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
Devotion, a central practice in Buddhism, refers to commitment to religious observances or to an object or person, may be translated with Sanskrit or Pāli terms like saddhā, gārava or pūjā. Central to Buddhist devotion is the practice of buddhānussati, the recollection of the inspiring qualities of the Buddha. Although buddhānussati had been an important aspect of practice since the early period of Buddhism, its importance was amplified with the arising of Mahāyāna Buddhism. With Pure Land Buddhism, many forms of devotion were developed to recollect and connect with the celestial Buddhas Amitābha. Most Buddhists use ritual in pursuit of their spiritual aspirations. Common devotional practices are receiving a blessing, making merit, making a resolution, making offerings, chanting traditional texts and pilgrimage. Moreover, many types of visualizations and mantras are used in Buddhist meditation in different traditions to devote oneself to a Buddha or a teacher; the politically motivated practice of self-immolation is a less common aspect of devotion in some Buddhist communities.
Buddhist devotional practices can be performed at home or in a temple, in which images of Buddhas and enlightened disciples are located. Buddhist devotion is practiced more intensively on the uposatha observation days and on yearly festivals, which are different depending on region and tradition; the term devotion in the context of Buddhism is defined by Sri Lankan scholar Indumathie Karunaratna as "the fact or quality of being devoted to religious observances or a solemn dedication to an object or a person". It is covered in Pali language by terms such as saddhā, pasāda, bhatti and gārava. Pema is used in the initial attraction a student feels for his spiritual teacher. Saddhā and gārava might inspire a layperson to ordain as a monk, whereas saddhā and pema may help a devotee to attain a good afterlife destination. Bhatti in early Buddhism has the meaning of'faithful adherence to the religion', but in texts, the term develops the meaning of an advanced form of devotion. Apart from these terms, the term pūjā is used for expressions of "honor and devotional attention".
Pūjā is derived from the Vedic root pūj-, meaning'to revere, to honor'. According to the Pāli Studies scholar M. M. J Marasinghe, in the Theravāda Pāli Canon, it did not have the meaning of ritual offering yet, it did include honoring through physical and mental ways. The term pūjā originated with Dravidian culture, in which it may have been used for a ritual or an element of ritual procedure, these ritual connotations may have affected Buddhism at a period. According to anthropologist William Tuladhar-Douglas, the root pūj- had a ritual meaning from the early Buddhist period. Although in traditional texts devotional acts are sometimes not considered part of the path to enlightenment itself, they are considered a way to prepare oneself for the development of this path. Devotion is expressed through the three doors of action, it is regarded as a form of giving, done for both one's own benefit and that of the other. In many Buddhist societies, devotional practices are engaged in because of this-life benefits, because of karmic pursuits and because the devotee would like to attain Nirvana.
In early Buddhism, it was a common practice to recollect the qualities of the Buddha, known as buddhānussati. In the period of the arising of Mahāyāna Buddhism, there was a growing sense of loss in Buddhist communities with regard to the passing away of the Buddha, a growing desire to be able to meet him again; these developments led to the arising of faith-based forms of Buddhism such as Pure Land Buddhism, in which the practice of buddhānussati involved celestial Buddhas such as the Amitābha Buddha. Devotional practices became commonplace, as new techniques were developed to recollect the qualities and magnificence of the celestial Buddhas, such as visualization and chants. In Buddhist devotion the Triple Gem, the Buddha, his teaching, his community are honored. However, this does not mean that deities have no role in Buddhist devotion: they do, but are put on a subordinate level with the Buddha at the top of the spiritual hierarchy. In some Buddhist societies, the devotional life has been influenced by pre-Buddhist devotion to deities and spirits.
In modern times, Buddhist devotion has changed in many ways. Traditional days of observance can no longer be maintained in the same way due to the introduction of a seven-day workweek, chants and other practices have been abridged or standardized to adapt to modern society. Goods offered in devotion have been commercialized. Devotional practices still continue to exist and evolve. Today, most Buddhists use ritual in pursuit of their spiritual aspirations. Devotion to the Triple Gem is expressed toward the Buddha image. However, other symbols have been used throughout Buddhist history, including the lotus flower, the Wheel of the Dhamma, the Bodhi Tree and the stupa. Sometimes, devotees pay honor to foot prints believed to have been left behind by Gautama Buddha or a previous Buddha. Buddhism regards inner devotion as more important than outer ritual. However, devotion does have an important place in Buddhism. Devotion is developed through several practices, expressed through physical movement and mind.
