Roots Of Hinduism And Buddhism

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062-66-0103s210/11/0223:30 PMPage 62Page 1 of 5Roots of Hinduismand BuddhismMAIN IDEAWHY IT MATTERS NOWThe religious beliefs of the Vedic Ageeventually developed into Hinduismand Buddhism.Almost one-fifth of the world’s peopletoday practice one of these tworeligions.TERMS & NAMES reincarnationkarmaJainismSiddharthaGautama enlightenment nirvanaSETTING THE STAGE At first, the Aryans and non-Aryans followed their own forms ofreligion. Then as the two groups intermingled, the gods and forms of their religions alsotended to blend together. This blending resulted in the worship of thousands of gods.Different ways of living and different beliefs made life more complex for both groups.This complexity led some people to question the world and their place in it. They evenquestioned the enormous wealth and power held by the Brahmin priests. These priestsofficiated at elaborate state ceremonies and sacrifices. Out of this turmoil, new religiousideas arose that have continued to influence millions of people today.Hinduism Develops Over CenturiesVishnu grew tobecome a majorHindu god after theage of the Vedas.He is seen here asthe whole Universein all its variety. Heis blue, the color ofinfinity.Hinduism is a collection of religious beliefs that developed slowly over a long periodof time. Some aspects of the religion can be traced back to ancient times. In a Hindumarriage today, for example, the bride and groom marry in the presence of the sacredfire as they did centuries ago. Verses from the Vedas are recited daily by the faithful.Also, some non-Aryan gods known in Vedic times, such as Krishna of the Mahabharata, continue to be worshiped.From time to time, scholars have tried to organize the many popular cults, gods,and traditions into one grand system of belief. However, Hinduism—unlike religionssuch as Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam—cannot be traced back to one founder witha single set of ideas.Origins and Beliefs Hindus share a commonworld-view. They see religion as a way of liberating the soul from the illusions, disappointments,and mistakes of everyday existence. Sometimebetween 750 and 550 b.c., Hindu teachers triedto interpret and explain the hidden meaning ofthe Vedic hymns. As they meditated on theVedas, they asked: What is the nature of reality?What is morality? Is there eternal life? What isthe soul? The teachers’ comments were laterwritten down and became known as theUpanishads (oo PAHN ih shahdz).The Upanishads are written as dialogues, ordiscussions, between a student and a teacher.In the course of the dialogues, the two explorehow a person can achieve liberation from desiresand suffering. This is described as moksha(MOHK shah), a state of perfect understandingof all things. The teacher distinguishes betweenatman, the individual soul of a living being, andBrahman, the world soul that contains and 62 Chapter 3 BackgroundBoth the Vedas andthe Upanishads arecounted amongHinduism’s sacredbooks.

