History of Buddhism
The history of Buddism spans from the 5th century BCE to the present. Buddhism arose in the eastern part of Ancient India, in and around the ancient Kingdom of Magadha, is based on the teachings of Siddhārtha Gautama; this makes it one of the oldest religions practiced today. The religion evolved as it spread from the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent through Central and Southeast Asia. At one time or another, it influenced most of the Asian continent; the history of Buddhism is characterized by the development of numerous movements and schools, among them the Theravāda, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna traditions, with contrasting periods of expansion and retreat. Siddhārtha Gautama was the historical founder of Buddhism; the early sources state he was born in the small Shakya Republic, part of the Kosala realm of ancient India, now in modern-day Nepal. He is thus known as the Shakyamuni; the republic was ruled by a council of household heads, Gautama was born to one of these elites, so that he described himself as a Kshatriya when talking to Brahmins.
The Early Buddhist Texts contain no continuous life of the Buddha, only after 200 BCE were various "biographies" with much mythological embellishment written. All texts agree however that Gautama renounced the householder life and lived as a sramana ascetic for some time studying under various teachers, before attaining nirvana and bodhi through meditation. For the remaining 45 years of his life, he traveled the Gangetic Plain of central India, teaching his doctrine to a diverse range of people from different castes and initiating monks into his order; the Buddha sent his disciples to spread the teaching across India. He initiated an order of nuns, he urged his disciples to teach in dialects. He spent a lot of his time near the cities of Sāvatthī, Rājagaha and Vesālī. By the time of his death at 80, he had thousands of followers; the years following the death of the Buddha saw the emergence of many movements during the next 400 years: first the schools of Nikaya Buddhism, of which only Theravada remains today, the formation of Mahayana and Vajrayana, pan-Buddhist sects based on the acceptance of new scriptures and the revision of older techniques.
Followers of Buddhism, called Buddhists in English, referred to themselves as Sakyan-s or Sakyabhiksu in ancient India. Buddhist scholar Donald S. Lopez asserts they used the term Bauddha, although scholar Richard Cohen asserts that that term was used only by outsiders to describe Buddhists. After the death of the Buddha, the Buddhist sangha remained centered on the Ganges valley, spreading from its ancient heartland; the canonical sources record various councils, where the monastic Sangha recited and organized the orally transmitted collections of the Buddha's teachings and settled certain disciplinary problems within the community. Modern scholarship has questioned the historicity of these traditional accounts; the first Buddhist council is traditionally said to have been held just after Buddha's Parinirvana, presided over by Mahākāśyapa, one of His most senior disciples, at Rājagṛha with the support of king Ajāthaśatru. According to Charles Prebish all scholars have questioned the historicity of this first council.
Over time, these two monastic fraternities would further divide into various Early Buddhist Schools. The Sthaviras gave birth to a large number of influential schools including the Sarvāstivāda, the Pudgalavāda, the Dharmaguptakas and the Vibhajyavāda; the Mahasamghikas meanwhile developed their own schools and doctrines early on, which can be seen in texts like the Mahavastu, associated with the Lokottaravāda, or ‘Transcendentalist’ school, who might be the same as the Ekavyāvahārikas or "One-utterancers". This school has been seen as foreshadowing certain Mahayana ideas due to their view that all of Gautama Buddha's acts were "transcendental" or "supramundane" those performed before his Buddhahood. In the third century BCE, some Buddhists began introducing new systematized teachings called Abhidharma, based on previous lists or tables of main doctrinal topics. Unlike the Nikayas, which were prose sutras or discourses, the Abhidharma literature consisted of systematic doctrinal exposition and differed across the Buddhist schools who disagreed on points of doctrine.
