2500 Years Of Buddhism
Sixth century B.C.
was remarkable for the spiritual unrest aml intellectual ferment in many
countries. In China we had LaoTzu
and Confucius, in Greece Parmenides and Empedocles, in Iran Zarathustra,
in India Mahavira and the Buddha. In that period many remarkable teachers
worked upon their inheritance and developed new points of view.
Purnima or full-moon day of the month of Vaisakha is connected with three
important events in the life of the Buddha--birth, enlightenment and
parinirvana. It is the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar.
According to the Theravada Buddhism, the Buddha's parinirvana
occurred in 544 B.C.
Though the different schools of Buddhism have their independent systems of
chronology, they have agreed to consider the full-moon day of May 1956 to
be the 2500th anniversary of the mahaparinirvana of Gautama, the
Buddha. This book gives a short account of the story of Buddhism in the
last 2,500 years.
main events of the Buddha's life are well known. He was the son of a minor
ruler of Kapilavastu, grew up in luxury, married Yasodhara, had a son,
Rahula, and led a sheltered life where the world's miseries were hidden.
On four occasions when he went out of his palace, so the legend tells us,
he met an old man and felt that he was subject to the frailties of age,
met a sick man and felt that he was also subject to death, and met an
ascetic with a peaceful countenance who had adopted the traditional way of
the seekers of religious truth. The Buddha resolved to gain freedom from
old age, sickness and death by following his example. The mendicant tells
narapungava janmamrtyu bhitah sramanah pravrajitosmi moksa-
a sramanah, an ascetic, who in fear of birth and death have left
home life to gain liberation.
sight of the holy man, healthy in body, cheerful in mind, without any of
the comforts of life, impressed the Buddha strongly with the conviction
that the pursuit of religion was the only goal worthy of man. It makes man
independent of the temporary trials and fleeting pleasures of the world.
The Buddha decided to renounce the world and devote himself to a religious
life. He left his home, wife and child, put on the garb and habit of a
mendicant, and fled into the forest in order to meditate on human
suffering, its causes and the means by which it could be overcome. He
spent six years in the study of the most abstruse doctrines of religion,
suffered the severest austerities, reduced himself to the verge of
starvation in the hope that, by mortifying the flesh, he should surely
attain to the knowledge of truth. But he came very near to death without
having attained the wisdom that he sought. He gave up ascetic practices,
resumed normal life, refreshed himself in the waters of the river
Nairanjana, accepted the milk pudding offered by Sujata: nayam atma
balahinena labhyah. After he gained bodily health and mental vigour he
spent seven weeks under the shade of the Bodhi tree, sitting in a state of
the deepest and most profound meditation. One night towards the dawn his
understanding opened and he attained enlightenment. After the
enlightenment the Buddha refers to himself in the third person as the
Tathagata: he who has arrived at the Truth. He wished to preach the
knowledge he gained and so said: "I shall go to Banaras where I will light
the lamp that will bring light unto the world. I will go to Banaras and
beat the drums that will awaken mankind. I shall go to Banaras and there I
shall teach the Law." "Give ear, O mendicants ! The Deathless (amrita
eternal life) has been found by me. I will now instruct. I will preach
the Dharma." He travelled from place to place, touch :d the lives of
hundreds, high and low, princes and peasants. They all came under the
spell of his great personality. He taught for forty-five years the. beauty
of charity and the joy of renunciation, the need for simplicity and
the age of eighty he was on his way to Kusinagara, the town in which he
passed into parinirvana. Taking leave of the pleasant city of
Vaisali with his favourite disciple, Ananda, he rested on one of the
neighbouring hills and looking at the pleasant scenery with its many
shrines and sanctuaries, he said to Ananda, citram jambudvipam,
rnanoraraam jivitam manusyanam. "Colourful and rich is India, lovable
and charming is the life of men." On the banks of the river Hiranyavati in
a grove of sal trees, the Buddha had a bed prepared for himself between
two trees. He gently consoled his disciple, Ananda, who was lamenting
bitterly. "Do not weep, do not despair, Ananda. From all that he loves man
must part. How could it be that what is born, what is subject to
instability, should not pass? Maybe, you were thinking, 'we have no longer
a master'. That must not be, O Ananda. The doctrine I have preached to you
is your master." He repeated:
handa dani bhikkhave amantayami vo:
vayadhamma sankhara, appamadena sampadetha’ ti
Verily, I say unto you now, O monks: All things are perishable; work out
your deliverance with earnestness.
