salient features of Buddhism
foundations of Buddhism are the four Noble Truths namely,
Suffering (the raison d'etre of Buddhism), its cause (i.e.,
Craving), its end (i.e., Nibbana, the Summum Bonum of Buddhism),
and the Middle Way.
is the Noble Truth of Suffering?
is suffering, old age is suffering, disease is suffering, death
is suffering, to be united with the unpleasant is suffering, to
be separated from the pleasant is suffering, not to receive what
one craves for is suffering, in brief the five Aggregates of Attachment
is the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering?
is the craving which leads from rebirth to rebirth accompanied
by lust or passion, which delights now here now there; it is the
craving for sensual pleasures (Kamatanha), for existence
and for annihilation (Vibhavatanha)."
is the Noble Truth of the Annihilation of Suffering?
is the remainderless, total annihilation of this very craving,
the forsaking of it, the breaking loose, fleeing, deliverance
is the Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Annihilation of
is the Noble Eightfold Path which consists of right understanding,
right thoughts, right speech, right action, right livelihood,
right endeavor, right mindfulness, and right concentration."
the Buddhas arise or not these four Truths exist in the universe.
The Buddhas only reveal these Truths which lay hidden in the dark
abyss of time.
interpreted, the Dhamma may be called the law of cause and effect.
These two embrace the entire body of the Buddha's Teachings.
first three truths represent the philosophy of Buddhism; the fourth
represents the ethics of Buddhism, based on that philosophy. All
these four truths are dependent on this body itself. The Buddha
states: "In this very one-fathom long body along with perceptions
and thoughts, do I proclaim the world, the origin of the world,
the end of the world and the path leading to the end of the world."
Here the term world is applied to suffering.
rests on the pivot of sorrow. But it does not thereby follow that
Buddhism is pessimistic. It is neither totally pessimistic nor
totally optimistic, but, on the contrary, it teaches a truth that
lies midway between them. One would be justified in calling the
Buddha a pessimist if he had only enunciated the truth of suffering
without suggesting a means to put an end to it. The Buddha perceived
the universality of sorrow and did prescribe a panacea for this
universal sickness of humanity. The highest conceivable happiness,
according to the Buddha, is Nibbana, which is the total extinction
author of the article on Pessimism in the Encyclopedia Britannica
writes: "Pessimism denotes an attitude of hopelessness towards
life, a vague general opinion that pain and evil predominate in
human affairs. The original doctrine of the Buddha is in fact
as optimistic as any optimism of the West. To call it pessimism
is merely to apply to it a characteristically Western principle
to which happiness is impossible without personality. The true
Buddhist looks forward with enthusiasm to absorption into eternal
the enjoyment of sensual pleasures is the highest and only happiness
of the average man. There is no doubt a kind of momentary happiness
in the anticipation, gratification and retrospection of such fleeting
material pleasures, but they are illusive and temporary. According
to the Buddha non-attachment is a greater bliss.
Buddha does not expect his followers to be constantly pondering
on suffering and lead a miserable unhappy life. He exhorts them
to be always happy and cheerful, for zest (piti) is one
of the factors of Enlightenment.
happiness is found within, and is not to be defined in terms of
wealth, children, honor or fame. If such possessions are misdirected,
forcibly or unjustly obtained, misappropriated or even viewed
with attachment, they will be a source of pain and sorrow to the
of trying to rationalize suffering, Buddhism takes suffering for
granted and seeks the cause to eradicate it. Suffering exists
as long as there is craving. It can only be annihilated by treading
the Noble Eightfold Path and attaining the supreme bliss of Nibbana.
four truths can be verified by experience. Hence the Buddha Dhamma
is not based on the fear of the unknown, but is founded on the
bedrock of facts which can be tested by ourselves and verified
by experience. Buddhism is, therefore, rational and intensely
a rational and practical system cannot contain mysteries or esoteric
doctrines. Blind faith, therefore, is foreign to Buddhism. Where
there is no blind faith there cannot be any coercion or persecution
or fanaticism. To the unique credit of Buddhism it must be said
that throughout its peaceful march of 2500 years no drop of blood
was shed in the name of the Buddha, no mighty monarch wielded
his powerful sword to propagate the Dhamma, and no conversion
was made either by force or by repulsive methods. Yet, the Buddha
was the first and the greatest missionary that lived on earth.
Huxley writes: "Alone of all the great world religions Buddhism
made its way without persecution, censorship or inquisition."
Russell remarks: "Of the great religions of history, I prefer
Buddhism, especially in its earliest forms; because it has had
the smallest element of persecution."
the name of Buddhism no altar was reddened with the blood of a
Hypatia, no Bruno was burnt alive. Buddhism appeals more to the
intellect than to the emotion. It is concerned more with the character
of the devotees than with their numerical strength.
one occasion Upali, a follower of Nigantha Nataputta, approached
the Buddha and was so pleased with the Buddha's exposition of
the Dhamma that he instantly expressed his desire to become a
follower of the Buddha. But the Buddha cautioned him, saying:
a verity, O householder, make a thorough investigation. It is
well for a distinguished man like you to make (first) a thorough
who was overjoyed at this unexpected remark of the Buddha, said:
"Lord, had I been a follower of another religion, its adherents
would have taken me round the streets in a procession proclaiming
that such and such a millionaire had renounced his former faith
and embraced theirs. But, Lord, Your Reverence advises me to investigate
further. The more pleased am I with this remark of yours. For
the second time, Lord, I seek refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and
is saturated with this spirit of free enquiry and complete tolerance.
