Buddhism Buddha his Dhamma for UPSC

Buddhism is an ancient Indian religion that teaches us about the mid path, UPSC usually ask questions from Buddha Chapter

Origin of Buddhism


Buddhism is one of the most important ancient religion and tradition in South and South-Eastern Asian countries, which arose over 2,600 years ago as a way life that had a potential of transforming a person in the ancient Kingdom of Magadha (present-day Bihar). The origin of Buddhism points only towards one-man i.e. Siddhartha Gautama who was deemed a “Buddha” (Awakened One) and is based on his teachings and life experiences.

Life of Siddhartha Guatama Buddha

Siddhartha was born as a prince of the royal family of Sakya republic on Vaisakh Purnima day in Lumbini which is situated near the Indo-Nepal Border. His father Suddhodhana was chief of Kapilvastu, Mother was Mahamaya of Kosala dynasty. Siddhartha was brought up by his maternal aunt or Step-mother Prajapati Gautami, as mother Mahamaya died after his birth. This gave him the name ‘Gautama’. He got married to Yashodhara (the sister of Devadatta) and had a son, Rahul.

At the age of 29, the idea of renunciation occurred to Gautam’s mind after he saw four different states of man – sick man, old man, corpse and ascetic. After this Gautama rejected his life of riches, left home and embraced a lifestyle of asceticism (extreme self-discipline). This event is called Mahabhishkramana.

He wandered for seven years and at the age of 35 after 49 consecutive days of meditation, Gautama attained Bodhi (enlightenment) at Uruvela while meditating under a banyan tree at Bodhgaya a village in Bihar on the banks of the river Niranjana(tributary of Ganga).

Buddha gave his first sermon (a talk on a religious subject) in Sarnath, near the city of Banaras in Uttar Pradesh. This event is known as Dharma-Chakraparivartana (turning of the wheel of law).

He died at the age of 80 in 483 BCE at Kushinagara which has been identified as village Kasia in Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh. This event is known as Mahaparinibban. Last words of Buddha were “All composite things, strive diligently.”

Buddha did not believe in God or the soul. He stressed mainly on karma and ahimsa. He was strictly against the varna system. Buddha taught in Pali.

5 Great events of Buddha’s life and their symbols:

  • Birth: Lotus and Bull
  • Great Renunciation: Horse
  • Nirvana: Bodhi tree
  • First Sermon: Wheel
  • Death: Stupa

Three Universal Truth

  • Everything in this life is temporary and keeps on changing.
  • As nothing is permanent, hence a life based on possessing any particular thing or person doesn’t make you happy.
  • There is nothing known as eternal, unchanging soul and “self ”, it is just a collection of changing characteristics or attributes.

Four Nobel Truth of Buddha

One of the most important teachings of the Buddha is known as “The Four Nobel Truths” which are as follows:

  • The First Noble Truth is “all life is suffering” which can be easily understood when it comes to painful or happy situations because nothing is permanent, as time changes whether it is good or bad. It seems that all pleasures are temporary and the more we enjoy them, the more we will miss them when they end. “Nothing lasts forever.”
  • The Second Nobel Truth is “cause of suffering is desire”. Suffering is due to attachment, also referred as “thirst” or “greed”. Our desires will always exceed our resources and leave us unhappy and unsatisfied. All suffering originates in desire, which can take many forms like cravings of sensual pleasures, the desire for fame, the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations (fear, anger or jealousy).
  • The Third Nobel Truth is “There is an end to suffering” by stopping desire, suffering also stops. The idea is not to get too attached to material goods, places, ideas, or even people. After all, we will all get old, decay, and die as this is a natural cycle, and there is nothing wrong with it. The problem comes when, by attaching too much, we do not accept the changes. There is an end to suffering – to let go of any desire or craving.
  • The Forth Nobel Truth is “desire stops by following The Eightfold Path”.

The Buddha’s Eightfold Path consists of:

  • Right understanding: Right View is the true understanding of the four noble truths.
  • Right thought: Right Aspiration is the true desire to free oneself from attachment, ignorance, and hatefulness.
  • Right speech: Right Speech involves abstaining from lying, gossiping or hurtful talk.
  • Right Action: It involves abstaining from hurtful behaviors, such as killing, stealing, committing adultery, to lie and consumption of liquor or other intoxicants.
  • Right livelihood: This means to support yourself without harming others by making your living style in such a way as to avoid dishonesty and hurting others, including animals.
  • Right Effort: This means to promote good thoughts and to conquer evil thoughts and prevented from arising again. Good qualities should be enacted and nurtured.
  • Right Mindfulness: To become aware of your body, mind, feelings, thoughts and consciousness in such a way that one can overcome craving, hatred, and ignorance.
  • Right Concentration: This path refers to Meditation to achieve a higher state of consciousness in such a way as to progressively realize a true understanding of imperfection, impermanence, and non-separateness.