Buddhist devotion is not only direct to the Buddha
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"
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
Theravada Buddhism defines arhat as one who has gained insight into the true nature of existence and has achieved nirvana. Other Buddhist traditions have used the term for people far advanced along the path of Enlightenment, but who may not have reached full Buddhahood; the understanding of the concept has changed over the centuries, varies between different schools of Buddhism and different regions. A range of views on the attainment of arhats existed in the early Buddhist schools; the Sarvāstivāda, Kāśyapīya, Mahāsāṃghika, Ekavyāvahārika, Lokottaravāda, Bahuśrutīya, Prajñaptivāda, Caitika schools all regarded arhats as imperfect in their attainments compared to buddhas. Mahayana Buddhist teachings urge followers to take up the path of a bodhisattva, to not fall back to the level of arhats and śrāvakas; the arhats, or at least the senior arhats, came to be regarded as "moving beyond the state of personal freedom to join the Bodhisattva enterprise in their own way". Mahayana Buddhism regarded a group of Eighteen Arhats as awaiting the return of the Buddha as Maitreya, other groupings of 6, 8, 16, 100, 500 appear in tradition and Buddhist art in East Asia.
They can be seen as the Buddhist equivalents of the Christian saints, apostles or early disciples and leaders of the faith. Pāḷi arahant is a present participle coming from the verbal root √arh "to deserve", cf. arha "meriting, deserving". The word is used in the Ṛgveda with this sense of "deserving". A common folk etymology derives the word from ari and hanta from the root √han "to strike, to kill". Professor Richard Gombrich has argued that the present participle is "jarring" and seems out of place when there is an adjective from the same root. Since Jains used two Prakrit forms of the word arahanta and arihanta, the folk etymology may well be the correct etymology. Gombrich argues that this stems from the same metaphor as the Jain title jina "conqueror", whence jaina "related to the conqueror", i.e. Jainism; the term arhat is rendered in English as arahat. The term arhat was transliterated into some East Asian languages phonetically, for example, the Chinese āluóhàn shortened to luóhàn; this may appear in English as lohan.
In Japanese the pronunciation of the same Chinese characters is arakan. The Tibetan term for arhat was translated by meaning from Sanskrit; this translation, dgra bcom pa, means "one who has destroyed the foes of afflictions". Thus the Tibetan translators understood the meaning of arhat to be ari-hanta. A range of views on the attainment of arhats existed in the early Buddhist schools; the Sarvāstivāda, Kāśyapīya, Mahāsāṃghika, Ekavyāvahārika, Lokottaravāda, Bahuśrutīya, Prajñaptivāda and Caitika schools all regarded arhats as being imperfect in their attainments compared to buddhas. The Dharmaguptaka sect believed that "the Buddha and those of the Two Vehicles, although they have one and the same liberation, have followed different noble paths."The Mahīśāsaka and the Theravada regarded arhats and buddhas as being similar to one another. The 5th century Theravadin commentator Buddhaghosa regarded arhats as having completed the path to enlightenment. According to Bhikkhu Bodhi, the Pāli Canon portrays the Buddha declaring himself to be an arahant.
According to Bhikkhu Bodhi, nirvāṇa is "the ultimate goal", one who has attained nirvana has attained arahantship: Bhikkhu Bodhi writes, "The defining mark of an arahant is the attainment of nirvāṇa in this present life."The Mahayana discerned a hierarchy of attainments, with samyaksambuddhas at the top, mahāsattvas below that, pratyekabuddhas below that and arhats further below. "But what was it that distinguished the bodhisattva from the sravaka, the buddha from the arhat? The difference lay, more than anywhere else, in the altruistic orientation of the bodhisattva." In pre-Buddhist India, the term arhat, denoting a saintly person in general, was associated with miraculous power and asceticism. The Buddhists drew a sharp distinction between their Arhat and Indian holy men in general, in Buddhism these miraculous powers were no longer central to arhat identity or to his mission. A range of views on the relative perfection of arhats existed amongst the early Buddhist schools. In general, Mahāsāṃghikas such as the Ekavyāvahārikas, Lokottaravādins, Bahuśrutīyins, Prajñaptivādins, Caitikas schools, advocated the transcendental and supramundane nature of the buddhas and bodhisattvas and the fallibility of arhats.
