Buddhism is a philosophy and religion that follows practices, traditions and beliefs in a wide variety which are based on the Buddha’s or Siddhartha Gautama’s teachings. In Sanskrit and Pali language, Buddha is known as ‘The Awakening’. Mahayana (Greater) and Theravada (The School of the Elders) vehicle are the two recognized branches of Buddhism. Both the branches have spread all across the globe.
The older branch is Theravada which is spread widely in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. Across East Asia, the other branch Mahayana has a large following. Traditions of the Shinnyo-en, Pure Land, Tendai, Shingon, Zen, Tibetan Buddhism and Nichiren Buddhism are encompassed in the Mahayana branch. In Asia, Buddhism has gained a lot of popularity especially in India.
Buddha or Siddhartha Gautam or Buddha Shakyamuni was born in 624 BC as a prince at a place called Lumbini in northern India which is now Nepal. Name of the royal family he was born into was called ‘Shakya’. The name Siddhartha was given to him, and about his future, a lot of predictions were made. In the royal palace he lived like a prince during his early years. When he became 29 years old he started living in the forest and began meditating. He achieved enlightenment after six years, in Gaya, India, under the tree called the Bodhi Tree. He made requests to others to follow the enlightenment path, subsequently and for this he had to rise from his meditations and begin teaching the first Wheel of Dharma which included tenets like the Sutra for the 4 Noble Truths and various other principles.
Teachings And Practices Of Buddhism
It is towards meditation that the Buddhism practice is geared. Practices of the Zen Buddhists however extend much beyond. In Japan were the seven great Zen Buddhist schools which include Soto and Rinzai. Out of the two, Soto is the most common one. Zen is a word which is derived for mediation from the Sanskrit language. In this technique of meditation, practicing on daily basis is mainly important.A lot of time is spent in meditation by Buddhists. The Rinzai Zen branch uses meditation on the koan. Enlightenment is sought by Zen Buddhism practitioners. The most vital part of Buddhism practice is meditation, however to achieve this goal, other techniques can also be used in addition.
Teachings of the Buddha are termed as ‘Dharma’ in Buddhism religion. To attain nirvana an enlightenment state completely people get involved in a spiritual search. Focus of the religion is mainly on Buddha’s teachings. The Sangha is supported as means for training the mind to achieve nirvana and eliminate suffering. The Ten Commandments and Pali canon or Tripitaka of teachings in Buddhism were the core of Theravada Buddhism. Life of the Buddhist monks is governed by it. Mahayana Buddhism is practiced in Japan, Korea and China. Elements like cosmology and mysticism are included in Mahayana Buddhism which is fragmented into Pure Land Buddhism and Zen Buddhism, the two variants. Spiritual energy internalization is the main focus in Zen Buddhism. In Pure Land Buddhism, the main focus is self confidence and devotion to Buddha Amitabha which is required to attain nirvana.
Mahayana Buddhism influences Vajrayana which is also known as Tantric Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism which very strongly constitutes a significant discipline of Buddhism. Writing and text is contained in Vajrayana including Buddhist tantra and Theraveda Mahayana Buddhism.
Teachings of the Wheel of Dharma were the principal source of the Lesser Vehicle or the Hinayana of Buddhism religion. Later on, Buddha began teaching the second and the third Wheels of Dharma. The teachings included attaining perfection of Sutras related to wisdom and discriminating the Intention Sutra. The teachings of Buddhism are the main source of the Great Vehicle or the Mahayana source. The Hinayana teachings involve methods of liberating oneself from suffering alone. The Mahayana teachings explain methods of attaining Buddhahood or enlightenment to the fullest for the sake of other people. In India, for the first time in Asia, the Buddhism traditions flourished and then slowly they spread across the neighboring countries like Tibet. In the western countries too, Buddhism tradition has started flourishing.
Around 84,000 teachings have been given by Buddha, which reveal many methods of profound spiritual training. He teaches practical methods of controlling and purifying the mind. If people are able to practice these methods regularly then attaining mental peace gets easy. It is possible to diminish a deluded state of mind gradually and there is growth of inner peace. Inner nirvana peace can be permanently attained when delusions are abandoned altogether.
