita journeyed from his mountain abode and announced that the child would either become a great king (chakravartin) or a great holy man.[32]

By traditional account,[which?] this occurred after Siddhartha placed his feet in Asita's hair and Asita examined the birthmarks.

Suddhodana held a naming ceremony on the fifth day, and invited eight brahmin scholars to read the future.

All gave a dual prediction that the baby would either become a great king or a great holy man.[32] Kaundinya (Pali: Konda๑๑a), the youngest, and later to be the first arahant other than the Buddha, was reputed to be the only one who unequivocally predicted that Siddhartha would become a Buddha.[33]

While later tradition and legend characterized Śuddhodana as a hereditary monarch, the descendant of the Solar Dynasty of Ikṣvāku (Pāli: Okkāka), many scholars think that Śuddhodana was the elected chief of a tribal confederacy.

Early texts suggest that Gautama was not familiar with the dominant religious teachings of his time until he left on his religious quest, which is said to have been motivated by existential concern for the human condition.[34]

At the time, many small city-states existed in Ancient India, called Janapadas.

Republics and chiefdoms with diffused political power and limited social stratification, were not uncommon amongst them, and were referred to as gana-sanghas.[35]

The Buddha's community does not seem to have had a caste system. It was not a monarchy, and seems to have been structured either as an oligarchy, or as a form of republic.[36]

The more egalitarian gana-sangha form of government, as a political alternative to the strongly hierarchical kingdoms, may have influenced the development of the Shramana-type Jain and Buddhist sanghas, where monarchies tended toward Vedic Brahmanism.[37]

top    home


5. Early life and marriage  

Departure of Prince Siddhartha

Siddhartha was born in a royal Hindu Kshatriya family. He was brought up by his mother's younger sister, Maha Pajapati.[38]

By tradition, he is said to have been destined by birth to the life of a prince, and had three palaces (for seasonal occupation) built for him.

Although more recent scholarship doubts this status, his father, said to be King Śuddhodana, wishing for his son to be a great king, is said to have shielded him from religious teachings and from knowledge of human suffering.

When he reached the age of 16, his father reputedly arranged his marriage to a cousin of the same age named Yaśodharā (Pāli: Yasodharā).

According to the traditional account,[which?] she gave birth to a son, named Rāhula.

Siddhartha is then said to have spent 29 years as a prince in Kapilavastu.

Although his father ensured that Siddhartha was provided with everything he could want or need, Buddhist scriptures say that the future Buddha felt that material wealth was not life's ultimate goal.[38]

top    home

6. Departure and ascetic life  

This scene depicts the "Great Departure" of Siddhartha Gautama, a predestined being.

He appears here surrounded by a halo, and accompanied by numerous guards, mithuna loving couples, and devata, come to pay homage.[39]

Gandhara art, Kushan period(1st-3rd century CE)

Prince Siddhartha shaves his hair and becomes an ascetic. Borobudur, 8th century.

At the age of 29, the popular biography continues, Siddhartha left his palace to meet his subjects. Despite his father's efforts to hide from him the sick, aged and suffering, Siddhartha was said to have seen an old man.

When his charioteer Channa explained to him that all people grew old, the prince went on further trips beyond the palace. On these he encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. These depressed him, and he initially strove to overcome ageing, sickness, and death by living the life of an ascetic.[40]

Accompanied by Channa and aboard his horse Kanthaka, Gautama quit his palace for the life of a mendicant.

It's said that, "the horse's hooves were muffled by the gods"[41] to prevent guards from knowing of his departure.

Gautama initially went to Rajagaha and began his ascetic life by begging for alms in the street.

After King Bimbisara's men recognised Siddhartha and the king learned of his quest, Bimisara offered Siddhartha the throne.

Siddhartha rejected the offer, but promised to visit his kingdom of Magadha first, upon attaining enlightenment.

He left Rajagaha and practised under two hermit teachers.

After mastering the teachings of Alara Kalama (Skr. Ārāḍa Kālāma), he was asked by Kalama to succeed him.

However, Gautama felt unsatisfied by the practise, and moved on to become a student of Udaka Ramaputta (Skr. Udraka Rāmaputra).

With him he achieved high levels of meditative consciousness, and was again asked to succeed his teacher.

But, once more, he was not satisfied, and again moved on.[42]

Siddhartha and a group of five companions led by Kaundinya are then said to have set out to take their austerities even further. T

hey tried to find enlightenment through deprivation of worldly goods, including food, practising self-mortification.

After nearly starving himself to death by restricting his food intake to around a leaf or nut per day, he collapsed in a river while bathing and almost drowned.

Siddhartha began to reconsider his path.

Then, he remembered a moment in childhood in which he had been watching his father start the season's plowing.

He attained a concentrated and focused state that was blissful and refreshing, the jhāna.

top    home

7. Enlightenment    

The Buddha sitting in meditation, surrounded by demons of Māra. Sanskrit manuscript. Nālandā, Bihar, India. Pāla period.

According to the early Buddhist texts,[43] after realizing that meditative jhana was the right path to awakening, but that extreme asceticism didn't work, Gautama discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way[43]—a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.[43]

In a famous incident, after becoming starved and weakened, he is said to have accepted milk and rice pudding from a village girl named Sujata.[44]

Such was his emaciated appearance that she wrongly believed him to be a spirit that had granted her a wish.[44]

Following this incident, Gautama was famously seated under a pipal tree—now known as the Bodhi tree—in Bodh Gaya, India, when he vowed never to arise until he had found the truth.[45]

Kaundinya and four other companions, believing that he had abandoned his search and become undisciplined, left.

After a reputed 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained Enlightenment.[45][46]

According to some traditions, this occurred in approximately the fifth lunar month, while, according to others, it was in the twelfth month. From that time, Gautama was known to his followers as the Buddha or "Awakened One" ("Buddha" is also sometimes translated as "The Enlightened One").

He is often referred to in Buddhism as Shakyamuni Buddha, or "The Awakened One of the Shakya Clan."

According to Buddhism, at the time of his awakening he realized complete insight into the cause of suffering, and the steps necessary to eliminate it.

These discoveries became known as the "Four Noble Truths",[46] which are at the heart of Buddhist teaching.

Through mastery of these truths, a state of supreme liberation, or Nirvana, is believed to be possible for any being.

The Buddha described Nirvāna as the perfect peace of a mind that's free from ignorance, greed, hatred and other afflictive states,[46] or "defilements" (kilesas).

Nirvana is also regarded as the "end of the world", in that no personal identity or boundaries of the mind remain. In such a state, a being is said to possess the Ten Characteristics, belonging to every Buddha.

According to a story in the Āyācana Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya VI.1) — a scripture found in the Pāli and other canons — immediately after his awakening, the Buddha debated whether or not he should teach the Dharma to others.

He was concerned that humans were so overpowered by ignorance, greed and hatred that they could never recognise the path, which is subtle, deep and hard to grasp. However, in the story, Brahmā Sahampati convinced him, arguing that at least some will understand it.

The Buddha relented, and agreed to teach.

top    home


8. Formation of the sangha

Dhmek Stpa in Srnth, India, site of the first teaching of the Buddha, in which the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths to his first five disciples.

After his awakening, the Buddha met two merchants, named Tapussa and Bhallika, who became his first lay disciples.

They were apparently each given hairs from his head, which are now claimed to be enshrined as relics in the Shwe Dagon Temple in Rangoon, Burma.

The Buddha intended to visit Asita, and his former teachers, Alara Kalama and Udaka Ramaputta, to explain his findings, but they had already died.

He then travelled to the Deer Park near Vārāṇasī (Benares) in northern India, where he set in motion what Buddhists call the Wheel of Dharma by delivering his first sermon to the five companions with whom he had sought enlightenment. Together with him, they formed the first saṅgha: the company of Buddhist monks.

All five become arahants, and within the first two months, with the conversion of Yasa and fifty four of his friends, the number of such arahants is said to have grown to 60.

The conversion of three brothers named Kassapa followed, with their reputed 200, 300 and 500 disciples, respectively. This swelled the sangha to more than 1,000.

top    home


9. Travels and teaching

http://bits.wikimedia.org/static-1.20wmf8/skins/common/images/magnify-clip.pngBuddha with his protector Vajrapani, Gandhāra, 2nd century CE, Ostasiatische Kunst Museum

For the remaining 45 years of his life, the Buddha is said to have traveled in the Gangetic Plain, in what is now Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and southern Nepal, teaching a diverse range of people: from nobles to outcaste street sweepers, murderers such as Angulimala, and cannibals such as Alavaka. From the outset, Buddhism was equally open to all races and classes, and had no caste structure, as was the rule for most Hindus in the-then society.

Although the Buddha's language remains unknown, it's likely that he taught in one or more of a variety of closely related Middle Indo-Aryan dialects, of which Pali may be standardization.

The sangha traveled through the subcontinent, expounding the dharma.

This continued throughout the year, except during the four months of the vassana rainy season when ascetics of all religions rarely traveled.

One reason was that it was more difficult to do so without causing harm to animal life.

At this time of year, the sangha would retreat to monasteries, public parks or forests, where people would come to them.

The first vassana was spent at Varanasi when the sangha was formed.

After this, the Buddha kept a promise to travel to Rajagaha, capital of Magadha, to visit King Bimbisara.

During this visit, Sariputta and Maudgalyayana were converted by Assaji, one of the first five disciples, after which they were to become the Buddha's two foremost followers.

The Buddha spent the next three seasons at Veluvana Bamboo Grove monastery in Rajagaha, capital of Magadha.

Upon hearing of his son's awakening, Suddhodana sent, over a period, ten delegations to ask him to return to Kapilavastu.

On the first nine occasions, the delegates failed to deliver the message, and instead joined the sangha to become arahants.

The tenth delegation, led by Kaludayi, a childhood friend of Gautama's (who also became an arahant), however, delivered the message.

Now two years after his awakening, the Buddha agreed to return, and made a two-month journey by foot to Kapilavastu, teaching the dharma as he went.

At his return, the royal palace prepared a midday meal, but the sangha was making an alms round in Kapilavastu.

Hearing this, Suddhodana approached his son, the Buddha, saying:

"Ours is the warrior lineage of Mahamassata, and not a single warrior has gone seeking alms"

The Buddha is said to have replied:

"That is not the custom of your royal lineage. But it is the custom of my Buddha lineage. Several thousands of Buddhas have gone by seeking alms"

Buddhist texts say that Suddhodana invited the sangha into the palace for the meal, followed by a dharma talk.

After this he is said to have become a sotapanna.

During the visit, many members of the royal family joined the sangha.

The Buddha's cousins Ananda and Anuruddha became two of his five chief disciples.

At the age of seven, his son Rahula also joined, and became one of his ten chief disciples.

His half-brother Nanda also joined and became an arahant.

Of the Buddha's disciples, Sariputta, Maudgalyayana, Mahakasyapa, Ananda and Anuruddha are believed to have been the five closest to him. His ten foremost disciples were reputedly completed by the quintet of Upali, Subhoti, Rahula, Mahakaccana and Punna.

In the fifth vassana, the Buddha was staying at Mahavana near Vesali when he heard news of the impending death of his father.

He is said to have gone to Suddhodana and taught the dharma, after which his father became an arahant.

The king's death and cremation was to inspire the creation of an order of nuns.

Buddhist texts record that the Buddha was reluctant to ordain women.

His foster mother Maha Pajapati, for example, approached him, asking to join the sangha, but he refused.

Maha Pajapati, however, was so intent on the path of awakening that she led a group of royal Sakyan and Koliyan ladies, which followed the sangha on a long journey to Rajagaha.

In time, after Ananda championed their cause, the Buddha is said to have reconsidered and, five years after the formation of the sangha, agreed to the ordination of women as nuns.

He reasoned that males and females had an equal capacity for awakening. But he gave women additional rules (Vinaya) to follow.

top    home


10. Assassination attempts     

According to colorful legends, even during the Buddha's life the sangha was not free of dissent and discord.

For example, Devadatta, a cousin of Gautama who became a monk but not an arahant, more than once tried to kill him.

Initially, Devadatta is alleged to have often tried to undermine the Buddha.

In one instance, according to stories, Devadatta even asked the Buddha to stand aside and let him lead the sangha.

When this failed, he is accused of having three times tried to kill his teacher.

The first attempt is said to have involved him hiring a group of archers to shoot the awakened one. But, upon meeting the Buddha, they laid down their bows and instead became followers.

A second attempt is said to have involved Devadatta rolling a boulder down a hill.

But this hit another rock and splintered, only grazing the Buddha's foot. In the third attempt, Devadatta is said to have got an elephant drunk and set it loose. This ruse also failed.

After his lack of success at homicide, Devadatta is said to have tried to create a schism in the sangha, by proposing extra restrictions on the vinaya.

When the Buddha again prevailed, Devadatta started a breakaway order.

At first, he managed to convert some of the bhikkhus, but Sariputta and Maudgalyayana are said to have expounded the dharma so effectively that they were won back.

top    home


11. Mahaparinirvana     

The Buddha's entry into Parinirvana. Sanskrit manuscript. Nālandā, Bihar, India. Pāla period.

The sharing of the relics of the Buddha, Zenyōmitsu-Temple Museum, Tokyo.

According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Pali canon, at the age of 80, the Buddha announced that he would soon reach Parinirvana, or the final deathless state, and abandon his earthly body. After this, the Buddha ate his last meal, which he had received as an offering from a blacksmith named Cunda.

Falling violently ill, Buddha instructed his attendant Ānanda to convince Cunda that the meal eaten at his place had nothing to do with his passing and that his meal would be a source of the greatest merit as it provided the last meal for a Buddha.[47]

Mettanando and von Hinber argue that the Buddha died of mesenteric infarction, a symptom of old age, rather than food poisoning.[48]

The precise contents of the Buddha's final meal are not clear, due to variant scriptural traditions and ambiguity over the translation of certain significant terms; the Theravada tradition generally believes that the Buddha was offered some kind of pork, while the Mahayana tradition believes that the Buddha consumed some sort of truffle or other mushroom.

These may reflect the different traditional views on Buddhist vegetarianism and the precepts for monks and nuns.

Ananda protested the Buddha's decision to enter Parinirvana in the abandoned jungles of Kuśināra (present-day Kushinagar, India) of the Malla kingdom.

Buddha, however, is said to have reminded Ananda how Kushinara was a land once ruled by a righteous wheel-turning king that resounded with joy: 44.

Kusavati, Ananda, resounded unceasingly day and night with ten sounds—the trumpeting of elephants, the neighing of horses, the rattling of chariots, the beating of drums and tabours, music and song, cheers, the clapping of hands, and cries of "Eat, drink, and be merry!"

The Buddha then asked all the attendant Bhikkhus to clarify any doubts or questions they had.

They had none.

According to Buddhist scriptures, he then finally entered Parinirvana.

The Buddha's final words are reported to have been: "All composite things pass away.

Strive for your own liberation with diligence."

His body was cremated and the relics were placed in monuments or stupas, some of which are believed to have survived until the present.

For example, The Temple of the Tooth or "Dalada Maligawa" in Sri Lanka is the place where what some believe to be the relic of the right tooth of Buddha is kept at present.

According to the Pāli historical chronicles of Sri Lanka, the Dīpavaṃsa and Mahāvaṃsa, the coronation of Aśoka (Pāli: Asoka) is 218 years after the death of Buddha.

According to two textual records in Chinese (十八部論 and 部執異論), the coronation of Aśoka is 116 years after the death of Buddha.

Therefore, the time of Buddha's passing is either 486 BCE according to Theravāda record or 383 BCE according to Mahayana record.

However, the actual date traditionally accepted as the date of the Buddha's death in Theravāda countries is 544 or 543 BCE, because the reign of Aśoka was traditionally reckoned to be about 60 years earlier than current estimates.

At his death, the Buddha is famously believed to have told his disciples to follow no leader. Mahakasyapa was chosen by the sangha to be the chairman of the First Buddhist Council, with the two chief disciples Maudgalyayana and Sariputta having died before the Buddha.

While in Buddha's days he was addressed by the very respected titles Buddha, Shākyamuni, Bhante and Bho, he was known after his parinirvana as Arihant, Bhagavat, Bhagwān, Jina/Jinendra, Sāstr, Sugata, and most popularly in scriptures as Tathāgata.[citation needed]

top    home


12. Physical characteristics  

Main article: Physical characteristics of the Buddha

Gandhāran depiction of the Buddha from Hadda, Central Asia. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

An extensive and colorful physical description of the Buddha has been laid down in scriptures.

A kshatriya by birth, he had military training in his upbringing, and by Shakyan tradition was required to pass tests to demonstrate his worthiness as a warrior in order to marry.

He had a strong enough body to be noticed by one of the kings and was asked to join his army as a general.

He is also believed by Buddhists to have "the 32 Signs of the Great Man".

The Brahmin Sonadanda described him as "handsome, good-looking, and pleasing to the eye, with a most beautiful complexion.

He has a godlike form and countenance; he is by no means unattractive."(D,I:115).

"It is wonderful, truly marvellous, how serene is the good Gotama's appearance, how clear and radiant his complexion, just as the golden jujube in autumn is clear and radiant, just as a palm-tree fruit just loosened from the stalk is clear and radiant, just as an adornment of red gold wrought in a crucible by a skilled goldsmith, deftly beaten and laid on a yellow-cloth shines, blazes and glitters, even so, the good Gotama's senses are calmed, his complexion is clear and radiant." (A,I:181)

A disciple named Vakkali, who later became an arahant, was so obsessed by Buddha's physical presence that the Buddha is said to have felt impelled to tell him to desist, and to have reminded him that he should know the Buddha through the Dhamma and not through physical appearances.

Although there are no extant representations of the Buddha in human form until around the 1st century CE (see Buddhist art), descriptions of the physical characteristics of fully enlightened buddhas are attributed to the Buddha in the Digha Nikaya's Lakkhaṇa Sutta (D,I:142).[49]

In addition, the Buddha's physical appearance is described by Yasodhara to their son Rahula upon the Buddha's first post-Enlightenment return to his former princely palace in the non-canonical Pali devotional hymn, Narasīha Gāthā ("The Lion of Men").[50]

Among the 32 main characteristics it is mentioned that Buddha has blue eyes.[51]

top    home


13. Teachings  

Main article: Buddhist philosophy

Reclining Buddha in Jade Temple, Shanghai

Some scholars believe that some portions of the Pali Canon and the Āgamas contain the actual substance of the historical teachings (and possibly even the words) of the Buddha.[52][53]

Some scholars believe the Pali Canon and the Agamas pre-date the Mahāyāna sūtras.[54]

The scriptural works of Early Buddhism precede the Mahayana works chronologically, and are treated by many Western scholars as the main credible source for information regarding the actual historical teachings of Gautama Buddha.

However, some scholars do not think that the texts report on historical events.[55][dubious discuss][56][57]

Some of the fundamentals of the teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha are:

The Four Noble Truths:

1. That suffering is an ingrained part of existence;

2. That the origin of suffering is craving for sensuality, acquisition of identity, and annihilation;

3. That suffering can be ended; and

4. That following the Noble Eightfold Path is the means to accomplish this.

The Noble Eightfold Path:

1. Right view,

2. Right intention,

3. Right speech,

4. Right action,

5. Right livelihood,

6. Right effort,

7. Right mindfulness, and

8. Right concentration.

Dependent origination: the mind creates suffering as a natural product of a complex process.

Rejection of the infallibility of accepted scripture: Teachings should not be accepted unless they are borne out by our experience and are praised by the wise. See the Kalama Sutta for details.

Anicca (Sanskrit: anitya): That all things that come to be have an end.

Dukkha (Sanskrit: duḥkha): That nothing which comes to be is ultimately satisfying.

Anattā (Sanskrit: anātman): That nothing in the realm of experience can really be said to be "I" or "mine".

Nibbāna (Sanskrit: Nirvāna): It is possible for sentient beings to realize a dimension of awareness which is totally unconstructed and peaceful, and end all suffering due to the mind's interaction with the conditioned world.

However, in some Mahayana schools, these points have come to be regarded as more or less subsidiary.

There is disagreement amongst various schools of Buddhism over more complex aspects of what the Buddha is believed to have taught, and also over some of the disciplinary rules for monks.

According to tradition, the Buddha emphasized ethics and correct understanding. He questioned everyday notions of divinity and salvation. He stated that there is no intermediary between mankind and the divine; distant gods are subjected to karma themselves in decaying heavens; and the Buddha is only a guide and teacher for beings who must tread the path of Nirvāṇa (Pāli: Nibbāna) themselves to attain the spiritual awakening called bodhi and understand reality. The Buddhist system of insight and meditation practice is not claimed to have been divinely revealed, but to spring from an understanding of the true nature of the mind, which must be discovered by treading the path guided by the Buddha's teachings.

top    home


14. Other religions  

Buddha depicted as the 9th Avatar of god Vishnu in a traditional Hindu representation.