It is the teaching of the open mind and the sympathetic heart,
which, lighting and warming the whole universe with its twin rays
of wisdom and compassion, sheds its genial glow on every being
struggling in the ocean of birth and death.
Buddha was so tolerant that he did not even exercise his power
to give commandments to his lay followers. Instead of using the
imperative, he said: "It behooves you to do this It
behooves you not to do this." He commands not but does exhort.
tolerance the Buddha extended to men, women and all living beings.
was the Buddha who first attempted to abolish slavery and vehemently
protested against the degrading caste system which was firmly
rooted in the soil of India. In the Word of the Buddha it is not
by mere birth one becomes an outcast or a noble, but by one's
actions. Caste or colour does not preclude one from becoming a
Buddhist or from entering the Order. Fishermen, scavengers, courtesans,
together with warriors and Brahmins, were freely admitted to the
Order and enjoyed equal privileges and were also given positions
of rank. Upali, the barber, for instance, was made, in preference
to all others, the chief in matters pertaining to Vinaya discipline.
The timid Sunita, the scavenger, who attained arahatship was admitted
by the Buddha himself into the Order. Angulimala, the robber and
criminal, was converted to a compassionate saint. The fierce Alavaka
sought refuge in the Buddha and became a saint. The courtesan
Ambapali entered the Order and attained arahatship. Such instances
could easily be multiplied from the Tipitaka to show that the
portals of Buddhism were wide open to all, irrespective of caste,
colour or rank.
was also the Buddha who raised the status of downtrodden women
and not only brought them to a realization of their importance
to society but also founded the first celibate religious order
for women with rules and regulations.
Buddha did not humiliate women, but only regarded them as feeble
by nature. He saw the innate good of both men and women and assigned
to them their due places in his teaching. Sex is no barrier to
the Pali term used to denote women is matugama, which means
"mother-folk" or "society of mothers." As
a mother, woman holds an honorable place in Buddhism. Even the
wife is regarded as "best friend" (parama sakha)
of the husband.
critics are only making ex parte statements when they reproach
Buddhism with being inimical to women. Although at first the Buddha
refused to admit women into the Order on reasonable grounds, yet
later he yielded to the entreaties of his foster-mother, Pajapati
Gotami, and founded the Bhikkhuni Order. Just as the Arahats Sariputta
and Moggallana were made the two chief disciples in the Order
of monks, even so he appointed Arahats Khema and Uppalavanna as
the two chief female disciples. Many other female disciples too
were named by the Buddha himself as his distinguished and pious
one occasion the Buddha said to King Kosala who was displeased
on hearing that a daughter was born to him: "A
woman child, O Lord of men; may prove even a better offspring
than a male."
women, who otherwise would have fallen into oblivion, distinguished
themselves in various ways, and gained their emancipation by following
the Dhamma and entering the Order. In this new Order, which later
proved to be a great blessing to many women, queens, princesses,
daughters of noble families, widows, bereaved mothers, destitute
women, pitiable courtesans all, despite their caste or
rank, met on a common platform, enjoyed perfect consolation and
peace, and breathed that free atmosphere which is denied to those
cloistered in cottages and palatial mansions.
was also the Buddha who banned the sacrifice of poor beasts and
admonished his followers to extend their loving-kindness (metta)
to all living beings even to the tiniest creature that
crawls at one's feet. No man has the power or the right to destroy
the life of another as life is precious to all.
genuine Buddhist would exercise this loving-kindness towards every
living being and identify himself with all, making no distinction
whatsoever with regard to caste, colour or sex.
is this Buddhist metta that attempts to break all the barriers
which separate one from another. There is no reason to keep aloof
from others merely because they belong to another persuasion or
another nationality. In that noble Toleration Edict which is based
on Culla-Vyuha and Maha-Vyuha Suttas, Asoka says: "Concourse
alone is best, that is, all should harken willingly to the doctrine
professed by others."
is not confined to any country or any particular nation. It is
universal. It is not nationalism which, in other words, is another
form of caste system founded on a wider basis. Buddhism, if it
be permitted to say so, is supernationalism.
a Buddhist there is no far or near, no enemy or foreigner, no
renegade or untouchable, since universal love realized through
understanding has established the brotherhood of all living beings.
A real Buddhist is a citizen of the world. He regards the whole
world as his motherland and all as his brothers and sisters.
is, therefore, unique, mainly owing to its tolerance, non-aggressiveness,
rationality, practicability, efficacy and universality. It is
the noblest of all unifying influences and the only lever that
can uplift the world.
are some of the salient features of Buddhism, and amongst some
of the fundamental doctrines may be said: Kamma or the Law of
Moral Causation, the Doctrine of Rebirth, Anatta and Nibbana.