Buddhism Ancient History UPSC Notes

Buddhism  Ancient History UPSC Notes

Founder of Buddhism – Mahatma Buddha

Birthplace of Mahatma Buddha – was born near Kapilavastu in Lumbini in 563 BC.

History and Origin of Buddhism

Discover the fascinating history and origins of Buddhism, a profound philosophy that continues to illuminate minds around the world.

Buddha, meaning “illuminating,” was born to King Shuddhodhana of the Shakya dynasty in Kapilavastu. His mother, Princess Mahamaya of the Koliya state, tragically passed away just seven days after his birth. He was then raised by his aunt.

During his childhood, Siddhartha Gautama, as he was known, showed great potential. His journey towards enlightenment began with four significant encounters that awakened his sense of renunciation:

  1. An encounter with an elderly person
  2. Witnessing the suffering of a sick person
  3. Coming face-to-face with the reality of death
  4. Witnessing a contented ascetic

Inspired by these encounters, Siddhartha Gautama renounced his luxurious life at the age of 29, an event known as Mahabhinishkramana.

Under the guidance of his initial gurus, Acharya Alar Kalam and Ramputra, Siddhartha embarked on a six-year spiritual quest. Finally, at the age of 35, on the auspicious night of Vaishakh Purnima, he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree near the Niranjana River. From that moment onwards, Siddhartha Gautama became known as Buddha.

Explore the profound teachings and wisdom of Buddha, a timeless source of enlightenment and spiritual growth.

Core Beliefs of Buddhism

Buddhism is based on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which are considered as fundamental teachings of Buddha. The Four Noble Truths are:

  • The truth of suffering
  • The truth of the cause of suffering
  • The truth of the end of suffering
  • The truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering

The Eightfold Path is a set of guidelines that Buddhists follow to achieve enlightenment and break free from the cycle of rebirth. It consists of:

  • Right understanding
  • Right intention
  • Right speech
  • Right action
  • Right livelihood
  • Right effort
  • Right mindfulness
  • Right concentration

Buddhism also emphasizes the concept of impermanence and the law of karma, which explains that our actions have consequences and we must act with intention to achieve happiness and peace.

The Spread of Buddhism

After the passing of Buddha, his teachings were carried on by his disciples who formed a community known as the Sangha. Buddhism quickly spread across India and neighboring countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Emperor Ashoka played a pivotal role in the expansion of Buddhism by adopting it as the state religion and sending missionaries to other parts of Asia.

Today, Buddhism is practiced by millions worldwide, with a significant following in East and Southeast Asia. Its teachings of compassion, mindfulness, and non-violence continue to inspire people from diverse backgrounds and contribute to creating a better world. Let us follow the path of Mahatma Buddha and promote love, peace, and harmony wherever we go. Remember, we all have the potential to awaken the Buddha within us! Are you ready to embark on this journey? Spread the message of Buddha far and wide! Namo Buddhaya! (homage to the Awakened One).

Let us be part of this peaceful revolution that has shaped humanity for over two millennia. The world needs more Buddhas now than ever before. Will you join us? The choice is yours. Together, let us find peace and liberation from suffering. The journey of Buddhism continues, and the light of Buddha shines brighter each day. Let us become bearers of this light and share it with the world. May we all awaken to our true potential and live lives filled with compassion, wisdom, and enlightenment. Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa! (homage to the Blessed One, the Perfectly Enlightened One).

The legacy of Mahatma Buddha continues to inspire and guide us toward a life of peace, love, and wisdom. Let us keep his teachings alive in our hearts. Namo Buddhaya! Namo Dhammaya! Namo Sanghaya! (homage to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha). May we all find peace and liberation in this lifetime. The journey of Buddhism never ends; it evolves and spreads with each passing day. Let us be part of this timeless legacy and contribute to creating a more compassionate and peaceful world for all beings. Namo Buddhaya! Namo Dhammaya! Namo Sanghaya!

Let us carry the light of Buddha and spread it to every corner of the world. May we all awaken to our true potential and live lives filled with compassion, wisdom, and enlightenment. The legacy of Mahatma Buddha continues to inspire and guide us toward a life of peace, love, and wisdom. Let us keep his teachings alive in our hearts. Namo Buddhaya! Namo Dhammaya! Namo Sanghaya!

The First Sermon: Buddha’s Enlightening Message Unveiled in Sarnath

During his journey, Buddha encountered Tapassu and Bhallika, two individuals from the Shudra caste who became his first followers. Upon his arrival in Rajgriha, he received a warm welcome from Bimbisara and was granted the Venuvana.

At the request of his disciple Ananda, Buddha opened the doors of the monastery to women, allowing them to become part of the Buddhist community. Prajapati Gautami became the first female nun ordained by him.

Twenty years after attaining enlightenment, Buddha arrived in Shravasti, where he transformed a dacoit named Angulimal into one of his disciples.

Through these significant events, Buddha’s teachings spread and his followers grew, shaping the path of Buddhism for centuries to come.


He fell ill after eating at his disciple Chand’s house and died here at the age of 80 in 483 BC. Before death, he gave his last sermon at Subhadd’s house.

After death, ashes were sent to 8 places, where 8 stupas were built.

Teachings and principles of Buddhism

Creation is painful and temporary. Denied the existence of God and the Vedas.

Rejected the birth-based caste system.

There is a reason behind every event. This principle is known as Pratityasamutpada.

Buddha emphasized Nirvana upon attainment, which means freedom from life and death.