Main article: Gautama Buddha in world religions

In Hinduism, Gautama is regarded as one of the ten avatars of God Vishnu. Some Hindu texts say that the Buddha was an avatar of the god Vishnu.[27]

The Buddha is also regarded as a prophet by the Ahmadiyyas[58][59][60] and a Manifestation of God in the Bah' faith.[61] Some early Chinese Taoist-Buddhists thought the Buddha to be a reincarnation of Lao Tzu.[62]

The Christian Saint Josaphat is based on the life of the Buddha. The name comes from the Sanskrit Bodhisatva via Arabic Būdhasaf and Georgian Iodasaph.[63] The only story in which St. Josaphat appears, Barlaam and Josaphat, is based on the life of the Buddha.[64] Josaphat was included in earlier editions of the Roman Martyrology (feast day 27 November) — though not in the Roman Missal — and in the Eastern Orthodox Church liturgical calendar (26 August).

top    home


15. Buddhism  

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Standing Buddha. One of the earliest known representations of the Buddha, 1st-2nd century CE, Gandhara (modern Afghanistan).

Buddhism is a religion indigenous to the Indian subcontinent that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs, and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as the Buddha (meaning "the awakened one" in Sanskrit and Pāli).

The Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.[1]

He is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end suffering (dukkha) through eliminating ignorance (avidyā), craving (taṇhā), and hatred, by way of understanding and seeing dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda) and non-self (anātman), and thus attain the highest happiness, nirvāņa (nirvana).

Although Buddhism is known as the Buddha Dharma, the Buddha referred to his teachings as the Arya Astānga Mārga, Brahmayāna, Dhammavināya, and Jinasāsanam.[citation needed]

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—practiced mainly in Tibet and Mongolia, and adjacent parts of China and Russia—is recognized as a third branch, while others classify it as a part of Mahayana.

There are other categorisations of these three Vehicles or Yanas.[2]

While Buddhism remains most popular within Asia, both branches are now found throughout the world.

Estimates of Buddhists worldwide vary significantly depending on the way Buddhist adherence is defined. Lower estimates are between 350–500 million.[3][4][5]

Higher estimates are between 1.2 - 1.6 billion followers.[6][7][8]

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.[9]

Two of the most important teachings are dependent origination and no-self.

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.[10]

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.

top    home


16. Life of the Buddha  

Main article: Gautama Buddha

Relic depicting Gautama leaving home. The Great Departure, c.1-2nd century. Muse Guimet

This narrative draws on the Nidānakathā biography of the Theravāda sect in Sri Lanka, which is ascribed to Buddhaghoṣa in the 5th century CE.[11]

Earlier biographies such as the Buddhacarita, the Lokottaravādin Mahāvastu, and the Mahāyāna / Sarvāstivāda Lalitavistara Sūtra, give different accounts.

Scholars are hesitant to make unqualified claims about the historical facts of the Buddha's life.

Most accept that he lived, taught and founded a monastic order, but do not consistently accept all of the details contained in his biographies.[12][13]

The Vajrashila, where Gautama sat under a tree and became enlightened, Bodh Gaya, India, 2011

According to author Michael Carrithers, while there are good reasons to doubt the traditional account, "the outline of the life must be true: birth, maturity, renunciation, search, awakening and liberation, teaching, death."[14]

In writing her biography of Buddha, Karen Armstrong noted, "It is obviously difficult, therefore, to write a biography of the Buddha that meets modern criteria.

Because we have very little information that can be considered historically sound... [but] we can be reasonably confident Siddhatta Gotama did indeed exist and that his disciples preserved the memory of his life and teachings as well as they could."[15]

The evidence of the early texts suggests that Siddhārtha Gautama was born in a community that was on the periphery, both geographically and culturally, of the northeastern Indian subcontinent in the 5th century BCE.[16]

It was either a small republic, in which case his father was an elected chieftain, or an oligarchy, in which case his father was an oligarch.[16]

According to the Theravada Tripitaka scriptures[which?] (from Pali, meaning "three baskets"), Gautama was born in Lumbini in modern-day Nepal, around the year 563 BCE, and raised in Kapilavastu.[17][18]

According to this narrative, shortly after the birth of young prince Gautama, an astrologer visited the young prince's father—King Śuddhodana—and prophesied that Siddhartha would either become a great king or renounce the material world to become a holy man, depending on whether he saw what life was like outside the palace walls.

Śuddhodana was determined to see his son become a king, so he prevented him from leaving the palace grounds.

But at age 29, despite his father's efforts, Gautama ventured beyond the palace several times. In a series of encounters—known in Buddhist literature as the four sights—he learned of the suffering of ordinary people, encountering an old man, a sick man, a corpse and, finally, an ascetic holy man, apparently content and at peace with the world.

These experiences prompted Gautama to abandon royal life and take up a spiritual quest.

Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India, built by King Ashoka, where Buddha gave his first sermon

Gautama first went to study with famous religious teachers of the day, and mastered the meditative attainments they taught.

But he found that they did not provide a permanent end to suffering, so he continued his quest.

He next attempted an extreme asceticism, which was a religious pursuit common among the Shramanas, a religious culture distinct from the Vedic one.

Gautama underwent prolonged fasting, breath-holding, and exposure to pain.

He almost starved himself to death in the process.

He realized that he had taken this kind of practice to its limit, and had not put an end to suffering.

So in a pivotal moment he accepted milk and rice from a village girl and changed his approach.

He devoted himself to anapanasati meditation, through which he discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way (Skt. madhyamā-pratipad[19]): a path of moderation between the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.[20][21]

Buddha statue depicting Parinirvana achievement. Figure excavated at the Mahaparinirvana Temple in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India

Gautama was now determined to complete his spiritual quest.

At the age of 35, he famously sat in meditation under a sacred fig tree — known as the Bodhi tree — in the town of Bodh Gaya, India, and vowed not to rise before achieving enlightenment.

After many days, he finally destroyed the fetters of his mind, thereby liberating himself from the cycle of suffering and rebirth, and arose as a fully enlightened being (Skt. samyaksaṃbuddha). Soon thereafter, he attracted a band of followers and instituted a monastic order. Now, as the Buddha, he spent the rest of his life teaching the path of awakening he had discovered, traveling throughout the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent,[22][23] and died at the age of 80 (483 BCE) in Kushinagar, India.

The south branch of the original fig tree available only in Anuradhapura Sri Lanka is known as Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.

top    home


17. Buddhist concepts  

Main article: Buddhist terms and concepts

As writing was uncommon in India at the time Gautama lived, everything we know about him was carefully memorized and passed on orally until it was written down, probably during the first century BCE.[24]

The English word "Buddhism" is relatively new. It was first used in the Oxford English Dictionary of 1801 (spelled "Boudhism") and its spelling changed to the present one in 1816, in a comment published in the Asiatic Journal ("The name and peculiarities of Buddhism have a good deal fixed my attention").[25]

"The Three Jewels",

1. Buddha,

2. Dharma and

3. Sangha,[26]

as well as the concepts of

·      karma,[27]

·      rebirth (and reincarnation[28]) and

·      the practice of yoga[29] existed before Gautama lived but they later became associated with Buddhism.

Refuge in the Three Jewels

Relic depicting footprint of the Buddha with Dharmachakra and triratna, 1st century CE, Gandhāra.

Main articles: Refuge (Buddhism) and Three Jewels

Traditionally, the first step in most Buddhist schools requires taking refuge in the Three Jewels (Sanskrit: tri-ratna, Pāli: ti-ratana)[86] as the foundation of one's religious practice.

The practice of taking refuge on behalf of young or even unborn children is mentioned[87] in the Majjhima Nikaya, recognized by most scholars as an early text (cf. Infant baptism).

Tibetan Buddhism sometimes adds a fourth refuge, in the lama.

In Mahayana, the person who chooses the bodhisattva path makes a vow or pledge, considered the ultimate expression of compassion.

In Mahayana, too, the Three Jewels are perceived as possessed of an eternal and unchanging essence and as having an irreversible effect: "The Three Jewels have the quality of excellence.

Just as real jewels never change their faculty and goodness, whether praised or reviled, so are the Three Jewels (Refuges), because they have an eternal and immutable essence.

These Three Jewels bring a fruition that is changeless, for once one has reached Buddhahood, there is no possibility of falling back to suffering."[88]

The Three Jewels are:

1. The Buddha. This is a title for those who have attained Nirvana. See also the Tathāgata and Gautama Buddha. The Buddha could also be represented as a concept instead of a specific person: the perfect wisdom that understands Dharma and sees reality in its true form. In Mahayana Buddhism, the Buddha can be viewed as the supreme Refuge: "Buddha is the Unique Absolute Refuge. Buddha is the Imperishable, Eternal, Indestructible and Absolute Refuge."[89]

2. The Dharma. The teachings or law of nature as expounded by the Gautama Buddha. It can also, especially in Mahayana, connote the ultimate and sustaining Reality that is inseparable from the Buddha. Further, from some Mahayana perspectives, the Dharma embodied in the form of a great sutra (Buddhic scripture) can replace the need for a personal teacher and can be a direct and spontaneous gateway into Truth (Dharma). This is especially said to be the case with the Lotus Sutra. Dr. Hiroshi Kanno writes of this view of the Lotus Sutra: "it is a Dharma-gate of sudden enlightenment proper to the Great Vehicle; it is a Dharma-gate whereby one awakens spontaneously, without resorting to a teacher".[90]

3. The Sangha. Those who have attained to any of the Four stages of enlightenment, or simply the congregation of monastic practitioners.

According to the scriptures, Gautama Buddha presented himself as a model.

The Dharma offers a refuge by providing guidelines for the alleviation of suffering and the attainment of Nirvana.

The Sangha is considered to provide a refuge by preserving the authentic teachings of the Buddha and providing further examples that the truth of the Buddha's teachings is attainable.

top    home


18. Life and the World  

Traditional Tibetan Buddhist Thangka depicting the Wheel of Life with its six realms


Main article: Saṃsāra (Buddhism)

Samsara is "the cycle of birth and death" [30].

Sentient beings crave pleasure and are averse to pain from birth to death. In being controlled by these attitudes, they perpetuate the cycle of conditioned existence and suffering (saṃsāra), and produce the causes and conditions of the next rebirth after death.

Each rebirth repeats this process in an involuntary cycle, which Buddhists strive to end by eradicating these causes and conditions, applying the methods laid out by the Buddha and subsequent Buddhists.


Main article: Karma in Buddhism

Karma (from Sanskrit: "action, work") in Buddhism is the force that drives saṃsāra—the cycle of suffering and rebirth for each being. Good, skillful deeds (Pāli: "kusala") and bad, unskillful (Pāli: "akusala") actions produce "seeds" in the mind that come to fruition either in this life or in a subsequent rebirth.[31]

The avoidance of unwholesome actions and the cultivation of positive actions is called śīla (from Sanskrit: "ethical conduct").

In Buddhism, karma specifically refers to those actions (of body, speech, and mind) that spring from mental intent ("cetana"),[32] and bring about a consequence or fruit, (phala) or result (vipāka).

In Theravada Buddhism there can be no divine salvation or forgiveness for one's karma, since it is a purely impersonal process that is a part of the makeup of the universe.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the texts of certain Mahayana sutras (such as the Lotus Sutra, the Angulimaliya Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra) claim that reciting or merely hearing their texts can expunge great swathes of negative karma.

Some forms of Buddhism (for example, Vajrayana) regard the recitation of mantras as a means for cutting off previous negative karma.[33]

The Japanese Pure Land teacher Genshin taught that Amida Buddha has the power to destroy the karma that would otherwise bind one in saṃsāra.[4][5]


Gautama's cremation site, Ramabhar Stupa in Uttar Pradesh, India

Main article: Rebirth (Buddhism)

Rebirth refers to a process whereby beings go through a succession of lifetimes as one of many possible forms of sentient life, each running from conception[34] to death.

Buddhism rejects the concepts of a permanent self or an unchanging, eternal soul, as it is called in Hinduism and Christianity.

According to Buddhism there ultimately is no such thing as a self independent from the rest of the universe (the doctrine of anatta).

Rebirth in subsequent existences must be understood as the continuation of a dynamic, ever-changing process of "dependent arising" ("pratītyasamutpāda") determined by the laws of cause and effect (karma) rather than that of one being, transmigrating or incarnating from one existence to the next.

Each rebirth takes place within one of five realms according to Theravadins, or six according to other schools.[35][36]

These are further subdivided into 31 planes of existence:[37]

1. Naraka beings: those who live in one of many Narakas (Hells);

2. Preta: sometimes sharing some space with humans, but invisible to most people; an important variety is the hungry ghost;[38]

3. Animals: sharing space with humans, but considered another type of life;

4. Human beings: one of the realms of rebirth in which attaining Nirvana is possible;

5. Asuras: variously translated as lowly deities, demons, titans, antigods; not recognized by Theravāda (Mahavihara) tradition as a separate realm;[39]

6. Devas including Brahmas: variously translated as gods, deities, spirits, angels, or left untranslated.

Rebirths in some of the higher heavens, known as the Śuddhāvāsa Worlds (Pure Abodes), can be attained by only skilled Buddhist practitioners known as anāgāmis (non-returners).

Rebirths in the arupa-dhatu (formless realms) can be attained by only those who can meditate on the arūpajhānas, the highest object of meditation.

According to East Asian and Tibetan Buddhism, there is an intermediate state (Tibetan "Bardo") between one life and the next. The orthodox Theravada position rejects this; however there are passages in the Samyutta Nikaya of the Pali Canon (the collection of texts on which the Theravada tradition is based), that seem to lend support to the idea that the Buddha taught of an intermediate stage between one life and the next.[40][41]

top    home


19. Suffering's causes and solution  

The Four Noble Truths

Main article: Four Noble Truts

The teachings on the Four Noble Truths are regarded as central to the teachings of Buddhism, and are said to provide a conceptual framework for Buddhist thought. These four truths explain the nature of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, dissatisfaction), its causes, and how it can be overcome. They can be summarized as follows:[42]

1. The truth of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, dissatisfaction)

2. The truth of the origin of dukkha

3. The truth of the cessation of dukkha

4. The truth of the path leading to the cessation of dukkha

1. The first truth explains the nature of dukkha. Dukkha is commonly translated as “suffering”, “anxiety”, “dissatisfaction”, “unease”, etc., and it is said to have the following three aspects: the obvious suffering of physical and mental illness, growing old, and dying; the anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing; and a subtle dissatisfaction pervading all forms of life, due to the fact that all forms of life are impermanent and constantly changing.[43]

2. The second truth is that the origin of dukkha can be known. Within the context of the four noble truths, the origin of dukkha is commonly explained as craving (Pali: tanha) conditioned by ignorance (Pali: avijja). On a deeper level, the root cause of dukkha is identified as ignorance (Pali: avijja) of the true nature of things.

3. The third noble truth is that the complete cessation of dukkha is possible, and

4. The fourth noble truth identifies a path to this cessation.[42]

Noble Eightfold Path

Main article: Noble Eightfold Path

The Dharmachakra represents the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path—the fourth of the Buddha's Noble Truths—is the way to the cessation of suffering (dukkha). It has eight sections, each starting with the word "samyak" (Sanskrit, meaning "correctly", "properly", or "well", frequently translated into English as "right"), and presented in three groups known as the three higher trainings. (NB: Pāli transliterations appear in brackets after Sanskrit ones):

1.           Prajā is the wisdom that purifies the mind, allowing it to attain spiritual insight into the true nature of all things. It includes: dṛṣṭi (ditthi): viewing reality as it is, not just as it appears to be; saṃkalpa (sankappa): intention of renunciation, freedom and harmlessness.

2.           Śīla is the ethics or morality, or abstention from unwholesome deeds. It includes:

3.           vāc (vāca): speaking in a truthful and non-hurtful way;

4.           karman (kammanta): acting in a non-harmful way;

5.           Ājīvana (ājīva): a non-harmful livelihood.

6.           Samādhi is the mental discipline required to develop mastery over one's own mind. This is done through the practice of various contemplative and meditative practices, and includes: yāyāma (vāyāma): making an effort to improve;

7.           smṛti (sati): awareness to see things for what they are with clear consciousness, being aware of the present reality within oneself, without any craving or aversion;

8.           Samādhi (samādhi): correct meditation or concentration, explained as the first four jhānas.

The practice of the Eightfold Path is understood in two ways, as requiring either simultaneous development (all eight items practiced in parallel), or as a progressive series of stages through which the practitioner moves, the culmination of one leading to the beginning of another.

top    home


20. The Four Immeasurables    

Statue of Buddha in Puji Temple on Putuo Shan island in China

Main article: Brahmavihara

While he searched for enlightenment, Gautama combined the yoga practice of his teacher Kalama with what later became known as "the immeasurables".[44]

Gautama thus invented a new kind of human, one without egotism.[44]

What Thich Nhat Hanh calls the "Four Immeasurable Minds" of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity[45] are also known as brahmaviharas, divine abodes, or simply as four immeasurables.[46] Pema Chdrn calls them the "four limitless ones".[47]

Of the four, mettā or loving-kindness meditation is perhaps the best known.[46]

The Four Immeasurables are taught as a form of meditation that cultivates "wholesome attitudes towards all sentient beings."[48] The practitioner prays:

1. May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,

2. May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,

3. May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,

4. May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.[49]

top    home


21. Middle Way

Main article: Middle Way

An important guiding principle of Buddhist practice is the Middle Way (or Middle Path), which is said to have been discovered by Gautama Buddha prior to his enlightenment.

The Middle Way has several definitions:

The practice of non-extremism: a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification;

The middle ground between certain metaphysical views (for example, that things ultimately either do or do not exist);[50]

An explanation of Nirvana (perfect enlightenment), a state wherein it becomes clear that all dualities apparent in the world are delusory (see Seongcheol);

Another term for emptiness, the ultimate nature of all phenomena (in the Mahayana branch), a lack of inherent existence, which avoids the extremes of permanence and nihilism or inherent existence and nothingness.

top    home


22. Nature of existence

Monks debating at Sera Monastery, Tibet

Buddhist scholars have produced a remarkable quantity of intellectual theories, philosophies and world view concepts (see, for example, Abhidharma, Buddhist philosophy and Reality in Buddhism). Some schools of Buddhism discourage doctrinal study, and some regard it as essential practice.

In the earliest Buddhist teachings, shared to some extent by all extant schools, the concept of liberation (Nirvana)—the goal of the Buddhist path—is closely related to the correct understanding of how the mind causes stress.

In awakening to the true nature of clinging, one develops dispassion for the objects of clinging, and is liberated from suffering (dukkha) and the cycle of incessant rebirths (saṃsāra).

To this end, the Buddha recommended viewing things as characterized by the three marks of existence.

Three Marks of Existence

Main article: Three marks of existence

The Three Marks of Existence are

1. impermanence,

2. suffering, and

3. not-self.

Impermanence (Pāli: anicca) expresses the Buddhist notion that all compounded or conditioned phenomena (all things and experiences) are inconstant, unsteady, and impermanent.

Everything we can experience through our senses is made up of parts, and its existence is dependent on external conditions.

Everything is in constant flux, and so conditions and the thing itself are constantly changing.

Things are constantly coming into being, and ceasing to be.

Since nothing lasts, there is no inherent or fixed nature to any object or experience.

According to the doctrine of impermanence, life embodies this flux in the aging process, the cycle of rebirth (saṃsāra), and in any experience of loss.

The doctrine asserts that because things are impermanent, attachment to them is futile and leads to suffering (dukkha).

Suffering (Pāli: दुक्ख dukkha; Sanskrit दुःख duḥkha) is also a central concept in Buddhism.

The word roughly corresponds to a number of terms in English including suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness, sorrow, affliction, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration.

Although the term is often translated as "suffering", its philosophical meaning is more analogous to "disquietude" as in the condition of being disturbed.

As such, "suffering" is too narrow a translation with "negative emotional connotations"[51] that can give the impression that the Buddhist view is pessimistic, but Buddhism seeks to be neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but realistic.

In English-language Buddhist literature translated from Pāli, "dukkha" is often left untranslated, so as to encompass its full range of meaning.[52][53][54]

Not-self (Pāli: anatta; Sanskrit: anātman) is the third mark of existence.

Upon careful examination, one finds that no phenomenon is really "I" or "mine"; these concepts are in fact constructed by the mind.

In the Nikayas anatta is not meant as a metaphysical assertion, but as an approach for gaining release from suffering.

In fact, the Buddha rejected both of the metaphysical assertions "I have a Self" and "I have no Self" as ontological views that bind one to suffering.[55]

When asked if the self was identical with the body, the Buddha refused to answer.

By analyzing the constantly changing physical and mental constituents (skandhas) of a person or object, the practitioner comes to the conclusion that neither the respective parts nor the person as a whole comprise a self.

top    home


23. Dependent arising  

Main article: Pratītyasamutpāda

The doctrine of pratītyasamutpāda (Sanskrit; Pali: paticcasamuppāda; Tibetan: rten.cing.'brel.bar.'byung.ba; Chinese: 緣起) is an important part of Buddhist metaphysics.

It states that phenomena arise together in a mutually interdependent web of cause and effect.

It is variously rendered into English as "dependent origination", "conditioned genesis", "dependent co-arising", "interdependent arising", or "contingency".