Abhidharma sought to analyze all experience into its ultimate constituents, phenomenal events or processes called dharmas. During the reign of the Mauryan Emperor Aśoka, Buddhism gained royal support and began to spread more reaching most of the Indian subcontinent. After his invasion of Kalinga, Aśoka seems to have experienced remorse and began working to improve the lives of his subjects. Aśoka built wells, rest-houses and hospitals for humans and animals, he abolished torture, royal hunting trips and even the death penalty. Aśoka supported non-Buddhist faiths like Jainism and Brahmanism. Aśoka propagated religion by building stupas and pillars urging, among other things, respect of all animal life and enjoining people to follow the Dharma, he has been hailed by Buddhist sources as the model for the compassionate chakravartin. Another feature of Mauryan Buddhism was the worship and veneration of stupas, large mounds which contained relics of the Buddha or other saints within, it was believed that the practice of devotion to these relics and stupas could bring blessings
The Pāli Canon is the standard collection of scriptures in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, as preserved in the Pāli language. It is the most complete extant early Buddhist canon. During the First Buddhist Council, Ananda recited the Sutta Pitaka, Upali the Vinaya Pitaka thirty years after the parinibbana of Gautama Buddha in Rajgir; the Arhats present accepted the recitations and henceforth the teachings were preserved orally by the Sangha. The Tipitaka, transmitted to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Asoka were preserved orally and were written down during the Fourth Buddhist Council in 29 BCE 454 years after the death of Gautama Buddha. Textual fragment of similar teachings have been found in the agama of other major Buddhist schools in India, they were however written down in various Prakrits other than Pali as well as Sanskrit. Some of those were translated into Chinese; the surviving Sri Lankan version is the most complete, but one, extensively redacted about 1,000 years after Buddha's death, in the 5th or 6th century CE.
The earliest textual fragments of canonical Pali were found in the Pyu city-states in Burma dating only to the mid 5th to mid 6th century CE. The Pāli Canon falls into three general categories, called pitaka; because of this, the canon is traditionally known as the Tipiṭaka. The three pitakas are; the Vinaya Pitaka and the Sutta Pitaka are remarkably similar to the works of the early Buddhist schools termed Early Buddhist Texts. The Abhidhamma Pitaka, however, is a Theravada collection and has little in common with the Abhidhamma works recognized by other Buddhist schools; the Canon is traditionally described by the Theravada as the Word of the Buddha, though this is not intended in a literal sense, since it includes teachings by disciples. The traditional Theravādin interpretation of the Pali Canon is given in a series of commentaries covering nearly the whole Canon, compiled by Buddhaghosa and monks on the basis of earlier materials now lost. Subcommentaries have been written afterward, commenting further on its commentaries.
The traditional Theravādin interpretation is summarized in Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga. An official view is given by a spokesman for the Buddha Sasana Council of Burma: the Canon contains everything needed to show the path to nirvāna. In Sri Lanka and Thailand, "official" Buddhism has in large part adopted the interpretations of Western scholars. Although the Canon has existed in written form for two millennia, its earlier oral nature has not been forgotten in actual Buddhist practice within the tradition: memorization and recitation remain common. Among recited texts are the Paritta. Lay people know at least a few short texts by heart and recite them regularly. Monks are of course expected to know quite a bit more. A Burmese monk named Vicittasara learned the entire Canon by heart for the Sixth Council; the relation of the scriptures to Buddhism as it exists among ordinary monks and lay people is, as with other major religious traditions, problematic: the evidence suggests that only parts of the Canon enjoyed wide currency, that non-canonical works were sometimes much more used.
Rupert Gethin suggests that the whole of Buddhist history may be regarded as a working out of the implications of the early scriptures. According to a late part of the Pali Canon, the Buddha taught the three pitakas, it is traditionally believed by Theravadins that most of the Pali Canon originated from the Buddha and his immediate disciples. According to the scriptures, a council was held shortly after the Buddha's passing to collect and preserve his teachings; the Theravada tradition states that it was recited orally from the 5th century BCE to the first century BCE, when it was written down. The memorization was enforced by regular communal recitations; the tradition holds that only a few additions were made. The Theravādin pitakas were first written down in Sri Lanka in the Alu Viharaya Temple no earlier than 29-17 B. C. E; the geographic setting of identifiable texts within the Canon corresponds to locations in the Ganges region of northeastern India, including the kingdoms of Kosala, Kasi and Magadha.
