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About Buddhism

Being on a Buddhist tour to India is wholly mesmerizing and unforgettable experience. The Buddha tour is a spiritual journey where each destination has its own significance for being associated with the life of Buddha. Be it the Mahabodhi temple of Bodhgaya or Buddhist caves of Ajanta, Ellora or the beautiful Gompas of Dharamshala, every site offers a glimpse of rich legacy of Buddhism in India.

Buddhism is a major religion and philosophy which originated from the teachings of Buddha during his life time. Buddha was believed to have lived from about 563 to 483B.C. in India. Buddha was born as a prince in the small kingdom of Lumbini now in Nepal but later renounced all his royal privileges to embark on the path of enlightenment. In the search of truth and dharma and to find relief from sufferings, he moved out of his kingdom adopting the life of an ascetic. Buddha finally achieved nirvana or enlightenment at the young age of 35 while meditating under a banyan tree in Gaya in Bihar. After getting enlightenment he moved on to Sarnath to deliver his first sermon. It is only at Sarnath that he set the Dharmachakra into motion.

About Buddhism

The four main pilgrimages in the Buddha tour thus consist of Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar.

Buddha's teachings were oral which were recorded by his disciples.

The Buddhist philosophy :

The basic tenets of Buddhism are non-theistic in character where the existence or non existence god hardly makes a difference. In Buddhism the question of god is irrelevant. The Buddhist philosophy puts emphasis on the enlightenment of the 'self' and the ability of the individuals to achieve insights all by him.

The four noble truths given by Buddha form the important guiding principles of Buddhism. They are :

  • Dukkha (sorrow) - the world is full of sufferings and life is unsatisfactory in this world.
  • Samudaya - all sufferings are caused by desires which are guided by worldly pleasures, desires which are rooted in ignorance.
  • Nirodh (solution) - all sufferings can come to an end after one attains nirvana or enlightenment. Self realization is the key to resolve conflicts and sufferings.
  • Marg (path) - the path to be followed to get out of the suffering and to attain nirvana is the noble Eight-fold path given by Buddha.

Buddhism to a great extent grew being reactionary to the ritualistic, orthodox and hierarchic social order prevalent in Hinduism. Most of the Buddhist sects emphasize on the importance of karma, things done by man and the consequences of doing. It is a cause-and effect relationship between acts done by man. One's previous acts determine the present and present acts influence the future. Rebirth is one of the effects of karma. The aim of the followers of Buddhism is to attain nirvana by ending the cycle of rebirth and sufferings.

Sects within Buddhism :

There are two major sects within Buddhism-Hinayana and Mahayana. The bifurcation took place around 1st century B.C. with the emergence of Mahayana as a new cult against the orthodoxy of the existing Hinayana.

Hinayana - or "lesser vehicle" dates back to 500B.C. Also known by the name Theravada Buddhism it believes in the life of an ascetic, and abandonment of all worldly desires. Buddha is considered as the only enlightened being. He is worshipped in the form of symbols and his depiction in the human form is prohibited. This sect is much more rigid in its beliefs. It emphasizes on the adoption of four noble truth and eight-fold paths in order to attain nirvana.

Mahayana - this sect is much more liberal in its approach coming as a reaction to the earlier sect. Buddha is worshiped in human form be it through paintings or sculptures. The newer sect had enough scope fir the common man to attain enlightenment if he follows the path of righteousness. The values of love and compassion hold special place in the Mahayana philosophy.

Vajrayana - this is the most recent off-shoot of Mahayana Buddhism and is the third major sect along with Hinayana and Mahayana. It began to take shape in the 5th and the 6th centuries. Its literal meaning is "the vajra vehicle". A distinguishing feature of this sect is the use of Tantric techniques to attain enlightenment. These techniques are said to make enlightenment possible in a short time, in the same body.

India is the land where Siddhartha Gautam the ordinary princess got enlightenment and became Gautam Budddha, the enlightened being. Throughout this life Buddha visited many places while teaching the gospel of truth, righteousness, love and compassion to his disciples. All those places have become sacred pilgrimage site for Buddhists. There are four important places associated with the life of Buddha- Lumbini, where he was born, Bodhgaya, where he attained enlightenment or Nirwana , Sarnath where he delivered his first sermons and Kushinagar where he left his mortal body attaining Parinirwana. Apart from these four major places of worship, first Buddha and later his disciples traveled in various parts of India and the world spreading the message of truth, peace and dharma.