The best-known application of the concept of pratītyasamutpāda is the scheme of Twelve Nidānas (from Pāli "nidāna" meaning "cause, foundation, source or origin"), which explain the continuation of the cycle of suffering and rebirth (saṃsāra) in detail.[56]

Main article: Twelve Nidānas

The Twelve Nidānas describe a causal connection between the subsequent characteristics or conditions of cyclic existence, each one giving rise to the next:

1. Avidyā: ignorance, specifically spiritual ignorance of the nature of reality;[57]

2. Saṃskāras: literally formations, explained as referring to karma;

3. Vijāna: consciousness, specifically discriminative;[58]

4. Nāmarūpa: literally name and form, referring to mind and body;[59]

5. Ṣaḍāyatana: the six sense bases: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind-organ;

6. Sparśa: variously translated contact, impression, stimulation (by a sense object);

7. Vedanā: usually translated feeling: this is the "hedonic tone", i.e. whether something is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral;

8. Tṛṣṇā: literally thirst, but in Buddhism nearly always used to mean craving;

9. Upādāna: clinging or grasping; the word also means fuel, which feeds the continuing cycle of rebirth;

10. Bhava: literally being (existence) or becoming. (The Theravada explains this as having two meanings: karma, which produces a new existence, and the existence itself.);[60]

11. Jāti: literally birth, but life is understood as starting at conception;[61]

12. Jarāmaraṇa: (old age and death) and also śokaparidevaduḥkhadaurmanasyopāyāsa (sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and misery).

13. Sentient beings always suffer throughout saṃsāra, until they free themselves from this suffering by attaining Nirvana. Then the absence of the first Nidāna—ignorance—leads to the absence of the others.

top    home


24. Emptiness  

Main article: Śūnyatā

Mahayana Buddhism received significant theoretical grounding from Nagarjuna (perhaps c. 150–250 CE), arguably the most influential scholar within the Mahayana tradition.

Nagarjuna's primary contribution to Buddhist philosophy was the systematic exposition of the concept of śūnyatā, or "emptiness", widely attested in the Prajāpāramitā sutras that emerged in his era.

The concept of emptiness brings together other key Buddhist doctrines, particularly anatta and pratītyasamutpāda (dependent origination), to refute the metaphysics of Sarvastivada and Sautrantika (extinct non-Mahayana schools).

For Nagarjuna, it is not merely sentient beings that are empty of ātman; all phenomena (dharmas) are without any svabhava (literally "own-nature" or "self-nature").

Thus without any underlying essence; they are "empty" of being independent; thus the heterodox theories of svabhava circulating at the time were refuted on the basis of the doctrines of early Buddhism.

Nagarjuna's school of thought is known as the Mādhyamaka.

Some of the writings attributed to Nagarjuna made explicit references to Mahayana texts, but his philosophy was argued within the parameters set out by the agamas.

He may have arrived at his positions from a desire to achieve a consistent exegesis of the Buddha's doctrine as recorded in the Canon.

In the eyes of Nagarjuna the Buddha was not merely a forerunner, but the very founder of the Mādhyamaka system.[62]

Sarvastivada teachings—which were criticized by Nāgārjuna—were reformulated by scholars such as Vasubandhu and Asanga and were adapted into the Yogacara (Sanskrit: yoga practice) school.

While the Mādhyamaka school held that asserting the existence or non-existence of any ultimately real thing was inappropriate, some exponents of Yogacara asserted that the mind and only the mind is ultimately real (a doctrine known as cittamatra).

Not all Yogacarins asserted that mind was truly existent; Vasubandhu and Asanga in particular did not.[63]

These two schools of thought, in opposition or synthesis, form the basis of subsequent Mahayana metaphysics in the Indo-Tibetan tradition.

Besides emptiness, Mahayana schools often place emphasis on the notions of perfected spiritual insight (prajāpāramitā) and Buddha-nature (tathāgatagarbha).

There are conflicting interpretations of the tathāgatagarbha in Mahāyāna thought.

The idea may be traced to Abhidharma, and ultimately to statements of the Buddha in the Nikāyas. In Tibetan Buddhism, according to the Sakya school, tathāgatagarbha is the inseparability of the clarity and emptiness of one's mind.

In Nyingma, tathāgatagarbha also generally refers to inseparability of the clarity and emptiness of one's mind.

According to the Gelug school, it is the potential for sentient beings to awaken since they are empty (i.e. dependently originated).

According to the Jonang school, it refers to the innate qualities of the mind that expresses themselves as omniscience etc. when adventitious obscurations are removed.

The "Tathāgatagarbha Sutras" are a collection of Mahayana sutras that present a unique model of Buddha-nature.

Even though this collection was generally ignored in India,[64] East Asian Buddhism provides some significance to these texts.

top    home



25. Nirvana

Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, India, where Gautama Buddha attained Nirvana under the Bodhi Tree (left)

Main article: Nirvana (concept)

Nirvana (Sanskrit; Pali: "Nibbana") means "cessation", "extinction" (of craving and ignorance and therefore suffering and the cycle of involuntary rebirths (saṃsāra)), "extinguished", "quieted", "calmed"; it is also known as "Awakening" or "Enlightenment" in the West.

The term for anybody who has achieved nirvana, including the Buddha, is arahant.

Bodhi (Pāli and Sanskrit, in devanagari: बॊधि) is a term applied to the experience of Awakening of arahants. Bodhi literally means "awakening", but it is more commonly translated into English as "enlightenment".

In Early Buddhism, bodhi carried a meaning synonymous to nirvana, using only some different metaphors to describe the experience, which implies the extinction of raga (greed, craving),[65] dosa (hate, aversion)[66] and moha (delusion).[67]

In the later school of Mahayana Buddhism, the status of nirvana was downgraded in some scriptures, coming refer to only to the extinction of greed and hate, implying that delusion was still present in one who attained nirvana, and that one needed to attain bodhi to eradicate delusion:

An important development in the Mahayana [was] that it came to separate nirvana from bodhi ('awakening' to the truth, Enlightenment), and to put a lower value on the former (Gombrich, 1992d).

Originally nirvana and bodhi refer to the same thing; they merely use different metaphors for the experience.

But the Mahayana tradition separated them and considered that nirvana referred only to the extinction of craving (passion and hatred), with the resultant escape from the cycle of rebirth.

This interpretation ignores the third fire, delusion: the extinction of delusion is of course in the early texts identical with what can be positively expressed as gnosis, Enlightenment.

—Richard F. Gombrich, How Buddhism Began[68]

Therefore, according to Mahayana Buddhism, the arahant has attained only nirvana, thus still being subject to delusion, while the bodhisattva not only achieves nirvana but full liberation from delusion as well.

He thus attains bodhi and becomes a buddha.

In Theravada Buddhism, bodhi and nirvana carry the same meaning as in the early texts, that of being freed from greed, hate and delusion.

The term parinirvana is also encountered in Buddhism, and this generally refers to the complete nirvana attained by the arahant at the moment of death, when the physical body expires.

top    home


26. Buddha eras  

Buddhists believe Gautama Buddha was the first to achieve enlightenment in this Buddha era and is therefore credited with the establishment of Buddhism.

A Buddha era is the stretch of history during which people remember and practice the teachings of the earliest known Buddha.

This Buddha era will end when all the knowledge, evidence and teachings of Gautama Buddha have vanished.

This belief therefore maintains that many Buddha eras have started and ended throughout the course of human existence.[69][70]

The Gautama Buddha, then, is the Buddha of this era, who taught directly or indirectly to all other Buddhas in it (see types of Buddhas).

In addition, Mahayana Buddhists believe there are innumerable other Buddhas in other universes.[71] A Theravada commentary says that Buddhas arise one at a time in this world element, and not at all in others.[72]

The understandings of this matter reflect widely differing interpretations of basic terms, such as "world realm", between the various schools of Buddhism.

The idea of the decline and gradual disappearance of the teaching has been influential in East Asian Buddhism.

Pure Land Buddhism holds that it has declined to the point where few are capable of following the path, so it may be best to rely on the power of the Amitabha Buddha.

top    home


27. Devotion  

Main article: Buddhist devotion

Devotion is an important part of the practice of most Buddhists.[73] Devotional practices include bowing, offerings, pilgrimage, and chanting. In Pure Land Buddhism, devotion to the Buddha Amitabha is the main practice.

In Nichiren Buddhism, devotion to the Lotus Sutra is the main practice.


Statue of the Buddha in meditation position, Haw Phra Kaew, Vientiane, Laos

Buddhism traditionally incorporates states of meditative absorption (Pali: jhāna; Skt: dhyāna).[74]

The most ancient sustained expression of yogic ideas is found in the early sermons of the Buddha.[75] One key innovative teaching of the Buddha was that meditative absorption must be combined with liberating cognition.[76]

The difference between the Buddha's teaching and the yoga presented in early Brahminic texts is striking.

Meditative states alone are not an end, for according to the Buddha, even the highest meditative state is not liberating.

Instead of attaining a complete cessation of thought, some sort of mental activity must take place: a liberating cognition, based on the practice of mindful awareness.[77]

Meditation was an aspect of the practice of the yogis in the centuries preceding the Buddha.

The Buddha built upon the yogis' concern with introspection and developed their meditative techniques, but rejected their theories of liberation.[78]

In Buddhism, mindfulness and clear awareness are to be developed at all times; in pre-Buddhist yogic practices there is no such injunction.

A yogi in the Brahmanical tradition is not to practice while defecating, for example, while a Buddhist monastic should do so.[79]

Religious knowledge or "vision" was indicated as a result of practice both within and outside of the Buddhist fold.

According to the Sama๑๑aphala Sutta, this sort of vision arose for the Buddhist adept as a result of the perfection of "meditation" coupled with the perfection of "discipline" (Pali sīla; Skt. śīla).

Some of the Buddha's meditative techniques were shared with other traditions of his day, but the idea that ethics are causally related to the attainment of "transcendent wisdom" (Pali pa๑๑ā; Skt. prajā) was original.[80]

The Buddhist texts are probably the earliest describing meditation techniques.[81]

They describe meditative practices and states that existed before the Buddha as well as those first developed within Buddhism.[82]

Two Upanishads written after the rise of Buddhism do contain full-fledged descriptions of yoga as a means to liberation.[83]

While there is no convincing evidence for meditation in pre-Buddhist early Brahminic texts, Wynne argues that formless meditation originated in the Brahminic or Shramanic tradition, based on strong parallels between Upanishadic cosmological statements and the meditative goals of the two teachers of the Buddha as recorded in the early Buddhist texts.[84]

He mentions less likely possibilities as well.[85]

Having argued that the cosmological statements in the Upanishads also reflect a contemplative tradition, he argues that the Nasadiya Sukta contains evidence for a contemplative tradition, even as early as the late Rig Vedic period.[84]

top    home


28. Buddhist ethics  

Main article: The Five Precepts

Statue of Gautama Buddha, 1st century CE, Gandhara

Śīla (Sanskrit) or sīla (Pāli) is usually translated into English as "virtuous behavior", "morality", "ethics" or "precept".

It is an action committed through the body, speech, or mind, and involves an intentional effort.

It is one of the three practices (sila, samadhi, and panya) and the second pāramitā.

It refers to moral purity of thought, word, and deed.

The four conditions of śīla are

1. Chastity,

2. Calmness,

3. Quiet, and

4. Extinguishment.

Śīla is the foundation of Samadhi/Bhāvana (Meditative cultivation) or mind cultivation.

Keeping the precepts promotes not only the peace of mind of the cultivator, which is internal, but also peace in the community, which is external.

According to the Law of Karma, keeping the precepts are meritorious and it acts as causes that would bring about peaceful and happy effects.

Keeping these precepts keeps the cultivator from rebirth in the four woeful realms of existence.

Śīla refers to overall principles of ethical behavior.

There are several levels of sila, which correspond to "basic morality" (five precepts),

In concise terms, the late Dharma Master Yin-Shun, listed the Five Precepts simply as (translation by Wing H. Yeung, M.D.):[19]

1.       "Do not kill." (Unintentional killing is considered less offensive)

2.       "Do not steal." (Including misappropriating someone's property)

3.       "Do not engage in improper sexual conduct." (e.g. sexual contact not sanctioned by secular laws, the Buddhist monastic code, or by one's parents and guardians)

4.       "Do not make false statements." (Also includes pretending to know something one doesn't)

5.       "Do not drink alcohol."

"Basic morality with asceticism" (eight precepts),

The Buddha gave teachings on how the eight precepts are to be practiced,[20] and on the right and wrong ways of practicing the eight precepts.[21]

1.       I undertake to abstain from causing harm and taking life (both human and non-human).

2.       I undertake to abstain from taking what is not given (for example stealing, displacements that may cause misunderstandings).

3.       I undertake to abstain from sexual activity.

4.       I undertake to abstain from wrong speech: telling lies, deceiving others, manipulating others, using hurtful words.

5.       I undertake to abstain from using intoxicating drinks and drugs, which lead to carelessness.

6.       I undertake to abstain from eating at the wrong time (the right time is after sunrise, before noon).

7.       I undertake to abstain from singing, dancing, playing music, attending entertainment performances, wearing perfume, and using cosmetics and garlands (decorative accessories).

8.       I undertake to abstain from luxurious places for sitting or sleeping, and overindulging in sleep.

"novice monkhood" (ten precepts)

top    home


29. Ten Precept     

The Ten Precepts (Pali: dasasila or samanerasikkha) refer to the precepts (training rules) for Buddhist samaneras (novice monks) and samaneris (novice nuns). They are used in most Buddhist schools.

1.       Refrain from killing living things.

2.       Refrain from stealing.

3.       Refrain from unchastity (sensuality, sexuality, lust).

4.       Refrain from lying.

5.       Refrain from taking intoxicants.

6.       Refrain from taking food at inappropriate times (after noon).

7.       Refrain from singing, dancing, playing music or attending entertainment programs (performances).

8.       Refrain from wearing perfume, cosmetics and garland (decorative accessories).

9.       Refrain from sitting on high chairs and sleeping on luxurious, soft beds.

10.   Refrain from accepting money.

and "monkhood" (Vinaya or Patimokkha).

The four parajikas (defeats) are rules entailing expulsion from the sangha for life. If a monk breaks any one of the rules he is automatically 'defeated' in the holy life and falls from monkhood immediately. He is not allowed to become a monk again in his lifetime. Intention is necessary in all these four cases to constitute an offence. The four parajikas for bhikkus are:

1.       Sexual intercourse, that is, any voluntary sexual interaction between a bhikku and a living being, except for mouth-to-mouth intercourse which falls under the Sanghadisesa.

2.       Stealing, that is, the robbery of anything worth more than 1/24 troy ounce of gold (as determined by local law).

3.       Intentionally bringing about the death of a human being, even if it is still an embryo — whether by killing the person, arranging for an assassin to kill the person, inciting the person to die, or describing the advantages of death. [1]

4.       Deliberately lying to another person that one has attained a superior human state, such as claiming to be an arahant when one knows one is not, or claiming to have attained one of the jhanas when one knows one has not.

The parajikas are more specific definitions of the first four of the Five Precepts.

Lay people generally undertake to live by the five precepts, which are common to all Buddhist schools.

If they wish, they can choose to undertake the eight precepts, which add basic asceticism.

The five precepts are training rules in order to live a better life in which one is happy, without worries, and can meditate well:

1. To refrain from taking life (non-violence towards sentient life forms), or ahimsā;

2. To refrain from taking that which is not given (not committing theft);

3. To refrain from sensual (including sexual) misconduct;

4. To refrain from lying (speaking truth always);

5. To refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness (specifically, drugs and alcohol).

The precepts are not formulated as imperatives, but as training rules that laypeople undertake voluntarily to facilitate practice.[91]

In Buddhist thought, the cultivation of dana and ethical conduct themselves refine consciousness to such a level that rebirth in one of the lower heavens is likely, even if there is no further Buddhist practice.

There is nothing improper or un-Buddhist about limiting one's aims to this level of attainment.[92]

In the eight precepts, the third precept on sexual misconduct is made more strict, and becomes a precept of celibacy.

The three additional precepts are:

1. To refrain from eating at the wrong time (eat only from sunrise to noon);

2. To refrain from dancing and playing music, wearing jewelry and cosmetics, attending shows and other performances;

3. To refrain from using high or luxurious seats and bedding.

The complete list of ten precepts may be observed by laypeople for short periods.

For the complete list, the seventh precept is partitioned into two, and a tenth added:

To refrain from taking food at an unseasonable time, that is after the mid-day meal;

To refrain from dancing, music, singing and unseemly shows;

To refrain from the use of garlands, perfumes, ointments, and from things that tend to beautify and adorn (the person);

To refrain from (using) high and luxurious seats (and beds);

To refrain from accepting gold and silver;[93]

top    home


30. Monastic life  

Buddhist monks performing a ceremony in Hangzhou, China

Vinaya is the specific moral code for monks and nuns.

It includes the Patimokkha, a set of 227 rules for monks in the Theravadin recension.

The precise content of the vinayapitaka (scriptures on Vinaya) differs slightly according to different schools, and different schools or subschools set different standards for the degree of adherence to Vinaya.

Novice-monks use the ten precepts, which are the basic precepts for monastics.

Regarding the monastic rules, the Buddha constantly reminds his hearers that it is the spirit that counts.

On the other hand, the rules themselves are designed to assure a satisfying life, and provide a perfect springboard for the higher attainments.

Monastics are instructed by the Buddha to live as "islands unto themselves".

In this sense, living life as the vinaya prescribes it is, as one scholar puts it: "more than merely a means to an end: it is very nearly the end in itself."[94]

In Eastern Buddhism, there is also a distinctive Vinaya and ethics contained within the Mahayana Brahmajala Sutra (not to be confused with the Pali text of that name) for Bodhisattvas, where, for example, the eating of meat is frowned upon and vegetarianism is actively encouraged (see vegetarianism in Buddhism). In Japan, this has almost completely displaced the monastic vinaya, and allows clergy to marry.


Buddhist monks praying in Thailand

Main article: Buddhist meditation

Buddhist meditation is fundamentally concerned with two themes: transforming the mind and using it to explore itself and other phenomena.[95]

According to Theravada Buddhism the Buddha taught two types of meditation, samatha meditation (Sanskrit: śamatha) and vipassanā meditation (Sanskrit: vipaśyanā).

In Chinese Buddhism, these exist (translated chih kuan), but Chn (Zen) meditation is more popular.[96]

According to Peter Harvey, whenever Buddhism has been healthy, not only monks, nuns, and married lamas, but also more committed lay people have practiced meditation.[97]

According to Routledge's Encyclopedia of Buddhism, in contrast, throughout most of Buddhist history before modern times, serious meditation by lay people has been unusual.[98]

The evidence of the early texts suggests that at the time of the Buddha, many male and female lay practitioners did practice meditation; some even to the point of proficiency in all eight jhānas (see the next section regarding these).[99]

top    home

31. Samādhi (meditative cultivation): samatha meditation  

Main articles: Samādhi (Buddhism) and Dhyāna in Buddhism

In the language of the Noble Eightfold Path, samyaksamādhi is "right concentration".

The primary means of cultivating samādhi is meditation.

Upon development of samādhi, one's mind becomes purified of defilement, calm, tranquil, and luminous.

Once the meditator achieves a strong and powerful concentration (jhāna, Sanskrit ध्यान dhyāna), his mind is ready to penetrate and gain insight (vipassanā) into the ultimate nature of reality, eventually obtaining release from all suffering.

The cultivation of mindfulness is essential to mental concentration, which is needed to achieve insight.

Samatha meditation starts from being mindful of an object or idea, which is expanded to one's body, mind and entire surroundings, leading to a state of total concentration and tranquility (jhāna)

There are many variations in the style of meditation, from sitting cross-legged or kneeling to chanting or walking.

The most common method of meditation is to concentrate on one's breath (anapanasati), because this practice can lead to both samatha and vipassana'.

In Buddhist practice, it is said that while samatha meditation can calm the mind, only vipassanā meditation can reveal how the mind was disturbed to start with, which is what leads to knowledge (jāna; Pāli āṇa) and understanding (prajā Pāli pa๑๑ā), and thus can lead to nirvāṇa (Pāli nibbāna). When one is in jhana, all defilements are suppressed temporarily.

Only understanding (prajā or vipassana) eradicates the defilements completely. Jhanas are also states that Arahants abide in order to rest.

top    home


32. In Theravāda  

Main article: Jhāna in Theravada

In Theravāda Buddhism, the cause of human existence and suffering is identified as craving, which carries with it the various defilements.

These various defilements are traditionally summed up as greed, hatred and delusion.

These are believed deeply rooted afflictions of the mind that create suffering and stress.

To be free from suffering and stress, these defilements must be permanently uprooted through internal investigation, analyzing, experiencing, and understanding of the true nature of those defilements by using jhāna, a technique of the Noble Eightfold Path.

It then leads the meditator to realize the Four Noble Truths, Enlightenment and Nibbana.

Nibbana is the ultimate goal of Theravadins.

top    home


33. Prajā (Wisdom): vipassana meditation  

Main articles: Prajā and Vipassana

Prajā (Sanskrit) or pa๑๑ā (Pāli) means wisdom that is based on a realization of dependent origination, The Four Noble Truths and the three marks of existence.

