Context: The Ministry of Culture, Government of India in collaboration with the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) is holding a Virtual Prayer Event on the occasion of Buddha Purnima(7th May).

More on the news:

  • The Ministry along with the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC), a global Buddhist umbrella organization, will witness the participation of all the supreme heads of the Buddhist Sanghas from around the world.
  • Buddha Purnima celebrations are being held through a Virtual Visak day owing to the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic across the globe.
  • The event is being organised in honour of the Victims and the frontline warriors of COVID-19.

About Vesak - Buddha Poornima

  • "Vesak", the Day of the Full Moon in the month of May is the most sacred day to millions of Buddhists around the world. 
  • It was on the Day of Vesak two and a half millennia ago, in the year 623 B.C., that the Buddha was born. It was also on the Day of Vesak that the Buddha attained enlightenment, and it was on the Day of Vesak that the Buddha in his eightieth year passed away.
  • Hence, it is considered the Triple Blessed Day as Tathagata Gautam Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment and Maha Parnirvana.
  • The UN General Assembly, by its resolution adopted in 1999, recognized internationally the Day of Vesak to acknowledge the contribution that Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world, has made for over two and a half millennia and continues to make to the spirituality of humanity. 
    • This day is commemorated annually at the UN Headquarters and other UN offices, in consultation with the relevant UN offices and with permanent missions, which also wish to be consulted.

The teachings of the Buddha, and his message of compassion and peace and goodwill have never been more relevant than the current time, when the world is reeling under COVID-19 outbreak.


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.

Buddhism History

  • 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.
  • 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 given
    • Sexual misconduct
    • Lying
    • 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.

Eightfold Path

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.

Buddhist Councils:



First Council

  • 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.

Second Council

  • 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.

Third Council

  • Place: It was held in 250 BC in Patliputra 
  • Patronage and president: Under the patronage of Ashoka and was presided by Moggaliputta Tissa.


Forth Council

  • 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:

  • Mahayana:
    • 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.
  • Hinayana
    • 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.
  • Theravada
    • 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.
  • Vajrayana
    • 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.