According to tradition, Christianity was brought to India by Saint Thomas in the first century A.D. According to legends, the Parthian king Gondophernes (C. 19- 45 A.C.) sent a messenger to Syria to look for a skilful architect who would build for him a new city. The messenger returned with St. Thomas, who converted him and many members of his court to Christianity.
It was most probably the frequent trade and movement between India and the west which was responsible for bringing this disciple of Lord Christ to India. The merchants, traders and even craftsmen frequently travelled along popular land and sea routes. St. Tomas preached christianity in many parts of India.
He was killed at Mylapore (near Madras). The tomb of St. Thomas is still to be found at the same place. A large community of Christians known as Syrian Christians continue to reside in Kerala even today.
The Christian Church has two major divisions-the Roman Catholic church and the Protestant church. The holy book of the Christians is the Bible. The Bible contains two parts: the old
Testament and the New Testament. The Bible today is available in all major languages spoken in our country.
Today, we have over one and a half crore Christians in India. Several charitable institutions under their patronage are flourishing in all parts of our country. ( I can bet your city will have one of them )
Perhaps the Christian social workers , he has contributed a great deal for the welfare of the poor and home less in our country
He taught the Four Noble Truths. His path was the middle path. He believed that there is sorrow in this world and that desire is the cause of that sorrow and it can be conquered by following the Eight Fold Path (ashtangika marga).
The eightfold path comprises:
(1) Right understanding,
(2) Right thought,
(3) Right speech,
(4) Right action,
(5) Right livelihood,
(6) Right effort,
(7) Right mindfulness
(8) Right concentration
Established monasteries called Vihars , Interestingly the state of Bihar got its name from Vihars . As at a point of time there were many Vihars in that area .
Later, Buddhism was also split into two divisions- the Hinayana and the Mahayana to which a third called Vajrayana was added subsequently.
Buddhism spread to a very large part of the world- Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Japan, Thailand, Korea, Mongolia and Afghanistan. Even today a substantial population of these countries is Buddhist. (This part will be discussed in International Relations also)
From the point of view of Buddhist revival the most decisive and far-reaching event of modern times occurred when late Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the Untouchable leader, embraced Buddhism at Nagpur on 14th October, 1956 along with half a million followers. Despite his untimely death a few weeks later the movement of mass conversion to Buddhism among the Untouchables snowballed to such an extent that whereas the Census of 1951 returned 181,000 Buddhists for India, that of 1961 recorded 3,250,000, the greatest gains having been made in Maharashtra. With this great upheaval, Buddhism may truly be said to have revived in India and from being the cherished dream of a few’ to have become once more the living hope of millions.’
Mahayana And Hinayana
It was the growth of Mahayana Buddhism which was the next central development in the context of Buddhism Mahayana Buddhism originated in about the 1st century BC in the Andhra region. It became a recognizable form of Buddhism at the time of Kanishka. It could not make much headway in the beginning due to the opposition from orthodox Buddhism It was with the advent of Nagarjuna, the most outstanding exponent of Mahavana that it started gaining popularity. The essential difference between the two branches—Hinayana and Mahavana may be broadly indicated as follows:
(a) Hinayana held firm to the letter of Buddha ‘s teachings, Mahavana to the spirit;
(b) Hinayana developed with the Sangam as the centre, Mahavana with the individual;
(c) Hinayana scriptures are written mainly in Pali and are founded on the Tripitika, Mahavana scriptures written in Sanskrit are the Sutras;
(d) Hinayana believes in salvation by works, that each man must work out hisown salvation, Mahavana in salvation by faith;
(e) Hinayana developed around the acts of Buddha, Mahayana around the symbolism of his life and personality
(f) Hinayana stressed righteous action and the law of Karma Mahavana held that over and above the law of Karma was the law of Karima or compassion;
(g) The Hinayana ideal is arhat, one who strives for his own redemption, Mahayana upholds the ideal of the Bodhisattava or the saviour, who is concerned with the salvation of others;
(h) Hinyana regard Buddha as a man. albeit of extraordinary’ intuition or profound knowledge, and nothing more than a man, and reverse but does not worship him.
