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
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
The Mahayana sutras are a broad genre of Buddhist scriptures that various traditions of Mahayana Buddhism accept as canonical. They are preserved in the Chinese Buddhist canon, the Tibetan Buddhist canon, in extant Sanskrit manuscripts. Around one hundred Mahayana sutras survive in Chinese and Tibetan translations. Mahayana sutras are passed down as the legacy of Gautama Buddha: early versions were not written documents but orally preserved teachings said to be verses that were committed to memory and recited by his disciples, in particular Ananda, which were viewed as a substitute for the actual speech of the Buddha following his parinirvana; the origins of the Mahayana are not understood. The earliest views of Mahayana Buddhism in the West assumed that it existed as a separate school in competition with the Theravada schools. Due to the veneration of buddhas and bodhisattvas, Mahayana was interpreted as a more devotional, lay-inspired form of Buddhism, with supposed origins in stūpa veneration or by making parallels with the Reformation.
These views have been dismissed in modern times in light of a much broader range of early texts that are now available. These earliest Mahayana texts depict strict adherence to the path of a bodhisattva, engagement in the ascetic ideal of a monastic life in the wilderness, akin to the ideas expressed in the Rhinoceros Sutra; the old views of Mahayana as a separate lay-inspired and devotional sect are now dismissed as misguided and wrong on all counts. The early versions of Mahayana sutras orally preserved teachings; the verses which were committed to memory and recited by monks were viewed as the substitute for the actual speaking presence of the Buddha. The earliest textual evidence of the Mahayana comes from sutras originating around the beginning of the common era. Jan Nattier has noted that in some of the earliest Mahayana texts such as the Ugraparipṛcchā Sūtra use the term "Mahayana", yet there is no doctrinal difference between Mahayana in this context and the early schools, that "Mahayana" referred rather to the rigorous emulation of Gautama Buddha in the path of a bodhisattva seeking to become a enlightened buddha.
There is no evidence that Mahayana referred to a separate formal school or sect of Buddhism, but rather that it existed as a certain set of ideals, doctrines, for bodhisattvas. Paul Williams has noted that the Mahayana never had nor attempted to have a separate Vinaya or ordination lineage from the early Buddhist schools and therefore each bhikṣu or bhikṣuṇī adhering to the Mahayana formally belonged to an early school; this continues today with the Dharmaguptaka ordination lineage in East Asia and the Mūlasarvāstivāda ordination lineage in Tibetan Buddhism. Therefore, Mahayana was never a separate rival sect of the early schools; the Chinese monk Yijing who visited India in the seventh century, distinguishes Mahayana from Hinayana as follows: Both adopt one and the same Vinaya, they have in common the prohibitions of the five offences, the practice of the Four Noble Truths. Those who venerate the bodhisattvas and read the Mahayana sutras are called the Mahayanists, while those who do not perform these are called the Hīnayānists.
Much of the early extant evidence for the origins of Mahayana comes from early Chinese translations of Mahayana texts. These Mahayana teachings were first propagated into China by Lokakṣema, the first translator of Mahayana sutras into Chinese during the second century; some scholars take an agnostic view and consider the Mahayana sutras as an anonymous literature, since it can not be determined by whom they were written, only can be dated to the date when they were translated into another language. Others such as A. K. Warder have argued. Andrew Skilton summarizes a common prevailing view of the Mahayana sutras: These texts are considered by Mahayana tradition to be buddhavacana, therefore the legitimate word of the historical Buddha; the śrāvaka tradition, according to some Mahayana sutras themselves, rejected these texts as authentic buddhavacana, saying that they were inventions, the product of the religious imagination of the Mahayanist monks who were their fellows. Western scholarship does not go so far as to impugn the religious authority of Mahayana sutras, but it tends to assume that they are not the literal word of the historical Śākyamuni Buddha.