Prajā is the wisdom that is able to extinguish afflictions and bring about bodhi.

It is spoken of as the principal means of attaining nirvāṇa, through its revelation of the true nature of all things as dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), anicca (impermanence) and anatta (not-self).

Prajā is also listed as the sixth of the six pāramitās of the Mahayana.

Initially, prajā is attained at a conceptual level by means of listening to sermons (dharma talks), reading, studying, and sometimes reciting Buddhist texts and engaging in discourse.

Once the conceptual understanding is attained, it is applied to daily life so that each Buddhist can verify the truth of the Buddha's teaching at a practical level.

Notably, one could in theory attain Nirvana at any point of practice, whether deep in meditation, listening to a sermon, conducting the business of one's daily life, or any other activity.

top    home


34. Zen  

Main article: Zen

Zen Buddhism (), pronounced Chn in Chinese, seon in Korean or zen in Japanese (derived from the Sanskrit term dhyāna, meaning "meditation") is a form of Buddhism that became popular in China, Korea and Japan and that lays special emphasis on meditation.[100]

Zen places less emphasis on scriptures than some other forms of Buddhism and prefers to focus on direct spiritual breakthroughs to truth.

Zen Buddhism is divided into two main schools: Rinzai (臨済宗) and Sōtō (曹洞宗), the former greatly favouring the use in meditation on the koan (公案, a meditative riddle or puzzle) as a device for spiritual break-through, and the latter (while certainly employing koans) focusing more on shikantaza or "just sitting".[101]

Zen Buddhist teaching is often full of paradox, in order to loosen the grip of the ego and to facilitate the penetration into the realm of the True Self or Formless Self, which is equated with the Buddha himself.[102]

According to Zen master, Kosho Uchiyama, when thoughts and fixation on the little 'I' are transcended, an Awakening to a universal, non-dual Self occurs: '

When we let go of thoughts and wake up to the reality of life that is working beyond them, we discover the Self that is living universal non-dual life (before the separation into two) that pervades all living creatures and all existence.'.[103]

Thinking and thought must therefore not be allowed to confine and bind one.[104]

Vajrayana and Tantra

Though based upon Mahayana, Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhism is one of the schools that practice Vajrayana or "Diamond Vehicle" (also referred to as Mantrayāna, Tantrayāna, Tantric Buddhism, or esoteric Buddhism).

It accepts all the basic concepts of Mahāyāna, but also includes a vast array of spiritual and physical techniques designed to enhance Buddhist practice.

Tantric Buddhism is largely concerned with ritual and meditative practices.[105]

One component of the Vajrayāna is harnessing psycho-physical energy through ritual, visualization, physical exercises, and meditation as a means of developing the mind.

Using these techniques, it is claimed that a practitioner can achieve Buddhahood in one lifetime, or even as little as three years.

In the Tibetan tradition, these practices can include sexual yoga, though only for some very advanced practitioners.[106]

top    home


35. History

Main article: History of Buddhism

Philosophical roots

The Buddhist "Carpenter's Cave" at Ellora in Maharashtra, India

Historically, the roots of Buddhism lie in the religious thought of ancient India during the second half of the first millennium BCE.[107]

That was a period of social and religious turmoil, as there was significant discontent with the sacrifices and rituals of Vedic Brahmanism.[108]

It was challenged by numerous new ascetic religious and philosophical groups and teachings that broke with the Brahmanic tradition and rejected the authority of the Vedas and the Brahmans.[109][110] These groups, whose members were known as shramanas, were a continuation of a non-Vedic strand of Indian thought distinct from Indo-Aryan Brahmanism.[111][112]

Scholars have reasons to believe that ideas such as samsara, karma (in the sense of the influence of morality on rebirth), and moksha originated in the shramanas, and were later adopted by Brahmin orthodoxy.[113][114][115][116][117][118]

This view is supported by a study of the region where these notions originated.

Buddhism arose in Greater Magadha, which stretched from Sravasti, the capital of Kosala in the north-west, to Rajagrha in the south east.

This land, to the east of aryavarta, the land of the Aryas, was recognised as non-Vedic.[119]

Other Vedic texts reveal a dislike of the people of Magadha, in all probability because the Magadhas at this time were not Brahmanised.[120]

It was not until the 2nd or 3rd centuries BCE that the eastward spread of Brahmanism into Greater Magadha became significant.

Ideas that developed in Greater Magadha prior to this were not subject to Vedic influence.

These include rebirth and karmic retribution that appear in a number of movements in Greater Magadha, including Buddhism.

These movements inherited notions of rebirth and karmic retribution from an earlier culture.[121]

At the same time, these movements were influenced by, and in some respects continued, philosophical thought within the Vedic tradition as reflected e.g. in the Upanishads.[122]

These movements included, besides Buddhism, various skeptics (such as Sanjaya Belatthiputta), atomists (such as Pakudha Kaccayana), materialists (such as Ajita Kesakambali), antinomians (such as Purana Kassapa); the most important ones in the 5th century BCE were the Ajivikas, who emphasized the rule of fate, the Lokayata (materialists), the Ajnanas (agnostics) and the Jains, who stressed that the soul must be freed from matter.[123]

Many of these new movements shared the same conceptual vocabulary - atman ("Self"), buddha ("awakened one"), dhamma ("rule" or "law"), karma ("action"), nirvana ("extinguishing"), samsara ("eternal recurrence") and yoga ("spiritual practice").[108]

The shramanas rejected the Veda, and the authority of the brahmans, who claimed they possessed revealed truths not knowable by any ordinary human means.

Moreover, they declared that the entire Brahmanical system was fraudulent: a conspiracy of the Brahmans to enrich themselves by charging exorbitant fees to perform bogus rites and give useless advice.[124]

A particular criticism of the Buddha's was Vedic animal sacrifice.[80]

The Buddha declared that priests reciting the Vedas were like the blind leading the blind.[125]

According to him, those priests who had memorized the Vedas really knew nothing.[126]

He also mocked the Vedic "hymn of the cosmic man".[127]

However, the Buddha was not anti-Vedic, and declared that the Veda in its true form was declared by "Kashyapa" to certain rishis, who by severe penances had acquired the power to see by divine eyes.[128]

He names the Vedic rishis, and declared that the original Veda of the rishis[129][130] was altered by a few Brahmins who introduced animal sacrifices.

Buddha says that it was on this alteration of the true Veda that he refused to pay respect to the Vedas of his time.[131]

He declared that the primary goal of Upanishadic thought, the Atman, was in fact non-existent,[132] and, having explained that Brahminical attempts to achieve liberation at death were futile, proposed his new idea of liberation in life.[133][134]

However, he did not denounce the union with Brahman[135], or the idea of the self uniting with the Self.[136]

At the same time, the traditional Brahminical religion itself gradually underwent profound changes, transforming it into what is recognized as early Hinduism.[108][109][137]

In particular, the brahmans thus developed "philosophical systems of their own, meeting the new ideas with adaptations of their doctrines".[138]

top    home


36. Indian Buddhism, Pre-sectarian Buddhism, Early Buddhist schools, Early Mahayana Buddhism, Late Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana (Esoteric Buddhism)

Main article: History of Buddhism in India

The history of Indian Buddhism may be divided into five periods:[139]

Early Buddhism (occasionally called Pre-sectarian Buddhism), Nikaya Buddhism or Sectarian Buddhism: The period of the Early Buddhist schools, Early Mahayana Buddhism, Later Mahayana Buddhism, and Esoteric Buddhism (also called Vajrayana Buddhism).

Pre-sectarian Buddhism   

Main article: Pre-sectarian Buddhism

Pre-sectarian Buddhism is the earliest phase of Buddhism, recognized by nearly all scholars.

Its main scriptures are the Vinaya Pitaka and the four principal Nikayas or Agamas.

Certain basic teachings appear in many places throughout the early texts, so most scholars conclude that Gautama Buddha must have taught something similar to the Three marks of existence, the Five Aggregates, Dependent origination, Karma and Rebirth, the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and Nirvana.[140]

Home scholars disagree, and have proposed many other theories.[141][142]


Early Buddhist schools  

Main articles: Early Buddhist schools, Buddhist councils, and Theravada

Painting depicting Buddhaghosa offering his Visuddhimagga to monks in Mahavihara, the center of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka

According to the scriptures, soon after the parinirvāṇa (from Sanskrit: "highest extinguishment") of Gautama Buddha, the first Buddhist council was held.

As with any ancient Indian tradition, transmission of teaching was done orally.

The primary purpose of the assembly was to collectively recite the teachings to ensure that no errors occurred in oral transmission.

In the first council, Ānanda, a cousin of the Buddha and his personal attendant, was called upon to recite the discourses (sūtras, Pāli suttas) of the Buddha, and, according to some sources, the abhidhamma. Upāli, another disciple, recited the monastic rules (vinaya).

Scholars regard the traditional accounts of the council as greatly exaggerated if not entirely fictitious.[143]

According to most scholars, at some period after the Second Council the Sangha began to break into separate factions.[144]

The various accounts differ as to when the actual schisms occurred.

According to the Dipavamsa of the Pāli tradition, they started immediately after the Second Council, the Puggalavada tradition places it in 137 AN, the Sarvastivada tradition of Vasumitra says it was in the time of Asoka and the Mahasanghika tradition places it much later, nearly 100 BCE.

The root schism was between the Sthaviras and the Mahāsāṅghikas.

The fortunate survival of accounts from both sides of the dispute reveals disparate traditions.

The Sthavira group offers two quite distinct reasons for the schism.

The Dipavamsa of the Theravāda says that the losing party in the Second Council dispute broke away in protest and formed the Mahasanghika.

This contradicts the Mahasanghikas' own vinaya, which shows them as on the same, winning side. The Mahāsāṅghikas argued that the Sthaviras were trying to expand the vinaya and may also have challenged what they perceived were excessive claims or inhumanly high criteria for arhatship.

Both parties, therefore, appealed to tradition.[145]

The Sthaviras gave rise to several schools, one of which was the Theravāda school.

Originally, these schisms were caused by disputes over vinaya, and monks following different schools of thought seem to have lived happily together in the same monasteries, but eventually, by about 100 CE if not earlier, schisms were being caused by doctrinal disagreements too.[146]

Following (or leading up to) the schisms, each Saṅgha started to accumulate an Abhidharma, a detailed scholastic reworking of doctrinal material appearing in the Suttas, according to schematic classifications.

These Abhidharma texts do not contain systematic philosophical treatises, but summaries or numerical lists.

Scholars generally date these texts to around the 3rd century BCE, 100 to 200 years after the death of the Buddha.

Therefore the seven Abhidharma works are generally claimed not to represent the words of the Buddha himself, but those of disciples and great scholars.[147]

Every school had its own version of the Adhidharma, with different theories and different texts.

The different Adhidharmas of the various schools did not agree with each other.

Scholars disagree on whether the Mahasanghika school had an Abhidhamma Pitaka or not.[147][148]


Early Mahayana Buddhism

Main article: Mahāyāna

A Buddhist triad depicting, left to right, a Kushan, the future buddha Maitreya, Gautama Buddha, the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, and a Buddhist monk. 2nd—3rd century. Muse Guimet

The origins of Mahāyāna, which formed between 100 BCE and 100 AD,[149] are still not completely understood.[150

The earliest views of Mahāyāna Buddhism in the West assumed that it existed as a separate school in competition with the so-called "Hīnayāna" schools.

The split was on the order of the European Protestant Reformation, which divided Christians into Catholic and Protestant.[149]

Due to the veneration of buddhas and bodhisattvas, Mahāyāna was often interpreted as a more devotional, lay-inspired form of Buddhism, with supposed origins in stūpa veneration.[151]

The old views of Mahāyāna as a lay-inspired sect are now largely considered misguided and wrong.[152]

There is no evidence that Mahāyāna ever referred to a separate formal school or sect of Buddhism, but rather that it existed as a certain set of ideals, and later doctrines, for bodhisattvas.[153]

Initially it was known as Bodhisattvayāna (the "Vehicle of the Bodhisattvas").[149]

Paul Williams has also noted that the Mahāyāna never had nor ever attempted to have a separate Vinaya or ordination lineage from the early schools of Buddhism, and therefore each bhikṣu or bhikṣuṇī adhering to the Mahāyāna formally belonged to an early school.

This continues today with the Dharmaguptaka ordination lineage in East Asia, and the Mūlasarvāstivāda ordination lineage in Tibetan Buddhism.

Therefore Mahāyāna was never a separate rival sect of the early schools.[154]

From Chinese monks visiting India, we now know that both Mahāyāna and non-Mahāyāna monks in India often lived in the same monasteries side by side.[155]

Buddhas of Bamiyan: Vairocana before and after destruction by the Taliban in 2001

The Chinese monk Yijing who visited India in the 7th century CE, distinguishes Mahāyāna from Hīnayāna as follows:[156]

Both adopt one and the same Vinaya, and they have in common the prohibitions of the five offences, and also the practice of the Four Noble Truths.

Those who venerate the bodhisattvas and read the Mahāyāna sūtras are called the Mahāyānists, while those who do not perform these are called the Hīnayānists.

Much of the early extant evidence for the origins of Mahāyāna comes from early Chinese translations of Mahāyāna texts.

These Mahāyāna teachings were first propagated into China by Lokakṣema, the first translator of Mahāyāna sūtras into Chinese during the 2nd century CE.[157]

Some scholars have traditionally considered the earliest Mahāyāna sūtras to include the very first versions of the Prajāpāramitā series, along with texts concerning Akṣobhya Buddha, which were probably composed in the 1st century BCE in the south of India.[158][159][160]


Late Mahayana Buddhism  

1. During the period of Late Mahayana Buddhism, four major types of thought developed: Madhyamaka,

2. Yogacara,

3. Tathagatagarbha, and

4. Buddhist Logic

as the last and most recent.[161]

In India, the two main philosophical schools of the Mahayana were the Madhyamaka and the later Yogacara.[162]

According to Dan Lusthaus, Madhyamaka and Yogacara have a great deal in common, and the commonality stems from early Buddhism.[163]

There were no great Indian teachers associated with tathagatagarbha thought.[164]


Vajrayana (Esoteric Buddhism)

Main article: Vajrayana

Scholarly research concerning Esoteric Buddhism is still in its early stages and has a number of problems that make research difficult:[165]

Vajrayana Buddhism was influenced by Hinduism, and therefore research must include explore Hinduism as well.

The scriptures of Vajrayana have not yet been put in any kind of order.

Ritual must be examined as well, not just doctrine.

top    home


37. Development of Buddhism   

Main article: Timeline of Buddhism

Buddhist proselytism at the time of emperor Ashoka (260–218 BCE).

Coin depicting Indo-Greek king Menander, who, according to Buddhist tradition records in the Milinda Panha, converted to the Buddhist faith and became an arhat in the 2nd century BCE .

Buddhism may have spread only slowly in India until the time of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, who was a public supporter of the religion.

The support of Aśoka and his descendants led to the construction of more stūpas (Buddhist religious memorials) and to efforts to spread Buddhism throughout the enlarged Maurya empire and even into neighboring lands—particularly to the Iranian-speaking regions of Afghanistan and Central Asia, beyond the Mauryas' northwest border, and to the island of Sri Lanka south of India.

These two missions, in opposite directions, would ultimately lead, in the first case to the spread of Buddhism into China, and in the second case, to the emergence of Theravāda Buddhism and its spread from Sri Lanka to the coastal lands of Southeast Asia.

This period marks the first known spread of Buddhism beyond India.

According to the edicts of Aśoka, emissaries were sent to various countries west of India to spread Buddhism (Dharma), particularly in eastern provinces of the neighboring Seleucid Empire, and even farther to Hellenistic kingdoms of the Mediterranean.

It is a matter of disagreement among scholars whether or not these emissaries were accompanied by Buddhist missionaries.[166]

The gradual spread of Buddhism into adjacent areas meant that it came into contact with new ethnical groups.

During this period Buddhism was exposed to a variety of influences, from Persian and Greek civilization, to changing trends in non-Buddhist Indian religions—themselves influenced by Buddhism.

Striking examples of this syncretistic development can be seen in the emergence of Greek-speaking Buddhist monarchs in the Indo-Greek Kingdom, and in the development of the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhāra.

A Greek king, Menander, has even been immortalized in the Buddhist canon.

The Theravada school spread south from India in the 3rd century BCE, to Sri Lanka and Thailand and Burma and later also Indonesia.

The Dharmagupta school spread (also in 3rd century BCE) north to Kashmir, Gandhara and Bactria (Afghanistan).

The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism to China is most commonly thought to have started in the late 2nd or the 1st century CE, though the literary sources are all open to question.[167][168]

The first documented translation efforts by foreign Buddhist monks in China were in the 2nd century CE, probably as a consequence of the expansion of the Kushan Empire into the Chinese territory of the Tarim Basin.[169]

In the 2nd century CE, Mahayana Sutras spread to China, and then to Korea and Japan, and were translated into Chinese.

During the Indian period of Esoteric Buddhism (from the 8th century onwards), Buddhism spread from India to Tibet and Mongolia.

top    home


38. Buddhism today  

Main article: Timeline of Buddhism:Common Era

Polish Buddhists

By the late Middle Ages, Buddhism had become virtually extinct in India, and although it continued to exist in surrounding countries, its influence was no longer expanding.

It is now again gaining strength in India and elsewhere.[170][171]

Estimates of the number of Buddhist followers by scholars range from 230 million to 1.691 billion. Most scholars classify similar numbers of people under a category they call "Chinese folk" or "traditional" religion, an amalgam of various traditions that includes Buddhism.

Formal membership varies between communities, but basic lay adherence is often defined in terms of a traditional formula in which the practitioner takes refuge in The Three Jewels:

1.           The Buddha,

2.           The Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha), and

3.           The Sangha (the Buddhist community).

Estimates are uncertain for several reasons:

o   Difficulties in defining who counts as a Buddhist; syncretism among the Eastern religions.

§  Buddhism is practiced by adherents alongside many other religious traditions- including Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto, traditional religions, shamanism, and animism- throughout East and Southeast Asia.[172][173][174][175][176][177][178]

o   difficulties in estimating the number of Buddhists who do not have congregational memberships and often do not participate in public ceremonies;[179]

o   official policies on religion in several historically Buddhist countries that make accurate assessments of religious adherence more difficult; most notably China, Vietnam and North Korea.[180][181][182] In many current and former Communist governments in Asia, government policies may discourage adherents from reporting their religious identity, or may encourage official counts to underestimate religious adherence.

Nava bauddha

The nava - bauddha or neo-Buddhist are the followers of Ambedkar an Indian who converted to Buddhism, in 1956 and later. [183][184]

top    home


39. Demographics  

http://bits.wikimedia.org/static-1.20wmf8/skins/common/images/magnify-clip.pngPercentage of cultural/nominal adherents of combined Buddhism with its related religions (according to the highest estimates).[185][186][187][188][189][190][191][192]

According to one analysis, Buddhism is the fourth-largest religion in the world behind Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.[193]

The monks' order (Sangha), which began during the lifetime of the Buddha, is among the oldest organizations on earth.

Buddhism was the first world religion[194][195][196] and was the world's largest religion in the first half of the 20th century — in 1951 Buddhism was the world's largest religion with 520 million adherents.

By comparison, the second largest was Christianity with 500 million dherents.[197][198][199][200][201][202][203][204][205][206][207][208]

Theravada Buddhism, using Sanskrit and Pāli as its scriptural languages, is the dominant form of Buddhism in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Burma. The Dalit Buddhist movement in India (inspired by B. R. Ambedkar) also practices Theravada.

Approximately 124 million adherents.[209]

East Asian forms of Mahayana Buddhism that use Chinese scriptures are dominant in most of China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam as well as such communities within Indochina, Southeast Asia and the West.

Approximately 500 million to one billion.[210]

Tibetan Buddhism is found in Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia, areas of India (it's the majority religion in Ladakh; significant population in Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim), China (particularly in Tibet and Inner Mongolia), and Russia (Kalmyk Autonomous Republic).

Approximately 20 million adherents.[209]

Most Buddhist groups in the West are at least nominally affiliated with one of these three traditions.

At the present time, the teachings of all three branches of Buddhism have spread throughout the world, and Buddhist texts are increasingly translated into local languages.

While in the West Buddhism is often seen as exotic and progressive, in the East it is regarded as familiar and traditional.

Buddhists in Asia are frequently well organized and well funded.

In a number of countries, it is recognized as an official religion and receives state support.

Modern influences increasingly lead to new forms of Buddhism that significantly depart from traditional beliefs and practices.

Overall there is an overwhelming diversity of recent forms of Buddhism.[211]

top    home


40. Schools and traditions

Main articles: Schools of Buddhism and Buddhahood

Two of his disciples became the inspiration for two main schools of Buddhism that were developed at least 200 years after Gautama died.

Gautama praised both of them and to this day both schools are "authentic".