Mahavana conceives of Buddha as transcendant being, with idealized and divine qualities such as Mahakaruna (great compassion) and Mahaprajna (great wisdom) loving all, understanding all. and saving all The Hinayana ideal regarded individual salvation as the goal, while the new doctrine aimed at the salvation of all beings. The bodhisattava of the Mahavana was not only a spirit of compassion but also of suffering, who redeemed humanity through his own sufferings. From the idea of the ‘suffering saviour ‘ was derived the concept of Maitreya Buddha.who would appear in future to redeem mankind. The Mahavana created in course of time a pantheon of noble and benelicient Bodhisattavas, who claimed the faith and allegiance of the devotees. The Buddha himself was elevated from a religious teacher to a saviour God. The worship of the image of the Buddha with elaborate rituals, mantras andcharmssoon took the place of the earlier simple faith in him. The earlier practice of worshipping the symbols of the Buddha continued but his image became increasingly common from around the 1 st century before and after the Christian era The Buddha was transformed into a personal God. to whom his followers would turn to for succour in distress. The doctrine of bhakti evolved as a characteristic feature of Mahavana Buddhism.
Buddhism Gautama Buddha or Siddharta was a contemporary of Mahavira. He was born in 563 BC in a Shakya kshatriya family in Kapilvastu, situated in the foothills of Nepal. His mother was a princess from the Koshalan dynasty At the age of 29, he left home and kept wandering for about seven years before attaining knowledge or enlightenment at Bodh Gaya under a pipal tree. Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermons at Sarnath in Benaras and kept on preaching and meditating for 40 years. He passed away at the age of 80 in 483 BC, at a place called Kusinagara in Deona district of eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Buddha discarded the Vedic religion in its totality. He strongly opposed rituals, sacrifices, and ceremonial worship. He condemned the caste system as being false and wrong In this context Buddhism may be regarded as a reaction to the pretensions of Brahmanas and the authority of the Vedas.
The four truths. Aryasatya enunciated by Buddha form the basis of Buddhism These truths relate to suffering, its cause and the means of release from it. The four truths are:
(1) Suffering (dukkha) exists wherever there is life. (2) Desire is the cause of suffering, leading to endless rebirths. The desire for things, existence, experience, immortality, sensual pleasure, worldly possession, and power (3) Release from pain can be achieved only by abandoning desire, crushing one’s individuality and giving up the love of worldly possessions. (4) The last concerns the way out of this circle of suffering and rebirth This is called the middle path which avoids the two extremes, namely, attachment to passion and worldly pleasure on the one hand and the practice of self-mortification and asceticism on the other.
The guiding principles for this path are embodied in a series of precepts called the eight-fold path (Ashtami-marga) which leads to wisdom, calmness, knowledge, enlightenment, and release. The eight rules to be adhered to are
right mindfulness and
The true follower of the eight-fold path attains salvation or nirvana. The attainment of nirvana is the chief objective of Buddhism.
Buddhism, as well as Jainism, are non-theistic in nature The existence of God is irrelevant to the Buddhist doctrine. Buddhism believes that God is not the creator of the Universe because if he were the creator, he would also have to be held responsible for the miseries of the world.
Buddha laid emphasis on self-effort or self-sufficiency, i.e. ‘one who looks unto himself. In Buddhism, nothing is left to the divine intervention. Buddha also believed that the soul does not exist and that there is no transmigration of the soul. The soul dies with the death of the person. What is called the soul is, in reality, a physical or mental aggregate of five impermanent conditions. These are:
Form (the body)
Idea or understanding
The human personality or soul is said to be bound within a process which Buddha called the existence wheel Through ignorance, we keep the wheel revolving and indulge in actions that create Karma. This leads to rebirth and successive existences, all being inseparably bound up with misery. The path to salvation lies in living according to true precepts formulated by Buddha. The question that arises is if the soul dies how does Karma of a man lead to his rebirth9 Milinda Panha has explained this aspect of the Buddhist philosophy in terms of a wave which rises in water, gives birth to another and then disappears itself Karma through consciousness becomes the cause for rebirth.