Buddha also established code of conduct both for the monastic order and the laymen to follow which are also known as the five principles called Panchsheel :

  • Do not to take life
  • Do not to steal
  • Do not to commit adultery
  • Do not lie
  • Do not to consume liquor or other intoxicants.


  • Ajatshatru of Magdha Empire
  • Prasenjit of Koshala Empire
  • Udayan of Vatsa Empire
  • Avanti putra of shurasena Empire
  • Ashoka, Kanishka, Harshvardhana and Pala rulers.


The teachings of Buddha were rehearsed and authenticated at the First Council and were divided in Tripitakas (Three Pitakas/ baskets), which are as follows:

  • The Vinaya Pitaka consists of rules and regulations promulgated by Buddha  which consists of conduct and discipline applicable to the monastic life of the monks and nuns.
  • The Sutta Pitaka consists of the main teaching or Dhamma delivered by Buddha himself on different occasions. It is divided into five Nikayas or collections: – Digha Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya and Khuddaka Nikaya
  • The Abhidamma Pitaka is written in the form of questions and answers, it is basically a philosophical analysis of the teaching and the scholarly activity of the monks.


Buddhist Councils are marked as the important turning points in the history of early Buddhism. These councils resulted in the two major schools, Theravada and Mahayana.

  • In total, 4 major Buddhist councils were convened:
FIRST483 BC King Ajatshatru MahakasyapaRajagriha
SECOND383 BCKing KalasokaSabakamiVaishali
THIRD250 BCKing AshokaMoggaliputta TissaPatliputra
FOURTH72 ADKing KanishkaVasumitraKundalvana, Kashmir
Buddhist Councils
  • The 1st council was held with the purpose of preserving Buddha’s teachings (Sutta) and rules for disciples. During this, the teachings of Buddha were divided into three Pitakas.
  • During 2nd Council Buddhist sangha was divided into schools i.e. Theravadi or Sthavira and Mahasanghik or Sarvastivadin.
  • In 3rd Council the third Pitaka was compiled i.e. Abhidhamma Pitaka which explains the tenets of Dhamma.
  • The 4th council compiled the Vibhashashastra by Vasumitra, also a commentary in Sanskrit on the difficult aspects of Buddhist texts was considered. 4th council also resulted in the division of Buddhists into two sects namely Mahayan and Hinayan.


  • Mahayana:
  • Followed Buddhism with reference to higher beings like a religion.
  • Believed in Idol worship (They use to follow Buddha like a God because according to them the Buddha came down to earth to help people cross the sea of life.).
  • Mahayana was followed mostly in the China, Korea, Japan, and Tibet, India, Thailand.
  • Early texts were written in Sanskrit like Karma, Dharma.
  • Buddha is worship So the Buddha can be worshipped as a God because he is eternal and a leader.
  • Hinayana
  • Followed Buddhism as a teaching or Philosophy not as a religion.
  • Didn’t believed in idol worship (They use to follow Buddha like a human being because according to them Buddha was simply a man who found a way to Nirvana).
  • Followed mostly in Ceylon (Sri-Lanka).
  • Literature work written in Pali language.


Buddhist architecture developed essentially in 3 forms:

  • Stupa (Relics/ remains of Buddha and other prominent monks are preserved)
  • Chaitya (prayer halls)
  • Vihara (Residential areas)


  • Fa Hien: He visited during the reign of Chandragupta during 399-414.
  • Huan Tsang: He visited during the reign of Harsha and lived in India for 16 years. He studied in Nalanda University. He is known as the Price of Pilgrims.


  • Lumbini          –           Birthplace of Gautama Buddha
  • Bodh Gaya     –           Buddha attained enlightenment
  • Kushinagar     –           Gautama Buddha died and attained Parinirvana
  • Sravasti          –           Place where Buddha spent the largest amount of time
  • Rajgriha         –           Place where he taught his beliefs
  • Vaishali           –           Place where he had his spiritual training from Ramaputra Udraka                 and Alara Kalama
  • Sarnath           –           Gautama Buddha delivered his first teaching.

[Note: Few initiatives have been taken by central government to harness the Buddhist pilgrims to both augment the Tourism and employment opportunities under Heritage City Development Scheme (HRIDAY) and identification of 3 Buddhist circuits.

  • Archaeological Site in Nalanda (Bihar)
  • Buddhist Monuments in Sanchi, (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Bodh Gaya (Bihar)
  • Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad (Maharashtra)

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