Buddhism religion began with the birth of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama and the history of Buddhism can be traced back to the 563 BC.
- Early Life:
Buddha was born around 563 BC in Lumbini, Southern Nepal in a royal family. The Gautama family was the rulers of a small feudal kingdom.
According to the history, Buddha was raised by his mother’s younger sister due to the death of his mother who died 7 days after his birth. Siddhartha’s father wanted him to be a great king so he kept his son away from all the religious teachings and knowledge.
Siddhartha was married to a girl of the same age at the age of 16 who soon had a son named Rahula.
Siddhartha spent 29 years of his life as a prince but even after having a luxurious life, and his father, who tried with all his might to keep him away from the human sufferings, ugly and old age and even if he did went out of the palace; people with sufferings were kept away from his sight. According to the story that one day Siddhartha went outside the palace to meet his subjects and there he saw an old man. After seeing that, he made further trips outside of the palace and said to have seen a funeral and a sick man with a disease. These sights depressed him and at the age of 29 he left the palace in search of enlightenment.
Siddhartha became a wondering monk kept searching for enlightenment and studied under the very best and well known teachers of his day. After a very long period of meditation under the pipal tree, he understood the cycle of life and achieved complete enlightenment and became the ‘Buddha’.
At the age of 35 years, Buddha started his mission and accepted many followers including the ones who are known as the ‘Untouchables’ in Hinduism. Despite being opposed, Buddha kept teaching those who would listen to him gathering more and more followers including many others from his own family.
Buddha usually taught his followers verbally and wrote nothing about his teachings. After his death, his followers were the ones to write down his teachings.
Like most of the other religions, Buddhism also had different groups or schools of thoughts. After the death of Buddha, the senior monks met a council to decide how to continue the teachings which lasted 7 months.
And over the next 100 years monks believed in concentrating on personal enlightenment and teaching others however the information was limited and it was thought that only monks can achieve the enlightenment of Buddhism.
The Two Groups:
A group namely the Mahayana group who believed that compassion for humanity was important and teachings should be available to everyone was evolved over 300 years. The word Mahayana means ‘Big Raft’ which also means Mahayana approach was available to many more people. The Mahayana Buddhism became more like a religion. They believed in working towards enlightenments which should be open to everyone and encouraged practice over meditation.
The other group known as the ‘Original’ or ‘Theravada’ meaning ‘The way of the elders’ did not like the term. The ones belonging to the Theravada group believed in individual efforts for personal enlightenment and were based on meditation and personal dedication just like a monk.
Today, Buddhism following the Theravada group is found Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and Sri Lanka while the Mahayana group was again divided into different sub-groups which also include Tantric and Zen Buddhism.