062-66-0103s210/11/023:30 PMPage 63Page 2 of 5unites all atmans. The interconnectedness of all life is a basic concept in all Indianreligions. Here is how one teacher explains the unifying spirit of Brahman:A V O I C E F R O M T H E PA S TThou art woman, Thou art man, Thou art the lad and the maiden too. Thou art the oldman tottering on his staff: Once born thou comest to be, thy face turned every way! Adark-blue moth art Thou, green [parrot] with red eyes. Pregnant with lightning—seasons, seas: Thyself beginningless, all things dost Thou pervade. From thee all worldswere born.Svetasvatara Upanishad. IV. 3–4When a person understands the relationship between atman and Brahman, thatperson achieves perfect understanding (moksha) and a release from life in this world.This understanding does not usually come in one lifetime. By the process of reincarnation (rebirth), an individual soul or spirit is born again and again until moksha isachieved. A soul’s karma—good or bad deeds—follows from one reincarnation toanother. Karma influences specific life circumstances, such as the caste one is borninto, one’s state of health, wealth or poverty, and so on.THINK THROUGH HISTORYA. MakingInferences Howmight the lack of asingle founder resultin Hinduism changingmore over time thanother religions?A. Answer Not having a single foundermeans that no set oforiginal beliefs willdetermine Hinduism’sdevelopment. The religion can thus changemore freely than religions with a founder.Hinduism Changes and Develops Hinduism has gone through many changes overthe last 2,500 years. The world soul, Brahman, was sometimes seen as having the personalities of three gods: Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the protector; and Shiva, thedestroyer. Vishnu also took on many forms or personalities, for example, as Krishna,the divine cowherder, and as Rama, the perfect king. Over the centuries, Brahmagradually faded into the background, while the many forms of a great MotherGoddess grew in importance.Hindus today are free to choose the deity they worship or to choose none at all.Most, however, follow a family tradition that may go back centuries. They are also freeto choose among three different paths for achieving moksha. They are the path ofright thinking, the path of right action, or the path of religious devotion.Hinduism and Society Hindu ideas about karma and reincarnation strengthenedthe caste system. If a person was born as an upper-caste male—a Brahmin, warrior, ormerchant—his good fortune was said to come from good karma earned in a formerlife. However, a person who was born as a female, a laborer, or an untouchablemight be getting the results of bad deeds in a former life. With some exceptions, only men of the top three varnas could hope to achieve moksha intheir present life. The laws of karma worked with the same certainty as theworld’s other natural laws. Good karma brought good fortune and bad karmaresulted in bad fortune.Together, the beliefs of Hinduism and its caste structure dominated everyaspect of a person’s life. These beliefs determined what one could eat andhow one ate it, personal cleanliness, the people one could associate with, howone dressed, and so on. Today, even in the most ordinary activities of dailylife, Hindus turn to their religion for guidance.A Jain man wearsa mask and carriesa brush to preventharm to smallcreatures.New Religions Arise The same period of speculation reflected inthe Upanishads also led to the rise of two other religions: Jainism(JY nihz uhm) and Buddhism. Mahavira, the founder ofJainism, was born about 599 b.c. and died in 527 b.c.Mahavira believed that everything in the universehas a soul and so should not be harmed. Jainmonks carry the doctrine of nonviolenceto its logical conclusion. They sweepants off their path and wear gauzemasks over their mouths to avoidbreathing in an insect accidentally. BackgroundThe doctrine of nonviolence (ahimsa) isimportant both toHindus and Jains. 63

062-66-0103s210/11/023:30 PMPage 64Page 3 of 5In keeping with this nonviolence, followers of Jainism looked for occupations thatwould not harm any creature. So they have a tradition of working in trade andcommerce.Because of their business activities, Jains today make up one of the wealthiest communities in India. Jains have traditionally preached tolerance of all religions. As aresult, they have made few efforts to convert followers of other faiths. Because of thistolerance, Jains have not sent out missionaries. So, almost all the nearly 5 million Jainsin the world today live in India. The Buddha Seeks Enlightenment HISTORY MAKERS Buddhism developed out of the same period of religious questioningthat shaped modern Hinduism and Jainism. The founder ofBuddhism, Siddhartha Gautama (sihd DAHR tuh GOW tuh muh)was born into a noble family that lived in Kapilavastu, in the foothillsof the Himalayas in Nepal. According to Buddhist legend, the babyexhibited the marks of a great man. A prophecy indicated that if thechild stayed at home he was destined to become a world ruler. If thechild left home, however, he would become a universal spiritualleader. To make sure the boy would be a great king, his father isolated him in his palace. Separated from the world, Siddhartha married and had a son. Siddhartha Gautamac. 563–483 B.C.According to Buddhist tradition,signs predicted even before hisbirth that Siddhartha Gautamawould be a great man. His motherMahamaya had dreamt of abeautiful elephant that was brightas silver. When asked to interpretthe dream, Brahmin priestsdeclared that the child to be bornwould either be a great monarch ora Buddha (an enlightened one).Tradition also relates that atGautama’s birth, he exhibited thesigns of a child destined forgreatness. There were 32 suchsigns, including golden-tinged skin,webbed fingers and toes, a knob onthe top of his skull, a long tongue, atuft of hair between his eyebrows,and a thousand-spoked wheel oneach foot. Some images of theBuddha display these traits. Origins and Beliefs The Buddha preached his first sermon to fivecompanions who had accompanied him on his wanderings. That first sermon became alandmark in the history of the world’s religions. In it, he laid out the four main ideas thathe had understood in his enlightenment. He called those ideas the Four Noble Truths:Third Noble TruthFourth Noble Truth64 Chapter 3B. SynthesizingHow far might theJain respect for lifeextend?B. Possible AnswerTo viruses and bacteria; to not eating at all(no plant life, no animal life). Siddhartha’s Quest Siddhartha never ceased thinking about theworld that lay outside the palace, which he had never seen. When hewas 29, he ventured outside the palace four times. First he saw anold man, next a sick man, then a corpse being carried to the cremation grounds, and finally a wandering holy man who seemed at peacewith himself. Siddhartha understood these events to mean that everyliving thing experiences old age, sickness, and death and that only areligious life offers a refuge from this inevitable suffering. Siddharthadecided to spend his life searching for religious truth and an end tosuffering. So, soon after learning of his son’s birth, he left the palace.Siddhartha wandered through the forests of India for six yearsseeking enlightenment, or wisdom. He tried many ways of reachingan enlightened state. He first debated with other religious seekers.Then he fasted, eating only six grains of rice a day. (It was said thathis stomach became so empty that by poking a finger into it, hecould touch his backbone.) Yet none of these methods brought himto the truth, and he continued to suffer. Finally, he sat in meditationunder a large fig tree. After 49 days of meditation, he achieved anunderstanding of the cause of suffering in this world. From then on,he was known as the Buddha, meaning “the enlightened one.”First Noble TruthSecond Noble TruthTHINK THROUGH HISTORYEverything in life is suffering and sorrow.The cause of all suffering is people’s selfish desire for thetemporary pleasures of this world.The way to end all suffering is to end all desires.The way to overcome such desires and attain enlightenment is tofollow the Eightfold Path, which is called the Middle Way betweendesires and self-denial.Vocabularyfasted: did not eat.

