Theravāda is the most ancient branch of extant Buddhism today and the one that preserved their version of the teachings of Gautama Buddha in the Pāli Canon. The Pāli Canon is the only complete Buddhist canon which survives in a classical Indian language, Pāli, which serves as both sacred language and lingua franca of Theravāda Buddhism. For more than a millennium, Theravāda has focused on preserving the dhamma as preserved in its texts and it tends to be conservative with regard to matters of doctrine and monastic discipline. Since the 19th century, meditation practice has been re-introduced and has become popular with a lay audience, both in traditional Theravada countries and in the west; as a distinct school of early Buddhism, Theravāda Buddhism developed in Sri Lanka and subsequently spread to the rest of Southeast Asia. It is the dominant form of religion in Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand and is practiced by minority groups in India, China and Vietnam. In addition, the diaspora of all of these groups as well as converts around the world practice Theravāda Buddhism.
Contemporary expressions include Buddhist modernism, the Vipassana movement and the Thai Forest Tradition. The name Theravāda comes from the ancestral Sthāvirīya, one of the early Buddhist schools, from which the Theravadins claim descent; the Sthavira nikāya arose during the first schism in the Buddhist sangha, due to their desire to tighten monastic discipline by adding new Vinaya rules, against the wishes of the majority Mahāsāṃghika group who disagreed with this. According to its own accounts, the Theravāda school is fundamentally derived from the Vibhajjavāda "doctrine of analysis" grouping, a division of the Sthāvirīya. According to Damien Keown, there is no historical evidence that the Theravāda school arose until around two centuries after the Great Schism which occurred at the Third Council. Theravadin accounts of its own origins mention that it received the teachings that were agreed upon during the putative Third Buddhist council under the patronage of the Indian Emperor Ashoka around 250 BCE.
These teachings were known as the Vibhajjavāda. Emperor Ashoka is supposed to have assisted in purifying the sangha by expelling monks who failed to agree to the terms of Third Council; the elder monk Moggaliputta-Tissa was at the head of the Third council and compiled the Kathavatthu, a refutation of various opposing views, an important work in the Theravada Abhidhamma. The Vibhajjavādins in turn is said to have split into four groups: the Mahīśāsaka, Kāśyapīya, Dharmaguptaka in the north, the Tāmraparṇīya in South India; the Tambapaṇṇiya, were established in Sri Lanka but active in Andhra and other parts of South India and across South-East Asia. Inscriptional evidence of this school has been found in Nagarjunakonda. According to Buddhist scholar A. K. Warder, the Theravāda. Spread south from Avanti into Maharashtra and Andhra and down to the Chola country, as well as Sri Lanka. For some time they maintained themselves in Avanti as well as in their new territories, but they tended to regroup themselves in the south, the Great Vihara in Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka, becoming the main centre of their tradition, Kanchi a secondary center and the northern regions relinquished to other schools.
The Theravāda is said to be descended from the Tāmraparṇīya sect, which means "the Sri Lankan lineage". Missionaries sent abroad from India are said to have included Ashoka's son Mahinda and his daughter Sanghamitta, they were the mythical founders of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, a story which scholars suggest helps to legitimize Theravāda's claims of being the oldest and most authentic school. According to the Mahavamsa chronicle their arrival in Sri Lanka is said to have been during the reign of Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura who converted to Buddhism and helped build the first Buddhist stupas. According to S. D. Bandaranayake: The rapid spread of Buddhism and the emergence of an extensive organization of the sangha are linked with the secular authority of the central state... There are no known artistic or architectural remains from this epoch except for the cave dwellings of the monks, reflecting the growth and spread of the new religion; the most distinctive features of this phase and the only contemporary historical material, are the numerous Brahmi inscriptions associated with these caves.