On learning Buddha’s teachings, a person is able to overcome ignorance, attachment with others and anger and develop a profound realization of universal love, wisdom, concentration and compassion spiritually and thus be able to help others also. You will be able to help others find solutions to their problems forever. Inner peace gained cannot be destroyed even by death. Final goal of the path towards Buddhism is finally attained an inner peace that remains unchanged forever.
The Four Noble Truths
The four Noble Truths are as follows:
1. The Noble Truth of Dukkha which is suffering, stress and dissatisfaction.
2. The Noble Truth of arising from Dukkha which is wanting, clinging and grasping.
3. The Noble Truth of Nirvana which is ending Dukkha or the awakening of the mind.
4. The Noble Path of Truth that leads to awakening or nirvana.
It is from these four noble truths that the teachings in Buddhism follow.
Important Places Of Buddhism Pilgramage
India is a country where Hinduism dominates. However people of different faiths live in India in harmony. In search of salvation and truth, spiritual people come from various places in the world. One of the most popular religions in India is Buddhism. Northern India has many places associated with Buddhism pilgrimage which are important destinations for tourists. The birthplace of Buddhist beliefs and faiths is also Bihar in East India. Buddhism spread to Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet etc gradually.
In these countries, the Buddhism is a dominating religion. Here you get to see beautifully architectured Buddhist monasteries and temples. Sikkim, Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Tawant, Patna, Dharamshala, Varanasi, Lumbini, Ajanta and Ellora Caves are some of the important Buddhism sites in India. Rich heritage, culture and several centers of teaching run at these places for the growth of Buddhism belief.
In the world one religion that is considered very old is Jainism. It is better known as Nirgranth Dharma, Shraman Dharma, Jina, etc. Jainism is an independent religion. During different time periods, it has been known by different names. The Tirthankars taught this religion. This religion’s name is derived from the 24 greatteachers or the Tirthankars.The last of the tirthankars is Mahavira who is considered as the founder of this popular religion, Jainism. An individual who follows Jina or Jainism religion is called a Jain.History of the religion originates in India dating back to the 6th century BC.
It was in the state of Bihar, India that Lord Mahavir was born on the 13th day of the rising moon, Chaitra month (April) as per the Gregorian calendar. Each year, Jains celebrate this day as Mahavir Jayanti.
Mahavir was born as a prince. His parents gave him the name Vardhaman. At his command he had a lot of services, worldly comforts and pleasures. Mahavira left his royal household at the age of thirty. To eliminate suffering, sorrow and pain he became a monk, and gave up worldly possessions. In deep meditation and silence, he spent the next 12 ½ years to conquer attachments, feelings and desires. He avoided harming plants, birds and animals, abstained from food for prolonged periods and in unbearable hardships he remained peaceful and calm. Mahavira was the name he earned for such qualities like being courageous and brave. He developed amazing spiritual powers during this period and reached self realization and perfect enlightenment or keval jnana. After this period he travelled across India, barefooted for the next three decades.
Mahavira preached eternal truth to people. Attaining complete freedom from the cycle of death, misery, pain, life and birth was the ultimate objective of his teachings. In the process, the person is able to attain a permanent blissful state, nirvana, liberation, moksha or absolute freedom. According to the belief of Mahavira, since eternity, it is karma that fetters every soul or living being.Bad and good deeds are responsible in accumulating the karmic atoms. People generally become self centered, follow violent deeds and thoughts, hatred, greed and anger etc since they seek pleasure in materialistic possessions and belongings, habitually. He preached that that right conduct, knowledge and faith were the main path to free the soul from karma’s bondage.
Teachings And Practices Of Jainism
The Tirthankars who taught Jainism religion were all human beings. The last and twenty fourth Tirthankar was Lord Mahavira. Through self realization and meditation the Tirthankars attained a state of enlightenment or perfection. According to the Jains, the Tirthankars are supreme and the most perfect human beings. For them the concept of God as a destroyer, protector and creator does not exist. Jainism does not accept the idea of reincarnation of God for destroying demons.