Unlike the śrāvaka critics just cited, we have no possibility of knowing just who composed and compiled these texts, for us, removed from the time of their authors by up to two millenia, they are an anonymous literature. It is accepted that Mahayana sutras constitute a body of literature that began to appear from as early as the 1st century BCE, although the evidence for this date is circumstantial; the concrete evidence for dating any part of this literature is to be found in dated Chinese translations, amongst which we find a body of ten Mahayana sutras translated by Lokaksema before 186 C. E. – and these constitute our earliest objectively dated Mahayana texts. This picture may be qualified by the analysis of early manuscripts coming out of Afghanistan, but for the meantime this is speculation. In effect we have a vast body of anonymous but coherent literature, of which individual items can only be dated when they were translated into another language at a known date. John W. Pettit, while stating, "Mahayana has not got a strong historical claim for representing the explicit teachings of the historical Buddha" argues that the basic concepts of Mahayana do occur in the Pāli Canon and that this suggests that Mahayana is "not an accretion of fabricated doctrines" but "
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 texts were passed on orally by monks, but were written down and composed as manuscripts in various Indo-Aryan languages which were translated into other local languages as Buddhism spread. They can be categorized in a number of ways; the Western terms "scripture" and "canonical" are applied to Buddhism in inconsistent ways by Western scholars: for example, one authority refers to "scriptures and other canonical texts", while another says that scriptures can be categorized into canonical and pseudo-canonical. Buddhist traditions have divided these texts with their own categories and divisions, such as that between buddhavacana "word of the Buddha," many of which are known as "sutras," and other texts, such as shastras or Abhidharma; these religious texts were written in many different languages and scripts but memorizing and copying the texts were of high value. After the development of printing, Buddhists preferred to keep to their original practices with these texts. According to Donald Lopez, criteria for determining what should be considered buddhavacana were developed at an early stage, that the early formulations do not suggest that Dharma is limited to what was spoken by the historical Buddha.
The Mahāsāṃghika and the Mūlasarvāstivāda considered both the Buddha's discourses, of his disciples, to be buddhavacana. A number of different beings such as buddhas, disciples of the buddha, ṛṣis, devas were considered capable to transmitting buddhavacana; the content of such a discourse was to be collated with the sūtras, compared with the Vinaya, evaluated against the nature of the Dharma. These texts may be certified as true buddhavacana by a buddha, a saṃgha, a small group of elders, or one knowledgeable elder. In Theravada Buddhism, the standard collection of buddhavacana is the Pāli Canon; some scholars believe that some portions of the Pali Canon and Agamas could contain the actual substance of the historical teachings of the Buddha. In East Asian Buddhism, what is considered buddhavacana is collected in the Chinese Buddhist canon; the most common edition of this is the Taishō Tripiṭaka. According to Venerable Hsuan Hua from the tradition of Chinese Buddhism, there are five types of beings who may speak the sutras of Buddhism: a buddha, a disciple of a buddha, a deva, a ṛṣi, or an emanation of one of these beings.
These sutras may be properly regarded as buddhavacana. Sometimes texts that are considered commentaries by some are regarded by others as Buddhavacana. Shingon Buddhism developed a system that assigned authorship of the early sutras to Gautama Buddha in his physical manifestation, of the Ekayana sutras to the Buddhas as Sambhoghakaya, the Vajrayana texts to the Buddha as Dharmakaya. In Tibetan Buddhism, what is considered buddhavacana is collected in the Kangyur; the East Asian and Tibetan Buddhist canons always combined Buddhavacana with other literature in their standard collected editions. However, the general view of what is and is not buddhavacana is broadly similar between East Asian Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism; the Tibetan Kangyur, which belongs to the various schools of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, in addition to containing sutras and vinaya contains tantras. The earliest Buddhist texts were passed down orally in Middle Indo-Aryan languages called Prakrits, including Gāndhārī language, the early Magadhan language and Pali through the use of repetition, communal recitation and mnemonic devices.
Doctrinal elaborations were preserved in Abhidharma works and Karikas. As Buddhism spread geographically, these texts were translated into the local language, such as Chinese and Tibetan; the Pali canon was preserved in Sri Lanka where it was first written down in the first century BCE and the Theravadan Pali textual tradition developed there. The Sri Lankan Pali tradition developed extensive commentaries as well as sub-commentaries for the Pali Canon as well as treatises on Abhidhamma. Sutra commentaries and Abhidharma works exist in Tibetan, Chinese and other East Asian languages. Important examples of non-canonical Pali texts are the Visuddhimagga, by Buddhaghosa, a compendium of Theravada teachings and the Mahavamsa, a historical Sri Lankan chronicle; the earliest known Buddhist manuscripts, recovered from the ancient civilization of Gandhara in north central Pakistan are dated to the 1st century and constitute the Buddhist textual tradition of Gandharan Buddhism, an important link between Indian and East Asian Buddhism.
