The origin and existence of Buddhism
Buddhism is an atheistic religion that follows a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, based largely on the teachings of a prince-turned-sage, Siddhartha Gautama whose name is more commonly known as the Buddha. The meaning of Buddha is “awakened soul”. Therefore, Buddhism means the followers of the awakened souls. According to their tradition, the Buddha lived in the Indian subcontinent between the sixth and fourth century BCE. The ultimate goal of Buddhists is to attain the sublime state of Nirvana. Buddhism is primarily practiced in Asia; however, there are also other parts of the world where the acceptance of Buddhism is rising rapidly.
The propagation of Buddhism in India
Buddhism started spreading in India under the governance of the king Asoka, who after a fierce battle, could not bear the sight of bloodshed and drifted towards Buddhism, which he practiced and spread throughout his vast empire. The Mahāsāṃghika and the Sthaviravāda, were the two casts that spread during his reign throughout India and split into a number of sub sects. In modern times, there are two major sects in Buddhism, one is Theravada and the other is Mahayana. Though this religion started declining in India after the Mauryan Empire collapsed, it is now reemerging because many intellectuals are resorting to Buddhism. Buddhist practice is common in the Himalayan regions like Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, etc.
Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India
There are many Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India and most of them are King Asoka’s works. The main pilgrimage centers are Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Vaishali, Sravasthi, Rajgir, and Sankasia. Bodh Gaya is tree under which Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment. In 2002, the addition of Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya to the UNESCO World Heritage Site took place.
The Buddhists believe in the concept of Samsara, which denotes the repetitive cycle of birth and death. Specifically, Samsara is the process of cycling through one rebirth after another among the six realms of existence. A particular type of suffering characterizes these realms.
The Buddhists also believe in Karma. According to Buddhism, Karma is the force that drives Samsara. In Buddhism, Karma refers to the actions of the body, speech or mind, which brings about a result, whether good or bad. The Buddhists also believe in the concept of rebirth. This rebirth occurs according to the six realms that are associated with Samsara. These are the six realms of rebirth.
- The Naraka,
- The Preta,
- The animals,
- The human beings,
- The Asuras and
- The Devas
Festivals celebrated in India
The Buddhists celebrate the three gems, the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings of Buddha), and the Sangha (also known as the spiritual society). Vesakha is the festival that encompasses the birth, the enlightenment and death of the Buddha in one day. The other festivals in practice are the Dharma Day, the Sangha Day, and the Parinirvana Day. The fourth largest followed religion in the world is Buddhism.