Sariputta inspired the Theravada school, generally known to be analytical and monastic. Maudgalyayana inspired the Mahayana school, which emphasizes compassion and tends to be democratic.[212]

http://bits.wikimedia.org/static-1.20wmf8/skins/common/images/magnify-clip.pngA young monk

Buddhists generally classify themselves as either Theravada or Mahayana.[213]

This classification is also used by some scholars[214][page needed] and is the one ordinarily used in the English language.[215]

An alternative scheme used by some scholars[216] divides Buddhism into the following three traditions or geographical or cultural areas:

·      Theravada,

·      East Asian Buddhism and

·      Tibetan Buddhism.

Some scholars[217] use other schemes.

Buddhists themselves have a variety of other schemes.

Hinayana (literally "lesser vehicle") is used by Mahayana followers to name the family of early philosophical schools and traditions from which contemporary Theravada emerged, but as this term is rooted in the Mahayana viewpoint and can be considered derogatory, a variety of other terms are increasingly used instead, including Śrāvakayāna, Nikaya Buddhism, early Buddhist schools, sectarian Buddhism, conservative Buddhism, mainstream Buddhism and non-Mahayana Buddhism.

Not all traditions of Buddhism share the same philosophical outlook, or treat the same concepts as central.

Each tradition, however, does have its own core concepts, and some comparisons can be drawn between them.

For example, according to one Buddhist ecumenical organization,[218] several concepts common to both major Buddhist branches:

·      Both accept the Buddha as their teacher.

·      Both accept the Middle way, Dependent origination, the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Three marks of existence.

·      Both accept that members of the laity and of the sangha can pursue the path toward enlightenment (bodhi).

·      Both consider buddhahood the highest attainment.

top    home

41. Timeline

This is a rough timeline of the development of the different schools/traditions:

Timeline: Development and propagation of Buddhist traditions (ca. 450 BCE – ca. 1300 CE)


450 BCE[219]

250 BCE

100 CE

500 CE

700 CE

800 CE

1200 CE[220]





Early Buddhist schools




Sri Lanka &
Southeast Asia


Theravada Buddhism


Central Asia




Tibetan Buddhism


Silk Road Buddhism


East Asia


Chn, Tiantai, Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren



450 BCE

250 BCE

100 CE

500 CE

700 CE

800 CE

1200 CE




= Theravada tradition


= Mahayana traditions


= Vajrayana traditions


top    home


42. Theravada school

Main article: Theravada

Theravada ("Doctrine of the Elders", or "Ancient Doctrine") is the oldest surviving Buddhist school.

It is relatively conservative, and generally closest to early Buddhism.[221]

This school is derived from the Vibhajjavāda grouping that emerged amongst the older Sthavira group at the time of the Third Buddhist Council (c. 250 BCE).

This school gradually declined on the Indian subcontinent, but its branch in Sri Lanka and South East Asia continues to survive.

The Theravada school bases its practice and doctrine exclusively on the Pāli Canon and its commentaries.

After being orally transmitted for a few centuries, its scriptures, the Pali Canon, were finally committed to writing in the 1st century BCE, in Sri Lanka, at what the Theravada usually reckon as the fourth council.

It is also one of the first Buddhist schools to commit the complete set of its canon into writing.[citation needed] The Sutta collections and Vinaya texts of the Pāli Canon (and the corresponding texts in other versions of the Tripitaka), are generally considered by modern scholars to be the earliest Buddhist literature, and they are accepted as authentic in every branch of Buddhism.

Theravāda is primarily practiced today in Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia as well as small portions of China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Bangladesh. It has a growing presence in Europe and America.

Theravadin Buddhists think that personal effort is required to realize rebirth.

Meditation is done by forest monks for the most part, while village monks teach and serve their lay communities.

Laypersons can perform good actions, producing merit that can be traded to the gods who may reward it with material benefits.[222]

In Theravada doctrine, a person may awaken from the "sleep of ignorance" by directly realizing the true nature of reality; such people are called arahants and occasionally buddhas.

After numerous lifetimes of spiritual striving, they have reached the end of the cycle of rebirth, no longer reincarnating as human, animal, ghost, or other being.

The commentaries to the Pali Canon classify these awakened beings into three types:

·      Sammasambuddha, usually just called Buddha, who discovers the truth by himself and teaches the path to awakening to others

·      Paccekabuddha, who discovers the truth by himself but lacks the skill to teach others

·      Savakabuddha, who receive the truth directly or indirectly from a Sammasambuddha

Bodhi and nirvana carry the same meaning, that of being freed from craving, hate, and delusion. In attaining bodhi, the arahant has overcome these obstacles.

As a further distinction, the extinction of only hatred and greed (in the sensory context) with some residue of delusion, is called anagami.

Theravada (Redirected from Theravadin)

Theravada, Sanskrit: स्थविरवाद sthaviravāda, ; literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching," is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India.

It is relatively conservative, and generally closer to early Buddhism than the other existing Buddhist traditions.[1]

For many centuries, it has been the predominant religion of Sri Lanka (now about 70% of the population)[2] and most of continental Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand).

Theravada is also practiced by minorities in parts of southwest China (mainly by the Shan and Tai ethnic groups), Vietnam (by the Khmer Krom), Bangladesh (by the ethnic groups of Baruas, Chakma, Magh, and Tanchangya), Malaysia and Indonesia, while recently gaining popularity in Singapore and the Western world.

Today, Theravada Buddhists, otherwise known as Theravadins, number over 150 million worldwide, and during the past few decades Theravada Buddhism has begun to take root in the West[3] and in the Buddhist revival in India.[4]


top    home


43. Mahayana traditions  

Main article: Mahayana

http://bits.wikimedia.org/static-1.20wmf8/skins/common/images/magnify-clip.pngChinese and Central Asian monks. Bezeklik, Eastern Tarim Basin, China, 9th–10th century.

Mahayana Buddhism flourished in India from the 5th century CE onwards, during the dynasty of the Guptas.

Mahāyāna centres of learning were established, the most important one being the Nālandā University in north-eastern India.

Mahayana schools recognize all or part of the Mahayana Sutras.

Some of these sutras became for Mahayanists a manifestation of the Buddha himself, and faith in and veneration of those texts are stated in some sutras (e.g. the Lotus Sutra and the Mahaparinirvana Sutra) to lay the foundations for the later attainment of Buddhahood itself.

Native Mahayana Buddhism is practiced today in China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, parts of Russia and most of Vietnam (also commonly referred to as "Eastern Buddhism").

The Buddhism practiced in Tibet, the Himalayan regions, and Mongolia is also Mahayana in origin, but is discussed below under the heading of Vajrayana (also commonly referred to as "Northern Buddhism".

There are a variety of strands in Eastern Buddhism, of which "the Pure Land school of Mahayana is the most widely practised today.".[223]

In most of this area however, they are fused into a single unified form of Buddhism. In Japan in particular, they form separate denominations with the five major ones being: Nichiren, peculiar to Japan; Pure Land; Shingon, a form of Vajrayana; Tendai, and Zen.

In Korea, nearly all Buddhists belong to the Chogye school, which is officially Son (Zen), but with substantial elements from other traditions.[224]

http://bits.wikimedia.org/static-1.20wmf8/skins/common/images/magnify-clip.pngJapanese Mahayana Buddhist monk with alms bowl

In the Mahayana, the Buddha tends not to be viewed as merely human, but as the earthly projection of a beginningless and endless, omnipresent being (see Dharmakaya) beyond the range and reach of thought.

Moreover, in certain Mahayana sutras, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are viewed essentially as One: all three are seen as the eternal Buddha himself.

The Buddha's death is seen as an illusion, he is living on in other planes of existence, and monks are therefore permitted to offer "new truths" based on his input.

Mahayana also differs from Theravada in its concept of śūnyatā (that ultimately nothing has existence), and in its belief in bodhisattvas (enlightened people who vow to continue being reborn until all beings can be enlightened).[225]

Celestial Buddhas are individuals who no longer exist on the material plane of existence, but who still aid in the enlightenment of all beings.

Nirvana came to refer only to the extinction of greed and hate,[dubious discuss] implying that delusion was still present in one who attained Nirvana.

Bodhi became a higher attainment that eradicates delusion entirely.[68]

Thus, the Arahant attains Nirvana but not Bodhi, thus still being subject to delusion, while the Buddha attains Bodhi.[dubious discuss]

The method of self-exertion or "self-power"—without reliance on an external force or being—stands in contrast to another major form of Buddhism, Pure Land, which is characterised by utmost trust in the salvific "other-power" of Amitabha Buddha.

Pure Land Buddhism is a very widespread and perhaps the most faith-orientated manifestation of Buddhism and centres upon the conviction that faith in Amitabha Buddha and the chanting of homage to his name liberates one at death into the Blissful (安樂), Pure Land (淨土) of Amitabha Buddha.

This Buddhic realm is variously construed as a foretaste of Nirvana, or as essentially Nirvana itself. The great vow of Amitabha Buddha to rescue all beings from samsaric suffering is viewed within Pure Land Buddhism as universally efficacious, if only one has faith in the power of that vow or chants his name.

top    home


44. Bodhisattavas - Vajrayana tradions

Main article: Bodhisattva

Bodhisattva means "enlightenment being", and generally refers to one who is on the path to buddhahood, typically as a fully enlightened buddha (Skt. samyaksaṃbuddha).

Theravada Buddhism primarily uses the term in relation to Gautama Buddha's previous existences, but has traditionally acknowledged and respected the bodhisattva path as well.[226]

Mahāyāna Buddhism is based principally upon the path of a bodhisattva. According to Jan Nattier, the term Mahāyāna ("Great Vehicle") was originally even an honorary synonym for Bodhisattvayāna, or the "Bodhisattva Vehicle."[227] The Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajāpāramitā Sūtra, an early and important Mahāyāna text, contains a simple and brief definition for the term bodhisattva, and this definition is the following:[228][229][230]

Because he has enlightenment as his aim, a bodhisattva-mahāsattva is so called.

Mahāyāna Buddhism encourages everyone to become bodhisattvas and to take the bodhisattva vows. With these vows, one makes the promise to work for the complete enlightenment of all beings by practicing six perfections (Skt. pāramitā).[231] According to the Mahāyāna teachings, these perfections are: giving, discipline, forbearance, effort, meditation, and transcendent wisdom.

Vajrayana traditions

Main article: Vajrayana

http://bits.wikimedia.org/static-1.20wmf8/skins/common/images/magnify-clip.pngBodhnath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

The Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism spread to China, Mongolia, and Tibet. In Tibet, Vajrayana has always been a main component of Tibetan Buddhism, while in China it formed a separate sect. However, Vajrayana Buddhism became extinct in China but survived in elements of Japan's Shingon and Tendai sects.

There are differing views as to just when Vajrayāna and its tantric practice started. In the Tibetan tradition, it is claimed that the historical Śākyamuni Buddha taught tantra, but as these are esoteric teachings, they were passed on orally first and only written down long after the Buddha's other teachings.

Nālandā University became a center for the development of Vajrayāna theory and continued as the source of leading-edge Vajrayāna practices up through the 11th century.

These practices, scriptures and theories were transmitted to China, Tibet, Indochina and Southeast Asia. China generally received Indian transmission up to the 11th century including tantric practice, while a vast amount of what is considered Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayāna) stems from the late (9th–12th century) Nālandā tradition.

In one of the first major contemporary academic treatises on the subject, Fairfield University professor Ronald M. Davidson argues that the rise of Vajrayana was in part a reaction to the changing political climate in India at the time.

With the fall of the Gupta dynasty, in an increasingly fractious political environment, institutional Buddhism had difficulty attracting patronage, and the folk movement led by siddhas became more prominent.

After perhaps two hundred years, it had begun to get integrated into the monastic establishment.[232][page needed]

Vajrayana combined and developed a variety of elements, a number of which had already existed for centuries.[233] In addition to the Mahāyāna scriptures, Vajrayāna Buddhists recognise a large body of Buddhist Tantras, some of which are also included in Chinese and Japanese collections of Buddhist literature, and versions of a few even in the Pali Canon.

top    home


45. Buddhist text - Pali Tititaka

Main article: Buddhist texts

Buddhist scriptures and other texts exist in great variety.

Different schools of Buddhism place varying levels of value on learning the various texts.

Some schools venerate certain texts as religious objects in themselves, while others take a more scholastic approach.

Buddhist scriptures are mainly written in Pāli, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Chinese.

Some texts still exist in Sanskrit and Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit.

Unlike many religions, Buddhism has no single central text that is universally referred to by all traditions.

However, some scholars have referred to the Vinaya Pitaka and the first four Nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka as the common core of all Buddhist traditions.[234]

This could be considered misleading, as Mahāyāna considers these merely a preliminary, and not a core, teaching.

The Tibetan Buddhists have not even translated most of the āgamas (though theoretically they recognize them) and they play no part in the religious life of either clergy or laity in China and Japan.[235]

Other scholars say there is no universally accepted common core.[236]

The size and complexity of the Buddhist canons have been seen by some (including Buddhist social reformer Babasaheb Ambedkar) as presenting barriers to the wider understanding of Buddhist philosophy.

The followers of Theravāda Buddhism take the scriptures known as the Pāli Canon as definitive and authoritative, while the followers of Mahāyāna Buddhism base their faith and philosophy primarily on the Mahāyāna sūtras and their own vinaya.

The Pāli sutras, along with other, closely related scriptures, are known to the other schools as the āgamas.[237]

Over the years, various attempts have been made to synthesize a single Buddhist text that can encompass all of the major principles of Buddhism.

In the Theravada tradition, condensed 'study texts' were created that combined popular or influential scriptures into single volumes that could be studied by novice monks.

Later in Sri Lanka, the Dhammapada was championed as a unifying scripture.

Dwight Goddard collected a sample of Buddhist scriptures, with the emphasis on Zen, along with other classics of Eastern philosophy, such as the Tao Te Ching, into his 'Buddhist Bible' in the 1920s. More recently, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar attempted to create a single, combined document of Buddhist principles in "The Buddha and His Dhamma". Other such efforts have persisted to present day, but currently there is no single text that represents all Buddhist traditions.


Pāli Tipitaka  

Main article: Pāli Canon

Pali Canon

Vinaya Pitaka




Sutta Pitaka

Digha Nikaya

Majjhima Nikaya

Samyutta Nikaya

Anguttara Nikaya

Khuddaka Nikaya

Abhidhamma Pitaka



Dhatukatha and Puggalapannatti





The Pāli Tipitaka, which means "three baskets", refers to the Vinaya Pitaka, the Sutta Pitaka, and the Abhidhamma Pitaka.

The Vinaya Pitaka contains disciplinary rules for the Buddhist monks and nuns, as well as explanations of why and how these rules were instituted, supporting material, and doctrinal clarification.

The Sutta Pitaka contains discourses ascribed to Gautama Buddha.

The Abhidhamma Pitaka contains material often described as systematic expositions of the Gautama Buddha's teachings.

The Pāli Tipitaka is the only early Tipitaka (Sanskrit: Tripiṭaka) to survive intact in its original language, but a number of early schools had their own recensions of the Tipitaka featuring much of the same material.

We have portions of the Tipitakas of the Sārvāstivāda, Dharmaguptaka, Sammitya, Mahāsaṅghika, Kāśyapīya, and Mahīśāsaka schools, most of which survive in Chinese translation only.

According to some sources, some early schools of Buddhism had five or seven pitakas.[238]

According to the scriptures, soon after the death of the Buddha, the first Buddhist council was held; a monk named Mahākāśyapa (Pāli: Mahākassapa) presided.

The goal of the council was to record the Buddha's teachings. Upāli recited the vinaya. Ānanda, the Buddha's personal attendant, was called upon to recite the dhamma.

These became the basis of the Tripitaka.

However, this record was initially transmitted orally in form of chanting, and was committed to text in the last century BCE.

Both the sūtras and the vinaya of every Buddhist school contain a wide variety of elements including discourses on the Dharma, commentaries on other teachings, cosmological and cosmogonical texts, stories of the Gautama Buddha's previous lives, and various other subjects.

Much of the material in the Canon is not specifically "Theravadin", but is instead the collection of teachings that this school preserved from the early, non-sectarian body of teachings.

According to Peter Harvey, it contains material at odds with later Theravadin orthodoxy.

He states: "The Theravadins, then, may have added texts to the Canon for some time, but they do not appear to have tampered with what they already had from an earlier period."[239]

top    home


46. Mahayana sutras  

Main article: Mahayana sutras

http://bits.wikimedia.org/static-1.20wmf8/skins/common/images/magnify-clip.pngThe Tripiṭaka Koreana in South Korea, an edition of the Chinese Buddhist canon carved and preserved in over 81,000 wood printing blocks.

The Mahayana sutras are a very broad genre of Buddhist scriptures that the Mahayana Buddhist tradition holds are original teachings of the Buddha.

Some adherents of Mahayana accept both the early teachings (including in this the Sarvastivada Abhidharma, which was criticized by Nagarjuna and is in fact opposed to early Buddhist thought[240]) and the Mahayana sutras as authentic teachings of Gautama Buddha, and claim they were designed for different types of persons and different levels of spiritual understanding.

The Mahayana sutras often claim to articulate the Buddha's deeper, more advanced doctrines, reserved for those who follow the bodhisattva path.

That path is explained as being built upon the motivation to liberate all living beings from unhappiness. Hence the name Mahāyāna (lit., the Great Vehicle).

According to Mahayana tradition, the Mahayana sutras were transmitted in secret, came from other Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, or were preserved in non-human worlds because human beings at the time could not understand them:[241]

Some of our sources maintain the authenticity of certain other texts not found in the canons of these schools (the early schools).

These texts are those held genuine by the later school, not one of the eighteen, which arrogated to itself the title of Mahayana, 'Great Vehicle'.

According to the Mahayana historians these texts were admittedly unknown to the early schools of Buddhists.

However, they had all been promulgated by the Buddha.

[The Buddha's] followers on earth, the sravakas ('pupils'), had not been sufficiently advanced to understand them, and hence were not given them to remember, but they were taught to various supernatural beings and then preserved in such places as the Dragon World.

Approximately six hundred Mahayana sutras have survived in Sanskrit or in Chinese or Tibetan translations.

In addition, East Asian Buddhism recognizes some sutras regarded by scholars as of Chinese rather than Indian origin.

Generally, scholars conclude that the Mahayana scriptures were composed from the 1st century CE onwards: "Large numbers of Mahayana sutras were being composed in the period between the beginning of the common era and the fifth century",[242] five centuries after the historical Gautama Buddha.

Some of these had their roots in other scriptures composed in the 1st century BCE.

It was not until after the 5th century CE that the Mahayana sutras started to influence the behavior of mainstream Buddhists in India: "But outside of texts, at least in India, at exactly the same period, very different—in fact seemingly older—ideas and aspirations appear to be motivating actual behavior, and old and established Hinnayana groups appear to be the only ones that are patronized and supported."[242]

These texts were apparently not universally accepted among Indian Buddhists when they appeared; the pejorative label hinayana was applied by Mahayana supporters to those who rejected the Mahayana sutras.

Only the Theravada school does not include the Mahayana scriptures in its canon.

As the modern Theravada school is descended from a branch of Buddhism that diverged and established itself in Sri Lanka prior to the emergence of the Mahayana texts, debate exists as to whether the Theravada were historically included in the hinayana designation; in the modern era, this label is seen as derogatory, and is generally avoided.

top    home


47. Comparative studies  

Buddhism provides many opportunities for comparative study with a diverse range of subjects.

For example, dependent origination can be considered one of Buddhism's contributions to metaphysics.

Additionally, Buddhism's emphasis on the Middle way not only provides a unique guideline for ethics but has also allowed Buddhism to peacefully coexist with various differing beliefs, customs and institutions in countries where it has resided throughout its history.

Also, its moral and spiritual parallels with other systems of thought—for example, with various tenets of Christianity—have been subjects of close study.

List of Buddhism related topics in comparative studies

·      Buddhism and Jainism

·      Buddhism and Hinduism

·      Buddhism and Christianity

·      God in Buddhism (Buddhism, mysticism, and monotheism)

·      Buddhism and Eastern teaching (Buddhism and East Asian teaching)

·      Buddhism and psychology

·      Buddhism and science

·      Buddhist ethics (Buddhism and ethics)

·      Buddhist philosophy (Buddhism and Western philosophy)

·      Buddhism and Thelema[243]

top    home


48. History, Lineage of nuns  

Origin of the school

Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, built by Indian emperor Ashoka the Great.

The location where Gautama Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.

One of the most important places of Buddhist pilgrimage.

According to its own accounts, the Theravāda school is fundamentally derived from the Vibhajjavāda (or "doctrine of analysis") grouping[5] which was a division of the Sthavira ("Elders") stream. (The Sthavira were in turn a breakaway group from the majority Mahāsāṃghika during the Second Buddhist council.[6])

Theravadin accounts of its own origins mention that it received the teachings that were agreed upon the Third Buddhist Council, around 250 BCE, and these teachings were known as the Vibhajjavada.[7]

The Vibhajjavādins in turn split into four groups: the Mahīśāsaka, Kāśyapīya, Dharmaguptaka, and the Tāmraparnīya.