After the rise of the Kushans in India, Sanskrit was widely used to record Buddhist texts. Sanskrit Buddhist literature became the dominant tradition in India until the decline of Buddhism in India. Around the beginning of the Christian era, a new genre of sutra literature began to be written with a focus on the Bodhisattva idea known as Mahayana sutras. Many of the Mahayana sutras were written in Sanskrit and translated into the Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist canons which developed their own textual histories; the Mahayana sutras are traditionally considered by Mahayanists to be the word of the Buddha, but transmitted either in secret, via lineages of supernatural beings, or revealed directly from other Buddhas or bodhisattvas. Some 600 Mahayana Sutras have survived in Chinese and/or Tibetan translation. In the Mahayana tradition there are important works termed Shastras, or treatises which attempt to outline the sutra teachings and defend or exp
Varanasi known as Benares, Banaras, or Kashi, is a city on the banks of the river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, India, 320 kilometres south-east of the state capital, 121 kilometres east of Allahabad. A major religious hub in India, it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism, played an important role in the development of Buddhism and Ravidassia. Varanasi lies along National Highway 2, which connects it to Kolkata, Kanpur and Delhi, is served by Varanasi Junction railway station and Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport. Varanasi is one of 72 districts in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. At the time of the 2011 census, there were 1329 villages in this district; the main native languages of Varanasi are Bhojpuri. Varanasi grew as an important industrial centre, famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, ivory works, sculpture. Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here around 528 BCE when he gave his first sermon, "The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma", at nearby Sarnath.
The city's religious importance continued to grow in the 8th century, when Adi Shankara established the worship of Shiva as an official sect of Varanasi. During the Muslim rule through Middle Ages, the city continued as an important centre of Hindu devotion, pilgrimage and poetry which further contributed to its reputation as a centre of cultural importance and religious education. Tulsidas wrote his epic poem on Rama's life called Ram Charit Manas in Varanasi. Several other major figures of the Bhakti movement were born in Varanasi, including Kabir and Ravidas. Guru Nanak visited Varanasi for Maha Shivaratri in 1507, a trip that played a large role in the founding of Sikhism. In the 16th century, Varanasi experienced a cultural revival under the Mughal emperor Akbar who patronised the city, built two large temples dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu, though much of modern Varanasi was built during the 18th century, by the Maratha and Brahmin kings; the Kingdom of Benares was given official status by the Mughals in 1737, continued as a dynasty-governed area until Indian independence in 1947.
The city is governed by the Varanasi Nagar Nigam and is represented in the Parliament of India by the current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, who won the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 by a huge margin. Silk weaving and crafts and tourism employ a significant number of the local population, as do the Diesel Locomotive Works and Bharat Heavy Electricals. Varanasi Hospital was established in 1964. Varanasi has been a cultural centre of North India for several thousand years, is associated with the Ganges. Hindus believe; the city is known worldwide for its many ghats, embankments made in steps of stone slabs along the river bank where pilgrims perform ritual ablutions. Of particular note are the Dashashwamedh Ghat, the Panchganga Ghat, the Manikarnika Ghat and the Harishchandra Ghat, the last two being where Hindus cremate their dead and the Hindu genealogy registers at Varanasi are kept here; the Ramnagar Fort, near the eastern bank of the Ganges, was built in the 18th century in the Mughal style of architecture with carved balconies, open courtyards, scenic pavilions.
Among the estimated 23,000 temples in Varanasi are Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Shiva, the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, the Durga Temple. The Kashi Naresh is the chief cultural patron of Varanasi, an essential part of all religious celebrations. An educational and musical centre, many prominent Indian philosophers, poets and musicians live or have lived in the city, it was the place where the Benares gharana form of Hindustani classical music was developed. One of Asia's largest residential universities is Banaras Hindu University; the Hindi-language nationalist newspaper, Aj, was first published in 1920. Traditional etymology links "Varanasi" to the names of two Ganges tributaries forming the city's borders: Varuna, still flowing in northern Varanasi, Assi, today a small stream in the southern part of the city, near Assi Ghat; the old city is located on the north shores of the Ganges, bounded by Assi. In the Rigveda, an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns, the city is referred to as Kāśī from the Sanskrit verbal root kaś- "to shine", making Varanasi known as "City of Light", the "luminous city as an eminent seat of learning".