Buddhist Councils

Buddhist Councils have been organized to promote Buddhism, with four Councils held to date. They are as follows:

  1. First Buddhist Council – Rajgriha
  2. Second Buddhist Council – Vaishali
  3. Third Buddhist Council – Pataliputra
  4. Fourth Buddhist Council – Kundalvana

At the core of Buddhism’s teachings are the Four Noble Truths, which are:

  1. Dukkha (The truth of suffering) – According to Buddhism, everything is a source of sorrow (Sabbam Dukham). It refers to the inherent tendency of individuals to experience grief rather than the specific agony and sadness they may have encountered.
  2. Samudaya (The truth of the cause of suffering) – The fundamental source of suffering is Trishna (desire). Every affliction serves a purpose and is an inevitable part of life.
  3. Nirodha (The truth of the end of suffering) – The attainment of Nibbana/Nirvana can bring an end to suffering.
  4. Ashtangika-Marga (The truth of the path leading to the end of suffering) – The eightfold path provides a solution to suffering.

Unlearning to Rediscover: The Eight-Fold Path to Transcendence

  1. Right Vision (Samma-Ditthi) – Understanding the nature of reality and the path of transformation.
  2. Right Thought or Attitude (Samma-Sankappa) – Cultivating emotional intelligence and acting from a place of love and compassion.
  3. Right or Whole Speech (Samma-Vacca) – Engaging in truthful, straightforward, uplifting, and non-harmful communication.
  4. Right or Integral Action (Samma-Kammanta) – Establishing a moral foundation based on non-exploitation of oneself and others. It encompasses five rules that serve as an ethical code of conduct for both monastics and laypeople, including refraining from violence, envy, unethical behavior, use of intoxicants, and lying.
  5. Right or Proper Livelihood (Samma-Ajiva) – Emphasizing a livelihood rooted in ethical standards and non-exploitative actions, serving as the foundation for a harmonious society.
  6. Right Effort or Energy (Samma-Vayama) – Intentionally directing life energy towards transformative and healing actions that promote wholeness, leading to conscious evolution.
  7. Right Mindfulness (Samma-Sati) or Thorough Awareness (Samma-Sati) – Understanding oneself and observing one’s own behavior. As Buddha said, “If you value yourself, keep a close eye on yourself.”
  8. Right Concentration (Samma-Samadhi) or Meditation (Samma-Samadhi) – Immersing one’s entire being in different levels or modes of consciousness and awareness.

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Mudras in Buddhism: Understanding and Symbolism

Mudras play a significant role in Buddhist practices, representing various aspects of enlightenment and spiritual connection. Let’s explore some of the key mudras in Buddhism:

  1. Dharmachakra Mudra: Also known as the “Wheel of Dharma” mudra, this gesture is demonstrated by Vairochana, the first Dhyani Buddha. It symbolizes the continuous turning of the wheel of Buddhist teachings.
  2. Bhumisparsha Mudra: Meaning “touching the soil,” this mudra is depicted by Akshobhya, the second Dhyani Buddha. It represents the moment of enlightenment and the overcoming of obstacles on the path to awakening.
  3. Varada Mudra: This mudra, shown by Ratnasambhava, the third Dhyani Buddha, represents kindness, compassion, and blessings. It signifies the desire to devote oneself to the betterment of humanity.
  4. Dhyana Mudra: Demonstrated by Amitabha, the fourth Dhyani Buddha, the Dhyana mudra is a gesture of meditation and deep contemplation.
  5. Abhaya Mudra: Meaning “fearlessness,” this mudra is depicted by Amoghasiddhi, the sixth Dhyani Buddha. It symbolizes safety, tranquility, and the removal of fear.

Spread of Buddhism in India: Historical Significance

Buddhism has left a profound impact on Indian culture and beyond. Here are some key aspects of its influence:

  • Dissemination of Teachings: Buddha’s followers, including monks and lay worshippers, actively spread his teachings, leading to the rapid growth of Buddhism in North India.
  • Ashoka’s Contribution: Emperor Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism and subsequent missionary efforts played a vital role in spreading Buddhism to various regions, including West Asia, Ceylon, Greece, and Southeast Asia.
  • Cultural Enrichment: Buddhism’s principles, such as ahimsa (non-violence), have significantly influenced Indian culture. The architectural marvels of stupas in Sanchi, Bharhut, and Gaya reflect the artistic expression inspired by Buddhism.
  • Centers of Learning: Residential universities like Taxila, Nalanda, and Vikramasila were established to promote education and foster intellectual growth influenced by Buddhist teachings.
  • Global Impact: Buddhism’s message of peace, accommodation, and compassion has transcended borders, impacting societies worldwide. It has sparked spiritual awakenings and influenced various intellectual systems.

Today, India stands as a repository of Buddhist heritage, offering pilgrimage sites and fostering cultural exchanges. The ideals of Buddhism continue to resonate, promoting peace, inclusivity, and compassion in modern societies.

Discover the profound impact of Buddhism and experience its transformative teachings through pilgrimage, the presence of the Dalai Lama, and India’s commitment to global goodwill.

Explore the wonders of Buddhism and its rich cultural heritage in India! #Buddhism #IndianCulture #SpiritualAwakening #PeacefulJourney

The decline of Buddhism:

Buddhism gradually waned from its birthplace in the early 12th century, influenced by various factors. Some key contributors to its decline include:

  1. Corruption in the Buddhist Sangha:
  2. Sects of Buddhism:
  3. Use of Sanskrit language:
  4. Introduction of image worship:
  5. Persecution of Buddhists:
  6. Conquest of India by Muslims:

Despite its decline in India, Buddhism continues to flourish in various other parts of the world.

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