While Theravada tradition has regarded Pali as being synonymous with the language of the kingdom of Magadhi as spoken by the Buddha, linguists have identified Pali as being more related to other prakrit languages of western India, found substantial incompatibilities with the few preserved examples of Magadhi and other north-eastern prakrit languages. Linguistic research suggests that the teachings of the Buddha may have been recorded in an eastern India language but were transposed into the west Indian precursor of Pali sometime before the Asokan era. Much of the material in the Canon is not Theravādin, but is
Saṃsāra in Buddhism is the beginningless cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again. Samsara is considered to be dukkha and painful, perpetuated by desire and avidya, the resulting karma. Rebirths occur in six realms of namely three good realms and three evil realms. Samsara ends if a person attains nirvana, the "blowing out" of the desires and the gaining of true insight into impermanence and non-self reality. In Buddhism, saṃsāra is the "suffering-laden, continuous cycle of life and rebirth, without beginning or end". In several suttas of the Samyutta Nikaya's chapter XV in particular it's said "From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on", it is the never ending repetitive cycle of birth and death, in six realms of reality, wandering from one life to another life with no particular direction or purpose. Samsara is characterized by dukkha; every rebirth is impermanent.
In each rebirth one dies, to be reborn elsewhere in accordance with one's own karma. It is perpetuated by one's avidya about anicca and anatta, from craving. Samsara continues until moksha is attained by means of nirvana; the "blowing out" of the desires and the gaining of true insight into impermanence and non-self reality. The Saṃsāra doctrine of Buddhism asserts that while beings undergo endless cycles of rebirth, there is no changeless soul that transmigrates from one lifetime to another - a view that distinguishes its Saṃsāra doctrine from that in Hinduism and Jainism; this no-soul doctrine is called the Anatman in Buddhist texts. The early Buddhist texts suggest that Buddha faced a difficulty in explaining what is reborn and how rebirth occurs, after he innovated the concept that there is "no self". Buddhist scholars, such as the mid-1st millennium CE Pali scholar Buddhaghosa, suggested that the lack of a self or soul does not mean lack of continuity. Buddhaghosa attempted to explain rebirth mechanism with "rebirth-linking consciousness".
The mechanistic details of the Samsara doctrine vary within the Buddhist traditions. Theravada Buddhists assert that rebirth is immediate while the Tibetan schools hold to the notion of a bardo that can last up to forty-nine days before the being is reborn. Buddhist cosmology identifies six realms of rebirth and existence: gods, demi-gods, animals, hungry ghosts and hells. Earlier Buddhist texts refer to five realms rather than six realms; the six realms are divided into three higher realms and three lower realms. The three higher realms are the realms of the gods and demi-gods; the six realms are organized into thirty one levels in east Asian literature. Buddhist texts describe these realms as follows: Gods realm: the gods is the most pleasure-filled among six realms, subdivided into twenty six sub-realms. A rebirth in this heavenly realm is believed to be from good karma accumulation. A Deva does not need to work, is able to enjoy in the heavenly realm all pleasures found on earth. However, the pleasures of this realm lead to attachment, lack of spiritual pursuits and therefore no nirvana.
The vast majority of Buddhist lay people, states Kevin Trainor, have pursued Buddhist rituals and practices motivated with rebirth into Deva realm. The Deva realm in Buddhist practice in southeast and east Asia, states Keown, include gods found in Hindu traditions such as Indra and Brahma, concepts in Hindu cosmology such as Mount Meru. Human realm: called the manuṣya realm. Buddhism asserts that one is reborn in this realm with vastly different physical endowments and moral natures because of a being's past karma. A rebirth in this realm is considered as fortunate because it offers an opportunity to attain nirvana and end the Saṃsāra cycle. Demi-god realm: the demi-gods is the third realm of existence in Buddhism. Asura are notable for some supernormal powers, they fight with trouble the Manusya through illnesses and natural disasters. They accumulate karma, are reborn. Demi-god is sometimes ranked as one of the evil realms as there are stories of them fighting against the Gods. Animal realm: is state of existence of a being as an animal.