They record gifts to the sangha by householders and chiefs rather than by kings. The Buddhist religion itself does not seem to have established undisputed authority until the reigns of Dutthagamani and Vattagamani... The first records of Buddha images come from the reign of king Vasabha, after the 3rd century AD the historical record shows a growth of the worship of Buddha images as well as Bodhisattvas. In the 7th century, the Chinese pilgrim monks Xuanzang and Yijing refer to the Buddhist schools in Sri Lanka as Shàngzuòbù, corresponding to the Sanskrit Sthavira nikāya and Pali Thera Nikāya. Yijing writes, "In Sri Lanka the Sthavira school alone flourishes; the school has been using the name Theravāda for itself in a written form since at least the 4th century, about one thousand years after the Buddha's death, when the term appears in the Dīpavaṁsa. Between the reigns of Sena I and Mahinda IV, the city of Anuradhapura saw a "colossal building effort" by various kings during a long period of peace and prosperity, the great part o
Buddhists take refuge in the Three Jewels or Triple Gem. The Three Jewels are: the Buddha, the enlightened one the Dharma, the teachings expounded by the Buddha the Sangha, the monastic order of Buddhism that practice the DharmaRefuge is common to all major schools of Buddhism. Pali texts employ the Brahmanical motif of a group of three refuges, as found in Rig Veda 9.97.47, Rig Veda 6.46.9 and Chandogya Upanishad 2.22.3-4. Faith is an important teaching element in both Mahayana traditions. In contrast to perceived Western notions of faith, faith in Buddhism arises from accumulated experience and reasoning. In the Kalama Sutra, the Buddha explicitly argues against following authority or tradition those of religions contemporary to the Buddha's time. There remains value for a degree of trusting confidence and belief in Buddhism in the spiritual attainment and salvation or enlightenment. Faith in Buddhism centres on belief in the Three Jewels. Lay followers undertake five precepts in the same ceremony as they take the refuges.
Monks administer the precepts to the laypeople. The five precepts are: to refrain from killing. In Early Buddhist Texts, the role of the five precepts developed. First of all, the precepts were combined with a declaration of faith in the triple gem. Next, the precepts developed to become the foundation of lay practice; the precepts were seen a preliminary condition for the higher development of the mind. At a third stage in the texts, the precepts were mentioned together with the triple gem, as though they were part of it. Lastly, the precepts, together with the triple gem, became a required condition for the practice of Buddhism, as lay people had to undergo a formal initiation to become a member of the Buddhist religion; when Buddhism spread to different places and people, the role of the precepts began to vary. In countries in which Buddhism was adopted as the main religion without much competition from other religious disciplines, such as Thailand, the relation between the initiation of a lay person and the five precepts has been non-existent, the taking of the precepts has become a sort of ritual cleansing ceremony.
In such countries, people are presumed Buddhist from birth without much of an initiation. The precepts are committed to by new followers as part of their installment, yet this is not pronounced. However, in some countries like China, where Buddhism was not the only religion, the precepts became an ordination ceremony to initiate lay people into the Buddhist religion. A layperson who upholds the precepts is described in the texts as a "jewel among laymen". In Tibetan Buddhism there are three refuge formulations, the Outer and Secret forms of the Three Jewels. The'Outer' form is the'Triple Gem', the'Inner' is the Three Roots and the'Secret' form is the'Three Bodies' or trikaya of a Buddha; these alternative refuge formulations are employed by those undertaking Deity Yoga and other tantric practices within the Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana tradition as a means of recognizing Buddha Nature. Three refuge motivation levels are: 1) suffering rebirth's fear motivates with the idea of happiness, 2) knowing rebirth won’t bring freedoms motivated by attaining nirvana, while 3) seeing other’s suffering motivates establishing them all in Buddhahood.
Happiness is temporary, lifetimes are impermanent and refuge is taken until reaching unsurpassed awakening. Abhijñā Anussati Dharmapala Holy Spirit Pure land Titiksha Trikaya A Buddhist View on Refuge Refuge: A Safe and Meaningful Direction in Life by Dr. Alexander Berzin Refuge Vows Taking the refuges and precepts online by Bhikkhu Samahita Vajrayana refuge prayer audio The Threefold Refuge Five Precepts Abhisanda Sutta Saranagamana Going for Refuge and Taking the Precepts by Bhikkhu Bodhi Refuge: An Introduction to the Buddha and Sangha by Thanissaro Bhikkhu Refuge Tree Thangkas by Dharmapala Thangka Centre Ceremony for Taking Refuge and Precepts by Ven. Thubten Chodron The three jewels of Buddhism in relation to Anthroposophy. By Bruce Kirchoff
Gautama Buddha known as Siddhārtha Gautama in Sanskrit or Siddhattha Gotama in Pali, Shakyamuni Buddha, or the Buddha, after the title of Buddha, was a monk, sage, philosopher and religious leader on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived and taught in the northeastern part of ancient India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. Gautama taught a Middle Way between sensual indulgence and the severe asceticism found in the śramaṇa movement common in his region, he taught throughout other regions of eastern India such as Magadha and Kosala. Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism, he is believed by Buddhists to be an enlightened teacher who attained full Buddhahood and shared his insights to help sentient beings end rebirth and suffering. Accounts of his life and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarised after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition and first committed to writing about 400 years later.