Like Mahavira, Buddha too laid down several conduct rules or Shila for his followers. In general, the Shilas prohibit the destruction of life and the causing of pain or injury. Ahimsa or non-injury is fundamental to Buddhism. Stealing, falsehood, use of intoxicants, coveting the property of others, lying and indulging in corrupt practices is prohibited Some Shilas prohibit magic, prophecy, astrology, ritual, and worship in any form.
Buddhism took practical form in society as the Sangha (Church or Assembly), a Buddhist order of monks and laymen. Its tenets, which constitute the Dharma (law) were enshrined in the various Buddhist scriptures. Buddha himself was honored as the chief of beings. Sometime after his death, a credo was formalized for the Buddhist discipline: put my faith in the Buddha, the Dharma. and the Sangha. This Buddhist credo is referred to as the Triratna.
Buddha started monasteries (viharas) which were places where monks lived and spent their time praying especially during. There is a mention of holding a special ceremony called Pavarana It was about the confessions of offenses that the monks committed during their stay (the rainy seasons) in monasteries. The viharas were also used as schools attended by people from all strata of society. Some of the more famous were at Nalanda and me ‘tkramshila in Bihar; and Kabhi in Gujarat.
Buddhism, like Jainism, appealed to the socially downtrodden, the vaishyas who were economically powerful but were not granted corresponding social status, and the shudras who were obviously oppressed. And, Buddhism, spread in urban centers too It also won over the patronage of many states, eg. Magadha, Kosala and Kausambi and several Republican states. Ashvaghosha and Nagarjuna played an important role in its spread after Buddha.
After the Death of Buddha
After the death of Buddha, four general councils of the Buddhist church was held The first council met at Rajagriha in 483 BC in which the discourse of Buddha was collected, compiled and embodied in the Pali canon The literature is known as Tripitaka. The second Buddhist council was held at Vaishali (383 BC) and the third in the reign of Ashoka at Pataliputra (250 BC). It was at this council that it was decided to send missionaries to various parts of the subcontinent and to make Buddhism an actively proselytizing religion. The fourth Buddhist council attended by Hieun Tsang was held in Kashmir in the 1st century AD. It recognized the schism in Buddhism One branch was called Hinayana or the ‘followers of the lesser vehicle’ and the other the Mahayana or the ‘followers of the greater vehicle’. Eventually, Hinayana Buddhism found its stronghold in Ceylon. Burma and the countries of south-east Asia, whereas Mahayana Buddhism became the dominant sect in India, central Asia, Tibet, China, and Japan.
In Mahayana Buddhism, belief in the deification of Buddha and image worship, with its usual accompaniments, elaborate rituals, formulae, charms, etc., took the place of simple faith in Buddha It also believed in Bodhisattva, a previous incarnation of Buddha, as leading to salvation. It adopted Sanskrit as the language of religious literature and a new canon was developed. Hinayana, however, continued to practice self-culture and good deeds as the way to salvation
Buddhism disappeared from India by the 12th century’ AD. It became a victim of the evils of Brahmanism against which it had fought initially. To meet the Buddhist challenge, the Brahmanas reformed their religion. The Buddhist monks cut themselves off from the mainstream of people’s life, gave up Pali, and took to Sanskrit. From the 1st century AD, they practised idol worship and received numerous offerings from devotees. Monasteries became centres of corrupt practices. Later, the wealth of the monasteries became a target for Turkish invaders,
Vesak or Buddha Purnima
This day is celebrated to mark the Birth and death of Lord Buddha.