Various sources claim that the mother of Gautama died at birth. Others say it was a few days later. The child was given the name Siddhartha. Later texts indicate that Gautama was unfamiliar with the dominant religious teachings of his time until he went on his religious quest. He may have been motivated by the existentialist concern of the human condition.
Vesak is usually celebrated on the full moon between late April and May. It is also known by Visakah Puja or Buddha Purnima in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, Visakha Bucha in Thailand, Visakha Puja in Cambodia, Phat Dan in Vietnam, Waisak in Indonesia, Vesak Day or Wesak in Sri Lanka and Malaysia and Saga Dawa in Tibet. In Laos, the equivalent holiday is Vixakha Bouxa and in Burma, it is called Ka-sone.
Each country has had its own traditions in commemorating the Buddha Shakyamuni as the founder of a religious and philosophical movement. Often the monks spend their days reciting mantras in public and bless the devotees. They also offer food to the poor. People practice religious rites and decorate houses and streets with lights and lanterns manufactured for the occasion.
Buddhism is one of the oldest and most widespread religions the in the world but was eclipsed in its place of origin by Hinduism and Islam. Buddhism and Hinduism were two parallel religions in some respects. They differed in theory and practice in many other cases. Buddhism and Jainism, shared a regional culture. In Buddhism, the fundamental concept of redemption appears in a form very similar to that of Jainism.
Ancient India had different lines of thought. The dominant Vedic people absorbed it into what is later known as Hinduism. All the currents have existed together for thousands of years, influencing and being influenced each other, during all that time.
Ancient Vedism was also greatly influenced by Buddhist cosmology. It incorporated several existing beliefs. Thus Tibetan Buddhism can be seen as a continuation of Buddhism as it existed in India before the Aryan and Islamic invasions. Many Hindu texts, such as the Puranas, have been written and composed after the birth of Siddhartha Gautama. In several of them, Buddha is mentioned. The consensus at the dissemination level is that the Bhagavad Gita is also later, just like the first five Upanishads.
Almost every Sanskrit religious term has its equivalent in the Buddhist lexicon in Hindu philosophy. In any case, many of these terms were reinterpreted or redefined in the Vedic tradition. Buddhists in one of the branches of Mahayana Buddhism worship many deities that are common to those in the Vedic tradition. It includes deities which the Indians no longer worship, such as Indra. Indra is revered by Chinese, Koreans and Japanese as Taishakuten, as well as the elephant god Ganesha is venerated as Lord Shoten.
In the Tibetan Kanjur, it is said that Buddha had taught Ganapati Hridaya mantra to his disciple Ananda. Buddhists believe that a newborn child can be the reincarnation of a teacher. In Vedic India, the concept of reincarnation was written for the first time in the Upanishads. No Buddhist school recognizes the Hindu texts or the Vedas as sacred.
The Vedic scriptures accept different Buddhist traditions, who converted Buddha as one of the avatars of Vishnu. It is not accepted by Buddhists, who consider Buddha a human being who reached the enlightenment. Like every Buddha, he is superior to any deva.
Buddhists accept the conversion of anyone, while most schools of Hinduism do not allow conversions. Buddhism never had the caste system, while Hinduism imposed it. Sometimes, people believe that religion means to believe in a god or gods, and identify with the theistic position of a particular shape or religious convention. Often, theistic religions consider Buddhism an atheist religion or do not believe it as a religion.
They consider it a philosophy or psychology because Buddhism does not start from a theistic position. It traces its roots to a metaphysical or doctrinal position, but from the common to all mankind the experience of suffering. Buddhism assumes that reflection, contemplation and comprising one common human experience, can transcend all mental illusions that create it.
The Charvaka doctrine of ancient thought is a pre-Vedic and atheistic native of India. It is considered strongly blasphemous by Vedic Indians because it denies any value to the Vedas, one of the fundamental pillars of the modern Indian religion, and with them the whole doctrine, rituals, and mythology linked to them.
A Buddha, according to Buddhism is a being who has reached the highest degree of enlightenment. Due to some very common misconceptions, it should be emphasized that Gautama Buddha is neither a god nor the first Buddha. A Buddha, according to the schools that do not accept the doctrines of Mahayana and related sutras considers only the canonical teachings contained in the Agama-Nikāya, in the Abhidharma and Vinaya.
In the tradition of Buddhism of Nikāya and Theravada Buddhism, but also Mahayana and Vajrayana, recognize six Buddhas of the past that would have preceded Gautama Buddha.