Scholars are hesitant to make unqualified claims about the historical facts of the Buddha's life. Most people accept that the Buddha lived and founded a monastic order during the Mahajanapada era during the reign of Bimbisara, the ruler of the Magadha empire, died during the early years of the reign of Ajatasatru, the successor of Bimbisara, thus making him a younger contemporary of Mahavira, the Jain tirthankara. While the general sequence of "birth, renunciation, search and liberation, death" is accepted, there is less consensus on the veracity of many details contained in traditional biographies; the times of Gautama's birth and death are uncertain. Most historians in the early 20th century dated his lifetime as c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE. More his death is dated between 411 and 400 BCE, while at a symposium on this question held in 1988, the majority of those who presented definite opinions gave dates within 20 years either side of 400 BCE for the Buddha's death; these alternative chronologies, have not been accepted by all historians.
The evidence of the early texts suggests that Siddhārtha Gautama was born into the Shakya clan, a community, on the periphery, both geographically and culturally, of the eastern Indian subcontinent in the 5th century BCE. One of his usual names was "Sakamuni" or "Sakyamunī", it was either a small republic, or an oligarchy, his father was an elected chieftain, or oligarch. According to the Buddhist tradition, Gautama was born in Lumbini, now in modern-day Nepal, raised in the Shakya capital of Kapilvastu, which may have been either in what is present day Tilaurakot, Nepal or Piprahwa, India. According to Buddhist tradition, he obtained his enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, gave his first sermon in Sarnath, died in Kushinagar. Apart from the Vedic Brahmins, the Buddha's lifetime coincided with the flourishing of influential Śramaṇa schools of thought like Ājīvika, Cārvāka, Ajñana. Brahmajala Sutta records sixty-two such schools of thought. In this context, a śramaṇa refers to one who toils, or exerts themselves.
It was the age of influential thinkers like Mahavira, Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosāla, Ajita Kesakambalī, Pakudha Kaccāyana, Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, as recorded in Samaññaphala Sutta, whose viewpoints the Buddha most must have been acquainted with. Indeed and Moggallāna, two of the foremost disciples of the Buddha, were the foremost disciples of Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, the sceptic. There is philological evidence to suggest that the two masters, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, were indeed historical figures and they most taught Buddha two different forms of meditative techniques. Thus, Buddha was just one of the many śramaṇa philosophers of that time. In an era where holiness of person was judged by their level of asceticism, Buddha was a reformist within the śramaṇa movement, rather than a reactionary against Vedic Brahminism; the life of the Buddha coincided with the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley during the rule of Darius I from about 517/516 BCE. This Achaemenid occupation of the areas of Gandhara and Sindh, to last for about two centuries, was accompanied by the introduction of Achaemenid religions, reformed Mazdaism or early Zoroastrianism, to which Buddhism might have in part reacted.
In particular, the ideas of the Buddha may have consisted of a rejection of the "absolutist" or "perfectionist" ideas contained in these Achaemenid religions. No written records about Gautama were found from his lifetime or from the one or two centuries thereafter. In the middle of the 3rd century BCE, several Edicts of Ashoka mention the Buddha, Ashoka's Rummindei Minor Pillar Edict commemorates the Emperor's pilgrimage to Lumbini as the Buddha's birthplace. Another one of his edicts mentions the titles of several Dhamma texts, establishing the existence of a written Buddhist tradition at least by the time of the Maurya era; these texts may be the precursor of the Pāli Canon. "Sakamuni" in mentioned in the reliefs of Bharhut, dated to circa 100 BCE, in relation with his illumination and the Bodhi tree, with the inscription Bhagavato Sakamunino Bodho. The oldest surviving Buddhist manuscripts are the Gandhāran Buddhist texts, repor
Buddhism is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions and spiritual practices based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. Buddhism originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are recognized by scholars: Theravada and Mahayana. Most Buddhist traditions share the goal of overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth, either by the attainment of Nirvana or through the path of Buddhahood. Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the path to liberation, the relative importance and canonicity assigned to the various Buddhist texts, their specific teachings and practices. Observed practices include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, observance of moral precepts, monasticism and the cultivation of the Paramitas.