The Caitikas, for example, advocated the ideal of the bodhisattva over that of the arhat, they viewed arhats as being fallible and still subject to ignorance. According to A. K. Warder, the Sarvāstivādins held the same position as the Mahāsāṃghika branch regarding arhats, considering them to be imperfect and fallible. In the Sarvāstivādin Nāgadatta Sūtra, the demon Māra takes the form of Nāgadatta's father, tries to convince Nāgadatta, a bhikṣuṇī, to work toward the lower stage of arhatship rather than striving to become a enlightened buddha. Māra therefore took the disguise of Nāgadatta's father and said thus to Nāgadatta: "Your thought is too serious. Buddhahood is too difficult to attain, it takes a hundred thousand nayutas of koṭis of kalpas to become a Buddha. Since few people attain Buddhahood in this world, why don't you attain Arhatship? For the experience of Arhatship is the same as that of nirvāṇa. In her reply, Nāgadatta rejects arhatship as a lower path, saying, "A Buddha's wisdom is l
Mahāyāna is one of two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice. This movement added a further set of discourses, although it was small in India, it had long-term historical significance; the Buddhist tradition of Vajrayana is sometimes classified as a part of Mahāyāna Buddhism, but some scholars consider it to be a different branch altogether. According to the teachings of Mahāyāna traditions, "Mahāyāna" refers to the path of the Bodhisattva seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings called "Bodhisattvayāna", or the "Bodhisattva Vehicle". A bodhisattva who has accomplished this goal is called a samyaksaṃbuddha, or "fully enlightened Buddha". A samyaksaṃbuddha can establish the Dharma and lead disciples to enlightenment. Mahāyāna Buddhists teach that enlightenment can be attained in a single lifetime, this can be accomplished by a layperson; the Mahāyāna tradition is the largest major tradition of Buddhism existing today, with 53% of practitioners, compared to 36% for Theravada and 6% for Vajrayana in 2010.
In the course of its history, Mahāyāna Buddhism spread from India to various other South and Southeast Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore. Mahayana Buddhism spread to other South and Southeast Asian countries, such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Burma and other Central Asian countries before being replaced by Theravada Buddhism or other religions. Large Mahāyāna scholastic centers such as Nalanda thrived during the latter period of Buddhism in India, between the seventh and twelfth centuries. Major traditions of Mahāyāna Buddhism today include Chan Buddhism, Korean Seon, Japanese Zen, Pure Land Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism and Vietnamese Buddhism, it may include the Vajrayana traditions of Tiantai, Shingon Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, which add esoteric teachings to the Mahāyāna tradition. According to Jan Nattier, the term Mahāyāna was an honorary synonym for Bodhisattvayāna – the vehicle of a bodhisattva seeking buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.
The term Mahāyāna was therefore adopted at an early date as a synonym for the path and the teachings of the bodhisattvas. Since it was an honorary term for Bodhisattvayāna, the adoption of the term Mahāyāna and its application to Bodhisattvayāna did not represent a significant turning point in the development of a Mahāyāna tradition; the earliest Mahāyāna texts use the term Mahāyāna as a synonym for Bodhisattvayāna, but the term Hīnayāna is comparatively rare in the earliest sources. The presumed dichotomy between Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna can be deceptive, as the two terms were not formed in relation to one another in the same era. Among the earliest and most important references to Mahāyāna are those that occur in the Lotus Sūtra dating between the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE. Seishi Karashima has suggested that the term first used in an earlier Gandhāri Prakrit version of the Lotus Sūtra was not the term mahāyāna but the Prakrit word mahājāna in the sense of mahājñāna. At a stage when the early Prakrit word was converted into Sanskrit, this mahājāna, being phonetically ambivalent, was mistakenly converted into mahāyāna because of what may have been a double meaning in the famous Parable of the Burning House, which talks of three vehicles or carts.
The origins of Mahāyāna are still not understood and there are numerous competing theories. The earliest Western views of Mahāyāna assumed that it existed as a separate school in competition with the so-called "Hīnayāna" schools. According to David Drewes, for most of the 20th century, the leading theories about the origins of Mahāyāna were that it was either a lay movement or that it developed among the Mahāsāṃghika Nikaya; these theories have been overturned or shown to be problematic. The earliest textual evidence of "Mahāyāna" comes from sūtras originating around the beginning of the common era. Jan Nattier has noted that some of the earliest Mahāyāna texts, such as the Ugraparipṛccha Sūtra use the term "Mahāyāna", yet there is no doctrinal difference between Mahāyāna in this context and the early schools, that "Mahāyāna" referred rather to the rigorous emulation of Gautama Buddha in the path of a bodhisattva seeking to become a enlightened buddha. Nattier writes that in the Ugra, Mahāyāna is not a school, but a rigorous and demanding "spiritual vocation, to be pursued within the existing Buddhist community."Several scholars such as Hendrik Kern and A.