These were his last words. His spirit sank into the depths of mystic
absorption and when he had attained to that degree where all thought, all
conception disappears, when the consciousness of individuality ceases, he
entered into the supreme nirvana.
the life of the Buddha there are two sides, individual and social. The
familiar Buddha-image. is of a meditating sage, yogin, absorbed and
withdrawn, iost in the joy of his inner meditation. This is the tradition
associated with the Theravada BuddhiSm and Ashoka's missions. For these,
.the Buddha is a man, not God, a teacher and not a saviour. There is the
other side of the Buddha's life, when he is concerned with the sorrows of
men, eager to enter their lives, heal their troubles and spread his
message for the good of the many: bahu-jana-hitaya. Based on this
compassion for humanity, a second tradition matured in North India under
the Kusanas (70-480 A.D.) and the Guptas (320-650 A.D.). It developed the
ideal of salvation for all, the discipline of devotion and the way of
universal service. While the former tradition prevails in Ceylon, Burma
and Thailand, the latter is found in Nepal, Tibet, Korea, China and
forms of Buddhism, however, agree that the Buddha was the founder, that he
strove and attained transcendental wisdom as he sat under the Bodhi tree,
that he pointed a way from the world of suffering to a beyond, the
undying, and those who follow the path for liberation may also cross to
the wisdom beyond. This is the root of the matter, the essential unity
underlying the many differences in outlook and expression that came to
characterize Buddhism as it spread from India to other parts of the
essence of all religion is a change in man's nature, The conception of
second birth, dvitiyam janma, is the central teaching of the Hindu
and the Buddhist religions. Man is not one but a multiplicity. He is
asleep, he is an automaton. He is inwardly discordant. He must wake up,
become united, harmonious within himself and free. The Greek mysteries
implied this change in our nature. Man himself is conceived as a grain
which could die as a grain but be reborn as a plato different from the
grain. A bushel of wheat has two possible destinies, to be pounded and
made into flour and become bread; or to be sown in the ground, to
germinate and become a plant, and give a hundred grains for one that is
sown. St. Paul borrowed this idea in describing the Resurrection when he
says: "Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die."
"It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." The change is
a transformation of the substance itself. Man is not a Complete final
being. He is a being who can transform himself, who can be born again. To
effect this change, to be reborn, to be awakened, is the goal of all
religions as of Buddhism.
subjection to time, to samsara, is due to avidya,
unawareness, leading to infatuation, depravity, asava. Ignorance
and craving are the substratum of the empirical life. From avidya
we must rise to vidya, bodhi, enlightenment. When we have
vipassana, knowledge by seeing, clear perception, we will acquire
samara, unshakable calm. In all this, the Buddha adopts the Vedic
criterion of certainty which is rooted in actual knowledge which is
attained by immediate experience, direct intellectual intuition of
Buddha did not feel that he was announcing a new religion. He was born,
grew up, and died a Hindu. He was restating with a new emphasis the
ancient ideals of the Indo-Aryan civilization. Even so have I, monks, seen
an ancient way, an ancient road followed by the wholly awakened ones of
olden times....Along that have I gone, and the matters !that I have come
to know fully as I was going along it, I have told to the monks,
nuns, men and women, lay-followers, even monks this Brahma-
faring, brahmacharya that is prosperous and flourishing, widespread
and and widely known, become popular_ in short, well made manifest for
gods and men.
quest of religious India has been for the incomparable
safety, fearlessness, abhaya, moksa, nirvana. It is natural for man
strive to elevate himself above earthly things, to go out from
world of sense to free his soul from the trammels of existence
gross materiality, to break through the outer darkness into the
world of light and spirit. The Buddha aims at a new spiritual
existence attained through jnana or budhi absolute
I deem the highest goal of a man to be the stage in which
there is neither old age nor fear, nor disease, nor birth, nor death,
anxieties, and in which there is no continuous renewal of
tu yasminn na jura na bhir na run na janma naivoparamo na cadhayah tam eva
manye purusartham uttamam na vidyate “yatra punah punah kriya”
Buddha aimed at a spiritual experience in which all selfish
craving is extinct and with it every fear and passion. It is a state
perfect inward peace, accompanied by the conviction of having
attained spiritual freedom, a state which words cannot describe.