Theravada Buddhism has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia such as Myanmar and Thailand. Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Nichiren Buddhism and Tiantai, is found throughout East Asia. Vajrayana, a body of teachings attributed to Indian adepts, may be viewed as a separate branch or as an aspect of Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism, which preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth-century India, is practiced in the countries of the Himalayan region and Kalmykia. Buddhism is an Indian religion attributed to the teachings of the Buddha born Siddhārtha Gautama, known as the Tathāgata and Sakyamuni. Early texts have his personal name as "Gautama" or "Gotama" without any mention of "Siddhārtha," which appears to have been a kind of honorific title when it does appear; the details of Buddha's life are mentioned in many Early Buddhist Texts but are inconsistent, his social background and life details are difficult to prove, the precise dates uncertain. The evidence of the early texts suggests that he was born as Siddhārtha Gautama in Lumbini and grew up in Kapilavasthu, a town in the plains region of the modern Nepal-India border, that he spent his life in what is now modern Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Some hagiographic legends state that his father was a king named Suddhodana, his mother was Queen Maya, he was born in Lumbini gardens. However, scholars such as Richard Gombrich consider this a dubious claim because a combination of evidence suggests he was born in the Shakyas community – one that gave him the title Shakyamuni, the Shakya community was governed by a small oligarchy or republic-like council where there were no ranks but where seniority mattered instead; some of the stories about Buddha, his life, his teachings, claims about the society he grew up in may have been invented and interpolated at a time into the Buddhist texts. According to the Buddhist sutras, Gautama was moved by the innate suffering of humanity and its endless repetition due to rebirth, he set out on a quest to end this repeated suffering. Early Buddhist canonical texts and early biographies of Gautama state that Gautama first studied under Vedic teachers, namely Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, learning meditation and ancient philosophies the concept of "nothingness, emptiness" from the former, "what is neither seen nor unseen" from the latter.
Finding these teachings to be insufficient to attain his goal, he turned to the practice of asceticism. This too fell short of attaining his goal, he turned to the practice of dhyana, which he had discovered in his youth, he famously sat in meditation under a Ficus religiosa tree now called the Bodhi Tree in the town of Bodh Gaya in the Gangetic plains region of South Asia. He gained insight into the workings of karma and his former lives, attained enlightenment, certainty about the Middle Way as the right path of spiritual practice to end suffering from rebirths in Saṃsāra; as a enlightened Buddha, he attracted followers and founded a Sangha. Now, as the Buddha, he spent the rest of his life teaching the Dharma he had discovered, died at the age of 80 in Kushinagar, India. Buddha's teachings were propagated by his followers, which in the last centuries of the 1st millennium BCE became over 18 Buddhist sub-schools of thought, each with its own basket of texts containing different interpretations and authentic teachings of the Buddha.
The Four Truths express the basic orientation of Buddhism: we crave and cling to impermanent states and things, dukkha, "incapable of satisfying" and painful. This keeps us caught in saṃsāra, the endless cycle of repeated rebirth and dying again, but there is a way to liberation from this endless cycle to the state of nirvana, namely following the Noble Eightfold Path. The truth of dukkha is the basic insight that life in this mundane world, with its clinging and craving to impermanent states and things is dukkha, unsatisfactory. Dukkha can be translated as "incapable of satisfying," "the unsatisfactory nature and the general insecurity of all conditioned phenomena". Dukkha is most translated as "suffering," but this is inaccurate, since it refers not to episodic suffering, but to the intrinsically unsat
Tibetan Buddhist canon
The Tibetan Buddhist canon is a loosely defined list of sacred texts recognized by various sects of Tibetan Buddhism. In addition to sutrayana texts from Early Buddhist and Mahayana sources, the Tibetan canon includes tantric texts; the Tibetan Canon underwent a final compilation in the 14th century by Buton Rinchen Drub. The Tibetans did not have a formally arranged Mahayana canon and so devised their own scheme which divided texts into two broad categories: Kangyur or "Translated Words or Vacana", consists of works supposed to have been said by the Buddha himself. All texts have a Sanskrit original, although in many cases the Tibetan text was translated from Chinese or other languages. Tengyur or "Translated Treatises or Shastras", is the section to which were assigned commentaries and abhidharma works; the Tengyur contains 3626 texts in 224 Volumes. The Kangyur is divided into sections on Vinaya, Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, Avatamsaka and other sutras, tantras; when the term Kangyur was first used is not known.
