Buddhism is a religion rooted in the awakening of Siddhartha Guatama under the bodhi tree after meditation for several days. Then known as the historical Buddha, all Buddhist practices, in whatever form, refer to his teachings.
What is the oldest form of the Buddhist movement?
Buddhism through the awakening of Buddha
Buddhism originated in India 25 centuries BCE. It first spread in Asia, notably in Indonesia, Japan and Ceylon, then in South Korea, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Combodge and Tibet. In the latter country, it is even considered the main religion.
Guatama Siddhartha, known as Buddha, serves as a reference in Buddhist spirituality. After its spiritual awakening, it became the historical landmark of Buddhist currents and practices. He meditated for about forty days, then achieved enlightenment. Once awake, he started to teach and its teachings are based on the Four Noble Truths and other reality-related truths.
Furthermore, Buddhism focuses on salvation, life, law, change and reality. In other words, these are principles that Buddhism addresses, each of which has meaning and significance. These are also elements that make up Buddhist precepts. Buddhism has become a religion without borders for over a hundred years.
Historical dates of Buddhism
The death of Buddha is the starting point for the founding of several schools called “Nikaya”. Around 250 BC. BC, under the reign of Ashoka, divergences appeared on religious practice and Buddhist doctrine. Some people respect and cultivate the Buddha’s precepts more. These are the elders known as “Thera”. They are conservatives of Buddhist teachings and always seek to adapt them to our times, to permeate them into current society despite religious pluralism and cultural diversity. Their goal is to make Buddha’s teachings more accessible while preserving their authenticity.
Comes after the schools of Buddhism. There are around ten in total and still exist today, namely Kosa or Abhidharma and Satysiddhi or Cheng-se in China, Sarvāstivādin in North India, Bahyanumeyavada of the Sautrantrikas, Mahīçasāka and Bahya-Pratyakshavada of the Vaibhashikas. Then, we distinguish two types of Theravadin schools which are:
– Mahā-nikayalocated in Indochina and influenced by Sarvastivadin, Mahiçasaka, trantrism and Mahayana;
– Dhammayutika-nikayaalso located in Indochina and appeared in the middle of the 19th century. It is based on the importance of the orthodoxy of the Sinhalese Theravada lineage.
Ancient Buddhism or Theravada
Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths serve as a reference in ancient Buddhism. It focuses on Dharma, that is, the systematic and direct recognition of phenomena. Traditional Buddhism also addresses such things as the value of monastic life, the importance of detachment and renunciation, and discipline.
According to the principle of ancient Buddhism, the historical Buddha is a privileged and exceptional man. He was the first monk to embark on the bodhisattva path without having received any special support, advice, help or instruction. He is a real character in the eyes of his disciples and they use him as a model. Indeed, during his meditation, he learned to rediscover himself and learned for himself the path that led him to complete enlightenment. We must not forget that Siddharta Guatama chose to follow this path to help his fellow human beings, Buddhists or not.
The oldest aspect of the Buddhist movement is Theravada. It was Emperor Ashoka who initiated this first form of Buddhism. Ashoka means “The Pious” or “Beloved of the Gods”. It was he who took into account the first writings of Buddha. As mentioned earlier, conservative countries for small vehicles are Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Sri Lanka.
In 14th century Laos, during the reign of Emperor Fa Ngum, Theravada was the main religion of the rulers. Also called Hinayana, this principle is inseparable from the first Sutras of Agama. The latter represents the teachings of the Buddha which are based on the “Tripitaka”. These are the three components of the Buddhist canon. The Small Vehicle preserves and respects the monastic rules and is in accordance with the fact that the achievement of individual salvation, respect for the rules of Shila is essential. According to the Buddha, Nirvana and salvation complement each other and what they have in common is the renunciation of physical and other desires.
The particularities of the Theravadin school
The Theravadin school was founded in the southeast of the Indian continent in the 11th century, in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Known as the “Ancient Way”, or the Southern School, it has a lot of influence on China.
Considered closest to primitive Buddhism, Theravada is the oldest school that teaches the doctrine of Buddhism. Its fundamental principle is the same as that of Buddhism in general, that is to say the path which leads to awakening, to nirvana, to detachment from impermanence and to liberation from samsara, which is none other as the cycle of reincarnation or rebirth. The sacred texts distributed are in the Pali language. Nirvana is defined as the ultimate truth that reflects desire and suffering.
THE development of Theravada as spirituality is reflected in detachment or “non-attachment” to material things. Thus, monks must avoid worldly activities. Additionally, they are not allowed to grow their food, they rely on food from the laity. The practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, that is to say right speech, right action and many others, helps them to face these conditions of life. This is part of the vision: the phenomenon of reincarnation supposes that in order not to die again, one must not stop being reborn.