This realm is traditionally thought to be similar to a hellish realm, because animals are believed in Buddhist texts to be driven by impulse and instinct, they prey on each other and suffer. Some Buddhist texts assert that plants belong with primitive consciousness. Hungry ghost realm: hungry ghosts and other restless spirits are rebirths caused by karma of excessive craving and attachments, they are invisible and constitute only "subtle matter" of a being. Buddhist texts describe them as beings who are thirsty and hungry small mouths but large stomachs. Buddhist traditions in Asia attempt to care for them on ritual days every year, by leaving food and drinks in open, to feed any hungry ghosts nearby; when their bad karma demerit runs out, these beings are reborn
Buddhist monasticism is one of the earliest surviving forms of organized monasticism in the history of religion. It is one of the most fundamental institutions of Buddhism. Monks and nuns are considered to be responsible for the preservation and dissemination of the Buddha's teaching and the guidance of Buddhist lay people; the order of Buddhist monks and nuns was founded by Gautama Buddha during his lifetime between the fifth and fourth centuries BC. The Buddhist monastic lifestyle grew out of the lifestyle of earlier sects of wandering ascetics, some of whom the Buddha had studied under, it was not isolationist or eremetic: the sangha was dependent on the lay community for basic provisions of food and clothing, in return sangha members helped guide lay followers on the path of Dharma. Individuals or small groups of monks – a teacher and his students, or several monks who were friends – traveled together, living on the outskirts of local communities and practicing meditation in the forests.
Monks and nuns were expected to live with a minimum of possessions, which were to be voluntarily provided by the lay community. Lay followers provided the daily food that monks required, provided shelter for monks when they were needed; some Buddhist schools assert that during the Buddha's time, many retreats and gardens were donated by wealthy citizens for monks and nuns to stay in during the rainy season. Out of this tradition grew two kinds of living arrangements for monastics, as detailed in the Mahavagga section of the Vinaya and Varsavastu texts: avāsā: a temporary house for monastics called a vihara. More than one monk stayed in each house with each monk in his own cell, called a parivena. Ārāma: a more permanent and more comfortable arrangement than the avasa. This property was donated and maintained by a wealthy citizen; this was more lavish. It consisted of residences within orchards or parks. One of the more famous Arama is Anathapindika's, known as Anathapindikassa arame, built on Prince Jeta's grove.
It had buildings worth 1.8 million gold pieces built in a beautiful grove, with the total gift worth 5.4 million gold pieces. After the parinirvana of the Buddha, the Buddhist monastic order developed into a cenobitic movement; the practice of living communally during the rainy vassa season, prescribed by the Buddha grew to encompass a settled monastic life centered on life in a community of practitioners. Most of the modern disciplinary rules followed by monks and nuns—the Patimokkha—relate to such an existing, prescribing in great detail proper methods for living and relating in a community of monks or nuns; the number of rules observed. There are a larger number of rules specified for bhikkhunis. Buddhism has no central authority, therefore many different varieties of practice and philosophy have developed over its history, including among monastic communities, sometimes leading to schisms in the sangha; the information presented here, unless otherwise noted, characterises only certain Buddhist monks who follow the most strict regulations of the'Southern Schools' tradition.
The oldest existing set of texts concerning a Buddhist form of life are those of the Pāli Canon. Although no copy of these texts comes from the time of the Buddha, because of its relative age the Pāli Canon is used by some monastic communities to define their conduct and identity. In some schools of Buddhism, notably those lineages in South East Asia that compose Theravada, the Buddhist monastic community is theoretically divided into two assemblies, the male bhikkhu assembly, the female bhikkhuni assembly. According to some stories, although his followers consisted only of men, the Buddha recognized women as followers after his stepmother, asked for and received permission to live as an ordained practitioner; the Buddha's disciple Ananda insisted on including female order. Female monastic communities in the bhikkhuni lineage were never established in the Vajrayana communities of Tibet and Nepal. Ordination in the bhikkhuni lineage continues to exist among East Asian communities, attempts have been made at a revival in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.
Such divisions are more made in the Northern schools, or in the West. Monks and nuns are expected to fulfill a variety of roles in the Buddhist community. First and foremost, they are expected to preserve the discipline now known as Buddhism, they are expected to provide a living example for the laity, to serve as a "field of merit" for lay followers, providing laymen and women with the opportunity to earn merit by giving gifts and support to the monks. In return for the support of the laity and nuns are expected to live an austere life focused on the study of Buddhist doctrine, the practice of meditation, the observance of good moral character; the relative degree of emphasis on meditation or study has been debated in the Buddhist community. Many continued to keep a relationship with their original families. A Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni first ordains as a Samanera for a year or more. There are some conditions which must be met in order to be allowed into Buddhist monaticism, such as age between 7 and 70 and haven't broken sīla in some manners when undertaking them.
