Buddhism Traditions | General

Buddhism: Overview

Buddhism is the world’s oldest missionary religion. Since its beginnings some 2,500 years ago in northern India, it has spread to nearly every region of the world. There are now more than 350 million Buddhists in the world, most of whom belong to one or the other of the 2 major schools: the Mahayana and the Theravada. Buddhist core philosophical tenets and beliefs include Karma,

Buddhism: History

Buddhist tradition holds that the man who would become the Buddha was born in a small village near what is now the border between Nepal and India in the middle of the 6h century B.C.E. He was born into a Kṣatriya family, part of the Śākya clan, and was given the name Siddhārtha (he whose goal will be accomplished) Gautama. It was clear that he

Buddhism: Central Doctrines

As Buddhism gained followers and monks began to form distinct groups, often united on the basis of doctrinal commonalities and matters of monastic discipline, Buddhism was marked by a doctrinal explosion. This doctrinal profusion Buddhists is truly one of the hallmarks of Buddhism. That said, however, certain key doctrines also are shared by all. Underlying virtually all of Buddhism is the basic doctrines of Samsāra,

Buddhism: Code of Conduct

The central theme of the Buddhist ethics is the cultivation of mindfulness (sati)— - to develop a mental attitude of complete and selfless awareness, a mental attitude that necessarily influences the manner in which one acts toward other living beings, a mental awareness that fundamentally informs one’s every act and intention to act. The pañcha śīla are the basic ethical guidelines for the layperson, the

Buddhism: Sacred Books and Symbols

Tradition holds that during the first rainy-season retreat after the Buddha’s death, in 483 BCE., 500 of Buddha’s disciples gathered at Rajagriha (present-day Rajgir, in Bihar) – - to agree the contents of the Dhamma and Vinaya and orally collected all of the Buddha’s teachings into 3 sets, or “three baskets” (Tripitaka; Pali, Tipiṭaka): Ānanda recited the Suttas, the monk Upāli recited the Vinaya, the

Buddhism: Teachers and Leaders

The Buddha’s immediate disciples not only formed the first Buddhist community but also were responsible for orally preserving his teachings. One of the most important of these early followers was Ānanda, the Buddha’s cousin, who accompanied the Buddha for more than 20 years and figures prominently in early Buddhist texts. Perhaps the most important theologian of early Buddhism was Nāgārjuna (c. 150 – c. 250

Buddhism: Social Structure

The fundamental structure of Buddhism is that it is a self-governing body of individuals, each of whom is theoretically equal and intent on his or her own salvation while compassionately mindful of fellow beings. This hierarchy was, and continues to be, based on seniority. There is no single authority in the Buddhist world: Rather, each school has a leader or group of leaders who provide

Buddhism: Temples and Holy Places

The earliest holy sites in Buddhism were probably associated with the places where the Buddha’s relics were located. The tradition holds that after the Buddha’s body was cremated, his remains were divided into several portions that were set up in burial mounds (stupas) at important crossroads. These places provided opportunities for laypeople and monks to contemplate the Buddha’s teachings. Images of the Buddha are the

Buddhism: Festivals

There are a great many special days in the Buddhist tradition: Some of these days celebrate significant birthdays (of the Buddha or of the Bodhisattvas), whereas others have to do with significant events in the monastic world. Typically on a festival day laypeople go to their local temple or monastery and offer food to the monks, vow to uphold the five ethical precepts (pañcha śīla),

Buddhism: Dress code

The most distinct mode of dress in the Buddhist world is the robes worn by monks and nuns: The symbolic significance of this form of dress can be easily seen in the common phrase for becoming a monk, “taking the robes.” Although the colour and style of robes varies considerably from country to country, as well as from school to school, all monastics wear robes.