Culture of Buddhism

Buddhist culture is exemplified through Buddhist art, Buddhist architecture, Buddhist music and Buddhist cuisine. As Buddhism expanded from the Indian subcontinent it adopted artistic and cultural elements of host countries in other parts of Asia. Economics or the way in which work life is organized and the demands of production are met form an integral part of any culture. Buddhist economics forms an integral part of the Buddhist culture. Buddhist Economics does not work to maximise consumption but human well-being, which lies in a simple and dutiful life, in which rightful livelihood is earned. Human beings must avoid materialistic pursuit. Mechanical and redundant work that deprives the soul of meaningful pursuit is looked down upon, while too much leisure is not approved of. Women becoming part of the active workforce is considered failure of the economic system, as women have to leave looking after the children to indulge in economic way-fare, while the children are untended for. For Buddhism, mental health is of supreme importance and individuals must strive towards improving this by practicing non-violence and refraining from sexual misconduct and lying.

However, Buddhist traditions do acknowledge physical ill-being. Pain and suffering are inevitable like death, for which taking any form of medication are not prohibited; the medicines taken should not affect the clarity of mind any way. Any physical ill-being must be endured with patience and steadfastness, as any form of physical suffering allows time for self-reflection and spiritual progress; the best way to cure a disease is to improve one’s diet by practicing vegetarianism, reflective of the non-violent way of living. Buddhism lays great stress on fasting on special days which helps revitalize the physical and spiritual being. Any form of organ transplant has been viewed as a supreme form of generosity as well. Buddhist art originated in the Indian subcontinent in the centuries following the life of the historical Gautama Buddha in the 6th to 5th century BCE, before evolving through its contact with other cultures and its diffusion through the rest of Asia and the world. A first Indian, aniconic phase, was followed from around the 1st century CE by an iconic phase.

From that time, Buddhist art diversified and evolved as it adapted to the new countries where the faith was expanding. It developed to the north through Central Asia and into Eastern Asia to form the Northern branch of Buddhist art, to the east as far as Southeast Asia to form the Southern branch of Buddhist art. In India, Buddhist art flourished and influenced the development of Hindu art, until Buddhism disappeared around the 10th century with the expansion of Hinduism and Islam. In the earliest form of Buddhist art, the Buddha was not represented in human form but instead was represented using signs and symbols such as footprints or an empty throne. From the fifth century B. C. to the first century B. C. Indian artists would make scriptures which revolved around the themes of the historical life of the Buddha and the previous lives of the Buddha; the reluctance towards anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha, the sophisticated development of aniconic symbols to avoid it, is believed to be connected 70 Buddha’s sayings that disfavoured representations of himself after the extinction of his body.

This phase is defined as the aniconic phase of Buddhist art. The iconic phase starts from the 1st century CE whereby the Buddha was given realistic human features and proportions. Buddhist religious architecture most notably developed in South Asia in the third century BCE. Two types of structures are associated with early Buddhism: viharas; the initial function of a stupa was the safe-guarding of the relics of the Buddha. The earliest existing example of a stupa is in Sanchi. In accordance with changes in religious practice, stupas were incorporated into chaitya-grihas; these reached their highpoint in the first century BCE, exemplified by the cave complexes of Ajanta and Ellora. Viharas were developed to accommodate the growing and formalised Buddhist monasticism. An existing example is at Nālandā; the beginnings of the Buddhist school of architecture can be traced back to B. C. 255 when the Mauryan emperor Asoka established Buddhism as the state religion of his large empire and encouraged the use of architectural monuments to spread Buddhism in different places.

Buddhism, the first Indian religion to require large communal and monastic spaces, inspired three types of architecture. The Stupas hold the most important place among all the earliest Buddhist sculptures. On a basic level, the Stupa is a burial mound for the Buddha; the original stupas contained the Buddha's ashes. Stupas are dome-shaped monuments, used to house Buddhists' relics or to commemorate significant facts of Buddhism; the second type of architecture unique to Buddhism is the Vihara, a Buddhist monastery that contains a residence hall for the monks. The third type is an assembly hall that contains a stupa; the central hall of the chaitya is arranged to allow for circumambulation of the stupa within it. Buddhist music prominently includes Honkyoku, Buddhist chant, Shomyo. Honkyoku are the pieces of shakuhachiyoku for enlightenment and alms as early as the 13th century. Buddhist chant is the chant inspired by Buddhism, including many genres in many cultures, it includes: Repetition of the name

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