062-66-0103s210/11/023:30 PMPage 65Page 4 of 5The Eightfold Path was like a staircase. For the Buddha, those who were seekingenlightenment had to master one step at a time. Most often, this mastery would occurover many lifetimes. Here is how he described the Middle Way and its Eightfold Path:A V O I C E F R O M T H E PA S TWhat is the Middle Way? . . . It is the Noble Eightfold Path—Right Views, Right Resolve,Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, andRight Concentration. This is the Middle Way.The Buddha, from Samyutta NikayaTHINK THROUGH HISTORYC. Comparing Inwhat ways areBuddhism andHinduism similar?C. Possible AnswerSearch for perfectunderstanding and anend to suffering; reincarnation; quest toend the chain of reincarnations; cyclicalview of history.By following the Eightfold Path, anyone could reach nirvana, the Buddha’s wordfor release from selfishness and pain. The Buddha’s teachings included many ideasfrom the Hindu tradition. However, they also differed sharply from that tradition.As in Hinduism, the Buddha accepted the idea of reincarnation. He also accepted acyclical, or repetitive, view of history, where the world is created and destroyed overand over again. However, the Buddha rejected the many gods of Hinduism. Instead, hetaught a way of enlightenment. Like many of his time, the Buddha reacted against theprivileges of the Brahmin priests, and thus he rejected the caste system. The final goalsof both religions—moksha for Hindus and nirvana for Buddhists—are similar. Bothinvolve a perfect state of understanding and a break from the chain of reincarnations.The Religious Community The five disciples who heard the Buddha’s first sermonwere the first monks admitted to a sangha, or Buddhist religious order. At first, thesangha was a community of Buddhist monks and nuns. However, sangha eventuallyreferred to the entire religious community. It included Buddhist laity (those who hadn’tdevoted their entire life to religion). The religious community, together with theBuddha and the dharma (Buddhist doctrine or law), make up the “Three Jewels” ofBuddhism. Every day, Buddhists all over the world recognize the importance of theThree Jewels of their faith by declaring: “I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge inthe law. I take refuge in the community.”Buddhism and Society Because of his rejection of the caste system, many of theBuddha’s early followers included laborers and craftspeople. He also gained a largefollowing in northeast India, where the Aryans had less influence. The Buddha reluctantly admitted women to religious orders. He feared, however, that women’s presence would distract men from their religious duties.Monks and nuns took vows (solemn promises) to live a life of poverty, to benonviolent, and not to marry. They wandered throughout India spreading theBuddha’s teachings. Missionaries carried only a begging bowl to receivedaily charity offerings from people. During the rainy season, theyretreated to caves high up in the hillsides. Gradually, these seasonalretreats became permanent monasteries—some for men, others forwomen. One monastery, Nalanda, developed into a great universitythat also attracted non-Buddhists.The teachings of the Buddha were written down shortly afterhis death. Buddhist sacred literature also includes commentaries, rules about monastic life, manuals on how to meditate,Image not available for use on CD-ROM. Please refer to the image in the textbook.Buddhist traditiontells that justbefore he died, theBuddha laypeacefully on hisright side betweentwo trees.Reclining Buddhas,like this one inLaos, point to thiscalm acceptance ofdeath as the ideal.65