Male novices ordain at a young age, but no younger than 8. Women choose to orda
In Buddhism, buddhahood is the condition or rank of a buddha "awakened one". The goal of Mahayana's bodhisattva path is Samyaksambuddhahood, so that one may benefit all sentient beings by teaching them the path of cessation of dukkha. Mahayana theory contrasts this with the goal of the Theravada path, where the goal is individual arhatship. In Theravada Buddhism, Buddha refers to one who has become awake through their own efforts and insight, without a teacher to point out the dharma. A samyaksambuddha re-discovered the truths and the path to awakening and teaches its to others after his awakening. A pratyekabuddha reaches Nirvana through his own efforts, but does not teach the dharma to others. An arhat needs to follow the teaching of a Buddha to attain Nirvana, but can preach the dharma after attaining Nirvana. In one instance the term buddha is used in Theravada to refer to all who attain Nirvana, using the term Sāvakabuddha to designate an arhat, someone who depends on the teachings of a Buddha to attain Nirvana.
In this broader sense it is equivalent to the arhat. Buddhahood is the state of an awakened being, who having found the path of cessation of dukkha is in the state of "No-more-Learning". There is a broad spectrum of opinion on the universality and method of attainment of Buddhahood, depending on Gautama Buddha's teachings that a school of Buddhism emphasizes; the level to which this manifestation requires ascetic practices varies from none at all to an absolute requirement, dependent on doctrine. Mahayana Buddhism emphasizes the bodhisattva ideal instead of the Arhat; the Tathagatagarba and Buddha-nature doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism consider Buddhahood to be a universal and innate property of absolute wisdom. This wisdom is revealed in a person's current lifetime through Buddhist practice, without any specific relinquishment of pleasures or "earthly desires". Buddhists do not consider Gautama to have been the only Buddha; the Pāli Canon refers to many previous ones, while the Mahayana tradition additionally has many Buddhas of celestial origin (see Amitābha or Vairocana as examples, for lists of many thousands of Buddha names.
The various Buddhist schools hold some varying interpretations on the nature of Buddha. All Buddhist traditions hold that a Buddha is awakened and has purified his mind of the three poisons of craving and ignorance. A Buddha is no longer bound by saṃsāra, has ended the suffering which unawakened people experience in life. Most schools of Buddhism have held that the Buddha was omniscient. However, the early texts contain explicit repudiations of making this claim of the Buddha; some Buddhists meditate on the Buddha as having ten characteristics. These characteristics are mentioned in the Pāli Canon as well as Mahayana teachings, are chanted daily in many Buddhist monasteries: Thus gone, thus come Worthy one Perfectly self-enlightened Perfected in knowledge and conduct Well gone Knower of the world Unsurpassed Leader of persons to be tamed Teacher of the gods and humans The Blessed One or fortunate one The tenth epithet is sometimes listed as "The World Honored Enlightened One" or "The Blessed Enlightened One".
In the Pāli Canon, Gautama Buddha is known as being a "teacher of the gods and humans", superior to both the gods and humans in the sense of having nirvana or the greatest bliss, whereas the devas, or gods, are still subject to anger and sorrow. In the Madhupindika Sutta, Buddha is described in powerful terms as the Lord of the Dhamma and the bestower of immortality. In the Anuradha Sutta Buddha is described as the Tathagata—the supreme man, the superlative man, attainer of the superlative attainment."And so, Anuradha—when you can't pin down the Tathagata as a truth or reality in the present life—is it proper for you to declare,'Friends, the Tathagata—the supreme man, the superlative man, attainer of the superlative attainment—being described, is described otherwise than with these four positions: The Tathagata exists after death, does not exist after death, both does & does not exist after death, neither exists nor does not exist after death'? In the Vakkali Sutta Buddha identifies himself with the Dhamma: O Vakkali, whoever sees the Dhamma, sees me Another reference from the Aggañña Sutta of the Digha Nikaya, says to his disciple Vasettha: O Vasettha!