he who has experienced it knows what it is. The state is
life in paradise where the gods dwell."You should feel shame
indignation, if ascetics of other schools ask you if.it is in
order to arise in a divine world that ascetic life is practised under the
ascetic Gautama." Even as the Upanisads distinguish moksa
from life in brahmaloka, the Buddha points out that the gods belong
to the world of manifestation and cannot therefore be called absolutely
unconditioned. Existence has as its correlative nonexistence. The really
unconditioned is beyond both existence and non-existence. The state of the
mukta, the Buddha, is higher than that of the Brahma. It is
invisible, resplendent and eternal. There is a higher than the gods, a
transcendental Absolute described in the Udana as ajata, unborn,
abhuta, unbecome, akata, unmade, asankhata,
uncompounded. This is the Brahmin of the Upanisads which is
characterized as na iti, na iti.
The Buddha calls himself brahma-bhuta, he who has become
Brahmin. The Buddha adopted an absolutist view of Ultimate Reality though
not a theistic one. He felt that many abstained from actiorl in the faith
that God would do everything for them. They seemed to forget that
spiritual realization is a growth from within. When the educated indulged
in vain speculations about the Inexpressible, the uneducated treated God
as a being who could be manipulated by magic rites or sorcery. If God
forgives us any way, it makes little difference how we live. The Buddha
revolted against the ignorance and superstition, the dread and the horror,
which accompanied popular religion. Besides, theistic views generally fill
men's minds with dogmatism and their hearts with intolerance. Doctrinal
orthodoxy has filled the world with unhappiness, injustice, strife, crime
conception of the world as samsara, a stream without end, where the
law of karma functions, is common to all Indian 'systems, Hindu, Jain,
Buddhist and Sikh. Nothing is permanent, not even the gods. Even death is
not permanent, for it must turn to new life. The conduct of the individual
in one life cannot determine his everlasting destiny. The Buddha does not
accept a fatalistic view. He does not say that man has no control over his
future. He can work out his future, become an Arhat, attain nirvana. The
Buddha was an ardent exponent of the strenuous life. Our aim is to conquer
time, overcome samsara, and the way to it is the moral path which
results in illumination.
Buddha did not concede the reality of an unchangeable 'self, for the
'self’ is something that can be built up by good thoughts and deeds, but
yet he has to assume it. While karma relates to the world of objects, of
existence in time, nirvana assumes the freedom of the subject, of
inwardness. We can stand out of our existential limits. We experience the
nothingness, the void of the world to get beyond it. To stand out of
objective existence there must come upon the individual a sense of
crucifixion, a sense of agonizing annihfiation, a sense of the bitter
nothingness of all the empirical existence which is subject to the law of
change, of death: maranantam hi jivitam. We cry from the depths of
unyielding despair: mrtyor ma amrtam gamaya. Who shall save me from
the body of this death? If death is not all, if nothingness is not all,
there is something which survives death, though it cannot be described.
The T is the unconditioned, something which has nothing to do with the
body, feeling, perception, formation, thought, which are all impermanent,
changeable, non-substantial. When the individual knows that what is
impermanent is painful, he becomes detached from them and becomes free.
The indispensable prerequisite of this is a higher consciousness of an “I”
or something like it : attena va attaniyena.
This “I” is the primordial essential 'self the unconditioned, whose
realization gives us liberty and power. The 'self is not body, feeling,
consciousness, etc. But from this it does not follow that there is no
'self at all. The ego is not the only content of the 'self though it is
the only content that can be known objectively. There is another side to
our 'self which helps us to attain nirvana. When the Buddha asks us to be
diligent, to strive for salvation, he is referring to the inward principle
which is not swept away by the current of events, which is not controlled
by outward circumstances, which protects itself from the usurpations of
society, which does not submit to human opinion but jealously guards its
rights. The enlightened is free, having broken all bonds. The ascetic is
one who has gained mastery over himself, "who has his heart in his power
and is not himself in the power of his heart.''
The Buddha when he attained nirvana is far from being dissolved into
non-being. It is not he that becomes extinct but the passions and desires.
He is no longer conditioned by the erroneous notions and selfish desires,
that normally go on shaping individuals. The Buddha realizes himself to be
free from the characteristics that constitute an individual subject. He
has vanished from the sphere of dualities. "Whatever thought he desires,
that thought will he think, whatever thought he does not desire, that
thought will he not think.
