Context: The International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, will celebrate the upcoming Asadha Poornima (on July 4, 2020) as Dharma Chakra Day. It will be the annual flagship event of IBC.
More on the news:
- The celebrations will be in line with keeping the historical legacy of India being the land of Buddha’s enlightenment and awakening, his turning of the wheels of Dhamma, and Mahaparinirvana.
- The events on the day will be streamed from Mulagandha Kuti Vihara, Sarnath and Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya.
- In addition ceremonies and Chanting of Dhamma Cakka PavattanaSutta in both the Theravada and Mahayana traditions from several countries around the world will also be live streamed.
About Asadha Poornima:
- The auspicious day of Asadha Poornima which falls on the first full moon day of the month of Asadha as per Indian sun calendar.
- It is also known as Esala Poya in Sri Lanka and Asanha Bucha in Thailand.
- It is the second most sacred day for Buddhists after the Buddha Poornima or Vesak.
Relevance of the day:
- The day marks Buddha's first teaching after attaining Enlightenment to the first five ascetic disciples (pañcavargika) on the full-moon day of Asadha at ‘Deer Park', in the current day Sarnath, near Varanasi, India.
- This teaching of Dhamma Cakka- PavattanaSutta (Pali) or Dharma chakra Pravartana Sutra (Sanskrit) is also known as the First Turning of Wheels of Dharma and comprised of the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path.
- The Rainy Season retreat (Varsha Vassa) for the Monks and Nuns also starts with this day, during which they remain in temples dedicated to intensive meditation.
- They are served during this period by the lay community who also observe Uposatha i.e. to observe eight precepts and meditate under the guidance of their teachers.
Buddhism is a faith that was founded by Siddhartha Gautama (“the Buddha”) more than 2,500 years ago in India. Its practice has historically been most prominent in East and Southeast Asia, but its influence is growing in the West. Many Buddhist ideas and philosophies overlap with those of other faiths.
- When Gautama passed away around 483 B.C., his followers began to organize a religious movement. Buddha’s teachings became the foundation for what would develop into Buddhism.
- In the 3rd century B.C., Ashoka the Great, the Mauryan Indian emperor, made Buddhism the state religion of India. Buddhist monasteries were built, and missionary work was encouraged.
- Over the next few centuries, Buddhism began to spread beyond India.
- In the sixth century, the Huns invaded India and destroyed hundreds of Buddhist monasteries, but the intruders were eventually driven out of the country.
Buddhism Beliefs: Some key Buddhism beliefs include:
- Followers of Buddhism don’t acknowledge a supreme god or deity. They instead focus on achieving enlightenment(nirvana) - a state of inner peace and wisdom.
- The religion’s founder, Buddha, is considered an extraordinary man, but not a god. The word Buddha means “enlightened one.”
- The path to enlightenment is attained by utilizing morality, meditation and wisdom. Buddhists often meditate because they believe it helps awaken truth.
- There are many philosophies and interpretations within Buddhism, making it a tolerant and evolving religion.
- Buddha’s teachings are known as “dharma.” He taught that wisdom, kindness, patience, generosity and compassion were important virtues.
- Specifically, all Buddhists live by five moral precepts, which prohibit:
- Killing living things
- Taking what is not yours
- Sexual misconduct
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Buddhism encourages its people to avoid self-indulgence but also self-denial.
- Buddha’s most important teachings, known as The Four Noble Truths, are essential to understanding the religion.
The Four Noble Truths, which Buddha taught, are:
- The truth of suffering (dukkha)
- The truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya)
- The truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha)
- The truth of the path that frees us from suffering (magga)
Collectively, these principles explain why humans hurt and how to overcome suffering.
The Buddha taught his followers that the end of suffering, as described in the fourth Noble Truths, could be achieved by following an Eightfold Path.
In no particular order, the Eightfold Path of Buddhism teaches the following ideals for ethical conduct, mental disciple and achieving wisdom:
- Right understanding (Samma ditthi)
- Right thought (Samma sankappa)
- Right speech (Samma vaca)
- Right action (Samma kammanta)
- Right livelihood (Samma ajiva)
- Right effort (Samma vayama)
- Right mindfulness (Samma sati)
- Right concentration (Samma samadhi)
- Buddhists embrace the concepts of karma (the law of cause and effect) and reincarnation (the continuous cycle of rebirth).
- Buddhist monks, or bhikkhus, follow a strict code of conduct, which includes celibacy.
- There is no single Buddhist symbol, but a number of images have evolved that represent Buddhist beliefs, including the lotus flower, the eight-spoked dharma wheel, the Bodhi tree and the swastika (an ancient symbol whose name means "well-being" or "good fortune" in Sanskrit).
Major Buddhist Texts
- The Buddha's teachings were oral, rehearsed and authenticated at the First Council and were divided in Three Pitakas in 483 BC and were written down around 25 B.C.E. in Pali.
- Three Pitakas: These texts, known as the “three baskets,” are thought to be the earliest collection of Buddhist writings.
- The Vinaya Pitaka consists of rules of conduct and discipline applicable to the monastic life of the monks and nuns.
- The Sutta Pitaka consists of the main teaching or Dhamma of Buddha.
- The Abhidhamma Pitaka is a philosophical analysis and systematization of the teaching and the scholarly activity of the monks.
- Sutras: There are more than 2,000 sutras, which are sacred teachings embraced mainly by Mahayana Buddhists.
- Other important Buddhist texts include Divyavadana, Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa, Milind Panha etc.
- Patronage and president: It was held soon after the Mahaparinirva(death) of the Buddha, around 483 BC under the patronage of King Ajatshatru and was presided by Mahakasyapa, a monk.
- Place: The council was held in the Sattapani cave at Rajgriha.
- Outcome: The council was held with the purpose of preserving Buddha’s teachings (Sutta) and rules for disciples. During this council, the teachings of Buddha were divided into three Pitakas.
- Place: It was held in Vaishali, a village in Bihar.
- Patronage and president: Under the patronage of the king Kalasoka in 383 BC. It was presided over by Sabakami.
- Place: It was held in 250 BC in Patliputra
- Patronage and president: Under the patronage of Ashoka and was presided by Moggaliputta Tissa.
- Place: It was held in 72 AD at Kundalvana, Kashmir.
- Patronage and president: It was presided by Vasumitra, while Asvaghosa was his deputy under the patronage of King Kanishka of Kushan Empire.
- Outcome: Buddhism was divided into two sects namely Mahayana and Hinayana.
Schools of Buddhism:
- The term Mahayana is a Sanskrit word which literally means "Great Vehicle".
- It is one of the two main schools of Buddhism.
- It believes in the heavenliness of Buddha and Idol worship of Buddha and Bodhisattvas embodying Buddha Nature.
- It originated in northern India and Kashmir and then spread east into Central Asia, East Asia and some areas of Southeast Asia.
- Prevalent in China, Korea, Tibet and Japan.
- Literal meaning Lesser vehicle.
- It believes in the original teaching of Buddha. It does not believe in Idol worship and tries to attain individual salvation through self discipline and meditation.
- Theravada is a Hinayana sect.
- It is the most ancient branch of extant Buddhism today.
- It remains closest to the original teachings of the Buddha.
- Theravada Buddhism developed in Sri Lanka and subsequently spread to the rest of Southeast Asia.
- Prevalent in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos and Burma.
- Developed around 900 CE in India, Vajrayana means “The Vehicle of the Thunderbolt”, also known as tantric Buddhism.
- It is grounded on esoteric elements and a very complex set of rituals compared with the rest of the Buddhist schools.