The Word of Dhammakaya is indeed the name of the Tathagata Shravasti Dhammika, a Theravada monk, writes: In the centuries after his final Nibbāna it sometimes got to the stage that the legends and myths obscured the real human being behind them and the Buddha came to be looked upon as a god. The Buddha was a human being, not a'mere human being' as is sometimes said but a special class of human called a'complete person'; such complete persons are born no different from others and indeed they physically remain quite ordinary. Sangharakshita states that "The first thing we have to understand - and this is important - is that the Buddha is a human being, but a special kind of human being, in fact the highest kind, so fa
The most important places of pilgrimage in Buddhism are located in the Gangetic plains of Northern India and Southern Nepal, in the area between New Delhi and Rajgir. This is the area where Gautama Buddha lived and taught, the main sites connected to his life are now important places of pilgrimage for both Buddhists and Hindus. However, many countries that are or were predominantly Buddhist have shrines and places which can be visited as a pilgrimage. Gautama Buddha is said to have identified four sites most worthy of pilgrimage for his followers, saying that they would produce a feeling of spiritual urgency; these are: Bodh Gaya:, is the most important religious site and place of pilgrimage, the Mahabodhi Temple houses what is believed to be the Bodhi Tree where the Buddha realized enlightenment and Buddhahood. Lumbini: birthplace of Gautama Buddha Sarnath: where Gautama Buddha delivered his first teaching. Kuśinagara: where Gautama Buddha died and attained Parinirvana. In the commentarial tradition, four other sites are raised to a special status because Buddha had performed a certain miracle there.
These four places through the inclusion in this list of commentarial origin, became important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in ancient India, as the Attha-mahathanani. It is important to note, that some of these events do not occur in the Tipitaka are thus purely commentarial; the first four of the Eight Great Places are identical to the places mentioned by the Buddha: Lumbini Bodh Gaya Sarnath Kushinagar The last four are places where a certain miraculous event is reported to have occurred: Sravasti: Place of the Twin Miracle, showing his supernatural abilities in performance of miracles. Sravasti is the place where Buddha spent the largest amount of time, being a major city in ancient India. Rajgir: Place of the subduing of Nalagiri, the angry elephant, through friendliness. Rajgir was another major city of ancient India. Sankassa: Place of the descending to earth from Tusita heaven. Vaishali: Place of receiving an offering of honey from a monkey. Vaishali was the capital of the Vajjian Republic of ancient India.
Some other pilgrimage places in India and Nepal connected to the life of Gautama Buddha are: Pataliputta, Vikramshila, Kapilavastu, Amaravati, Nagarjuna Konda, Varanasi, Devadaha and Mathura. Most of these places are located in the Gangetic plain. Other famous places for Buddhist pilgrimage in various countries include: Cambodia: Angkor Thom, Silver Pagoda, Angkor Wat China: Yungang Grottoes, Longmen Grottoes; the Four Sacred Mountains namely Wǔtái Shān, Éméi Shān, Jiǔhuá Shān, Pǔtuó Shān Tibet: Potala Palace, Mount Kailash, Lake Manasarovar, Lake Nam-tso. India: Sanchi, Ellora, Ajanta see Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India Indonesia: Borobudur, Sewu. Japan: Kyoto, Shikoku Pilgrimage, Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage Laos: Luang Prabang. Malaysia: Kek Lok Si, Cheng Hoon Teng, Maha Vihara Myanmar: Bagan, Sagaing Hill, Mandalay Hill, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, Shwedagon Pagoda. Nepal: Boudhanath, Kapilavastu. Pakistan: Taxila, Swat. Sri Lanka: Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, the Temple of the Tooth, Sri Pada. South Korea: Bulguksa, Three Jewel Temples Thailand: Phra Phutthabat District, Ayutthaya, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Doi Suthep, Phra Pathom Chedi, Phra Buddha Chinnarat.