The Theravada is descended from the Tāmraparnīya, which means "the Sri Lankan lineage." In the 7th century CE, Chinese pilgrims Xuanzang and Yijing refer to the Buddhist schools in Sri Lanka as Shngzub (Ch. 上座部), corresponding to the Sanskrit "Sthavira" and the Pali "Thera."[8][9]

The school has been using the name Theravada for itself in a written form since at least the 4th century, when the term appears in the Dipavamsa.[10]

According to Buddhist scholar A.K. Warder, the Theravada “spread rapidly south from Avanti into Maharastra and Andhra and down to the Chola country (Kanchi), as well as Ceylon.

For some time they maintained themselves in Avanti as well as in their new territories, but gradually they tended to regroup themselves in the south, the Great Vihara (Mahavihara) in Anuradhapura, the capital of Ceylon, becoming the main centre of their tradition, Kanchi a secondary center and the northern regions apparently relinquished to other schools."[11]

According to the Pāli chronicles of the Sinhalese tradition, Buddhism was first brought to Sri Lanka by Arahant Mahinda, who is believed to have been the son of the Mauryan emperor Asoka, in the third century BCE, as a part of the dhammaduta (missionary) activities of the Asokan era. In Sri Lanka, Arahant Mahinda established the Mahāvihāra Monastery of Anuradhapura.

Over much of the early history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, three subdivisions of Theravāda existed in Sri Lanka, consisting of the monks of the Mahāvihāra, Abhayagiri Vihāra, and the Jetavana Vihāra.[12]

According to A.K. Warder, the Indian Mahīśāsaka sect also established itself in Sri Lanka alongside the Theravāda, into which they were later absorbed.[12] Northern regions of Sri Lanka also seem to have been ceded to sects from India at certain times.[12]

Later history in Sri Lanka

Buddha painting in Dambulla cave temple in Sri Lanka.

Buddhist cave-temple complex was established as a Buddhist Monastery in the 3rd century BC. Caves were converted into a temple in the 1st century BC.[13]

When the Chinese monk Faxian visited the island in the early 5th century CE, he noted 5000 monks at Abhayagiri, 3000 monks at the Mahāvihāra, and 2000 monks at the Cetiyapabbatavihāra.[14]

Over the centuries, the Abhayagiri Theravādins maintained close relations with Indian Buddhists and adopted many new teachings from India.[15]

Including many elements from Mahāyāna teachings, while the Jetavana Theravādins adopted Mahāyāna to a lesser extent.[14][16]

Xuanzang wrote of two major divisions of Theravāda in Sri Lanka, referring to the Abhayagiri tradition as the "Mahāyāna Sthaviras," and the Mahāvihāra tradition as the "Hīnayāna Sthaviras."[17]

Akira Hirakawa notes that the surviving Pāli commentaries (Aṭṭhakathā) of the Mahāvihāra school, when examined closely, also include a number of positions that agree with Mahāyāna teachings.[18]

In the 8th century CE, it is known that both Mahāyāna and the esoteric Vajrayāna form of Buddhism were being practiced in Sri Lanka, and two Indian monks responsible for propagating Esoteric Buddhism in China, Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra, visited the island during this time.[19]

Abhayagiri Vihāra appears to have been a center for Theravadin Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna teachings.[20]

Some scholars have held that the rulers of Sri Lanka ensured that Theravāda remained traditional, and that this characteristic contrasts with Indian Buddhism.[21]

However, before the 12th century CE, more rulers of Sri Lanka gave support and patronage to the Abhayagiri Theravādins, and travelers such as Faxian saw the Abhayagiri Theravādins as the main Buddhist tradition in Sri Lanka.[22][23]

This changed in the 12th century CE, when the Mahāvihāra gained the support of King Parakkamabāhu I (1153-1186 CE), and the Abhayagiri and Jetavana Theravāda traditions were completely abolished.[24][25]

The Theravāda monks of these two traditions were then defrocked and given the choice of returning to the laity permanently, or attempting re-ordination under the Mahāvihāra tradition as "novices" (sāmaṇera).[25][26]

Regarding the differences between the Theravāda traditions, the Cūḷavaṁsa laments, "Despite the vast efforts made in every way by former kings down to the present day, the [bhikkhus] turned away in their demeanor from one another and took delight in all kinds of strife."[27]

top    home


49. Lineage of nuns  

A few years after the arrival of Sthavira Mahinda, Bhikkhuni Sanghamitta, who is also believed to be the daughter of Emperor Asoka, came to Sri Lanka.

She started the first nun's order in Sri Lanka, but this order of nuns died out in Sri Lanka in the 11th century and in Burma in the 13th.

In 429 CE, by request of China's emperor, nuns from Anuradhapura were sent to China to establish the Nun's Order. The order was then spread to Korea.

In 1996, 11 selected Sri Lankan nuns were ordained fully as Bhikkhunis by a team of Theravāda monks in concert with a team of Korean Nuns in India. There is disagreement among Theravada vinaya authorities as to whether such ordinations are valid.

In the last few years the head of the Dambulla chapter of the Siyam Nikaya in Sri Lanka has carried out ordination ceremonies for hundreds of nuns.

This has been criticized by other leading figures in the Siyam Nikaya and Amarapura Nikaya, and the governing council of Burmese Buddhism has declared that there can be no valid ordination of nuns in modern times, though some Burmese monks disagree with this.[28]

Ruins of Bagan, an ancient capital of Burma.

There are more than 2,000 Buddhist temples.

During the height of Bagan's power there were some 13,000 temples.[29]

According to Mahavamsa the Sri Lanka chronicle, after the conclusion of the Third Buddhist Council, a missionary was also sent to Suvannabhumi where two monks Sona and Uttara, are said to have proceeded.[30]

Scholar opinions differ as to where exactly this land of Suvannabhumi is located, but Suvannabhumi is believed to be located somewhere in the area which now includes lower Burma, Thailand, Malay Peninsula and Sumatra Island.

Before the 12th century, the areas of Thailand, Burma, Laos, and Cambodia were dominated by various Buddhist sects from India, and included the teachings of Mahāyāna Buddhism.[31][32]

In the 7th century, Yijing noted in his travels that in these areas, all major sects of Indian Buddhism flourished.[31]

Though there are some early accounts that have been interpreted as Theravāda in Burma, the surviving records show that most Burmese Buddhism incorporated Mahāyāna, and used Sanskrit rather than Pali.[32][33][34]

After the decline of Buddhism in India, missions of monks from Sri Lanka gradually converted Burmese Buddhism to Theravāda, and in the next two centuries also brought Theravāda Buddhism to the areas of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, where it supplanted previous forms of Buddhism.[35]

The Mon and Pyu were among the earliest people to inhabit Burma. Recent archaeological research at a Pyu settlement in the Samon Valley (around 100 km south-east of Bagan) has shown that they had trade links with India from 500-400 BC and with China around 200 BC.[36]

Chinese sources which have been dated to around 240 A.D. mention a Buddhist kingdom by the name of Lin-Yang, which some scholars have identified as the ancient Pyu kingdom of Beikthano[37][38] 300 km north of Yangon.

The oldest surviving Buddhist texts in the Pali language come from Pyu city of Sri Ksetra, the text which is dated from the mid 5th A.D. to mid 6th A.D. is written on twenty-leaf manuscript of solid gold.[39]

The Burmese slowly became Theravadan when they came into contact with the Pyu and Mon civilization.

The Thais also slowly became Theravadan as they came into contact with the Mon civilization.

Despite its success in Southeast Asia, Theravada Buddhism in China has generally been limited to areas bordering Theravada countries.

top    home


50. Modern developments

Laykyun Setkyar in the village of Khatakan Taung, near Monywa in Burma. The second tallest statue in the world.[40]

The following modern trends or movements have been identified.

Modernism: attempts to adapt to the modern world and adopt some of its ideas; including, among other things

·      Green movement

·      Syncretism with other Buddhist traditions

·      Universal inclusivity

·      Reformism: attempts to restore a supposed earlier, ideal state of Buddhism; includes in particular the adoption of Western scholars' theories of original Buddhism (in recent times the "Western scholarly interpretation of Buddhism" is the official Buddhism prevailing in Sri Lanka and Thailand.[43])

·      Ultimatism: tendency to concentrate on advanced teachings such as the Four Noble Truths at the expense of more elementary ones

·      Neotraditionalism; includes among other things

·      Revival of ritualism

·      Remythologization

·      Insight meditation

·      Social action

·      Devotional religiosity

·      Reaction to Buddhist nationalism

·      Renewal of forest monks

·      Revival of samatha meditation

·      Revival of the Theravada bhikkhuni lineage (not recognized in Thailand)

Buddhist revivalism has also reacted against changes in Buddhism caused by colonialist regimes.

Western colonialists and Christian missionaries deliberately imposed a particular type of Christian monasticism on Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka and colonies in Southeast Asia, restricting monks' activities to individual purification and temple ministries.[44]

Prior to British colonial control, monks in both Sri Lanka and Burma had been responsible for the education of the children of lay people, and had produced large bodies of literature. After the British takeover, Buddhist temples were strictly administered and were only permitted to use their funds on strictly religious activities.

Christian ministers were given control of the education system and their pay became state funding for missions.[45]

Foreign, especially British, rule had an enervating effect on the sangha.[46]

According to Walpola Rahula, Christian missionaries displaced and appropriated the educational, social, and welfare activities of the monks, and inculcated a permanent shift in views regarding the proper position of monks in society through their institutional influence upon the elite.[46]

Many monks in post-colonial times have been dedicated to undoing this paradigm shift.[47] Movements intending to restore Buddhism's place in society have developed in both Sri Lanka and Burma.[48]

top    home


51. Overview of Philosophy

Painting of Buddha's first sermon depicted at Wat Chedi Liem in Thailand

Theravada promotes the concept of Vibhajjavada (Pali), literally "Teaching of Analysis."

This doctrine says that insight must come from the aspirant's experience, critical investigation, and reasoning instead of by blind faith; however, the scriptures of the Theravadin tradition also emphasize heeding the advice of the wise, considering such advice and evaluation of one's own experiences to be the two tests by which practices should be judged.

In Theravada, the cause of human existence and suffering (dukkha) is identified as craving (tanha), which carries with it the defilements (kilesas).

Those defilements that bind humans to the cycle of rebirth are classified into a set of ten "Fetters," while those defilements that impede concentration (samadhi) are presented in a fivefold set called the "Five Hindrances."[49]

The level of defilement can be coarse, medium, and subtle.

It is a phenomenon that frequently arises, remains temporarily and then vanishes.

Theravadins believe defilements are not only harmful to oneself, but also harmful to others. They are the driving force behind all inhumanities a human being can commit.

Theravadins believe these defilements are habits born out of ignorance (avijja) that afflict the minds of all unenlightened beings, who cling to them and their influence in their ignorance of the truth.

But in reality, those mental defilements are nothing more than taints that have afflicted the mind, creating suffering and stress.

Unenlightened beings cling to the body, under the assumption that it represents a Self, whereas in reality the body is an impermanent phenomenon formed from the four basic elements.

Often characterized by earth, water, fire and air, in the early Buddhist texts these are defined to be abstractions representing the sensorial qualities solidity, fluidity, temperature, and mobility, respectively.[50]

The mental defilements' frequent instigation and manipulation of the mind is believed to have prevented the mind from seeing the true nature of reality.

Unskillful behavior in turn can strengthen the defilements, but following the Noble Eightfold Path can weaken or eradicate them.

Unenlightened beings are also believed to experience the world through their imperfect six sense doors (eye, ear, nose, tongue, tactile sense, and mind) and use the mind, clouded by defilements, to form their own interpretation, perception and conclusion.[51]

In such a condition the perception or conclusion made will be based on that being's own illusion of reality.[52]

In the state of jhana (deep concentration), the five physical sense doors will fade, the mental defilements will be suppressed, and wholesome mental traits will become strengthened.

The mind can then be used to investigate and gain insight into the true nature of reality.

There are three stages of defilements.

During the stage of passivity the defilements lie dormant at the base of the mental continuum as latent tendencies (anusaya), but through the impact of sensory stimulus, they will manifest (pariyutthana) themselves at the surface of consciousness in the form of unwholesome thoughts, emotions, and volitions.

If they gather additional strength, the defilements will reach the dangerous stage of transgression (vitikkama), which will then involve physical or vocal actions.

Laotian painting depicts Ananda at the First Buddhist Council

In order to be free from suffering and stress, Theravadins believe that the defilements need to be permanently uprooted.

Initially they are restrained through mindfulness to prevent them from taking over mental and bodily action.

They are then uprooted through internal investigation, analysis, experience and understanding of their true nature by using jhana.

This process needs to be repeated for each and every defilement. The practice will then lead the meditator to realize the Four Noble Truths, Enlightenment, and Nirvana (Sanskrit: निर्वाण, Nirvāṇa; Pali: निब्बान, Nibbāna; Thai: นิพพาน, Npphaan).

Nirvana is the ultimate goal of Theravadins, and is said to be a state of perfect bliss wherein the person is liberated from the repeated cycle of birth, illness, aging and death.

Theravadins believe that every individual is personally responsible for their own self-awakening and liberation, as they are the ones that were responsible for their own actions and consequences (Sanskrit: karma; Pali: kamma). Simply learning or believing in the true nature of reality as expounded by the Buddha is not enough, the awakening can only be achieved through direct experience and personal realization. An individual will have to follow and practice the Noble Eightfold Path as taught by the Buddha to discover the reality for themselves.

In Theravada belief, Buddhas, gods or deities are incapable of giving a human being the awakening or lifting them from the state of repeated cycle of birth, illness, aging and death (samsara).

For Theravadins, Buddha is only a Teacher of the Noble Eightfold Path, while gods or deities are still subject to anger, jealousy, hatred, vengeance, craving, greed, delusion, and death.

It is believed that some people who practice with earnestness and zeal can attain Nirvana within a single lifetime, as did many of the first few generations of Buddha's disciples.

For others, the process may take multiple lifetimes, with the individual reaching higher and higher states of realization.

One who has attained Nirvana is called an Arahant.

Since Lord Buddha is believed to have possessed the ultimate knowledge on guiding a person through the process of enlightenment, Theravadins believe that disciples of a Buddha attain enlightenment the most quickly.

According to the early scriptures, the Nirvana attained by Arahants is identical to that attained by the Buddha himself, as there is only one type of Nirvana.[53]

Buddha was superior to Arahants because the Buddha had discovered the path all by himself, and has taught it to others (i,e., metaphorically turning the wheel of Dhamma). Arahants, on the other hand, attained Nirvana due in part to the Buddha's teachings. Theravadins revere the Buddha as a single supremely gifted person but do recognize the existence of other such Buddhas in the distant past and future.

Maitreya (Pali: Metteyya), for example, is mentioned very briefly in the Pali Canon as a Buddha who will come in the distant future.

Traditionally Theravadins can either have the conviction (or "faith") in the Buddha's teaching and practice the minor precepts in the hope of gaining some minor benefits or they can investigate and verify by direct experience the truth of the Buddha's teaching by practicing the jhana which is part of the Noble Eightfold Path for their own Enlightenment.

top    home


52. Fundamentals of Theravada, Cause and Effect, The Four Noble Truths, The Three Characteristics, The Three Noble Disciplines

The Great Buddha of Thailand in the Wat Muang Monastery in Ang Thong province. The tallest statue in Thailand, and the ninth tallest in the world.

First and foremost, the Theravada philosophy is a continuous analytical process of life, not a mere set of ethics and rituals.

The ultimate theory of Theravada uses the Four Noble Truths, also known as the Four Sublime Truths.

In the simplest form these can be described as the problem, the cause, the


Cause and Effect

The Concept of Cause and Effect, or Causality, is a key concept in Theravada, and indeed, in Buddhism as a whole.

This concept is expressed in several ways, including the Four Noble Truths, and most importantly, the Paticca-Samuppāda (dependent co-arising).

Abhidhamma in Theravada canon differentiate between a root cause (Hetu) and facilitating cause (pacca).

By the combined interaction of both these, an effect is brought about.

On top of this view, a logic is built and elaborated whose most supple form can be seen in the Paticca Samuppāda.

This concept is then used to question the nature of suffering and to elucidate the way out of it, as expressed in the Four Noble Truths. It is also employed in several suttas to refute several philosophies including creationism.


The Four Noble Truths

Main article: Four Noble Truths

A formal description of the Four Noble Truths follows:

1. Dukkha (suffering): This can be somewhat broadly classified into three categories.

Inherent suffering, or the suffering one undergoes in all the worldly activities,

What one suffers in day-to-day life: birth, aging, diseases, death, sadness, etc.

In short, all that one feels from separating from "loving" attachments and/or associating with "hating" attachments is encompassed into the term.

2. The second class of suffering, called Suffering due to Change, implies that things suffer due to attaching themselves to amomentary state which is held to be "good"; when that state is changed, things are subjected to suffering.

3. The third, termed Sankhara Dukkha, is the most subtle.

Beings suffer simply by not realizing that they are mere aggregates with no definite, unchanging identity.

Dukkha Samudaya (cause of suffering): Craving, which leads to Attachment and Bondage, is the cause of suffering. Formally, this is termed Tanha.

It can be classified into three instinctive drives.

1. Kama Tanha is the Craving for any pleasurable sense object (which involves sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and mental perceptives).

2. Bhava Tanha is the Craving for attachment to an ongoing process, which appears in various forms, including the longing for existence.

3. Vibhava Tanha is the Craving for detachment from a process, which includes non-existence and causes the longing for self-annihilation.

Dukkha Nirodha (cessation of suffering): One cannot possibly adjust the whole world to one's taste in order to eliminate suffering and hope that it will remain so forever.

This would violate the chief principle of Change.

Instead, one adjusts one's own mind through detachment so that the Change, of whatever nature, has no effect on one's peace of mind.

Briefly stated, the third Noble Truth implies that elimination of the cause (craving) eliminates the result (suffering).

This is inferred in the scriptural quote by The Buddha, 'Whatever may result from a cause, shall be eliminated by the elimination of the cause'.

Dukkha Nirodha Gamini Patipada (pathway to freedom from suffering): This is the Noble Eightfold Pathway towards freedom or Nirvana.

The path can roughly be rendered into English as right view, right intention, right speech, right actions, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.


The Three Characteristics

Wat Chaiwatthanaram temple in the old city of Ayutthaya in Thailand.

Main article: Three marks of existence

These are the three characteristics of all conditioned phenomena in Theravada thought.

Anicca (impermanence): All conditioned phenomena are subject to change, including physical characteristics, qualities, assumptions, theories, knowledge, etc.

Nothing is permanent, because, for something to be permanent, there has to be an unchanging cause behind it.

Since all causes are recursively bound together, there can be no ultimate unchanging cause.

Dukkha (suffering): Craving causes suffering, since what is craved is transitory, changing, and perishing.

The craving for impermanent things causes disappointment and sorrow.

There is a tendency to label practically everything in the world, as either "good," "comfortable" or "satisfying;" or "bad", "uncomfortable," and "unsatisfying."

Labeling things in terms of like and dislike creates suffering.

If one succeeds in giving up the tendency to label things and free himself from the instincts that drive him towards attaining what he himself labels collectively as "liking," he attains the ultimate freedom.

The problem, the cause, the solution and the implementation, all of these are within oneself, not outside.

Anatta (not-self): The concept of Anatta can be explained as the lack of a fixed, unchanging identity; there is no permanent, essential Self.

A living being is a composite of the five aggregates (khandhas), which is the physical forms (rupa), feelings or sensations (vedana), perception (sanna), mental formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vinnana), none of which can be identified as one's Self.

From the moment of conception, all entities (including all living beings) are subject to a process of continuous change.

A practitioner should, on the other hand, develop and refine his or her mind to a state so as to see through this phenomenon.

Direct realization of these three characteristics leads to freedom from worldly bonds and attachments, thus leading to the state where one is completely, ultimately free, the state which is termed Nirvana, which literally means "to glow" (as in a lamp).[54]


The Three Noble Disciplines  

The pathway towards Nirvana, or the Noble Eightfold Pathway is sometimes stated in a more concise manner, known as the Three Noble Disciplines.,[55][56]

These are known as discipline (sīla), training of mind (samādhi)[57] and wisdom (pa๑๑ā).

top    home


53. Meditation

Thai monk in meditation

Theravada Buddhist meditation practices fall into two broad categories: samatha, and vipassanā.[58]

Some common terms encountered in the Theravada practice of meditation are:

·      Anapanasati

·      Metta

·      Kammaṭṭhāna

·      Samatha

·      Vipassana

Meditation (Pali: Bhavana) means the positive reinforcement of one's mind.

Broadly categorized into Samatha and Vipassana, Meditation is the key tool implemented in attaining jhana.

Samatha literally means "to make skillful," and has other renderings also, among which are "tranquilizing, calming," "visualizing," and "achieving."

Vipassana means "insight" or "abstract understanding."

In this context, Samatha Meditation makes a person skillful in concentration of mind.

Once the mind is sufficiently concentrated, Vipassana allows one to see through the veil of ignorance.

Samatha meditation

Thai Forest Tradition meditation master, the Venerable Ajahn Chah with his resident Sangha at Wat Nong Pah Pong monastery in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand

Main article: Samatha

The samatha meditation in Theravada is usually involved with the concepts of Kammaṭṭhāna which literally stands for "place of work"; in this context, it is the "place" or object of concentration (Pāli: Ārammana) where the mind is at work.