Main goal of Jainism is that accumulated karma is eliminated and the jiva or self is liberated from rebirth. Accumulated karma is nothing by the karma or deeds of previous actions. To attain liberation controlling any kind of bodily passion and cultivating knowledge in a disciplined manner is very necessary. On conquering the passions, the previous karma gets removed and the person becomes a conqueror or a Jina. A Jina no longer has to go through the process of rebirth, according to Jainism.
A multilayered universe which contains both hell and heaven is conceived by Jainism. Adherence to the doctrines of Jainism is necessary if the person is looking towards moving through these levels. The religion emphasizes a disciplined and peaceful life. In all parts of life whether it is mental, verbal or physical, the principle of non violence is included.
The other principles to be followed are detachment from materialistic things, sexual monogamy and following the truth always. Jain people are vegetarians, follow non violent lifestyle, and are disciplined. They restrict occupations like farming since it involves killing insects in the plowing process. In the ethical system of Jainism, the basis lies on the idea that conduct, faith and knowledge must be simultaneously cultivated.
Five Important Pillars Of Jainism Include:
2. Non violence
4. Non stealing
5. Non attachment or non possession
Important Places Of Jainism Pilgrimage
Jain religion is known for its well principled life and in India it is a minority religion, presently. India has a number of important places of pilgrimage related to Jainism. These places are worth enjoying for their architecture, art and natural beauty. Visiting these places help in understanding the culture followed in Jainism religion. The Jain community is virtuous and talented and has contributed a lot to the architecture, culture and art in India. In many foreign countries too, there are numerous Jains living who have built some beautiful temples in those countries.
• Rajagriha, In Bihar State, India
Away from Sammed Shikharji at 80 kms is located Rajagriha, a sacred place for Buddhists and Jains. The 24th Tirthankar, Lord Mahavira preached from here.The Japanese Buddhist society erected a picturesque temple and stupa on the 2250 feet hill which also has a ropeway to reach up fast in less than seven to eight minutes.
• Champapuri In Bihar State, India
Champapuri temple has been constructed centuries ago in the honor of Vasupujya a Jain prophet, believed by Jains to be Sri Rama’s contemporary. There is a park in front of the temple showcasing incidents related to Jain mythology and history.
• Sammed Shikharji In Jharkhand State, India
In Jharkhand State, India, is situated the Sammed Shikharji or the Prasanatha Hill. It is a belief that around 20 Tirthankars out of the 24 Tirthankars attained salvation and left their mortal bodies here. Hence a lot of Jains visit it walking all the way to the hill, once in a lifetime. Dolis are used by coolies to carry the disabled up the hill.
• Kundalapur In Nalanda District In Bihar, India
Lord Mahivera was born at Kundalapur as the local kingdom’s prince. A holy complex comprising an exhibition building, guest houses and beautiful temples have been built by Aryika Jnanamathi Mataji a prominent Jain on 2 acres land. Statues made in marble of the first Tirthankar, Rishabh Dev and Lord Mahavira are found here.
• Ranakpur Jain Temple In Rajasthan State, India
In Ranakpur village in Rajasthan, India stands the white marble Ranakpur Jain Temple which has been built in honor of Lord Rishabhdev, the first Jain prophet. It took five decades to construct it.
• Pavapuri, In Nalanda District, Bihar, India
At the place where the Pavapuri temple is located, Lord Mahavira attained Moksha and left his carnal body there. His footprints are still believed to be there in the temple which has a Jal Mandir and Lotus Pond surrounding it.
In the 6th to the 5th (551 – 479) century BC, Confucius taught a way of life called Confucianism which is viewed at times as religion and at times, philosophy. Confucianism was founded in China. These western terms have been derived from the Latinized word Confucius coined in the 18th century in Europe.Perhaps it is understood better as humanism in an all encompassing form that denies neither heaven nor hell.
Since more than 2 millennia, the Chinese have followed Confucianism. Political and spiritual life has been influenced deeply in China with its influence extending to Vietnam, Korea and Japan. Even if Asians from the East profess that they are Christians, Shintoists, Muslims, Buddhists or Taoists, they seldom cease to be Confucians. Around 5 to 6 million people adhere to this religion.
