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Buddhist History and Culture

Buddhism has a history dating back 2,500 years. It's antiquity can be traced back to the 6th century BCE, making it one of the oldest religions in the world. It all began with the birth of prince Siddhartha who later came to be known as Buddha, the enlightened one. Since its beginning, the faith travelled to many places around the world and was established as a religion. Though it had its foundation in India, it also added to its domain Central Asian, East Asian and Southeast Asian cultural elements. A number of movements characterised the religion, giving rise to schism such as Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana.Sanchi Stupa, India

The Royal Patronage of King Ashoka
Buddhism seemed to be a smaller phenomenon until it got the royal patronage of Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BCE. The Mauryan emperor had a change of heart after the bloody battle of Kalinga. Remorse engulfed him and he chose to follow Buddhism for the rest of his life and lead a peaceful life. He set out on his mission to erect Buddhist stupas and pillars and display the teachings of Lord Buddha. The great stupa in Sanchi is a fine example of such stupas. He himself observed equality and respect for all forms of life. Later on, he sent his emissaries to far off countries to spread the message of Buddhism. This was first time when Bodhi teachings reached to countries beyond India.

Buddhism - Beyond India
Buddhist councils were held. The noble messages reached to countries like Japan, Sri Lanka, Korea, China, Tibet, Nepal, Burma, Ceylon, Combodia, Parthia, Tarim Basin etc. Japan got acquainted with the religion during the 6th century when the Korean monks made a trip to the islands along with ancient scriptures and works of art. Between the 5th and the 13th centuries, Southeast Asia rose to eminence and became hugely involved in Buddhist art and architecture. India, however, always played a major role all the way long. The unity in India spanned for more than a thousand years and thus it greatly influenced other countries which were eager to welcome the religion and its artistic and architectural creation.

Buddhism - Prayers & Meditation
Buddhism - Prayers & MeditationBuddhism has a distinctive culture of its own. Buddhists do not worship the Creator God. They practice meditation which however can be compared to it to some extent. Prayer forms may vary from country to country depending on the prevailing customs and traditions. For instant, Tibetans chant mantras while they pray. They believe that reciting mantras give rise to beneficial vibrations within a person. And these vibrations could ultimately lead to opening the mind to a certain level of consciousness which is beyond words and thoughts. In Japan, you can notice Buddhists praying to the Armida Buddha, the Buddha of infinite Light. Belief exists that Armida has created a Pure Land in the west. And those who pray to him and recite his name would be taken to the Pure Land. At the same time, they also believe that Armida is nowhere but within themselves.

Buddhist Shrines & Images
The shrines and images that you can come across with in Buddhist homes or temples mainly include the image of Buddha. They keep the image only to remind and recollect the noble qualities of Lord Buddha. Besides the images you can also find some ancient scriptures or photographs of Buddhist monks. These assist the devotees and followers to gain inspiration from the enlightened beings of the past and thus continue on their path to Dharma, the truth.

Buddhist Festivals
Buddhist festivals are a crucial part of the Buddhist culture. The festivals are joyful occasions that are celebrated by the Buddhist community all across the globe. The Vesak Festival is held in the month of May to commemorate Lord Budhha, his enlightenment and his noble teachings. People meditate and participate in chanting. Sermons are delivered and followers listen to it with all respect. Most of the temples and Buddhist sites welcome non-Buddhists. Rituals comprise offering incense, chanting of texts from holy Sutras and meditation.

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