In samatha meditation, the mind is set at work concentrated on one particular entity.

There are forty (40) such classic objects (entities) used in samatha meditation, which are termed Kammaṭṭhāna.

By acquiring a Kammaṭṭhāna and practising samatha meditation, one would be able to attain certain elevated states of awareness and skill of the mind called Jhana.

Practising samatha has samadhi (concentration) as its ultimate goal.

It should be noted that samatha is not a method that is unique to Buddhism.

In the suttas it is said to be implemented in other contemporary religions in India at the time of Buddha.

In fact, the first teachers of Siddhartha, before they attained the state of awakening (Pāli: Bodhi), are said to have been quite skillful in samatha (although the term had not been coined yet).

In the Pali Canon discourses, the Buddha frequently instructs his disciples to practice samadhi (concentration) in order to establish and develop jhana (full concentration).

Jhana is the instrument used by the Buddha himself to penetrate the true nature of phenomena (through investigation and direct experience) and to reach Enlightenment.[59] Right Concentration (samma-samadhi) is one of the elements in the Noble Eightfold Path.

Samadhi can be developed from mindfulness developed with kammaṭṭhāna such as concentration on breathing (anapanasati), from visual objects (kasina), and repetition of phrases.

The traditional list contains 40 objects of meditation (kammaṭṭhāna) to be used for Samatha Meditation.

Every object has a specific goal; for example, meditation on the parts of the body (kayanupassana or kayagathasathi) will result in a lessening of attachment to our own bodies and those of others, resulting in a reduction of sensual desires.

Mettā (loving kindness) generates the feelings of goodwill and happiness toward ourselves and other beings; metta practice serves as an antidote to ill-will, wrath and fear.

Vipassanā meditation

Vipassanā on the other hand, is concerned with seeing through the veil of ignorance (Pāli: Avijjā) and so, is unique to Buddhism. It can be aided by a practised mind (with samatha) but samatha is not necessary to practice vipassanā.

Chiefly, vipassanā is involved in breaking the ten Fetters that bind one to the ever-iterating cycle of birth and death i.e. samsara.

Some teachers do not distinguish between the two methods, rather prescribing meditation methods that develop both concentration and insight.


Levels of attainment

Main article: Four stages of enlightenment

Through practice, (Theravadan) practitioners can achieve four stages of enlightenment:[60]

Stream-Enterers: Those who have destroyed the first three fetters (false view of Self, doubt, and clinging to rites and rituals);

Once-Returners: Those who have destroyed the first three fetters and have lessened the fetters of lust and hatred;

Non-Returners: Those who have destroyed the five lower fetters, which bind beings to the world of the senses;[61]

Arahants: Those who have reached Enlightenment—realized Nirvana, and have reached the quality of deathlessness—are free from all the fermentations of defilement. Their ignorance, craving and attachments have ended.[61]

top    home


54. Scriptures

One of the stone inscriptions of the World's largest book, consisting of 729 large marble tablets with the Pali Canon inscribed on them, at Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay, Burma

The Theravada school upholds the Pali Canon or Tipitaka as the most authoritative collection of texts on the teachings of Gautama Buddha.

The Sutta and Vinaya portion of the Tipitaka shows considerable overlap in content to the Agamas, the parallel collections used by non-Theravada schools in India which are preserved in Chinese and partially in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Tibetan, and the various non-Theravada Vinayas.

Sūtra (Sanskrit: सूत्र, Pāli: sutta, Ardhamagadhi: sūya) is an aphorism (or line, rule, formula) or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual, or, more broadly, a text in Hinduism or Buddhism. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew[1] (these words, including Latin suere and English to sew, all ultimately deriving from PIE *siH-/syuH- 'to sew'), as does the medical term "suture."

In Hinduism, sutra denotes a distinct type of literary composition, based on short aphoristic statements, generally using various technical terms. This literary form was designed for concision, as the texts were intended to be memorized by students in some of the formal methods of scriptural and scientific study (Sanskrit: svādhyāya). Since each line is highly condensed, another literary form arose in which commentaries (Sanskrit: bhāṣya) on the sutras were added, to clarify and explain them.[2]

In Brahmin lineage, each family is supposed to have one Gotra, and one Sutra, meaning that a certain Veda (Śruti) is treasured by this family in way of learning by heart.

On this basis, both these sets of texts are generally believed to be the oldest and most authoritative texts on Buddhism by scholars.

It is also believed that much of the Pali Canon, which is still used by Theravāda communities, was transmitted to Sri Lanka during the reign of Asoka.

After being orally transmitted (as was the custom in those days for religious texts) for some centuries, were finally committed to writing in the last century BC, at what the Theravada usually reckons as the fourth council, in Sri Lanka.

Theravada is one of the first Buddhist schools to commit the whole complete set of its Buddhist canon into writing.[62]

Much of the material in the Canon is not specifically "Theravadan," but is instead the collection of teachings that this school preserved from the early, non-sectarian body of teachings.

According to Peter Harvey:

The Theravadans, then, may have added texts to the Canon for some time, but they do not appear to have tampered with what they already had from an earlier period.[63]

The Pali Tipitaka consists of three parts: the Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka.

Of these, the Abhidhamma Pitaka is believed to be a later addition to the first two pitakas, which, in the opinion of many scholars, were the only two pitakas at the time of the First Buddhist Council.

The Pali Abhidhamma was not recognized outside the Theravada school.

In the 4th or 5th century Buddhaghosa Thera wrote the first Pali commentaries to much of the Tipitaka (which were based on much older manuscripts, mostly in old Sinhalese), and after him many other monks wrote various commentaries, which have become part of the Theravada heritage.

These texts, however, do not enjoy the same authority as the Tipitaka does.

The Tipitaka is composed of 45 volumes in the Thai edition, 40 in the Burmese and 58 in the Sinhalese, and a full set of the Tipitaka is usually kept in its own (medium-sized) cupboard.

The commentaries, together with the Abhidhamma, define the specific Theravada heritage. Related versions of the Sutta Pitaka and Vinaya Pitaka were common to all the early Buddhist schools, and therefore do not define only Theravada, but also the other early Buddhist schools, and perhaps the teaching of Gautama Buddha himself.

Theravada Buddhists consider much of what is found in the Chinese and Tibetan scriptural collections to be apocryphal, meaning that they are not authentic words of the Buddha.[64]

top    home


55. Lay and monastic life, Ordination, Lay devote

Young Burmese monk

Traditionally, Theravada Buddhism has observed a distinction between the practices suitable for a lay person and the practices undertaken by ordained monks (in ancient times, there was a separate body of practices for nuns).

While the possibility of significant attainment by laymen is not entirely disregarded by the Theravada, it generally occupies a position of less prominence than in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions, with monastic life being hailed as a superior method of achieving Nirvana.[65]

The view that Theravada, unlike other Buddhist schools, is primarily a monastic tradition has, however, been disputed.[66]

This distinction between ordained monks and laypeople — as well as the distinction between those practices advocated by the Pali Canon, and the folk religious elements embraced by many monks — have motivated some scholars to consider Theravada Buddhism to be composed of multiple separate traditions, overlapping though still distinct. Most prominently, the anthropologist Melford Spiro in his work Buddhism and Society separated Burmese Theravada into three groups: Apotropaic Buddhism (concerned with providing protection from evil spirits), Kammatic Buddhism (concerned with making merit for a future birth), and Nibbanic Buddhism (concerned with attaining the liberation of Nirvana, as described in the Tipitaka).

He stresses that all three are firmly rooted in the Pali Canon.

These categories are not accepted by all scholars, and are usually considered non-exclusive by those who employ them.

The role of lay people has traditionally been primarily occupied with activities that are commonly termed merit making (falling under Spiro's category of kammatic Buddhism). Merit making activities include offering food and other basic necessities to monks, making donations to temples and monasteries, burning incense or lighting candles before images of the Buddha, and chanting protective or merit-making verses from the Pali Canon.

Some lay practitioners have always chosen to take a more active role in religious affairs, while still maintaining their lay status.

Dedicated lay men and women sometimes act as trustees or custodians for their temples, taking part in the financial planning and management of the temple.

Others may volunteer significant time in tending to the mundane needs of local monks (by cooking, cleaning, maintaining temple facilities, etc.).

Lay activities have traditionally not extended to study of the Pali scriptures, nor the practice of meditation, though in the 20th Century these areas have become more accessible to the lay community, especially in Thailand.

Thai monks on pilgrimage in their orange robes.

A number of senior monastics in the Thai Forest Tradition, including Ajahn Buddhadasa, Luang Ta Maha Bua, Ajahn Plien Panyapatipo, Ajahn Pasanno, and Ajahn Jayasaro, have begun teaching meditation retreats outside of the monastery for lay disciples.

Ajahn Chah, a disciple of Ajahn Mun, set up a monastic lineage called Cittaviveka with his disciple Ajahn Sumedho, at Chithurst in West Sussex, England.

Ajahn Sumedho later founded the Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Hertfordshire, which has a retreat center specifically for lay retreats.

Sumedho extended this to Harnham in Northumberland as Aruna Ratanagiri under the present guidance of Ajahn Munindo, another disciple of Ajahn Chah.

Nirvana, the highest goal of Theravada Buddhism, is attained through study and the practice of morality, meditation and wisdom (sila, samadhi, panna).

The goal of Nirvana (and its associated techniques) have traditionally been seen as the domain of the fully ordained monastic, whereas many of the same techniques can be used by laypeople to generate happiness in their lives, without focusing on Nirvana.

Monastic roles in the Theravada can be broadly described as being split between the role of the (often urban) scholar monk and the (often rural or forest) meditation monk.

Both types of monks serve their communities as spiritual teachers and officiants by presiding over spiritual ceremonies and providing instruction in basic Buddhist morality and teachings.

Scholar monks undertake the path of studying and preserving the Pali literature of the Theravada.

They may devote little time to the practice of meditation, but may attain great respect and renown by becoming masters of a particular section of the Pali Canon or its commentaries. Masters of the Abhidhamma, called Abhidhammika, are particularly respected in the scholastic tradition.

Meditation monks, often called forest monks because of their association with certain wilderness-dwelling traditions, are considered to be specialists in meditation.

While some forest monks may undertake significant study of the Pali Canon, in general meditation monks are expected to learn primarily from their meditation experiences and personal teachers, and may not know more of the Tipitaka than is necessary to participate in liturgical life and to provide a foundation for fundamental Buddhist teachings.

More so than the scholastic tradition, the meditation tradition is associated with the attainment of certain supernatural powers described in both Pali sources and folk tradition. These powers include the attainment of Nirvana, mind-reading, supernatural power over material objects and their own material bodies, seeing and conversing with gods and beings living in hell, and remembering their past lives.

These powers are called abhi๑๑a. Sometimes the remain of the cremated bone fragment of an accomplished forest monk is believed able to transform itself into crystal-like relics (sārira-dhātu).

top    home


http://bits.wikimedia.org/static-1.20wmf7/skins/common/images/magnify-clip.pngCandidate for the Buddhist priesthood is ordaining as a monk in Thailand

The minimum age for ordaining as a Buddhist monk is 20 years, reckoned from conception. However, boys under that age are allowed to ordain as novices (samanera), performing a ceremony such as Shinbyu in Burma.

Novices shave their heads, wear the yellow robes, and observe ten basic precepts.

Although no specific minimum age for novices is mentioned in the scriptures, traditionally boys as young as seven are accepted.

This tradition follows the story of the Lord Buddha’s son, Rahula, who was allowed to become a novice at the age of seven. Monks follow 227 rules of discipline, while nuns follow 311 rules.

In most Theravada countries, it is a common practice for young men to ordain as monks for a fixed period of time.

In Thailand and Burma, young men typically ordain for the 3 month Rain Retreat (vassa), though shorter or longer periods of ordination are not rare.

Traditionally, temporary ordination was even more flexible among Laotians.

Once they had undergone their initial ordination as young men, Laotian men were permitted to temporarily ordain again at any time, though married men were expected to seek their wife's permission.

Throughout Southeast Asia, there is little stigma attached to leaving the monastic life. Monks regularly leave the robes after acquiring an education, or when compelled by family obligations or ill health.

Ordaining as a monk, even for a short period, is seen as having many virtues.

In many Southeast Asian cultures, it is seen as a means for a young man to "repay" his parents for their work and effort in raising him, because the merit from his ordination accrues to them as well.

Thai men who have ordained as a monk may be seen as more fit husbands by Thai women, who refer to men who have served as monks with a colloquial term meaning "ripe" to indicate that they are more mature and ready for marriage.

Particularly in rural areas, temporary ordination of boys and young men traditionally gave peasant boys an opportunity to gain an education in temple schools without committing to a permanent monastic life.

In Sri Lanka, temporary ordination is not practiced, and a monk leaving the order is frowned upon.

The continuing influence of the caste system in Sri Lanka may play a role in the taboo against temporary ordination and leaving the monkhood.

Though Sri Lankan monastic nikayas are often organized along caste lines, men who ordain as monks temporarily pass outside of the conventional caste system, and as such during their time as monks may act (or be treated) in a way that would not be in line with the expected duties and privileges of their caste.

Men and women born in western countries, who become Buddhists as adults, wish to become monks or nuns.

It is possible, and one can live as a monk or nun in the country they were born in, seek monks or nuns which has gathered in a different western country or move to a monastery in countries like Sri Lanka or Thailand.

It is seen as being easier to live a life as a monk or nun in countries where people generally live by the culture of Buddhism, since it is difficult to live by the rules of a monk or a nun in a western country.

For instance; a Theravada monk or nun is not allowed to work, handle money, listen to music, cook and so on, which are extremely difficult rules to live by in cultures which do not embrace Buddhism.

The recommendation is usually that to be able to live fully as a monk or nun you should move to a monastery in a country with a culture that embraces Theravada Buddhism.

Some of the more well-known Theravadan monks are: Ajahn Mun Bhuridatta, Ajahn Chah, Ledi Sayadaw, Ajahn Plien Panyapatipo, Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Brahm, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddhadasa, Mahasi Sayadaw, Nyanaponika Thera, Preah Maha Ghosananda, Sayadaw U Pandita, Ajahn Amaro, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Walpola Rahula, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, and Bhante Yogavacara Rahula.

top    home

Lay devote

http://bits.wikimedia.org/static-1.20wmf7/skins/common/images/magnify-clip.pngThe ceremony walks with lighted candles in hand around a temple on Vesakha Puja in Uttaradit, Thailand.

In Pali the word for a male lay devotee is Upasaka.

Upasika is its female equivalent.

One of the duties of the lay followers, as taught by the Buddha, is to look after the needs of the monk/nuns.

They are to see that the monk/nuns do not suffer from lack of the four requisites: food, clothing, shelter and medicine.

As neither monks nor nuns are allowed to have an occupation, they depend entirely on the laity for their sustenance.

In return for this charity, they are expected to lead exemplary lives.

In Burma and Thailand, the monastery was and is still regarded as a seat of learning.

In fact today about half of the primary schools in Thailand are located in monasteries. Religious rituals and ceremonies held in a monastery are always accompanied by social activities.

In times of crisis, it is to the monks that people bring their problems for counsel.

Traditionally, a ranking monk will deliver a sermon four times a month: when the moon waxes and wanes and the day before the new and full moons.

The laity also have a chance to learn meditation from the monks during these times.

It is also possible for a lay disciple to become enlightened. As Bhikkhu Bodhi notes, "The Suttas and commentaries do record a few cases of lay disciples attaining the final goal of Nirvana. However, such disciples either attain Arahantship on the brink of death or enter the monastic order soon after their attainment. They do not continue to dwell at home as Arahant householders, for dwelling at home is incompatible with the state of one who has severed all craving."[68]

top    home


56. Monastic practices

http://bits.wikimedia.org/static-1.20wmf7/skins/common/images/magnify-clip.pngA Buddhist Monk chants evening prayers inside a monastery located near the town of Kantharalak, Thailand.

The practices usually vary in different sub-schools and monasteries within Theravada.

But in the most orthodox forest monastery, the monk usually models his practice and lifestyle on that of the Buddha and his first generation of disciples by living close to nature in forest, mountains and caves.

Forest monasteries still keep alive the ancient traditions through following the Buddhist monastic code of discipline in all its detail and developing meditation in secluded forests.

In a typical daily routine at the monastery during the 3 month vassa period, the monk will wake up before dawn and will begin the day with group chanting and meditation.

At dawn the monks will go out to surrounding villages bare-footed on alms-round and will have the only meal of the day before noon by eating from the bowl by hand.

Most of the time is spent on Dhamma study and meditation.

Sometimes the abbot or a senior monk will give a Dhamma talk to the visitors.

Laity who stay at the monastery will have to abide by the traditional eight Buddhist precepts.

The life of the monk or nun in a community is much more complex than the life of the forest monk.

In the Buddhist society of Sri Lanka, most monks spend hours every day in taking care of the needs of lay people such as preaching bana,[67] accepting alms, officiating funerals, teaching dhamma to adults and children in addition to providing social services to the community.

After the end of the Vassa period, many of the monks will go out far away from the monastery to find a remote place (usually in the forest) where they can hang their umbrella tents and where it is suitable for the work of self-development.

When they go wandering, they walk barefoot, and go wherever they feel inclined.

Only those requisites which are necessary will be carried along.

These generally consist of the bowl, the three robes, a bathing cloth, an umbrella tent, a mosquito net, a kettle of water, a water filter, razor, sandals, some small candles, and a candle lantern.

The monks do not fix their times for walking and sitting meditation, for as soon as they are free they just start doing it; nor do they determine for how long they will go on to meditate. Some of them sometimes walk from dusk to dawn whereas at other times they may walk from between two to seven hours.

Some may decide to fast for days or stay at dangerous places where ferocious animals live in order to aid their meditation.

Those monks who have been able to achieve a high level of attainment will be able to guide the junior monks and lay Buddhists toward the four degrees of spiritual attainment.

top    home


57. Influences

The Dharmacakra flag, symbol of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand.

According to the linguist Zacharias P. Thundy the word "Theravada" may have been Hellenized into "Therapeutae," to name a coenobitic order near Alexandria described around the 1st century CE.

The similarities between the Therapeutae and Buddhist monasticism, combined with Indian evidence of Buddhist missionary activity to the Mediterranean around 250 BC (the Edicts of Asoka), have been pointed out.

The Therapeutae would have been the descendants of Asoka's emissaries to the West, and would have influenced the early formation of Christianity.[69]

However, the Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism[70] states that theories of influences of Buddhism on early Christianity are without historical foundation.

Thundy's speculation about the origin of "Therapeutae" seems improbable, as cognates of this term (i.e. "Therapeuo" and "Therapon") are used by Thucydides[71] and Homer.[72]

One must question how much Buddhist influence there might have been in the sect which Philo notes,(looked)" upon the seventh day as one of perfect holiness and a most complete festival, have thought it worthy of a most especial honour,"("De Vita Contemplativa," IV, 36). Nor did these keepers of the seventh-day Sabbath neglect Passover, "

(84) Then they sing hymns which have been composed in honour of God in many metres and tunes, at one time all singing together, and at another moving their hands and dancing in corresponding harmony, and uttering in an inspired manner songs of thanksgiving, and at another time regular odes, and performing all necessary strophes and antistrophes.

(85) Then, when each chorus of the men and each chorus of the women has feasted separately by itself, like persons in the bacchanalian revels, drinking the pure wine of the love of God, they join together, and the two become one chorus, an imitation of that one which, in old time, was established by the Red Sea, on account of the wondrous works which were displayed there;

(86) for, by the commandment of God, the sea became to one party the cause of safety, and to the other that of utter destruction; for it being burst asunder, and dragged back by a violent reflux, and being built up on each side as if there were a solid wall, the space in the midst was widened, and cut into a level and dry road, along which the people passed over to the opposite land, being conducted onwards to higher ground; then, when the sea returned and ran back to its former channel, and was poured out from both sides, on what had just before been dry ground, those of the enemy who pursued were overwhelmed and perished. (87) When the Israelites saw and experienced this great miracle, which was an event beyond all description, beyond all imagination, and beyond all hope, both men and women together, under the influence of divine inspiration, becoming all one chorus, sang hymns of thanksgiving to God the Saviour, Moses the prophet leading the men, and Miriam the prophetess leading the women." (Vita, XI 84-87).

top    home

58. Monastic orders within Theravada

Thai monks blessing the King of Thailand in Wat Nong Wong, Amphoe Sawankhalok, Sukhothai, Thailand.

Theravada monks typically belong to a particular nikaya, variously referred to as monastic orders or fraternities.

These different orders do not typically develop separate doctrines, but may differ in the manner in which they observe monastic rules.

These monastic orders represent lineages of ordination, typically tracing their origin to a particular group of monks that established a new ordination tradition within a particular country or geographic area.

In Sri Lanka caste plays a major role in the division into nikayas.

Some Theravada Buddhist countries appoint or elect a sangharaja, or Supreme Patriarch of the Sangha, as the highest ranking or seniormost monk in a particular area, or from a particular nikaya.