United States of America: City of Ten Thousand Buddhas - Largest Monastery-Nunnery in USA in terms of numbers of ordained monastic Bhikshus and Bhikshunis. First full ordination on American soil. Garden of 1000 Buddhas, with beautiful statuary and gardens, near Talmage, California. Vietnam: Mount Yen Tu Virtual Tour of Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites on Google Map Buddhist Pilgrimage Buddhist Pilgrimage in India and Sri Lanka "Buddhist Pilgrimage". Asia. Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 2011-04-03
Dharma is a key concept with multiple meanings in Indian religions like Hinduism, Jainism and others. There is no single-word translation for dharma in Western languages. In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accord with Ṛta, the order that makes life and universe possible, includes duties, laws, virtues and "right way of living". In Buddhism, dharma means "cosmic law and order", is applied to the teachings of Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is the term for "phenomena". Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of tirthankara and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the path of proper religious practice; the word dharma was in use in the historical Vedic religion, its meaning and conceptual scope has evolved over several millennia. The ancient Tamil moral text of Tirukkural is based on aṟam, the Tamil term for dharma; the antonym of dharma is adharma. The Classical Sanskrit noun dharma or the Prakrit Dhaṃma are a derivation from the root dhṛ, which means "to hold, keep", takes the meaning of "what is established or firm", hence "law".
It is derived from an older Vedic Sanskrit n-stem dharman-, with a literal meaning of "bearer, supporter", in a religious sense conceived as an aspect of Rta. In the Rigveda, the word appears as an n-stem, dhárman-, with a range of meanings encompassing "something established or firm". Figuratively, it means "sustainer" and "supporter", it is semantically similar to the Greek Themis. In Classical Sanskrit, the noun becomes thematic: dharma-; the word dharma derives from Proto-Indo-European root *dʰer-, which in Sanskrit is reflected as class-1 root dhṛ. Etymologically it is related to Avestan dar-, Latin firmus, Lithuanian derė́ti, Lithuanian dermė and darna and Old Church Slavonic drъžati. Classical Sanskrit word dharmas would formally match with Latin o-stem firmus from Proto-Indo-European dʰer-mo-s "holding", were it not for its historical development from earlier Rigvedic n-stem. In Classical Sanskrit, in the Vedic Sanskrit of the Atharvaveda, the stem is thematic: dhárma-. In Prakrit and Pāli, it is rendered dhamma.
In some contemporary Indian languages and dialects it alternatively occurs as dharm. Ancient translationsWhen the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka wanted in the 3rd century BCE to translate the word "Dharma" into Greek and Aramaic, he used the Greek word Eusebeia in the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription and the Kandahar Greek Edicts, the Aramaic word Qsyt in the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription. Dharma is a concept of central importance in Indian religion, it has multiple meanings in Hinduism and Jainism. It is difficult to provide a single concise definition for dharma, as the word has a long and varied history and straddles a complex set of meanings and interpretations. There is no equivalent single-word synonym for dharma in western languages. There have been numerous, conflicting attempts to translate ancient Sanskrit literature with the word dharma into German and French; the concept, claims Paul Horsch, has caused exceptional difficulties for modern commentators and translators. For example, while Grassmann's translation of Rig-veda identifies seven different meanings of dharma, Karl Friedrich Geldner in his translation of the Rig-veda employs 20 different translations for dharma, including meanings such as "law", "order", "duty", "custom", "quality", "model", among others.
However, the word dharma has become a accepted loanword in English, is included in all modern unabridged English dictionaries. The root of the word dharma is "dhri", which means "to support, hold, or bear", it is the thing that regulates the course of change by not participating in change, but that principle which remains constant. Monier-Williams, the cited resource for definitions and explanation of Sanskrit words and concepts of Hinduism, offers numerous definitions of the word dharma, such as that, established or firm, steadfast decree, law, custom, right, virtue, ethics, religious merit, good works, character, property. Yet, each of these definitions is incomplete, while the combination of these translations does not convey the total sense of the word. In common parlance, dharma means "right way of living" and "path of rightness"; the meaning of the word dharma depends on the context, its meaning has evolved as ideas of Hinduism have developed through history. In the earliest texts and ancient myths of Hinduism, dharma meant cosmic law, the rules that created the universe from chaos, as well as rituals.
In certain contexts, dharma designates human behaviours considered necessary for order of things in the universe, principles that prevent chaos and action necessary to all life in nature, family as well as at the individual level. Dharma encompasses ideas such as duty, character, religion and all behaviour considered appropriate, correct or morally upright; the antonym of dharma is adharma, meaning that, "not dharma"