Collections of canonical Buddhist texts existed in the time of Trisong Detsen, the sixth king of Tibet. The exact number of texts in the Kangyur is not fixed; each editor takes responsibility for removing texts he considers spurious or adding new translations. There are about 12 available Kangyurs; these include the Derge, Narthang, Peking, Urga and Stog Palace versions, each named after the physical location of its printing. In addition, some canonical texts have been found in Tabo and Dunhuang which provide earlier exemplars to texts found in the Kangyur; the majority of extant Kangyur editions appear to stem from the so-called Old Narthang Kangyur, though the Phukdrak and Tawang editions are thought to lie outside of that textual lineage. The stemma of the Kangyur have been well researched in particular by Paul Harrison. From the seventh century onward, existing literature were compiled and catalogued from time to time which extended, classified and put in different sets of different collections.
A separate set of translation works was re-grouped into two major collections popularly known as bka’-’gyur and bstan-’gyur, translation of Buddha’s discourses and translation of commentarial works respectively. The first Tibetan catalogue was introduced during the period of the 39th Tibetan King khri-lde srong-btsen known as sad-na legs-mjing-gyon, who issued decrees “requiring all translation works that were extant in Tibetan from their Indian original to be catalogued and subjected to be recurrently reviewed and to set guidelines of terminology in order to standardize all translation works”. A team of Indian and Tibetan scholars was assigned for the purpose; as a major step in this remarkable attempt at literary standardization, the bi-lingual glossary known as the Mahavyutpatti was accomplished in the Tibetan horse year. Another great achievement was the cataloguing of the collections available in royal libraries of the three famous Tibetan palaces under the supervision of the famous translator Bande sKa-ba dpal-brtsegs with help from his colleagues, Bande chos-kyi snying-po, Lo-tsa-wa Bande debendhara, Bande lhun-po and Bande klu’-dbang-po etc.
The earliest catalogue compilation was recorded from the manuscript of the royal collection housed in the palace- pho-brang ‘phang-thang ka-med kyi gtsug-lag-kang in the Tibetan dog year. This cataloguing work known as dkar-chag phang-thang-ma. Soon afterwards two further catalogues of collections available in two other royal libraries- pho-brang bsam-yas mchims-phu-ma and pho-brang stong-thang ldan-dkar were compiled and came to be known as dkar-chag mchims-phu-ma and dkar-chag ldan-dkar-ma respectively. Dkar-chag ldan-dkar-ma was compiled in the dragon year. Among these three catalogues, ldan-dkar-ma, included in the volume Jo of sna-tsogs in sde-ge bka’-bstan, is believed to be the only surviving so far, but a manuscript of dkar-chag phang-thang-ma is discovered and published from Tibet. It contains 961 titles listed under 34 subject headings with additional information of numbers of verses that contains in each text; the ldan-dkar-ma catalogue listed under a category of 27 subject headings.
An interesting unique feature of Tibetan catalogue is that, alongside information about the source material of translation and the bibliographical details, it gives in physical descriptions, such as the nos. of words, verses and folios-pages in each of textual contents. Thus today we have a record of 73 million words contained in the bka’-’gyur & bstan-’gyur collection. According to the latest edition of Dharma Publication, the bKa’-‘gyur contains 1,115 texts, spread over 65,420 Tibetan folios amounting to 450,000 lines or 25 million words; the bsTan-'gyur contains 3,387 texts using 127,000 folios amounting to 850,000 lines and 48 millions words. The sum total of both these collections is 4,502 texts in 73 millions words. By fixing bampo to verses and to words of each of the textual contents, the individual works are interpolation and alteration; this further strengthened the authenticity of Tibetan Buddhist literature. These are the first Tibetan catalogues in three versions that were compiled and published in the beginning of the ninth century by the great sgra-sgyur gyi lo-tsa-wa Bande sKa-ba dpal-brtsegs and his team.