K. Warder suggested that Mahāyāna and its sutras developed among the Mahāsāṃghika Nikaya, some pointing to the area along the Kṛṣṇa River in the Āndhra region of southern India as a geographical origin. Paul Williams thinks that "there can be no doubt that at least some early Mahāyāna sutras originated in Mahāsāṃghika circles", pointing to the Mahāsāṃghika doctrine of the supramundane nature of the Buddha, close to the Mahāyāna view of the Buddha. Anthony Barber and Sree Padma note that "historians of Buddhist thought have been aware for quite some time that such pivotally important Mahayana Buddhist thinkers as Nāgārjuna, Candrakīrti, Āryadeva, Bhavaviveka, among many others, formulated their theories
The five precepts or five rules of training is the most important system of morality for Buddhist lay people. They constitute the basic code of ethics undertaken by lay followers of Buddhism; the precepts are commitments to abstain from killing living beings, sexual misconduct and intoxication. Within the Buddhist doctrine, they are meant to develop mind and character to make progress on the path to enlightenment, they are sometimes referred to as the śrāvakayāna precepts in the Mahāyāna tradition, contrasting them with the bodhisattva precepts. The five precepts form the basis of several parts of Buddhist doctrine, both monastic. With regard to their fundamental role in Buddhist ethics, they have been compared with the ten commandments in Christianity or the ethical codes of Confucianism; the precepts have been connected with utilitarianist and virtue approaches to ethics. They have been compared with human rights because of their universal nature, some scholars argue they can complement the concept of human rights.
The five precepts were common to the religious milieu of 6th-century BCE India, but the Buddha's focus on awareness through the fifth precept was unique. As shown in Early Buddhist Texts, the precepts grew to be more important, became a condition for membership of the Buddhist religion; when Buddhism spread to different places and people, the role of the precepts began to vary. In countries where Buddhism had to compete with other religions, such as China, the ritual of undertaking the five precepts developed into an initiation ceremony to become a Buddhist lay person. On the other hand, in countries with little competition from other religions, such as Thailand, the ceremony has had little relation to the rite of becoming Buddhist, as many people are presumed Buddhist from birth. Undertaking and upholding the five precepts is based on the principle of non-harming; the Pali Canon recommends one to compare oneself with others, on the basis of that, not to hurt others. Compassion and a belief in karmic retribution form the foundation of the precepts.
Undertaking the five precepts is part of regular lay devotional practice, both at home and at the local temple. However, the extent to which people keep them differs per time. People keep them with an intention to develop themselves, but out of fear of a bad rebirth; the first precept consists of a prohibition of both humans and all animals. Scholars have interpreted Buddhist texts about the precepts as an opposition to and prohibition of capital punishment, suicide and euthanasia. In practice, many Buddhist countries still use the death penalty. With regard to abortion, Buddhist countries take the middle ground, by condemning though not prohibiting it; the Buddhist attitude to violence is interpreted as opposing all warfare, but some scholars have raised exceptions. The second precept prohibits theft; the third precept refers to adultery in all its forms, has been defined by modern teachers with terms such as sexual responsibility and long-term commitment. The fourth precept involves falsehood spoken or committed to by action, as well as malicious speech, harsh speech and gossip.
The fifth precept prohibits intoxication through drugs or other means. Early Buddhist Texts nearly always condemn alcohol, so do Chinese Buddhist post-canonical texts. Buddhist attitudes toward smoking differ per time and region, but are permissive. In modern times, traditional Buddhist countries have seen revival movements to promote the five precepts; as for the West, the precepts play a major role in Buddhist organizations. They have been integrated in mindfulness training programs, though many mindfulness specialists do not support this because of the precepts' religious import. Lastly, many conflict prevention programs make use of the precepts. Buddhist scriptures explain the five precepts as the minimal standard of Buddhist morality, it is the most important system of morality in Buddhism, together with the monastic rules. Śīla is used to refer to Buddhist precepts, including the five. But the word refers to the virtue and morality which lies at the foundation of the spiritual path to enlightenment, the first of the three forms of training on the path.
Thus, the precepts are rules or guidelines to develop mind and character to make progress on the path to enlightenment. The five precepts are part of the right speech and livelihood aspects of the eight-fold path, the core teaching of Buddhism. Moreover, the practice of the five precepts and other parts of śīla are described as forms of merit-making, means to create good karma; the five precepts have been described as social values that bring harmony to society, breaches of the precepts described as antithetical to a harmonious society. On a similar note, in Buddhist texts, the ideal, righteous society is one in which people keep the five precepts. Comparing different parts of Buddhist doctrine, the five precepts form the basis of the eight precepts, which are lay precepts stricter than the five precepts, similar to monastic precepts. Secondly, the five precepts form the first half of the ten or eleven precepts for a person aiming to become a Buddha, as mentioned in the Brahmajala Sūtra of the Mahāyāna tradition.
Contrasting these precepts with the five precepts, the latter were referred to by Mahāyānists as the śrāvakayāna precepts, or the precepts of those aiming to become enlightened disciples of a Buddha, but not Buddhas themselves. The ten–eleven bodhisattva precepts presuppose the five precepts, are based on them; the five