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Short Essay on Buddhism

Buddhism term paper

❶A Short History of Buddhism.

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In the third he identified the four noble truths: This final point is called the Noble Eightfold Path, this being eight steps consisting of wisdom right views, right intention ethics right speech, right action, right livelihood , mental discipline right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration , which ultimately lead to liberation from the source of suffering. Although initially hesitant to share his insight on the grounds that humanity might not be ready for such a teaching, the Buddha decided to communicate his discovery to those willing to listen.

His first converts were the five ascetics with whom he had lived when he himself followed the lifestyle of the ascetic.

Out of this small group the community of monks or sangha grew to about sixty in size and included Buddha's cousin, Ananda, and his son, Rahula. Later the Buddha was persuaded by his step-mother and cousin to accept women into the sangha. The remaining forty-five years of the Buddha's life were spent journeying around the plain of the Ganges, teaching and receiving visitors. At the age of 79 the Buddha fell seriously ill and died. During his life the Buddha had taught that no one was to succeed him as leader of the Sangha.

Instead, his followers were to take his teaching and rule as their sole guides. A second council, which is said to have taken place a century after the Buddha's death, took place at Vaisali. The purpose of this council was to consider allegations that certain monks at Vaisali permitted ten practices that contravened the rules of conduct of the Vinaya. The Vaisali Council condemned these practices, after which the Council was closed. At some point following the Second Council the Sangha divided into two traditions: The difference between the two traditions seems to relate to their perception of the status of the lay person and the status of the arhant.

Whereas the Mahasanghikas were more open to the laity practising Buddhism and tended to believe that the lay person was capable of becoming an arhant, the Sthaviravadins believed that monastic life alone could lead to arahantship and, therefore, nirvana.

Sometime in the 3rd century B. The name "Sarvastivadin" is believed to derive from the phrase sarva asti everything exists. The Sarvastivadins taught that the dharmas, the most basic elements of existence, exist in the past, present and future which are simply modes of being. The growth of this movement led King Asoka, of the Maurya dynasty, to call the third Buddhist Council at Pataliputra c. This decision prompted some of them to emigrate to north India and establish a center in Kashmir where they survived for about a thousand years.

Another group that emerged in the 3rd century B. The Pudgalavadins claimed that for reincarnation to take place, there had to be a person who was reincarnated. This view was criticised by other Buddhist sects who said that Pudgalavadin teaching implied the reality of a self and, therefore, contradicted the basic Buddhist teaching of anatman no self. Those Sthaviravadins who did not accept the doctrines of either the Sarvastivadins or the Pudgalavadins came to be called Vibhajyadins 'Distinctionists'.

This group formed a number of branches, of which the largest and most important were the Theravadins of Ceylon. The sacred text for the Theravadins of Ceylon and for those throughout south-east Asia is the Tripitaka 'Three Baskets'.

These three baskets consist of the Vinaya Pitaka rules for monks and nuns , the Sutta Pitaka the discourses given by the Buddha and the Abhidhamma Pitaka the systematic ordering and analysis of Buddhist doctrine. Accompanying the Tripitaka was a large body of commentarial literature explaining in detail the meaning of particular sutras. The movement associated with these texts came over time to call itself the Mahayana 'Great Vehicle' in contrast to non-Mahayana schools which were pejoratively named Hinayana 'Lesser Vehicle'.

In India Mahayana Buddhism developed through a number of stages. Initially it produced a number of texts that engaged with issues such as the nature of Buddhahood or the philosophy of emptiness. Later identifiable schools such as Madhyamaka and Yogacara emerged. Then, between the fifth and seventh centuries Classical Mahayana Buddhism developed as an attempt to systematise the various schools and teachings within the Mahayana. Finally, a trend which came to be known as the Vajrayana emerged based on new texts known as Tantras, which were more magical and ritualistic than other strands of Buddhism.

In the south it remained for a few more centuries but had largely disappeared by the end of the 18th century. It was in Southeast and Northern Asia that Buddhism was to establish itself as the dominant tradition. The Buddhism of south-east Asia is largely Theraravadin. When Buddhism came to Southeast Asia is unknown.

Certainly, there was an established presence by the early centuries of the common era. Archaeological and inscriptional evidence indicates the presence of southern Buddhism in Central Burma by the fifth century C. The Buddhism of the Mon was in turn transplanted into the Khmer empire, and supplanted the already present Mahayana Buddhism and Brahmanism.

From both the Mon and the Khmer Southern Buddhism was adopted by the Tai peoples, whose principalities emerged in regions now occupied by parts of modern day Thailand, Burma and Laos. Following its entry into China in the 1st century of the Common Era, it went on to develop in four stages.

Up to the 4th century Buddhism gradually spread into China from Central Asia as Mahayana sutras were translated into Chinese and Indian schools established themselves. During this period Buddhism remained largely a fringe religion. The second stage came about as a result of the fall of the Han dynasty in CE, the invasion of northern China in c. In the northern foreign occupied part of the country Buddhism's status as a foreign religion ceased to be problematic; in the south Buddhism received support from the educated classes with the consequence that distinctively Chinese forms of Buddhism began to emerge.

The third period is represented by the reunion of the country under the Sui and T'ang dynasties. Unification allowed for new transmissions of Buddhism into the country while also fostering the cultivation of indigenous forms of Chinese Buddhism such as T'ien T'ai, Hua-Yen, Ch'an and Ching-Tu.

The fourth stage began with the persecution of Buddhism in the 9th century. The different types of Buddhism spread across the world led to a common practice and belief among people. Therevada was one of the first types of Buddhist practices. Therevada originated mainly in Thailand. Buddha is seen as a historical figure rather than a deity unlike other Buddhism sects.

Therevada practices were rigid, believing in only their teachings. Therevada studied a large collection of scriptures and focused on monastic life. Mahayana focused on a more liberal form of Buddhism to enwrap different cultures using a variety of methods.

Unlike Therevada Buddhism, Buddha was seen almost as a deity. Mahayana spread across China, Korea and Japan. The variety in teaching and practices made Mahayana a more popular form of Buddhism, which spread, among different countries enabling people to perform different practices.

Zen Buddhism like Therevada is more focused on certain practices and teachings. Also, like Mahayana, Zen absorbed different teachings, such as Taoism, as it spread across china to Japan. Zen mainly focuses on meditation.

It fully disregards Buddhist scriptures and intellectual teaching unlike the other Buddhism sects. Zen enlightenment is based on direct experience and concentration such as Zazen, sitting meditation.


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Buddhism Classified as one of the largest religions in the world, Buddhism is heavily concentrated in the Indian subcontinent. Founded by Buddha, one must achieve their own spiritual awakening, or nirvana, through meditation and ethical living.

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- Buddhism Buddhism, like most other religions, originated in a particular place at a particular time, and its roots are in forms and ideas that were part of the environment in which it developed. The most important of these areas at the time of the Buddha was the valley of the Ganges river which flows from west to east across most of northern India.

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