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Brief History Of Buddhism

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Buddhism is one of the major religions of the world. It was
founded by Siddhartha Guatama (Buddha) in Northeastern India. It arose as
a monastic movement during a time of Brahman tradition. Buddhism rejected
important views of Hinduism. It did not recognize the validity of the
Vedic Scriptures, nor the sacrificial cult which arose from it. It also
questioned the authority of the priesthood. Also, the Buddhist movement
was open to people of all castes, denying that a person's worth could be
judged by their blood.

The religion of Buddhism has 150 to 350 million followers around
the world. The wide range is due to two reasons. The tendency for
religious affiliation to be nonexclusive is one. The other is the
difficulty in getting information from Communist countries such as China.
It's followers have divided into two main branches: Theravada and
Mahayana. Theravada, the way of the elders, is dominant in India, Sri
Lanka, Burma, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia. Mahayana, the greater vehicle,
refers to the Theravada as Hinayana, the lesser vehicle. It is dominant in
India, Tibet, Japan, Nepal, Taiwan, China, Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia.

Siddhartha Guatama was born in Kapilivastu. His father was the
ruler of the small kingdom near the Indian/Nepal border. As a child, his
future was foretold by sages. They believed that he would someday be a
fellow sage or leader of a great empire. He led a very pampered and
sheltered life until the age of twenty-nine. It was at that time that he
realized that he had led an empty life. He renounced his wealth and
embarked on a journey to seek truth, enlightenment, and the cycle of
rebirths.

In the first years of his journey, Siddhartha Guatama practiced
yoga and became involved in radical asceticism. After a short time, he
gave up that life for one of a middle path between indulgence and self-
denial. He meditated under a bo tree until he reached true enlightenment
by rising through a series of higher states of consciousness. After
realizing this religious inner truth, he went through a time of inner
struggle. Renaming himself Buddha (meaning enlightened one), he wandered
from place to place, preaching, spreading his teachings by word of mouth.
He also gained disciples, who were grouped into a monastic community
known as a sangha.

As he neared his death, Buddha refused a successor. He told his
followers to work hard to find their salvation. After his death, it was
decided that a new way to keep the community's unity and purity was needed,
since the teachings of Buddha were spoken only. To maintain peace, the
monastic order met to decide on matters of Buddhist doctrines and
practice. Four of these meetings are considered to be the Four Major
Councils.

The first major council was presided over by Mahakasyapa, a
Buddhist monk. The purpose of the first council was to preach and agree on
Buddha's teachings and monastic discipline.

The second major council supposedly met at Vaisali, one hundred
years after the first. The purpose of this council was to answer the ten
questionable acts of the monks of the Vajjian Confederacy. The use of
money, drinking wine, and other irregularities were among the acts. It was
decided that the practices were unlawful. This decision has been found to
be the cause of the division of the Buddhists. The accounts of the meeting
describe a quarrel between the Mahasanghikas (Great Assembly) and the
Sthaviras (Elders). Tensions had grown within the ...

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