Siddhartha Gautama or Siddhattha Gotama in Pali, also called the Gautama Buddha, the Shakyamuni Buddha or simply the
Buddha, after the title of Buddha, was a monk (sramaṇa), mendicant, sage, philosopher, teacher and religious leader
on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived and taught mostly 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 sramaṇa movement common in his region. 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.
Buddhist ethics are traditionally based on what Buddhists view as the enlightened perspective of the Buddha, or
other enlightened beings such as Bodhisattvas. The Indian term for ethics or morality used in Buddhism is Sila
(one's commitment to the path of liberation). Sila is an internal, aware, and intentional ethical behavior. Sila in
Buddhism is one of three sections of the Noble Eightfold Path, and is a code of conduct that embraces a commitment
to harmony and self-restraint with the principal motivation being nonviolence, or freedom from causing harm. It has
been variously described as virtue, right conduct, morality, moral discipline and precept. Sila is an ethical
compass within self and relationships, rather than what is associated with the English word "morality" (i.e.,
obedience, a sense of obligation, and external constraint). Sila is also wholehearted commitment to what is
Two aspects of Sila are essential to the training:
- right "performance" (caritta), and
- right "avoidance" (varitta).
||Tripitakas (All written in Pali Language)
||The Three Jewels are:
- The Buddha:
the discoverer of liberating knowledge
- The Dharma:
the teachings of the Buddha's path and the truths of these teachings.
- The Sangha:
community of noble ones, who practice the Dhamma and have attained
knowledge and can thus provide guidance and preserve the teachings.
Buddha view about Karma and Rebirth
The bhavacakra (wheel of life) shows the realms of karmic rebirth, at its hub are the three poisons of greed, hatred
and delusion. What one does matters and has an effect on one’s future; 'there is this world, there is a world
beyond': this world is not unreal, and one goes on to another world after death" (Maha-cattarisaka Sutta). In the
Buddhist conception, Karma is a certain type of moral action which has moral consequences on the actor. The core of
karma is the mental intention, having willed one acts through body, speech, or mind’. Therefore, accidentally
hurting someone is not bad Karma, but having hurtful thoughts is. One's past actions are said to mold one's
consciousness and to leave seeds (Bija) which later ripen in the next life. The goal of Buddhist practice is
generally to break the cycle, though one can also work for rebirth in a better condition through good deeds.
The root of one's intention is what conditions an action to be good or bad. There are three good roots
(non-attachment, benevolence, and understanding) and three negative roots (greed, hatred and delusion). Actions
which produce good outcomes are termed "merit" and obtaining merit (good karma) is an important goal of lay Buddhist
practice Negative actions accumulate bad karmic results, though one's regret and attempts to make up for it can
ameliorate these results.
|The Four Noble Truths
- dukkha (suffering, incapable of satisfying, painful) is an innate characteristic of
with each rebirth;
- samudaya (origin, cause) of this dukkha is the "craving, desire or attachment";
- nirodha (cessation, ending) of this dukkha can be attained by eliminating all "craving,
- magga (path, Noble Eightfold Path) is the means to end this dukkha.
|Noble Eightfold Path
The way to put an end to craving is by following the Noble Eightfold Path taught by the Buddha,
- Right Understanding
- Right Determination
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right livelihood
- Right Exercise
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Medication
From the Buddhist perspective, an act is also moral if it promotes spiritual development by conforming to the
Eightfold Path and leading to Nirvana. In Mahayana Buddhism, an emphasis is made on the liberation of all beings and
bodhisattvas are believed to work tirelessly for the liberation of all.
Contribution of Buddhism
- Slaves & debtors couldn’t join sangha rule helped moneylenders & richer sections of society
- Earliest Budhhist text “ Suttanipata” pleads for protection of cattles & helped to prevent their
- Taught people to put reason in everything & pleaded for logic instead of superstitions hence promoted
rationalism in people
- Promoted education through residential universities like Valabhi, Nalanda & Vikramshila
- Formed Hybrid Sanskrit by mixture of Pali & Sanskrit
||Ananda composed Suttapitaka (Buddha’s Teachings) & pali composed Vinaypitaka ( Monastic code for
||held just after Buddha's death at Saptaparni cave
||Mainly due to 10 disputed points under Vinaypitaka (Monastic codes of Buddhism)
||as held approx. 100 years after the death of Buddha
||Compilation of Abhidhamma pitaka took place (Philosophical exposition of Budhhism)
||Budhhism preached & Propagated by Ashoka is known as Hinyana
||Resulted in division of Buddhism into Hinyana & Mahayana
||Asvaghosa participated in this council & all the deliberations were made in Sanskrit
Five Precepts of Buddha
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life (prohibition of killing, both humans and all
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given (prohibits theft);
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from sensual misconduct (adultery in all its forms such as sexual
responsibility and long-term commitment);
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech (malicious speech, harsh speech and gossip);
- I undertake the training rule to abstain from liquors, wines, and other intoxicants, which are the basis for
heedlessness (prohibits intoxication through alcohol, drugs or other means).
The Buddhist precepts have been connected with utilitarianist, deontological and virtue approaches to ethics. They
have been compared with human rights because of their universal nature, and some scholars argue they can complement
the concept of human rights.
There is also a more strict set of precepts called the eight precepts.
The three additional rules of the Eight Precepts are:
- “I accept the training rule to abstain from food at improper times.” (e.g. no solid foods after noon, and
not until dawn the following day)
- “I accept the training rule
- to abstain from dancing, singing, instrumental music, and shows,
- from the use of jewelry, cosmetics, and beauty lotions.”
- “I accept the training rule to abstain from the use of high and luxurious beds and seats.”
The rules and code of conduct for monks and nuns is outlined in the Vinaya. The precise content of the scriptures on
vinaya (vinayapiṭaka) differ slightly according to different schools, and different schools or subschools set
different standards for the degree of adherence to the vinaya.
Ten wholesome actions
The "path of the ten good actions" or "ten skilled karma paths" are discussed in suttas such as Majjhima
Bases of meritorious actions:
- Giving or charity (dana), This is widely done by giving “the four requisites” to monks; food, clothing,
shelter, and medicine. However giving to the needy is also a part of this.
- Morality (sila), Keeping the five precepts, generally non-harming.
- Mental cultivation (bhavana).
- Paying due respect to those who are worthy of it (apacayana), showing appropriate deference, particularly
to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, and to seniors and parents. Usually done by placing the hands together in
Anjali Mudra, and sometimes bowing.
- Helping others perform good deeds (veyyavacca), looking after others.
- Sharing of merit after doing some good deed (anumodana)
- Rejoicing in the merits of others (pattanumodana), this is common in communal activities.
- Teaching the Dhamma (dhammadesana), the gift of Dhamma is seen as the highest gift.
- Listening to the Dhamma (dhammassavana)
- Straightening one's own views (ditthujukamma)
Key Values and Virtues
At the core of virtues are the three roots of:
- non-attachment (araga),
- benevolence (advesa),
- understanding (amoha).
One list of virtues which is widely promoted in Buddhism are:
- the Paramitas (perfections)
- Dana (generosity),
- Sila (proper conduct),
- Nekkhamma (renunciation),
- Panna (wisdom),
- Viriya (energy),
- Khanti (patience),
- Sacca (honesty),
- Adhiṭṭhana (determination),
- Metta (Good-Will),
- Upekkha (equanimity).
The four divine abidings are
- good will,
- empathetic joy,
The Buddha promoted ‘self-respect’ and Regard for consequences (Apatrapya), as important virtues. Self-respect is
what caused a person to avoid actions which were seen to harm one's integrity and Ottappa is an awareness of the
effects of one's actions and sense of embarrassment before others. Giving (Dana) is seen as the beginning of virtue
in Theravada Buddhism and giving is said to make one happy, generate good merit as well as develop non-attachment.
Therefore it is not just good because it creates good karmic fruits, but it also develops one's spiritual qualities.
An important value in Buddhist ethics is non-harming or non-violence (ahimsa) to all living creatures from the
lowest insect to humans. The Buddhist practice of this does not extend to the extremes exhibited by Jainism (in
Buddhism, unintentional killing is not karmically bad), but from both the Buddhist and Jain perspectives,
non-violence suggests an intimate involvement with, and relationship to, all living things.
Spread of Buddhism
- Buddhism had 2 kinds of disciples
- Monks (Bhikshus)
- Lay worshippers (Upasikas)
- Monks were organised into sangha for the purpose of spread of Buddhist teachings
- Membership was open to all, Male or female without any cast distinction, but every member had to take vow of
continence, poverty & faith (Penance to achieve liberation )
- Use of Pali language also contributed to the spread of Buddhism
Differences between Mahayana and Hinayana
|Individual as center & firm to letter of Buddhist teachings
||Sangha as center & firm to essence of Buddhist teaching
|Scriptures written in sanskrit are sutra, in Angas
||Scriptures written in Pali as Pitakas
|Salvation by work & Believed in Karmas
||Salvation by faith & Believed in karma
|Strives after his own salvation
||Concerned with the salvation of others