The Buddha taught us to pursue prajna and practise compassion,
karuna. We will be judged not by the creeds we profess or the labels
we wear or the slogans we shout, but by our sacrificial work and brotherly
outlook. Man, weak as he is, subject to old age, sickness and death, in
his ignorance and pride condemns the sick, the aged and the dead. If
anyone looks with disgust on any f~llow-being who is sick or old or dead,
he would be unjust to himself. We must not fred fault with the man who
limps or stumbles along the road, for we do not know the shoes he wears or
the burdens he bears.
If we learn what pain is, we become the brothers of all who suffer.
Buddhism did not start as a new and independent religion. It was an
offshoot of the more ancient faith of the Hindus, perhaps a schism or a
heresy. While on the fundamentals of metaphysics and ethics the Buddha
agreed with the faith he inherited, he protested against certain practices
which were in vogue at the time. He refused to acquiesce in the Vedic
ceremonialism. When he was asked to perform some of these rites, he said,
"And as for your saying that for the sake of Dharma I should carry out the
sacrificial ceremonies which are customary in my family and which bring
the desired fruit, I do not approve of sacrifices; for I do not care for
happiness which is sought at the price of others' suffering.''
is ture that the Upanisads also subordinate the sacrificial piety
to the spiritual religion which they formulate, but they did not attack it
in the way in which the Buddha did. The Buddha's main object was to bring
about' a reformation in religious practices and a return to the basic
principles. All those who adhere to the essential framework of. the Hindu
religion and attempt to' bring it into conformity with 'the voice of
awakened conscience are treated as avataras. It is an accepted view
of the Hindus that the Supreme as Visnu assumed different forms to
accomplish different purposes for the good of mankind. The Buddha was
accepted as an avatara who reclaimed Hindus from sanguinary rites
and erroneous practices and purified their religion of the numerous abuses
which had crept into it. This avatara doctrine helps us to retain
the faith of the ancestors while effecting reforms in it. Our Puranas
describe the Buddha as the ninth avatara of Visnu.
Jayadeva's astapadi (of the Gitagovinda) he refers to the
different avataras and mentions the Buddha as an avatara of Visnu,
and gives the following account:
you of merciful heart denounced the Feda where the slaughter of cattle is
taught, O Kesava, you, in the form of the Buddha, victory to you, Haft,
lord of the world.
nindasi yajnavidher ahaha srutijatara
sadaya-hrdaya, darsita pasughatam
kesava-dhrta buddhasarira jaya jagadisa hare
commentator writes: yajnasya-vidhana-bodhakam veda samuham nindasi, na
tu satyam ity artbah
Buddha does not condemn the whole Sruti but only that part of it which
Jayadeva sums up the ten avataras in the next verse:
upheld the Vedas, supported the universe,
up the world, destroyed the demons, deceived
Bali, broke the, force of the Ksatriyas,
conquered Ravana, made the piough, spread mercy,
prevailed over aliens, homage, O Krisna
took the ten forms.
vedan uddharate, jagan nivahate, bhugolam udbibhrate,
dailyan darayate, balim chalayate, ksatraksayam kurvate,
Paulastyam jayate, halam kalayate, karunyam
atanvate,mlecchan murcchayate dasakrtikrte krisnaya tubhyam namah
karunyam krpam atanvate buddha-rupena vistarayate
Buddha utilized the Hindu inheritance to correct some of its expressions.
He came to fulfil, not to destroy. For us, in this country, the Buddha is
an outstanding representative of our religious tradition. He left his
footprints on the soil of India and his mark on the soul of the country
with its habits and convictions. While the teaching of the Buddha-assumed
distinctive forms in the other countries of the world in conformity with
their own traditions, here, in the home of the Buddha, it has entered into
and become an integral part of our culture. The Brahmins and the
Sramanahs were treated alike by the Buddha and the two traditions
gradually blended. In a sense the Buddha is a maker of modern Hinduism.
Occasionally humanity, after an infinite number of gropings, creates
itself, realizes the purposes of its existence in one great character and
then again loses itself in the all too slow process of dissolution. The
Buddha aimed at the development of a new type of free man, free from
prejudices, intent on working out his own future, with reliance on one's
own self, attadipa. His humanism crossed racial and national
barriers. Yet the chaotic condition of world affairs reflects the chaos in
men's souls. History has become universal in spirit. Its subject matter is
neither Europe nor Asia, neither East nor West; but humanity in all lands
and ages. In spite of political divisions, the world is one, whether we
like it or not. The fortunes of everyone are linked up with those of
others. But we are suffering from a.n exhaustion of spirit an increase of
egoisyn, individual and collective, which seem to make the ideal of a
world society too difficult to desire. What we need today is a spiritual
view of the universe for which this country, in spite of all its
blunders and follies, has stood, which may blow through life
again,bursting the doors and flinging open the shutters of man's life. We
recover the lost ideal of spiritual freedom: atmalabhan na
param vidyate. If we wish to achieve peace we must maintain that
inner harmony, that poise of the soul, which are the essential
elements of peace. We must possess ourselves though all else be
lost. The free spirit sets no bounds to its love, recognizes in all
human beings a spark of the divine, and offers itself up a willing
victim to the cause of mankind. It casts off all fear except that
wrong doing, passes the bounds of time and death and finds
inexhaustible power in life etemal.