Tibet, becomes the earliest to accomplish catalogue as inventory i
Merit is a concept considered fundamental to Buddhist ethics. It is a beneficial and protective force which accumulates as a result of good deeds, acts, or thoughts. Merit-making is important to Buddhist practice: merit brings good and agreeable results, determines the quality of the next life and contributes to a person's growth towards enlightenment. In addition, merit is shared with a deceased loved one, in order to help the deceased in their new existence. Despite modernization, merit-making remains essential in traditional Buddhist countries and has had a significant impact on the rural economies in these countries. Merit is connected with the notions of goodness. Before Buddhism, merit was used with regard to ancestor worship, but in Buddhism it gained a more general ethical meaning. Merit is a force. Moreover, it affects the next lives, as well as the destination a person is reborn; the opposite of merit is demerit, it is believed that merit is able to weaken demerit. Indeed, merit has been connected to the path to Nirvana itself, but many scholars say that this refers only to some types of merit.
Merit can be gained in a number of ways, such as giving and mental development. In addition, there are many forms of merit-making described in ancient Buddhist texts. A similar concept of kusala is known, different from merit in some details; the most fruitful form of merit-making is those good deeds done with regard to the Triple Gem, that is, the Buddha, his teachings, the Dhamma, the Sangha. In Buddhist societies, a great variety of practices involving merit-making has grown throughout the centuries, sometimes involving great self-sacrifice. Merit has become part of rituals and weekly practice, festivals. In addition, there is a widespread custom of transferring merit to one's deceased relatives, of which the origin is still a matter of scholarly debate. Merit has been that important in Buddhist societies, that kingship was legitimated through it, still is. In modern society, merit-making has been criticized as materialist, but merit-making is still ubiquitous in many societies. Examples of the impact of beliefs about merit-making can be seen in the Phu Mi Bun rebellions which took place in the last centuries, as well as in the revival of certain forms of merit-making, such as the much discussed merit release.
Puñña translates as'merit, meritorious action, virtue'. It is glossed by the Theravāda Commentator Dhammapāla as "santanaṃ punāti visodheti", meaning'it cleans or purifies the life-continuity', its opposites are pāpa, of which the term pāpa has become most common. The term merit a Judeo-Christian term, has in the latter part of the twentieth century been used as a translation of the Buddhist term puṇya or puñña; the Buddhist term has, more of an impermanent character than the English translation implies, the Buddhist term does not imply a sense of deserving. Before the arising of Buddhism, merit was used in the context of Brahmanical sacrifice, it was believed that merit accrued through such sacrifice would bring the devotee to an eternal heaven of the'fathers'. In the period of the Upanishads, a concept of rebirth was established and it was believed that life in heaven was determined by the merit accumulated in previous lives, but the focus on the pitṛ did not change. In Buddhism, the idea of an eternal heaven was rejected, but it was believed that merit could help achieve a rebirth in a temporary heaven.
Merit was no longer a product of ritual, but was invested with an ethical meaning and role. In the Tipiṭaka, the importance of merit is stressed. Merit is considered fundamental to Buddhist ethics, in nearly all Buddhist traditions. Merit-making is important to Buddhist practice in Buddhist societies. Merit is a "beneficial and protective force which extends over a long period of time" —and is the effect of good deeds done through physical action, words, or thought; as its Pāli language definition indicates, this force is associated with goodness and purity of mind. In traditional Buddhist societies, it is believed that merit is more sustainable than that of magical rites, spirit worship or worldly power; the way merit works, is that acts of merit bring good and agreeable results, whereas demeritorious acts bring bad and disagreeable results. A mixture of the two generates mixed results in a person's life; this karmic correspondence or "automatic cosmic reaction" is a common idea found in Buddhist texts and Buddhist societies, explains why people are different and lead different lives in many ways.