In Lu, which is now Shantung Province in China, Confucius was born in 551 BC. It is believed that his ancestors were aristocrats but by the time Confucius was born, they had become almost poverty stricken commoners. At three years of age, Confucius lost his father and his mother instructed him. In his teenage years, he became a passionate learner.He worked in granaries and kept book, managed stables and served at minor posts in the government. At the age of 19 he married a woman from a similar background.
He became familiar with history, classical traditions, poetry and mastered arithmetic, calligraphy, rituals, archery and charioteering. In his 30s he started a brilliant teaching career and started developing concepts about government, society and education and expected to use this in his political career. He got alienated from Chi families, the holders of power during that time due his loyalty to the king. His seniors showed no interest in his policies, which he realized at the age of 56.
In search of another state he left the country with a circle of students. He went through a self imposed exile of twelve years and his earned reputation as a man with a mission and a vision. He came back home at the age of 67 and began editing and writing, to preserve and teach classical traditions he cherished. At the age of 73, he died in 479 BC.He set his heart on learning at 15, took a firm stand at 30, had no delusions at 40, knew the Mandate at 50, attuned his ear at 60 and followed the desires of his heart at 70. He never overstepped the boundaries of ‘right’.
Teachings And Practices Of Confucianism
No specific practice or rituals are prescribed by the Confucianism religion. It only follows ethical principles that are important. Benevolence or humaneness is Confucianism’s main principle. In accordance with xiao (filial piety), shu (reciprocity), zhong (being loyal to your nature) and li (ritual norms), it signifies excellent character. Virtue is constituted in accordance to this. A view of human nature that is highly optimistic is characterized by Confucianism. In the Confucian tradition, the most revered scripture that is considered sacred is the Lun’yu which Confucius’s disciples of the second generation had compiled.
In this faith, it is believed that it is possible for any human being who is ordinary to become a worthy person or a sage who is truly awe inspiring. This faith is rooted deeply in the Confucian heritage. According to the insistence of Confucius, a human being is perfectible, improvable and teachable through communal and personal endeavour. Confucius considered Heaven as a personal and positive force within the universe. He was not a skeptic or an agnostic.
During 500 BC, Confucius’s teachings played a vital role in the way of living, behavior and character of the Chinese. Main purpose of the religion is achieving social value and harmony. It emphasizes strongly the fulfillment of responsibilities, social order and mercy which can be achieved if everyone behaves properly with the others and has roles that are well defined. Confucianism follows the principles which are equivalent to the concepts of humanity, mercy and love. The religion teaches that you must not do those things to others which you do not want them to do to you. If a person does a lot of merciful acts then through incarnation, the next life he will live will be a better one.
• Five Cardinal Relations As Per The Confucianism Belief
3. Elder Brother –Younger Brother
For any individual, the family should come first. The family’s undisputed head has to be the father with the elder son having specific obligations towards the rest of the family. He is expected to care for and respect the parents. If he thinks of committing suicide then it is not considered as a deviant behavior necessarily in pre modern China especially if it was associated with loyalty or duty towards the family. ‘Li’ or the ‘propriety or proper way’ is the other belief including rules set for interacting with the role system and others. Highly important and valued are obedience, emotional control and restraint to ‘face’, conforming and authority.
Important Places Of Confucianism Pilgrimage
In the southwest corner of Shanghai, China is located the Wen Miao or the Confucian Temple with beautiful statues, garden and an old pagoda. It is dedicated to the study of texts written by Confucius and his worship. Before it was constructed in 1855 on its current site it was moved four times to different locations. During the time of the Taiping Rebellion, it suffered a lot of damage.
At Peking is located Tiananmen Square where the police killed a large number of students in 1989 C.E.The holy mountains of Mount Wu-T’ai and Mount T’ai are given great value by the three main religions of China where prayers are offered by the officials on behalf of the people.
The birthplace of Confucius, Ch’u-fu is a pilgrimage site. The Temple of Heaven at Peking site is also a pilgrimage site for Confucians. On behalf of the nation, imperial ceremonies are performed at this location.
Confucianism has a strong influence on the people in countries like Japan, Vietnam and Korea.