_ P.V Bapat, M.A., A.M. Ph.D
(Harvard), Retired Professor of Ancient Indian Culture, pali, and
Buddhism, Poona University and Fergusson College, poona.
P.L. Vaidya, M.A.
(Calcutta), D, Litt. (Paris), Editor, Critical edition of the Mahabharata,
Bhandarkar oriental Research Institute, poona.
C.V. Joshi, M.A., formely
professor of Pali, Baroda College.
B.Jinananda, M.A., Ph.D
(London), Vidya-Abhidhamma-Sutta Visarada, Reader in Sanskrit and Pali,
Department of Buddhist Studies, Dehli University.
_ (The late)
P.C. Bagchi, M.A., D. Litt
(Paris), formely Vice-Chancellor, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan.
_ V.V Gokhale, B,A., Ph.D.
(Bonn), Professor and Head of the Department of Buddhist Studies, Delhi
_ I.H. Takasaki, Ph.D.
(Bonn), Professor and Head of the Department of Indian Philosophy, and
Sanskrit, Tokyo University.
_ R.C. Majumdar, M.A., Ph.D.
_ Ankul Chandra Banejee,
M.A., LL.B., Ph.D., Professor of Pali, Calcutta University.
_ G.H. Sasaki, Professor of
Buddhism, Otani University, Japan.
_ Nalinaksha Dutt, M.A.,
Ph.D., D. Litt. (London), B.L., M.P., formerly Head of the Department of
Pali, Calcutta University.
_ S. Dutt, M.A., B.L., Ph.D.
(Calcutta), formerly Reader in English, Delhi University.
_ Bharat Singh Upadhyaya,
M.A., Lecturer in Hindi, Hindu College, Delhi University.
_ Bhadanta Anand Kausalyayana,
well-known Hindi writer.
_ (The late) Rahul Sankrityayan,
K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, M.A., Director, Institute of
Traditional Cultures, Madras.
_ T.N.Ramachandran, M.A.,
Retired Jt. Director-General of Archaeology, Government of India, New
_ C. Sivaramamurti, M.A.,
Assistant Director, National Museum, New Delhi.
S.K. Saraswati, M.A.
(Calcutta), Curator and Secretary, Victoria Memorial Museum, Calcutta.
D.B. Diskalkar, M.A,
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona.
_ Pandit N. Aiyaswamy Sastri,
Professor of Buddhist Studies, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan.
_ Lama Anagarika Govinda,
German by birth; eminent writer on Buddhism.
_ H.V. Guenther, M.A.,
Ph.D., Austrian by birth; formerly Adhyapaka in Tibetan, Varanaseya
Sanskrit Visvavidyalaya, Varanasi.
_ Padmanabh S. Jaini, M.A.,
Tripitakacharya, Lecturer in Pali, London School of Oriental and African
U.N. Ghoshal, M.A., Ph.D.
(Calcutta), Retired Professor of History, Presidency College, Calcutta.
_ Bhikshu Sangharakshita,
British by birth; noted Buddhist writer, Founder-President of the
Kalimpong Branch of the Maha Bodhi Society.
_ D. Valisinha, B.A.,
General Secretary, Maha Bodhi Society of India, Calcutta.
Anguttara IV, 35; Majjhima XX.
Cf. rudraksam tulasi-kastham, tripundram bhasma-dharanam yatrah snanani
homas ca japah va devadarsanam na ete punanti manujam yatha
yadattha capistaphalam kulocitam kurusva dharmaya makhakriyam iti namo
makhebhyo na hi kamaye sukham parasya dukhkha-kriyaya yad isyate
(hạ tải trọn tập sách này)
Typing: Quang Huong Ngoc Tram & Oanh Tran
Layout: Nhi Tuong
Update : 01-04-2003
Update : 01-03-2003