Karma is self-regulatory and natural: it operates without divine intervention and human intention is fundamental to it. Internally, merit makes the mind virtuous. Externally, present good circumstances, such as a long life and wealth, as well as the character and abilities someone is born with, arise from merits done in the past and vice versa, with demerits; the merits and demerits a person has done may take a while to bear fruit. Merit or demerit may cause a good or bad future including in the next lives to come. A bad destination after rebirth may be caused by demerit, but a lack of merit may lead a person to be
Decline of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent
The decline of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent refers to a gradual process of dwindling and replacement of Buddhism in India, which ended around the 12th century. According to Lars Fogelin, this was "with a singular cause. Another factor were invasions of north India by various groups such as Huns, Turco-mongols and Persians and subsequent destruction of Buddhist institutions such as Nalanda and religious persecutions. Religious competition with Hinduism and Islam were important factors; the total Buddhist population in 2010 in the Indian subcontinent – excluding that of Sri Lanka and Bhutan – was about 10 million, of which about 7.2% lived in Bangladesh, 92.5% in India and 0.2% in Pakistan. Buddhism expanded in the Indian subcontinent in the centuries after the death of the Buddha after receiving the endorsement and royal support of the Maurya Empire under Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, it spread beyond the Indian subcontinent to Central Asia and China. The Buddha's period saw not only urbanisation, but the beginnings of centralised states.
The successful expansion of Buddhism depended on the growing economy of the time, together with increased centralised political organisation capable of change. Buddhism spread across ancient India and state support by various regional regimes continued through the 1st-millennium BCE; the consolidation of monastic organisation made Buddhism the centre of religious and intellectual life in India. Pushyamitra, the first ruler of the Shunga Dynasty built great Buddhist stupas at Sanchi in 188 BCE; the succeeding Kanva Dynasty had four Buddhist Kanva Kings. During the Gupta dynasty, Mahayana Buddhism turned more ritualistic, while Buddhist ideas were adopted into Hindu schools; the differences between Buddhism and Hinduism blurred, Vaishnavism and other Hindu traditions became popular, while Brahmins developed a new relationship with the state. As the system grew, Buddhist monasteries lost control of land revenue. In parallel, the Gupta kings built Buddhist temples such as the one at Kushinagara, monastic universities such as those at Nalanda, as evidenced by records left by three Chinese visitors to India.
Chinese scholars traveling through the region between the 5th and 8th centuries, such as Faxian, Yijing, Hui-sheng, Sung-Yun, began to speak of a decline of the Buddhist Sangha in the Northwestern parts of Indian subcontinent in the wake of the Hun invasion from central Asia in the 6th century CE. Xuanzang wrote that numerous monasteries in north-western India had been reduced to ruins by the Huns; the Hun ruler Mihirakula, who ruled from 515 CE in north-western region, suppressed Buddhism as well. He did this by destroying monasteries as far away as modern-day Allahabad. Yashodharman and Gupta Empire rulers, in and after about 532 CE, reversed Mihirakula's campaign and ended the Mihirakula era. According to Peter Harvey, the religion recovered from these invasions during the 7th century, with the "Buddhism of southern Pakistan remaining strong." The reign of the Pala Dynasty saw Buddhism in North India recover due to royal support from the Palas who supported various Buddhist centers like Nalanda.
By the eleventh century, Pala rule had weakened however. The regionalisation of India after the end of the Gupta Empire led to the loss of patronage and donations; the prevailing view of decline of Buddhism in India is summed by A. L. Basham's classic study which argues that the main cause was the rise of a reformed religion, "Hinduism", which focused on the worship of deities like Shiva and Vishnu and became more popular among the common people while Buddhism, being focused on monastery life, had become disconnected from public life and its life rituals, which were all left to Hindu Brahmins; the growth of new forms of Hinduism was a key element in the decline in Buddhism in India in terms of diminishing financial support to Buddhist monasteries from laity and royalty. According to Hazra, Buddhism declined in part because of the rise of the Brahmins and their influence in socio-political process; the disintegration of central power led to regionalisation of religiosity, religious rivalry. Rural and devotional movements arose within Hinduism, along with Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Tantra, that competed with each other, as well as with numerous sects of Buddhism and Jainism.
This fragmentation of power into feudal kingdoms was detrimental for Buddhism, as royal support shifted towards other communities and Brahmins developed a strong relationship with Indian states. Over time the new Indian dynasties which arose after the 7th and 8th centuries tended to support the Brahmanical ideology and Hinduism, this conversion proved decisive; these new dynasties, all of which supported Brahmanical Hinduism, include "the Karkotas and Pratiharas of the north, the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan, the Pandyas and Pallavas of the south". One of the reasons of this conversion was that the brahmins were willing and able to aid in local administration, they provided councillors and clerical staff. Moreover, brahmins had clear ideas about society and statecraft and could be more pragmatic than the Buddhists, whose religion was based on monastic renunci