062-66-0103s210/11/023:30 PMPage 66Page 5 of 5and legends about the Buddha’s previous reincarnations (the Jatakas). This sacred literature was first written down in the first century b.c.Buddhism in India During the centuries following the Buddha’s death, missionarieswere able to spread his faith over large parts of Asia. Buddhist missionaries went toSri Lanka and Southeast Asia in the third century b.c. Buddhistideasalso traveled along Central Asian trade routes to China.CONNECT to TODAYHowever, Buddhism never gained a significant foothold in India, theBuddhism in the Westcountry of its origin. Several theories exist about Buddhism’s gradualThroughout the 20th century,disappearance in India. One theory states that Hinduism simplylarge numbers of Asians haveabsorbed Buddhism. The two religions constantly influenced eachimmigrated to live in the West,other. Over time, the Buddha came to be identified by Hindus asparticularly in North of the ten incarnations (reappearances on earth) of the godMany of them naturally broughttheir Buddhist religion with them.Vishnu. Hindus, thus, felt no need to convert to Buddhism. TheyToday, Buddhist temples havebelieved it had already become a part of their own religion.become a common feature ofNonetheless, despite the small number of Buddhists in India,many large cities in the West.the region has always been an important place of pilgrimages forSince the 1950s, many nonAsians who were dissatisfied withBuddhists. Today, as they have for centuries, Buddhist pilgrims flockthe religions of the West haveto visit spots associated with the Buddha’s life. These sites include histurned to Buddhism for insight intobirthplace at Kapilavastu, the fig tree near Gaya, and the site of hislife’s meaning and for peace offirst sermon near Varanasi. Buddhists also visit the stupas, or sacredmind. They have particularlyresponded to Zen Buddhism, whichmounds, that are said to contain his relics. The pilgrims circle aroundstresses everyone’s ability to reachthe sacred object or sanctuary, moving in a clockwise direction. Theyenlightenment during this lifetime.also lie face down on the ground and leave flowers. These threeToday, Buddhism can claim 920,000actions—circling a shrine, lying face down as a sign of humility, andAsian and non-Asian believers inNorth America alone.offering flowers—are important rituals in Buddhist worship.Vocabularypilgrimages: travelsto holy places.Trade and the Spread of Buddhism As important as missionarieswere to the spread of Buddhism, traders played an even more crucial role in this process. Along with their products, traders carried Buddhism beyond India to Sri Lanka.Buddhist religion was also brought southeast along trade routes to Burma, Thailand,and the island of Sumatra. Likewise, Buddhism followed the Central Asian traderoutes, called the Silk Roads, all the way to China. From China, Buddhism spread toKorea—and from Korea to Japan. The movement of trade thus succeeded in makingBuddhism the most widespread religion of East Asia. Throughout human history,trade has been a powerful force for the spread of ideas. Just as trade spreadBuddhism in East Asia, it helped spread cultural influences in another major region ofthe world: the Mediterranean basin, as you will learn in Section 3.Section 2 Assessment1. TERMS & NAMESIdentify reincarnation karma Jainism Siddhartha Gautama enlightenment nirvana66 Chapter 32. TAKING NOTES3. MAKING INFERENCESCompare Hindu and Buddhistbeliefs and practices using a Venndiagram like the one below.How might the belief inreincarnation provide a form ofsocial control?THINK ABOUTHinduismonlyBothBuddhismonly karma the belief in the interrelatednessof all life caste4. THEME ACTIVITYReligious and EthicalSystems Create an illustratedinformation board showing the lifeof Siddhartha Gautama. Includefamily background, accomplishments, and a list of hisreligious and ethical beliefs.

Hinduism and SocietyHindu ideas about karma and reincarnation strengthened the caste system. If a person was born as an upper-caste male—a Brahmin, warrior, or merchant—his good fortune was said to come from good karma earned in a former life. However, a person who was born as a female, a laborer, or an untouchable

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