Buddhism has been popular in South-East Asia and the Far East, reaching even in the West from the nineteenth century. The word Buddhism is of recent coinage. It was introduced in Europe in the nineteenth century to refer to that which is correlated to the teachings of Siddhārtha Gautama. In fact, a single word to express this concept does not exist in any of the original Asian countries in this religious tradition.
Buddha lived between the sixth and fourth centuries BC. Gautama was born in Lumbini, near Kapilavastu, the city where his father Śuddhodana reigned. It is located in Nepal in the foothills of the Himalayas. It was one of the cities of Shakya Clan, who identified themselves as Kshatriyas. His mother Mayadevi came from the clan of Koliyas, sometimes ally and sometimes adversary of Shakya. Sakya was a warrior tribe that dominated the country and which had as its legendary founder King Ikṣvāku.
The prince married young, at the age of sixteen, to Yashodhara, with whom he had a son, Rahula. Shortly, he decided to renounce the family life and then moved to the Magadha kingdom to follow the teachings of Uddaka Ramaputta. Initially, Gautama went to Rajgir in the Indian state of Bihar and began his ascetic life.
The arrival of the Buddha in the capital city of the Magadha kingdom provoked a wave of conversions. It included that of the King Bimbisara, who was the king of the most powerful state in northern India. For the next 45 years, Buddha traveled to the Gangetic plains of the present day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and southern Nepal. He taught a wide variety of people. All traditions agree on the fact that Siddhartha Gautama was a contemporary of the two kings of Magadha, Bimbisara, and his son Ajatashatru.
He meditated, sitting under a fig tree in Bodh Gaya. Buddha finally came to Sarnath near Varanasi. In fact there are few historical records about the life of the founder of Buddhism. Some of the dates are controversial. No records have been found from Gautama's life. The writings are from a few centuries later after his death.
The Buddhist texts of Gandhara are the oldest Buddhist manuscripts that have reached to our days. It was written between the first century BC and the third century AD. It was found near Hadda near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. They are currently preserved in the British Library. They were written in Kharosthi characters in Gandhara language and in rolls of the bark of birch.
It is therefore difficult to separate myth and reality and historically locate the events of the life of the Buddha. The findings presented to us are not always reliable. Most of the sources date back at least two hundred years behind the events of the life of Siddhartha Gautama. In addition, the Indian historical chronicles are not strict in separating real events in myth and legend.
All traditional sources, however, agree that Siddhārtha Gautama lived around eighty years. According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Pali canon, he ate his last food which he had received as an offering from a blacksmith named Cunda. Some argue that Buddha may have died of food poisoning. Theravada tradition generally holds that the Buddha was offered some kind of pork.
The native language of Buddha remains a mystery. Chances are that he taught in one or more varieties of dialects of the Indo-Aryan languages. Traditional biographies on Siddhartha Gautama generally include numerous miracles, prophecies, and supernatural events. The character of Buddha in these traditional biographies is often that of a totally transcendent and perfected being. It is contrary to the obstacles of worldly life.
In modern times there have been attempts to create a more secular understanding of the life of the Sakyamuni by omitting the supernatural elements found in the early biographies. An example of this can be seen in the Jain scriptures that make the time of Gautama Buddha one of the periods of the early history of India with more documentation on the subject of everyday life. There is reasonable assurance that Siddhartha Gautama existed as a historical figure.
Emperor Asoka converted to Buddhism after his bloody conquest of the Kalinga territory in modern day Orissa in eastern India. He spread the Buddhist faith by building stupas and pillars. Perhaps the best example of this is the Great Stupa of Sanchi near Bhopal. Buddhism died out in India, the country of origin, approximately in the fourteenth century.
The decline of Buddhism in India, came for a variety of reasons and events even though it continued to prosper beyond its borders. Buddhism had seen steady growth since its inception until its approval as the official faith of the Maurya Empire by Asoka in the third century BC. It continued with its flourish during the first centuries of the modern era.
However, a steady and gradual decline of its followers in India took place during the Gupta period, especially following the gradual Islamic conquest of the Indian subcontinent. At that time, Buddhist rulers became especially vulnerable because it was weakly entrenched in the society as most of its followers were communities of ascetic monks.
Apart from a small community in east Bengal, which had survived since ancient times and Nepal, Buddhism was practically extinct in India in the late nineteenth century AD. In the long period of its existence, the religion evolved by adapting to different countries, eras, and cultures, adding to its original Hellenistic elements, of Central Asia, Far East, and Southeast Asia.
Its geographical spread was substantial enough to have influenced in different historical periods much of the Asian continent. The history of Buddhism as one of the major religions is also characterized by numerous currents of thought and schisms, with the formation of various schools. Among these, the most important existing schools are Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana.