Buddhism AS Sample Essays

  • Created by: Marith
  • Created on: 03-02-15 13:19

Explain the Religious Background At The Time of the Buddha(25)

In order to understand the religious background at the time of the Buddha one must consider the mainstay religion of the time which was Hinduism. However Hinduism is a very broad term in itself meant to simply describe the religious traditions of the Indus Valley, so more specifically Brahminism;Brahminism was the religion which being the product of a wealthy family the Buddha would have been most familiar with at the time of his upbringing. Brahmanism is a religion which is based of a series of texts known as the Vedas, these text would be provide instructions for priests (otherwise known as Brahmin) to conducts rituals mostly animal sacrifices (also known as Vedic sacrifices). it was believed that the prayers offered during the sacrifice would satisfy the gods and help retain order in the Universe. This would be because Brahmanism states that they are 3 levels of existence in the universe The Phonic, the Spiritual, and the Physical and so chanting catered to the Phonic, while the prayers were aimed in appeasing the Spiritual, and the sacrifice were for the physical. This sacrifices were held because central to Brahminism is the goal of liberating one’s atman from Samsara so as to rejoin the Brahman(the universal spirit. The way one did so was by achieving good karma(through sacrifices) and one would then advance through Samsara through reincarnation until reaching the last stage, that of a Brahmin where one would then die and finally be liberated from the cycle of Samsara.

However many historians believe that at the time of the Buddha, Brahmanism underwent so kind of “Ascetic Reform” and that people due to increase in leisure time as result of economic prosperity undertook further investigation of religious ideas and began to question the ancient vedas. This led to the formation of Samana Movements  which were groups wandering ascetics known as Sadus who would break off all ties with their families and seek out extreme methods in order to gain religious insight. the most prominent of those groups would be the Jains who didn’t believe in the caste system or Vedic sacrifices and instead replace the idea of Atman with the idea of Jiva(life essence). They believed that the Jiva would achieve liberation from Samsara through two ways 1) by living a very discipline lifestyle which involved extreme methods of meditation and yoga or 2) through a policy of non-action which included the principle of ahimsa(non-harming) in order to wipe out any existing karma. other groups included the Materialist who were empirical in nature and chose to celebrate life through following a moral and noble path, the Ajivikas who were similar to jains except that they reject Karma and believed that every atman had it’s niyati(destiny) which had already been decided and could not be altered, and finally the Sceptics whose role was to play devil’s advocate at all times.

The time of the Buddha was a very interesting and exciting time,




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