The name was used by pilgrims dating from Buddha's days. Hindu religious texts use many epithets to refer to Varanasi, such as Kāśikā, Avimukta, Ānandavana, Rudravāsa. According to Hindu mythology, Varanasi was founded by Shiva, one of three principal deities along with Brahma and Vishnu. During a fight between Brahma and Shiva, one of Brahma's five heads was torn off by Shiva; as was the custom, the victor carried the slain adversary's head in his hand and let it hang down from his hand as an act of ignominy, a sign of his own bravery. A bridle was put into the mouth. Shiva thus dishonored Brahma's head, kept it with him at all times; when he came to the city of Varanasi in this state, the hanging head of Brahma dropped from Shiva's hand and disappeared in the ground. Varanasi is therefore considered an holy site; the Pandavas, the protagonists of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, are said to have visited the city in search of Shiva to atone for their sin of fratricide and Brāhmana
Four Noble Truths
In Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths are "the truths of the Noble Ones", the truths or realities for the "spiritually worthy ones". The truths are: dukkha is an innate characteristic of existence with each rebirth, they are traditionally identified as the first teaching given by the Buddha, considered one of the most important teachings in Buddhism. The four truths appear in many grammatical forms in the ancient Buddhist texts, they have both a symbolic and a propositional function. Symbolically, they represent the awakening and liberation of the Buddha, of the potential for his followers to reach the same religious experience as him; as propositions, the Four Truths are a conceptual framework that appear in the Pali canon and early Hybrid Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures. They are a part of the broader "network of teachings", they provide a conceptual framework for introducing and explaining Buddhist thought, which has to be understood or "experienced". As a proposition, the four truths defy an exact definition, but refer to and express the basic orientation of Buddhism: unguarded sensory contact gives rise to craving and clinging to impermanent states and things, which are dukkha, "incapable of satisfying" and painful.
This craving keeps us caught in samsara, the endless cycle of repeated rebirth, the continued dukkha that comes with it. There is a way to end this cycle, namely by attaining nirvana, cessation of craving, whereafter rebirth and the accompanying dukkha will no longer arise again; this can be accomplished by following the eightfold path, confining our automatic responses to sensory contact by restraining oneself, cultivating discipline and wholesome states, practicing mindfulness and dhyana. The function of the four truths, their importance, developed over time and the Buddhist tradition recognized them as the Buddha's first teaching; this tradition was established when prajna, or "liberating insight", came to be regarded as liberating in itself, instead of or in addition to the practice of dhyana. This "liberating insight" gained a prominent place in the sutras, the four truths came to represent this liberating insight, as a part of the enlightenment story of the Buddha; the four truths grew to be of central importance in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism by about the 5th-century CE, which holds that the insight into the four truths is liberating in itself.
They are less prominent in the Mahayana tradition, which sees the higher aims of insight into sunyata and following the Bodhisattva path as central elements in their teachings and practice. The Mahayana tradition reinterpreted the four truths to explain how a liberated being can still be "pervasively operative in this world". Beginning with the exploration of Buddhism by western colonialists in the 19th century and the development of Buddhist modernism, they came to be presented in the west as the central teaching of Buddhism, sometimes with novel modernistic reinterpretations different from the historic Buddhist traditions in Asia; the four truths are best known from their presentation in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta text, which contains two sets of the four truths, while various other sets can be found in the Pali Canon, a collection of scriptures in the Theravadan Buddhist tradition. The full set, most used in modern expositions, contains grammatical errors, pointing to multiple sources for this set and translation problems within the ancient Buddhist community.
They were considered correct by the Pali tradition, which didn't correct them. According to the Buddhist tradition, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, "Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion", contains the first teachings that the Buddha gave after attaining full awakening, liberation from rebirth. According to L. S. Cousins, many scholars are of the view that "this discourse was identified as the first sermon of the Buddha only at a date," and according to professor of religion Carol S. Anderson the four truths may not have been part of this sutta, but were added in some versions. Within this discourse, the four noble truths are given as follows: Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering. Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to re-becoming, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there. Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, non-reliance on it.
Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is this noble eightfold path. According to this sutra, with the complete comprehension of these four truths release from samsara, the cycle of rebirth, was attain