The demise of monarchies has resulted in the suspension of these posts in some countries, but patriarchs have continued to be appointed in Thailand.

Burma and Cambodia ended the practice of appointing a sangharaja for some time, but the position was later restored, though in Cambodia it lapsed again.

In Brahmin lineage, each family is supposed to have one Gotra, and one Sutra, meaning that a certain Veda (Śruti) is treasured by this family in way of learning by heart.

The Pali form of the word, sutta is used exclusively to refer to the scriptures of the early Pali Canon, the only texts recognized by Theravada Buddhism as canonical.

In the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism, the expression Middle Way is used by the Buddha in his first discourse (the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta) to describe the Noble Eightfold Path as a path between the extremes of austerities and sensual indulgence.
Pali literature has also used the phrase Middle Way to refer to the Buddha's teaching of dependent origination as a view between the extremes of eternalism and annihilationism.

top    home


59. Noble Eightfold Path

The term Middle Way was used in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the first teaching that the Buddha delivered after his awakening.[c] In this sutta the Buddha describes the middle way as a path of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. This, according to him, was the path of wisdom.

Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two? The two are the extremes of sensual indulgence and self mortification.) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.

Avoiding both these extremes, the Tathagata (the Perfect One) has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana. And what is that Middle Path realized by the Tathagata...? It is the Noble Eightfold path, and nothing else, namely: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.[3]

According to the scriptural account, when the Buddha delivered the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, he was addressing five ascetics with whom he had previously practiced severe austerities.[d] Thus, it is this personal context as well as the broader context of Indian shramanic practices that gives particular relevancy to the caveat against the extreme (Pali: antā) of self-mortification (Pali: atta-kilamatha).

top    home


60. Dependent Origination

Dependent Origination (Pratītyasamutpāda) describes the existence of objects and phenomena as the result of causes. When one cause changes or disappears, the resulting object or phenomena will also change or disappear, as will the objects or phenomena depending on the changing object or phenomena. Thus, there is nothing with an eternal self or atman, only mutually dependent origination and existence.
But the absence of an eternal atman does not mean there is no-thing at all. Early Buddhism adheres to a realistic approach which does not deny existence as such, but denies the existence of eternal and independent substances. This view is the Middle Way between eternalism and annihilationism: The understanding that sees a 'person' as subsisting in the causal connectedness of dependent arising is often presented in Buddhist thought as 'the middle' (madhyama/majjhima) between the views of 'eternalism' (śaśvata-/sassata-vāda) and 'annihilationism' (uccheda-vāda).

The Four Noble Truths

Dependent origination can also be applied to the concept of suffering, and takes the form of the Four Noble Truths:

1.       Dukkha: There is suffering. Suffering is an intrinsic part of life prior to awakening, also experienced as dissatisfaction, discontent, unhappiness, impermanence.

2.       Samudaya: There is a cause of suffering, which is attachment or desire (tanha).

3.       Nirodha: There is a way out of suffering, which is to eliminate attachment and desire.

4.       Magga: The path that leads out of suffering is called the Noble Eightfold Path.


The doctrine of dependent origination or dependent arising (from Sanskrit: प्रतीत्यसमुत्पाद, pratītyasamutpāda; Pali: paticcasamuppāda; Tibetan: རྟེན་ཅིང་འབྲེལ་བར་འབྱུང་བ་, Wylie: rten cing 'brel bar 'byung ba; Chinese: 緣起; pinyin: yunqǐ) is one of the principal teachings of the Buddha and concerns the interdependence and mutual conditioning of phenomena. Pratītyasamutpāda is the fundamental philosophical doctrine in Buddhism which accounts for and explains other central topics of concern such as rebirth, samsara, suffering, liberation and emptiness.

Meaning of Pratītyasamutpāda

Pratītyasamutpāda explains the existence of objects and phenomena as being due to systems of causes and effects. It has a general and a specific application, namely the general principle of interdependent causation and its application in the twelve nidanas.

Interdependent causation

The general or universal definition of pratityasamutpada which is emphasised in Mahayana Buddhism (particularly the Hua Yen school) states that all phenomena are arising together in a mutually interdependent web of cause and effect.[a][b][c][d] When one cause changes or disappears, the resulting object or phenomenon will also change or disappear, as will the objects or phenomena depending on the changing object or phenomenon.

top    home


61. The Twelve Nidanas

The Twelve Nidanas show the causal relations between the psychophysical phenomena that sustain dukkha, and the possibility to revert this chain, leading to liberation.[3][e]

Main article: Twelve Nidanas

This twelve-factor formula is the most familiar presentation, though a number of early sutras introduce lesser-known variants which make it clear that the sequence of factors should not be regarded as a linear causal process in which each preceding factor gives rise to its successor through a simple reaction.

The relationship among factors is always complex, involving several strands of conditioning.[11] For example, whenever there is ignorance, craving and clinging invariably follow, and craving and clinging themselves indicate ignorance.[12]

The thrust of the formula is such that when certain conditions are present, they give rise to subsequent conditions, which in turn give rise to other conditions and the cyclical nature of life in Samsara can be seen. This is graphically illustrated in the Bhavacakra (wheel of life).The Twelve-fold Chain




1. Ignorance - (Avijjā)

Fabrications (volitional tendencies) - (Saṅkhāra)

Not knowing suffering, not knowing the origination of suffering, not knowing the cessation of suffering, not knowing the way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering: This is called ignorance.

2. Fabrications (volitional fabrications) - (Saṅkhāra)

Consciousness - (Vi๑๑āṇa)

These three are fabrications: bodily fabrications, verbal fabrications, mental fabrications. These are called fabrications.

3. Consciousness - (Vi๑๑āṇa)

Name-and-form - (Nāmarūpa)

These six are classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, intellect-consciousness. This is called consciousness.[5] As seen earlier,[6] consciousness and the organ cannot function without each other.

4. Name-and-form - (Nāmarūpa)

Six sense media - (Saḷāyatana)

Feeling,[d] perception,[e] intention,[f] contact, and attention:[g] This is called name. The four great elements,[h] and the body dependent on the four great elements: This is called form.

5. Six sense media - (Saḷāyatana)

Contact[6] - (Phassa)

The eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are the six sense media.

6. Contact - (Phassa)

Feeling - (Vedanā)

The coming together of the object, the sense medium and the consciousness of that sense medium[i] is called contact.[j]

7. Feeling (Sensation) - (Vedanā)

Craving - (Taṇhā)

Feeling or sensations are of six forms: vision, hearing, olfactory sensation, gustatory sensation, tactile sensation, and intellectual sensation (thought).

8. Craving - (Taṇhā)

Clinging/sustenance - (Upādāna)

There are these six forms of cravings: cravings with respect to forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touch (massage, sex, pain), and ideas.[k]

9. Clinging/sustenance - (Upādāna)

Becoming (Bhava)

These four are clingings: sensual clinging,[l] view clinging,[m] practice clinging,[n] and self clinging[o]

10. Becoming - (Bhava)

Birth - (Jāti)

These three are becoming: sensual becoming,[p] form becoming,[q] formless becoming[r]

11. Birth - (Jāti)

Aging, death, and this entire mass of dukkha) - (Jarāmaraṇa)

Birth[s] is any coming-to-be or coming-forth. It refers not just to birth at the beginning of a lifetime, but to birth as new person, acquisition of a new status or position etc.

Reverting / Reversing the chain

Analysing the relationships between the phenomena that sustain dukkha[13] provides a conceptual framework, an understanding of which may help one to practise the path which leads to nibbana, complete freedom from samsara[14]

Phenomena are sustained only so long as their sustaining factors remain.[15] This causal relationship is expressed in its most general form as follows:[f]

When this exists, that comes to be. With the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be. With the cessation of this, that ceases.

— Samyutta Nikaya 12.61

This natural law of this/that causality is independent of being discovered, just like the laws of physics.[g] In particular, the Buddha applied this law of causality to determine the cause of dukkha.[h]

The reversal of this causal chain shows the way to put an end to stress: "From the remainderless fading and cessation of ignorance comes the cessation of (volitional) fabrications" et cetera.

top    home


62. Three lives

The nikayas themselves do not give a systematic explanation of the nidana series.[16] As an expository device, the commentarial tradition presented the factors as a linear sequence spanning over three lives; this does not mean that past, present, and future factors are mutually exclusive – in fact, many sutras contend that they are not.[12]15]

1. Commentarial tradition

2. Former life

3. Ignorance

4. Formations (conditioned things)

5. Current life

6. Consciousness

7. Mind and body (personality or identity)

8. The six sense bases (five physical senses and the mind)

9. Contact (between objects and the senses)

10. Feeling (registering the contact)

11. Craving (for continued contact)

12. Clinging

13. Becoming (similar to formations)

14. Future life

15. Birth

16. Old age and death


top    home


63. Destiny after rebirth  

Dependent origination also describes the process by which sentient beings incarnate into any given realm and pursue their various worldly projects and activities with all concomitant suffering. Among these sufferings are aging and death.

Daily life

Contemporary teachers often teach that it can also be seen as a daily cycle occurring from moment to moment throughout each day.

There is scriptural support for this as an explanation in the Abhidharmakosa of Vasubandhu, insofar as Vasubandu states that on occasion "the twelve parts are realized in one and the same moment".[17]

For example, in the case of avidyā, the first condition, it is necessary to refer to the three marks of existence for a full understanding of its relation to pratityasamutpada. It is also necessary to understand the Three Fires and how they fit into the scheme. The Three Fires sit at the very center of the schemata in the Bhavacakra and drive the whole edifice. In Himalayan iconographic representations of the Bhavacakra such as within Tibetan Buddhism, the Three Fires are known as the Three Poisons which are often represented as the Gankyil. The Gankyil is also often represented as the hub of the Dharmacakra.

Nirvana is often conceived of as stopping this cycle. By removing the causes for craving, craving ceases. So, with the ceasing of birth, death ceases. With the ceasing of becoming, birth ceases, and so on, until with the ceasing of ignorance no karma is produced, and the whole process of death and rebirth ceases.

top    home


64. Understanding in Buddhist tradition   


Pali Canon

In the Pali Suttapitaka (the most ancient canon of Buddhist writing preserved by Theravāda tradition) the first (partial) exposition of the twelve nidānas appears in the Dīgha Nikāya (Long Discourses), Brahmajāla Sutta, verse 3.71.[18] The reference is partial because it does not cover all twelve links:[19]" In this same Nikāya, Sutta 14 describes ten links instead of twelve, and in Sutta 15 the links are described, but without the six sense-bases (for a total of nine links in that Sutta).[20]

...they experience these feelings by repeated contact through the six sense-bases; feeling conditions craving; craving conditions clinging; clinging conditions becoming; becoming conditions birth; birth conditions aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, sadness and distress.

Descriptions of the full sequence of twelve links can be found elsewhere in the Pali canon, for instance in section 12 of the Samyutta Nikaya:[21]

Now from the remainderless fading and cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of fabrications ... From the cessation of birth, then aging and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair all cease. Such is the cessation of this entire mass of stress and suffering.

Theravāda commentaries

In the commentarial literature of the Theravada tradition (attributed, at least mythically, to the author Buddhaghosa, and written many centuries subsequent to the Suttapitaka passages described above) the same doctrine is instead interpreted as a sequence of three lives, thus shifting the theme from a single conception (and birth) to a sequence of "incarnations" (roughly speaking).[i]

Mahayana / Madhyamaka

Main article: Madhyamaka

In the Madhyamaka, to say that an object is "empty" is synonymous with saying that it is dependently originated. Nāgārjuna equates emptiness with dependent origination in Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 24:18.[22] In his analysis, any enduring essential nature (svabhāva) would prevent the process of dependent origination, would prevent any kind of origination at all, for things would simply always have been and will always continue to be, i.e. as existents (bhāva). Madhyamaka suggests that impermanent collections of causes and conditions are designated by mere conceptual labels, which also applies to the causes and conditions themselves and even the principle of causality itself since everything is dependently originated (i.e. empty).[23] If unaware of this, things may seem to arise as existents, remain for a time and then subsequently perish.


In Dzogchen tradition the interdependent origination is considered illusory:[24]

[One says], "all these (configurations of events and meanings) come about and disappear according to dependent origination." But, like a burnt seed, since a nonexistent (result) does not come about from a nonexistent (cause), cause and effect do not exist.
What appears as a world of apparently external phenomena, is the play of energy of sentient beings. There is nothing external or separate from the individual. Everything that manifests in the individual's field of experience is a continuum. This is the Great Perfection that is discovered in the Dzogchen practice.

"Being obsessed with entities, one's experiencing itself [sems, citta], which discriminates each cause and effect, appears as if it were cause and condition." [25]

The Four Noble Truths

Dependent origination can also be applied to the concept of suffering, and takes the form of the Four Noble Truths:

1.       Dukkha: There is suffering. Suffering is an intrinsic part of life prior to awakening, also experienced as dissatisfaction, discontent, unhappiness, impermanence.

2.       Samudaya: There is a cause of suffering, which is attachment or desire (tanha).

3.       Nirodha: There is a way out of suffering, which is to eliminate attachment and desire.

4.       Magga: The path that leads out of suffering is called the Noble Eightfold Path.

Interbeing and deep ecology

The Shramanic religious traditions of India (Theravada Buddhism and Jainism) have been characterised by an unusual sensitivity to living beings. Monks of both traditions are strictly forbidden from harming any life form, including even the smallest insects and vegetation. One of the basic ideas behind the Buddha's teaching of mutual interdependence is that ultimately there is no demarcation between what appears to be an individual creature and its environment. Harming the environment (the nexus of living beings of which one forms but a part) is thus, in a nontrivial sense, harming oneself.

This philosophical position lies at the heart of modern-day deep ecology and some representatives of this movement (e.g. Joanna Macy) have shown that Buddhist philosophy provides a basis for deep ecological thinking.


Some scholars believe that pratītyasamutpāda is Buddhist metaphysics,[j]. But pratītyasamutpāda has no relevance to cosmology (origin and nature of the universe), theology, or an absolutist (absolute soul, self, etc.) or relativistic philosophy.[k]

A small part of metaphysics deals with the apparent contradiction, or paradox, between free will, and the position that worldly phenomena are solely a consequence of natural causal factors.[l] In so far as it resolves this paradox, we can perhaps call pratītyasamutpāda a metaphysic of volitions (or karma).[28][m]


This article is about a term in Buddhist phenomenology. For the bodhisattva by a similar name, see Skanda (Buddhism).

In Buddhist phenomenology and soteriology, the skandhas (Sanskrit) or khandhas (Pāli, aggregates in English) are the five functions or aspects that constitute the human being.[a][b] The Buddha teaches that nothing among them is really "I" or "mine".

In the Theravada tradition, suffering arises when one identifies with or clings to an aggregate. Suffering is extinguished by relinquishing attachments to aggregates.

The Mahayana tradition further puts forth that ultimate freedom is realized by deeply penetrating the nature of all aggregates as intrinsically empty of independent existence.


Outside of Buddhist didactic contexts, "skandha" can mean mass, heap, pile, bundle or tree trunk.[3][c]

According to Thanissaro, the buddha gave a new meaning to the term "khanda":

Prior to the Buddha, the Pali word khandha had very ordinary meanings: A khandha could be a pile, a bundle, a heap, a mass. It could also be the trunk of a tree. In his first sermon, though, the Buddha gave it a new, psychological meaning, introducing the term clinging-khandhas to summarize his analysis of the truth of stress and suffering. Throughout the remainder of his teaching career, he referred to these psychological khandhas time and again.[4]

Description in the Sutta Pitaka

The Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon contains the teachings of the Buddha, as preserved by the Theravada tradition.

The five skandhas

The sutras describe five aggregates:[d]

1.       "form" or "matter"[e] (Skt., Pāli rūpa; Tib. gzugs): external and internal matter. Externally, rupa is the physical world. Internally, rupa includes the material body and the physical sense organs.[f]

2.       "sensation" or "feeling" (Skt., Pāli vedanā; Tib. tshor-ba): sensing an object[g] as either pleasant or unpleasant or neutral.[h][i]

3.       "perception", "conception", "apperception", "cognition", or "discrimination" (Skt. samjā, Pāli sa๑๑ā, Tib. 'du-shes): registers whether an object is recognized or not (for instance, the sound of a bell or the shape of a tree).

4.       "mental formations", "impulses", "volition", or "compositional factors" (Skt. samskāra, Pāli saṅkhāra, Tib. 'du-byed): all types of mental habits, thoughts, ideas, opinions, prejudices, compulsions, and decisions triggered by an object.[j]

5.       "consciousness" or "discernment"[k] (Skt. vijāna, Pāli vi๑๑āṇa,[l] Tib. rnam-par-shes-pa):

1.       In the Nikayas/Āgamas: cognizance,[5][m] that which discerns[6][n]

2.       In the Abhidhamma: a series of rapidly changing interconnected discrete acts of cognizance.[o]

3.       In some Mahayana sources: the base that supports all experience.[p]

The Buddhist literature describes the aggregates as arising in a linear or progressive fashion, from form to feeling to perception to mental formations to consciousness.[q] In the early texts, the scheme of the five aggregates is not meant to be an exhaustive classification of the human being. Rather it describes various aspects of the way an individual manifests.[7]

Suffering and release

Bhikkhu Bodhi (2000b, p. 840) states that an examination of the aggregates has a "critical role" in the Buddha's teaching for multiple reasons, including:[r]

1.       Understanding suffering: the five aggregates are the "ultimate referent" in the Buddha's elaboration on dukkha (suffering) in his First Noble Truth: "Since all four truths revolve around suffering, understanding the aggregates is essential for understanding the Four Noble Truths as a whole."

2.       Clinging causes future suffering: the five aggregates are the substrata for clinging and thus "contribute to the causal origination of future suffering".

3.       Release from samsara: clinging to the five aggregates must be removed in order to achieve release from samsara.

Understanding dukkha

In the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta the Buddha provides the classic elaboration on the first of his Four Noble Truths, "The Truth of Suffering" (Dukkhasacca):

The Noble Truth of Suffering [dukkha], monks, is this: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, association with the unpleasant is suffering, dissociation from the pleasant is suffering, not to receive what one desires is suffering—in brief the five aggregates subject to grasping are suffering.[9]

Clinging causes future suffering

The Samyutta Nikaya contains the Khandhavagga ("The Book of Aggregates"), a book compiling over a hundred suttas related to the five aggregates. The Upadaparitassana Sutta ("Agitation through Clinging Discourse," SN 22:7) describes how non-clinging to form prevents agitation:

...[T]he instructed noble disciple ... does not regard form [or other aggregates] as self, or self as possessing form, or form as in self, or self as in form. That form of his changes and alters. Despite the change and alteration of form, his consciousness does not become preoccupied with the change of form.... [T]hrough non-clinging he does not become agitated." (Trans. by Bodhi, 2000b, pp. 865-866.)

The most explicit denial of substantiality in the early texts is one that was quoted by later prominent Mahayana thinkers:

All form is comparable to foam; all feelings to bubbles; all sensations are mirage-like; dispositions are like the plantain trunk; consciousness is but an illusion: so did the Buddha illustrate [the nature of the aggregates].[10]

Release from samsara

In the Pāli Canon and the Āgamas, the majority of discourses focusing on the five aggregates discusses them as a basis for understanding and achieving liberation from suffering.[11]

Liberation is possible by insight into the workings of the mind. Traditional mindfulness practices can awaken this by understanding, release and wisdom.

In the classic Theravada meditation reference, the "Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta" ("The Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse," MN 10), the Buddha provides four bases for establishing mindfulness: body (kaya), sensations (vedana), mind (citta) and mental objects (dhamma).[s] When discussing mental objects as a basis for meditation, the Buddha identifies five objects, including the aggregates.

Through mindfulness contemplation, one sees an "aggregate as an aggregate" — sees it arising and dissipating. Such clear seeing creates a space between the aggregate and clinging, a space that will prevent or enervate the arising and propagation of clinging, thereby diminishing future suffering.[t] As clinging disappears, so too notions of a separate "self."

No essence

The aggregates don't constitute any 'essence'. In the Samyutta Nikaya, the Buddha explains this by using the simile of a chariot:

A 'chariot' exists on the basis of the aggregation of parts, even so the concept of 'being' exists when the five aggregates are available.[12][u]

Just as the concept of "chariot" is a reification, so too is the concept of "being". The constituents of being too are unsubstantial in that they are causally produced, just like the chariot as a whole.[13]

The chariot metaphor is not an exercise in ontology, but rather a caution against ontological theorizing and conceptual realism.[14] Part of the Buddha's general approach to language was to point towards its conventional nature, and to undermine the misleading character of nouns as substance-words.[15]


Main articles: Arhat (Buddhism) and Tathagata

The skandha analysis of the early texts is not applicable to arahants. A tathāgata has abandoned that clinging to the personality factors that render the mind a bounded, measurable entity, and is instead "freed from being reckoned by" all or any of them, even in life. The skandhas have been seen to be a burden, and an enlightened individual is one with "burden dropped".[16]

top    home


65. Understanding in Therevada Abhidhamma

Understanding in Theravada Abhidhamma

The Five Aggregates (paca khandha)
according to the
Pali Canon.